A New Playwright in Town: Taleen Babayan Dazzles


By Hagop Vartivarian

NEW YORK — The cultural life of the Greater New York Armenian community was further enriched with the theatrical endeavor of Taleen Babayan. Already a recognized name to the readership of the Armenian-Mirror Spectator for the last decade with her frequent articles and reporting, we are doubly pleased to see a young talent interested in writing plays, possibly the most difficult genre of literature.

Babayan possesses a deep knowledge of what defines an Armenian-American family: the traditional family clinging firmly to ethnic customs, juxtaposed with the current generation striving to adapt and adjust to a new environment. Whereas during the last century renowned literary figures such as Peniamin Nourigian, Aram Haigaz, Vahe Hayg, Souren Manuelian, and Hagop Asadourian lamented the pain of immigrants arriving from historic Armenia, today Babayan laments the pain of young Armenian-Americans, whose families arrived from Beirut, Aleppo, Istanbul, and Tehran, and who strive to speak and live the Armenian spirit outside of their homeland. We only hope that her endeavor becomes an inspiration to her generation.

She was indeed raised in a traditional Armenian family. Her grandfather, Yervant Babayan, is a prominent educator and prolific writer, and her father, Nerses, was engaged in journalism for many years and associated with the Armenian Mirror-Spectator. Furthermore, she continues to receive the attention and care of her loving mother, Hermine.

Like many others of her generation, Babayan spent her college years away from home in a non-Armenian environment, but maintained the ties to her Armenian culture during that time. She has acquired her knowledge of the Armenian language at home and from Saturday Armenian School. She is worthy of much praise.

Back to the play. “Where Is Your Groom?” is 80-percent English and 20-percent Armenian and they complement each other in perfect harmony. All the young actors at the performance on Saturday, October 26, at The Players Theatre, were essentially the product of the Middle East and close to 250 attendees watched their acting and accurate Armenian pronunciation with pure pleasure.

The play takes place at the home of Koko (Aris Hamparsoumian) and Siroun (Katherine Sabbagh). The couple’s two children, Lara (Zarig Baghdadlian) and Saro [Haig Minassian], wish to marry non-Armenians, after having bad experiences dating in their own community. Lara introduces her parents to an ignorant American young man, who has not even heard of Armenia. Meanwhile, Lara’s parents introduce her to young men of Armenian families. Finally, she meets the right Armenian and the engagement (khosgab) takes place as well-known singer Robert Chilingirian enters the stage singing a wedding song.

Some on the stage had acting experience and others none, yet all performed very well. The set, featuring an Armenian living room, was beautifully furnished. Other participants included Lori Cinar, Joe Hovsepian, Tanya Bas, Taniel Ohanian, Raffi Gulbenk, Sarkis Yenikomshuyan, Sedrak Yenikomshuyan, Daniella Baydar, Taniel Ekshian, Andrew Saganda and Edwin Baghdasarian. Backstage volunteers were Taleen Baghdadlian, Anoush Gulian and Anahid Kaprielian.  Harout Chatmajian, one of the directors of the Tekeyan Cultural Association’s Mher Megerdchian Theatrical Group, contributed greatly to the acting aspect of the play.

The play teems with the painful phenomenon of Armenian-American contemporary life. For example, the family priest (played by Taniel Ohanian) introduces Paul (played by Andrew Saganda), a seminarian who aspires to become a priest yet who doesn’t know one word of Armenian. He will serve in the Armenian Church and if left to such priests, our sacred Badarak will be performed in English one day. Babayan highlights this and many other painful occurrences within our community life in her play.

We congratulate her and the team of young cast and crew and who continue to keep our theatrical heritage alive.

-Translated by Nerses Babayan