By Yeghishe Hajakian
NEW YORK — On April 12, 2015 a mostly Armenian audience followed with utmost attention and emotional involvement watching the play “All Rise, the Court Is in Session” as Soghomon Tehlirian’s court proceedings were evolving on the stage of the Symphony Space, in Manhattan, New York.
Tehlirian gunned down Talaat Pasha, the Ottoman Grand Vizier (Prime Minister), for having been the chief organizer and perpetrator of the Armenian Genocide. The shooting happened in daylight in Berlin on March 15, 1921. He waited with his foot on the fallen Talaat for the German police to arrive to the scene and arrest him. Tehlirian was tried for murder but was acquitted by the German court. He was defended by three prominent lawyers including Theodor Niemeyer, professor of law at Kiel University, and prominent witnesses called to the court like Johannes Lepsius, General Liman von Sanders, Armin Wegner and Genocide survivor, Bishop Grigoris Balakian, great-uncle of Peter Balakian, the American-Armenian writer and poet. The court came reached its verdict in less than an hour.
A full-to-capacity audience stood up to applaud the actors and the technical workers with shouts of bravos for quite a long time. The Armenian audience had never seen such a serious staging from the Tekeyan Theatrical Group. This was the centennial remembrance of our Genocide. And the audience witnessed the revenge of our people and cheered with many tearful eyes.
The Greater New York Tekeyan Cultural Association Mher Megerdchian Theatrical Group had invited Gerald Papasian from Paris, France to stage this theatrical piece written by Berj Zeytountsian of Armenia. Papasian is a familiar name in Armenian theatrical circles. He travelled to New York a few times to direct this difficult piece. In addition to the veteran actors of the group, this play included many young actors and young participants of the technical crew. It is of utmost gratification to the Tekeyan Cultural Association that the young are taking control of Armenian affairs including the theater. There were more than30 actors and technical workers involved in this project.
Harout Barsoumian was in the role of Soghomon Tehlirian. His impeccable rendition of the role of Tehlirian in killing Talaat and his soliloquy at the end of the play was moving for the audience who heard how he had lost 85 members of his own family, how the intelligentsia was brutally crushed and how innocent Armenians were buried in the desert of Der Zor, Syria by the hundreds of thousands.