Garo has been researching Armen Ohanian, an enigmatic Armenian performer and survivor of the twentieth century anti-Armenian pogroms. As the ambiguities surrounding Ohanian’s biography magnify, Garo begins unraveling questions about their own gender and ethnicity. Monologue, Armenian dance, erotic performance, live music, and excerpts from Ohanian’s memoirs weave together a narrative that bridges a century of women and artists.
Dear Armen follows the story of a genderqueer writer and student, Garo, as they study the life and work of Armen Ohanian, an enigmatic Armenian performer and survivor of the early 20th-century anti-Armenian pogroms in Baku. As Garo grapples with the discrepancies between Ohanian’s biography and memoirs, they are forced to confront memories from the past, unraveling experiences around gender, sexuality, ethnicity, family, and the role of the artist. An interactive-theatre experience integrating a blend of traditional Armenian dance, erotic performance, monologue and live music, Dear Armen weaves together the voices and struggles of three generations of Armenian women. Unveiling fragmented legacies of genocide and displacement, the narrative kaleidoscopes fragments of stories that highlight the complexities of survival.
Ohanian’s story and spirit are embodied in the characters and weaved throughout the narrative, invoking the power and complexity of historical and contemporary Armenian identities. Through experimental theatre and interdisciplinary performance, we reincarnate Ohanian’s life and spirit with movement and sound – demonstrating her ability to transform herself and the audience’s perception of theatre and the erotic. The show will uncover the life of this incredibly productive and unconventional artist, recover the legacy of a woman who brought innovation to Armenian theatre, and connect her story to contemporary histories of performers from various genres.
Note from the creators:
Dear Armen centres the struggles and successes of queer, trans* and gender nonconforming Armenian women, exploring the intersections of identity, history, and cultural memory. By remembering Armen Ohanian, we bring to the fore an avant garde Armenian figure who is too little discussed or remembered, and highlight the parallels that exist between her story and contemporary experiences. In so doing, this work hopes to break through memoricide, ensuring more of our cultural memories are passed down and used to help heal the intergenerational trauma left by genocide and displacement. In bringing Armen Ohanian to our protagonist Garo, we give a young trans* Armenian a mentor and heroine to project their own pain of exile and exclusion onto: someone to mirror some of their own search and an echo from the past that they are not alone. Armen becomes a literary friend and figure absent from the young Garo’s life, and together their poetic search for self-expression, artistic innovation, and cultural connection blend into a poetry of words, movement, and music. Our hope is to connect these stories with both Armenian and non-Armenian audiences, and in particular, to reach those who see themselves on the fringes, and who are searching for representations of themselves on the stage and in stories.
Dear Armen debuted it's first incarnation in Yerevan, Armenia in September 2013. The original script was written in English then translated to Armenian and performed in Armenian. In the spring of 2014, the crew created the second incarnation of Dear Armen (performed in English) and toured this work in NYC, Toronto, and Montreal. The tour consisted of a two week run at Alwan for the Arts (NYC), and shows at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (TO), Two Masks Theatre at Armenian Community Centre (TO), and at a Secret Loft (Montreal).
Accessibility note: We are committed to creating increasingly accessible theatre. This means that we are actively growing in our awarenesses of different access needs. We are looking forward to making changes and modifications to our work and our understandings, so that with each production we move closer to realizing a greater spectrum of access. For full accessibility details, please visit our event pages and feel free to contact us at [email protected] with any questions, feedback and/or suggestions.
Special thanks to Roundhouse Performance Centre, Levantine Cultural Center, Golden Thread Productions, Hasmik Geghamyan, our volunteers, supporters, and all the local guest performers who will be joining us.