NEW YORK — The New York-New Jersey area art and stage lovers were treated to a very special performance dedicated to the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
Two consecutive performances took place on Friday, June 12 in New Jersey and on Sunday, June 21 in Queens Theater in the Park.
The adaptation of the play was based on a novel You Rejoice My Heart by a Turkish writer Kemal Yalçin. The novel tells the seldom-discussed story of Armenian remnants; the so-called “secret or hidden Armenians,” whose descendants still live in the provinces of Turkey and elsewhere today.
The play was adapted and directed by the veteran of Armenian Theater, renowned actress of Armenian Stage Film and Television and executive producer of a weekly Armenian television program- Voice of Armenians TVNY: Kariné Kocharyan.
“You Rejoice My Heart” opens with Mr. Yalçin’s personal and emotional apology, saying: “My dear Armenian friend, the greatest pain of humanity this century, the mark of black soot on the forehead of history, is the Armenian Genocide! I bow down to the memory of all the Armenians who were killed during those years. I accept your pain as my pain. As a Turkish writer, I speak for myself and the entire world when I ask for your forgiveness. The shame of this great disaster is stamped on the forehead of humanity, and the planners, projectors and perpetrators will be cursed. When justice is finally implemented, when our great pain subsides and when we urge the world finally to ensure this injustice will never happen again, I give my heart to you and my soul will rejoice with you!”
The story then follows as Mr. Yalçin, who through the guidance of his teacher Meliné, embarks on a project to seek out Armenians living in Turkey as Muslims or Turks. Meline was Yalcin’s teacher in Germany as Yalcin and many other Turkish teachers were going through special training to follow the German school’s curriculum for German citizens of Turkish descent. At first some of the Turkish teachers were uncomfortable with a teacher of Armenian descent who was very well versed in Turkish and German- to teach them. Yalcin was one of the few who wanted to know more about Meliné and her history.
Yalcin’s journey takes him on a trajectory that starts with his native village of Honoz, then to Amasya, Askale, the ancient city of Ani and then Istanbul.
Kocharyan’s masterful directing and powerful individual performances of the cast, coupled with multimedia, films, sound tracks and slide show which included authentic photography from genocide era made available for the production as courtesy by Armenian Genocide Museum as well as beautiful contemporary imagery of Ani’s churches photographed by the director of the Paradjanov Museum Zaven Sarkissian was powerful.
Making this production even more special were the participation of two major stars of the Armenian Theater and Television from Yerevan: Artur Karapetyan and Satik Hakhnazaryan. Both artists traveled from Armenia specifically to take part in this play. Artur Karapetyan’s portrayal of Kemal Yalcin was authentic and powerful, delivering the full emotional pain and burden that the author experienced as he uncovered the tragic stories of Genocide and the survivors.
The powerful and outstanding performance of the Armenian star Satik Hakhnazaryan, in the role of Meliné, was penetrating in the climatic scene as she was trying to explain to Kemal the reason behind mass atrocities committed by the Turks against Armenians.
Emotionally-charged performances from each cast member added to the overall impact of the play. Particularly noteworthy was the performance of Hovhaness Voskeridjian, in the role of Vahram Garapet. Throughout his 75 years of life on stage, Voskeridjian has excelled in many tragic and comic roles. In this play, he once again mesmerized the audience with his performance alongside actress Lucyn Jamgotchian-Djirdjirian, who played his deceased mother. Also memorable was Elizabeth Khodabash’s performance in the role of Sultan Hanum, which received applauds from the audience.
Another excellent performance was delivered by Karnig Nercessian in the role of Yusuf, a peasant who after witnessing the deportations and exiles of Armenians in 1942 decides to tell his story after 50 years of silence.
Also impressive were the performances of Anahit Zakarian in the role of Kemal Yalcin’s mother, Harout Takvorian in the role of Ali Ousta, Vahram Khojoyan in the role of Soldier, Hasmik Kirakosian in the role of Kemal’s sister, Micheal Shatvorian in the role of Kemal’s brother and young student Victoria Messikian in the role of his granddaughter.
In addition to her skillful directing of the play, Kocharyan appeared on stage in the role of Ms. Jehian.
A standing ovation welcomed the actors for a curtain call and yet another surprise was waiting for the great finale of the performance, as the author of the book and his teacher the real life Meliné were invited from the audience seats to the stage along with a thunderous applause from deeply moved audience.
An emotional speech from Yalcin in Turkish and translation of his words in Armenian by Meliné (both from Germany) culminated the evening to a long lasting memory and well deserved commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
- K. & Z. Boghosian