An American Dramaturg in Armenia

Reflections on a 5-month sojourn as a Fulbright Scholar to the Yerevan Institute for Cinematography and Theatre

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artistic director of Active Cultures, the Vernacular Theatre of Maryland

Friday, January 06, 2006

Death masks in Gyumri


Armenia's second largest city is Gyumri. Located on the Turkish border ,within sight of the ancient Armenian center of Ani, the city was devastated 16 years ago by a major earthquake. Today, thanks to international efforts, it has largely been rebuilt. It is now a town of wide boulevards, stylish new apartment buildings and a well-kept historic district.

People from Gyumri are known for their artistry and (often grim) sense of humor. One example of the two is the S. Merkurov house museum which celebrates the work of the Soviet-era Armenian sculptor. The bulk of the museum is dedicated to casts of the wax death masques of famous people. Merkurov used the masques as a basis for many of his sculptures. I was intrigued by the death mask of Vladimir Mayakovsky (the author of the play THE BEDBUG and a suicide while in his thirties) in which he appeared to be healthy, happy and strangely beautiful. More gruesome was the death mask of a man who died of throat cancer.

Gyumri is also the hometown of famous Armenian folk comedian Poloz Mukuch. Apparently, whenever you say his name, you must tell three jokes or funny stories. We ate at a restaurant named in his honor and had a lively meal, filled with silliness.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anton Merkurov said...

Thanks!

5:50 AM  

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