The audience at a theater in Yerevan recently

Joy of Theater in Yerevan, But Where Are the Masks?


By Gerald Papasian

Special to the Mirror-Spectator

YEREVAN – At the end of October last year, I left Yerevan and went to Paris for professional reasons. Television series shooting was allowed but theatres were closed along with shops, restaurants and cafes. Paris was no longer Paris!

Three months later I made it a point to return to Armenia where I was teaching at the Drama Institute. Armenia had decided to reopen its schools and universities. The second semester began on February 1, and despite the overall feeling of depression, I found enthusiastic, motivated and positive final year drama students eagerly waiting for me to begin working on Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” for their diploma performance. There still is a young, vigorous and positive generation determined to carry on against all odds.

They are our best hope.

I also found out that and after almost 11 months of confinement, the government had instructed all theatres to reopen.

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Theatre fans are overjoyed to attend productions once again and actors are happily ready not to deceive them. All agree that live performances will boost the morale and help heal the broken spirit of the people.

I, of course, totally support the decision.

However, while attending a couple of new plays, I was aghast to find out that almost no one in the house was wearing a mask!

At a Yerevan theater recently

As I asked theatre directors the reason, I was told that they found themselves incapable of imposing on the public to behave more wisely. This careless attitude can be seen a little bit everywhere in Yerevan.

No one seems to care for safety anymore, as if the disastrous war and the everlasting virus threat has shaped an attitude of resignation and apathy. No one seems to think about the possibility of the virus statistics rising again and consequently forcing the health ministry to close down everything once more.

The government has to be much more vigorous in imposing the law by helping theatre managers, providing them with inspectors and threatening them with heavy fines.

Performers too seem to be left to their fate by the very government that bid them to start working again.

The least they can do is to impose COVID-19 tests for all performers, once a week, and offer those expensive tests FOR FREE. They cost 30 to 40 dollars in Armenia! The average salary of actors is something between 140 to 240 dollars … monthly!

Live performers should be considered as working in high-risk environments similar to teachers, medical workers and soldiers, and regarded as top priority when the time comes to be vaccinated.

Otherwise, the bliss of finally having theatrical activities may very well be short lived.

Allowing the opening of theatres as if it was a benevolent gesture, a gift, is not enough. It has to be complemented with the means to help those who are supposed to implement it.

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