Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mario Fratti Reflects on Armenian Theater and IATC Congress on "Femininity in Today's Theater"

We arrived one day early to enjoy the city. Flying Aeroflot (convenient and comfortable). The tourist office is well organized. They gave us two useful booklets: “Yerevan Scope” (Maps of Yerevan) and “Tour Info” (Armenia in Your Pocket). It contained precise information about Armenia’s population (3.2 million / 1.2 million in Yerevan) and full of details about museums and churches. We were particularly impressed by the Museum of Armenia Genocide; the Matenadaran, which housed ancient manuscripts; the History Museum; the National Gallery; and the Museum of Sergey Parajanov, a great artist who was also a friend of the filmmakers Federico Fellini and Tonino Guerra. We saw many original works of art, letters, photos and documents. There was also a sculpture dedicated to “26 Murdered Kommissars.”

I remembered from another trip to Yerevan, a stunning monument near the elegant Republic Square. I went to see it again. I was disappointed. It is no longer there. I was told it was destroyed by vandals.

We stayed in two hotels. The Metropole and the Shirak, both easy to reach. Our efficient Secretary General Michael Vais had organized every minute of our stay in Yerevan: list of the participants, meetings, symposia, time for the elections, and a biography of the winner of the Thalia Prize: our brilliant critic Richard Schechner. Michel even gave us a new “Code of Practice,” to be discussed during the Congress.

We began promptly at 10 am with a speech from our distinguished president, Yun-Cheol Kim. He reminded us of the theme of this year’s congress: “Redefining Femininity in Today's Theater.” (He was later unanimously re-elected to his IATC post.)

I listened with curiousity to all the papers written and delivered by the participants: Margareta Sörenson (Sweden), Jean-Pierre Han (France), Akiko Tachiki (Japan), Katayoun Hosseinzadeh Salmasi (Iran), Zhang Xian (China), Randy Gener (U.S.A.), Savas Patsalidis (Greece), Deepa Ganesh (India), Guna Zeltina (Latvia), Zane Radzobe (Latvia), Maria Helena Serôdio (Portugal), Patricia Keeney (Canada), Ravi Chaturvedi (India) and Ravinder Kaul (India). They all revealed details about great women in their countries, their huge contribution to education and culture. Maria Helena Serodio gave us useful information about a Jewish writer who was persecuted and died young in Portugal: Antonio Jose da Silva. He wrote nine plays that are being republished and maybe performed. The poet, Patricia Keeney, passionately defended the plays and achievements of the Canadian playwright, Judith Thompson; it was a discovery for many of us. Katayoun let us know that the condition of women in Iran is improving.

The delegates from India, China and Japan surprised us with lists of great directors and actresses whom we did not know, unfortunately. Margareta Sorenson reminded us that we must research and read articles and works written by Asian women.

We learned about many new playwrights including the new ones in Armenia: Yernjakyan, Shant, Demirchyan, Ananyan, Yernjakyan, Khodikyan, Santoyan, Teqgyozyan. Their hero is anyhow, William Saroyan, whom they call “the Good Giant.”

Every evening at five and at nine we were invited to see performances. Three evenings were dedicated to Saroyan’s plays: Salvation Island, You Are Coming Into the World (Marionette), and Stories in the Train. This last piece was well-directed and conceived with great sense of humor by Marine Malyan.

I focused on contemporary Armenian productions. I saw and applauded Anush by A. Tigranyan, a powerful and moving opera, a tragic love story that reveals the poetry of the Armenian world; Frank Werfel’s The Forty Days of Musa-Dach, about the Armenian resistance against the Turks in 1915; Durrenmatt’s The Old Woman’s Visit; and a stunning Macbeth, directed by Armen Khandikyan, with two powerful actors, Arthur Utmazyan and Luiza Ghambaryan. I also enjoyed in the elegant Chamber Theatre The Call of Glowworm, written and directed by Ara Yernjakyan. It is a brilliant satire about power, well-acted by Rafael Yeranosyan, Andranik Harutyunyan and Katrin Manasyan.

At the end of the Congress, we had a polemic, an ironic and pleasant acceptance speech by the Thalia winner Richard Schechner.

It was a successful Congress, but I had to conclude that their papers did not focus on Femininity. I shared with the participants my theory about the subject, which I have depicted in two of my plays. Feminine, gentle, poetic, vulnerable women have no chance in our society. They will become victims.  Mario Fratti

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