Golden Thread Theater To Premiere Play on Genocide Experience

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SAN FRANCISCO — Golden Thread Productions announces the world premiere of “Night over Erzinga,” a powerful and soul-stirring play by award-winning playwright and actor Adriana Sevahn Nichols. Sevahn Nichols is the first recipient of the Middle East America: a National New Plays Initiative, a commissioning project founded and managed by three national organizations: the Bay Area’s Golden Thread Productions, New York’s Lark Play Development Center and Chicago’s Silk Road Theatre Project.

Sevahn Nichols’ “Night over Erzinga” is a moving story about the immigrant experience in the US and the endurance of the human spirit. The central characters, Ardavazt and Alice, build a new life in the US in the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide but the past comes to haunt them in very different ways. Inspired by Nichols’ personal heritage as a Dominican- Armenian-American, this story explores how a man can lose two families in one lifetime, but not lose his heart; and how a grandmother can reach through time, to unearth the untold story and bring her children “home.”

This tender epic spans two continents and three generations, from Western Armenia of 1913, to 1930s Massachusetts, to 1960s New York. The magical story reunites ancestors with the living, as they each search for solace and a way to make peace with the past. Nichols’ poetic and comic language incorporates the world of symbols and icons, spirits and the invisible, along with the everyday concerns of survival and keeping a family together.

The playwright’s Armenian grandparents immigrated to the United States from Erzinga and Shabin- Karahisar (part of Turkish Armenia) in the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide of 1915. Nichols’ grandfather, Ardavazt Oghidanian, was the sole survivor of his family. Nichols’ reflection on her grandfather’s experience launched a three-year journey to develop “Night over Erzinga.”

Nichols described the play’s origin as a way “…to discover my roots; to write my way home. To ancestors I never knew, but feel in my heart. And to find a way to belong to a history and legacy that, up until that point, in my life, was missing. As a writer, I feel called to tell the stories that will inspire, move and enrich people’s hearts. We are all on a collective journey, as a global family, and I believe theatre, at its best, has the potential to initiate transformation and healing. Although the play I have written is deeply personal and specific to the Armenians, it has been my intention that this play transcends that specificity and become universal in creating dialogues among those who see it?”

Torange Yeghiazarian, Golden Thread Productions’ artistic director, adds “‘Night over Erzinga’ is a courageous play that brings together the Armenian and Latino communities. Adriana’s unique voice and rich language is a welcome new addition to the cannon of American theater and Golden Thread is proud to introduce this important new play and playwright to Bay Area audiences.”

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During its development, “Night over Erzinga” had two enthusiastically-received public readings in New York and San Francisco. Sevahn Nichols is an award-winning actress and playwright who has developed and performed her work at the Sundance Theater Lab, South Coast Repertory, Mark Taper Forum, The Goodman, LA Theatre Works, Stages Theatre, The Fountain, INTAR and The Lark. Her plays have been published by Samuel French and Smith & Kraus. Sevahn Nichols’ critically acclaimed solo show, “Taking Flight,” garnered her a San Diego Theatre Critics Circle Award, a Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival Award, and the CD was a finalist for a 2008 Audie Award.

“Night over Erzinga” is scored with original music by Bulgarian composer, Penka Kouneva and directed by Hafiz Karmali. Karmali is an accomplished theater director familiar to Golden Thread audiences. He directed three new plays at the ReOrient Festival in 2009: “Abaga” by Yeghiazarian; “A Marriage Proposal” (Egyptian Chekhov) and “The Review” (via skype) both by Yussef El-Guindi and in 2006, the Ikhwan al-Safa’s fable, “Island of Animals.”

Prior to working with Golden Thread, Karmali was a teaching fellow at Harvard University, directed plays in London and served an apprenticeship at the American Repertory Theatre where he assisted internationally renowned directors Robert Wilson and Andrei Serban.

Golden Thread Productions is a nationally recognized non-profit organization acknowledged as the leading theater company devoted to Middle Eastern voices and experiences. Founded in 1996 by Yeghiazarian, Golden Thread’s mission, to give voice to Middle Eastern writers, is made more urgent and vital with all that is currently happening in the Middle East.

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