‘My Heart’s in the Highlands’ Cast Party Celebration and Reception


Ambassador Garen Nazarian hands the plaque to Mari Zokian.

ENGLEWOOD, N.J. — On June 26 and 27, the Tekeyan Cultural Association’s Mher Megertchian Theatrical Group of Greater New York and New Jersey presented the William Saroyan play, “My Heart’s in the Highlands.”

The diligent committee planned a traditional cast party and reception, where more than 100 persons were in attendance at the St. Thomas Armenian Church Atrium. The cast party included the actors and their families, and all those who had contributed were invited to celebrate all the hard work of the volunteer TCA Mher Megertchian theatrical group’s talented actors and actresses and the remarkably talented Babakhanyan family of five actors.

The evening commenced with the welcoming remarks of the TCA New York/New Jersey Chairman Hagop Vartivarian, who acknowledged the presence of Armenia’s Ambassador to the United Nations Garen Nazarian and his family, and a few of the patrons and sponsors of the event who were present, Dr. Raffi and Shoghag Hovanessian, Dr. Vaghenag Tarpinian, André Roubian and Dr. Jacques Gulekjian.

He thanked and praised all the volunteer actors and commended behind the scenes industrious technical workers; especially the diligent Vicken Demirjian, Hratch Zokian and Vazken Jansezian, and highly praised the director Hovhaness Babakhanyan and his family, especially Gor Babakhanyan for his outstanding performance.

Vartivarian then invited the co-chairman of the Greater New York/New Jersey Tekeyan Cultural Association Committee Haroutune Chatmajian who was also the production manager. Chatmajian thanked the cast and crew and lauded them for their hard work. Also he appreciated the fact that it was very favorable and invaluable working with the director of whom everyone had grown fond in a short period of time. Then he reminisced back to the time when he had acted in the same play at a different production, where he was cast as the father and his own son as Johnny, and expressed how he had enormously enjoyed that time that was provided by the TCA Mher Megertchian Theatrical Production.

Chatmajian then called on some of the other actors.

The committee had chosen an honoree of the year; and this year’s honoree was Marie Zokian. Her biography was presented by Maro Hajakian who is a member of TCA and has worked with Zokian throughout the years in the TCA Theatrical committee as well as the Kirikian Armenian School at St. Thomas Church. She revealed that even though Zokian did not have a formal Armenian education, she has been an exemplary Armenian; dedicated to Armenian culture, has served in the St. Thomas Church choir, and has worked in the Shushi dance group since her daughter, Talar, was part of the group from its inception. Talar, who had the role of Johnny’s mother, and superbly performed an Armenian dance in Johnny’s dream, read a congratulatory message from Seta Kantarjian, the director of Shushi Dance Ensemble and the past vice-chairman of the TCA New York chapter, who was preparing to travel to the Middle East.

Subsequently, Vartivarian invited Nazarian to present the honoree a plaque along with him and highly praised her dedication to the Armenian culture and the TCA. Nazarian revealed his close feelings towards the Tekeyan Cultural Association and expressed his appreciation and reverence for the hard work of the organization. Then, he reminisced and spoke of the significance this play had personally for him, that just as he had brought his son to the theater, who is 13, and enjoyed this particular Saroyan play together as father and son, he had attended and enjoyed the same exact play with his father when he was at the same age in Armenia at Soundoukian’s production of the Saroyan play.

Vartivarian then invited Gariné Kocharian of Ardzagang, who introduced Hovhaness Babakhanyan as well as his wife Mari who also had a part in the play, as well as his daughters, Ella and Lia. Hovhaness Babakhanyan thanked the TCA organization for giving him the opportunity to exhibit his main niche; directing and acting, and in appreciation presented an original painting of his own art to the Association.

Finally, the youngest talented main actor of the evening, Gor Babakhanyan, was invited, who may have surpassed all others in his portrayal of Johnny. With his enormous energy and eloquent delivery, he was indeed the best choice that Saroyan would have exemplified as the character.

The evening culminated with everyone enjoying the social reception, interacting and praising the performance.

— Shoghig Chalian