NEW YORK — Theater and opera director, producer and artistic director, young créateur extraordinaire, Arthur Makaryan is part of a small and hopefully growing coterie of Armenian-born artists who are taking their talents to the world stage.
Makaryan holds directing degrees from no less than Columbia University, La Sorbonne and the Yerevan State Institute of Theater, and followed up on his studies with a 2017-18 Opera Directing Fellowship at the Juilliard School. His most recent credits include directing the pilot of “Oedipus” at the Armenian National Opera, “Broken April” at LenFest Center for the Arts at Columbia, and the Simulacrum multimedia opera at 3LD Art and Technology Center, also in New York City. His “Hamlet Machine” has toured in Armenia, Russia, Lithuania, Moldova, France and the US (off-Broadway) and “Black Garden” had its performances in Paris at Théâtre de l’Opprimé and at The Tank NYC.
At his production company, ArtéMakar Productions, Arthur strives to push technological barriers forward, taking theater one step farther than “traditional” immersive theater. Working with Associate Artistic Director Tamara Sevunts, techno whiz Hayk Mikayelyan and branding guru Derek Kopen, ArtéMakar Productions was founded in order to “activate the imagination by reinventing storytelling through emerging mediums of art.”
The company explores complex topics and embraces all forms of technology.
Makaryan and Sevunts have been collaborating since they first met in 2016: ”We like to experiment and transcend the traditional limitations of performing arts,” Makaryan explains: “We combine the virtual and the physical, creating experiences where people can travel between their devices and their physical surroundings. We want to push our audience further in directions they never thought they would go.” This of course begs the question of where theater ends and where film and interactive gaming begins. Some might argue that theater was meant to be seen the way the Greeks originally did — in the round — and the way we have more or less, though in a more rigid form, watched it ever since the Victorian era. Makaryan is unfazed by such notions: “We don’t make technology the central point of what we do, but rather use it in service of the story.” September 2020 was meant to mark the company’s official launch: then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Zoom became a way of life. But this didn’t faze the young creators: “True to our nature,” explains Sevunts, “we embraced the change and simply pivoted our launch online.”
Which brings us to Makayran’s current project, the highly interactive “The O’Leary Theory,” which combines technological change with a classic topic in theater — the family drama. The audience watches from home and as the improvised action unfolds, helps to make decisions for the actors: “How are families experiencing difficult times dealing with current circumstances? What are the steps that they take to come together and be a support system for one another? That was the initial idea that started this story,” explains Makaryan: “A family that once epitomized the American dream and then fell from grace…Trying to reconcile past decisions. The aftershock of suppressed trauma. The ability, or not, to face reality. We created a space where storytelling becomes a democratic tool where the audience has control.”