A Talk Back with ‘Deported/a dream play’

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By Nancy Kalajian

Special to the Mirror-Spectator

BOSTON — A Talk Back was held after the Saturday, March 10 performance with the Playwright Joyce Van Dyke, Director Judy Braha, the cast of “Deported/a dream play” and Kate Snodgrass, artistic director of Boston Playwright’s Theatre. Most audience members stayed for the question-and- answer session providing an opportunity for comments on aspects of that evening’s performance. The key players seated on the stage posed questions to the audience: Did the play tell you the truth? Did the play challenge you enough?

Audience members poignantly shared their thoughts and emotions. One man had seen four staged readings of the play and was thrilled to now see it in a full- fledged performance. “It truly was a dream play,” he said. Then Paul Boghosian remarked, “I caught the reality of the play. The emotional resilience of Victoria, her strength of character, the arc of her journey in the US was very truthful to me.”

One woman appreciated all the remarks she had heard and noticed the smooth transitions in changing sets. “The dancers as stagehands brought coherence. Memories aren’t always linear,” she said.

Dora Tevanian said, “Varter represented the possibility of redemption with love…We, as Armenians, are stuck, paralyzed. My Grandmother never talked about the Genocide.” Though she “bristled” at first since the actress playing Varter wasn’t Armenian, Tevanian was soon won over with Jeanine Kane’s unconditionally-loving ways in the face of tragedy and in the consideration of forgiveness, likening her persona to the deceased actress, Greer Garson.

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Another woman remarked on the most important underlying thread and question in the play, the effects of the Genocide. She spoke of the first generation, those who survived the Genocide, with the effect being in dysfunctional families and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Referring to the last act of the play that projects ahead into the future with hopes of Armenians and Turks in harmony, she felt the “Reconciliation” part of the play didn’t hold any appeal or seem realistic. With recent demonstrations in Turkey and threats made to Armenians, she felt reconciliations are inappropriate at this time. Van Dyke responded with, “It’s a dream,” referring to the title of the play and setting of the play’s last act. One woman compared transformative imagery techniques used in the play with that of African-American author Toni Morrison. Ken Baltin, one of the actors, spoke of the strong effects of different points of views, comparing that to the shards of a broken urn.

When I asked about the changes that may have happened to the actors during the five years of working on their characters, Bobbie Steinbach spoke of the challenges in her role, her own personal experiences with being of Jewish descent and how her feelings about forgiveness were explored over the years. Baltin reflected on the mortality of Harry and a sense of healing and said, “It’s an extraordinary experience to be in such a rich play.”

For Bethel Charkoudian, the play was “an extremely emotional experience, not an intellectual experience. I’m shaking. It shook me to the core.” Decades ago, Charkoudian conducted oral history interviews with Genocide survivors; some “Deported/a dream play” cast members listened to some of these interviews at the Armenian Library and Museum of America (ALMA) as the play was in development to hear first-hand accounts from the survivors. After the Talk Back, Charkoudian asked Van Dyke, “Was it as difficult for you to write this as for us to watch it?” to which Van Dyke responded, “Yes!”

In a follow up conversation, Tevanian remarked, “Having been to several Armenian Genocide plays and movies, we can definitely say that Joyce Van Dyke and her play boldly and successfully defines a new genre in playwriting on the Armenian Genocide, a genre reminiscent of the multitude of nostalgic historical narrative books that have been published the past 25 years.” “To have an expose in the realm of theatre is revolutionary, especially in the introduction of the novel concept of a ‘dream play,’ which allows the drama to waffle between past, present and future in an exhilarating puzzle,” continued Tevanian. “Add to that the journaling of opening up the survivor to verbalizing, emoting and reliving our trauma which had been heretofore unspeakable, and you have a piece which finally tackles what we as Armenians have been frozen by for almost a century. A gold star to Joyce whose courageous leap and tedious effort to present something new, intriguing, unique, and difficult has met with resounding success, attested to by the standing only applause immediately after this Talk Back.”

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