Nora Armani with a mannequin serving as a prop in the play. It originally belonged to the Armenian Cultural Foundation founder and bibliophile Vahan Topalian, who was a tailor by profession. (photo Aram Arkun)

Nora Armani Captivates in ‘Mercedes and Zaruhi’ Play at Armenian Cultural Foundation

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ARLINGTON, Mass. — Nora Armani performed in the one-person play “Mercedes and Zaruhi” at the Armenian Cultural Foundation (ACF) on April 28, with the cosponsorship of the Tekeyan Cultural Association Boston Chapter, the Armenian Women’s Welfare Association, and the Armenian International Women’s Association. The play, written by Anush Aslibekyan, was translated from Armenian and adapted into an English version by Armani.

Ara Ghazarians (photo Aram Arkun)

ACF Curator Ara Ghazarians introduced the topic of the play to the audience of some 60 people. It is the story of two sisters from the diaspora whose parents had settled in Greece after the Armenian Genocide. One of them, Zaruhi, “repatriates” to Soviet Armenia, and reveals the difficulties of her life through letters to her sister and first-person narration all the way through the period of modern Armenian independence.

Original soundtrack compositions for the play were prepared by Armenian composer Vahan Artsruni, while art director Ared Spendjian played sound cues. David Medzorian of Daval Video Production set up the lights and speakers, and ran the sound mixer.

Nora Armani in character as Zaruhi later in life (photo David Medzorian)

Prior to the Boston area performance, the play was performed in Providence, RI, at the Egavian Cultural Hall in Sts. Sahag and Mesrob Armenian Church, sponsored by the church’s Cultural Committee with the Armenian Martyrs’ Memorial Committee of Rhode Island, on April 26.

Armani last performed this solo play in New York City at the United Solo Theater Festival in November 2022. Before that, she noted, in 2015 and 2019 in Armenia she performed the full play version, in which other actors performed various characters along with her Zaruhi, who still had most of the lines. In Armenia, she performed in Western Armenian.

Afterward the performance, Armani noted for the Mirror-Spectator: “Each time is different because you have a different audience with different experiences and different expectations. I loved the audience here [in Arlington] and also the space was amazing, with the focus and the lights. In Providence, the space was a bit wider and larger, so it was a bit difficult to focus and concentrate, but everything still went great.” Her English adaptation includes some additional information to allow non-Armenian viewers, or people without sufficient context, to be able to understand the story, as well as the bit about photographs which she had heard through her own family, she said.

Actress Nora Armani with Tekeyan Cultural Association Boston Chapter members: from left, Jeanine Shememian, Aida Yavshayan, Nora Armani, Suzy Naroian, Knarik Arkun, Rita Balyozian, and Maral Der Torossian (photo Aram Arkun)

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Armani thanked Maestro Konstantin Petrossian, because it was his initiative to bring her to Providence, and he also suggested that since she was coming to Providence she could come to Boston as well. She also thanked Ara Ghazarians of the Armenian Cultural Foundation and all the other people who made the current performance possible.

Armani stated that she is now writing another story which she will also eventually bring to the US. It is her grandmother’s story and is called “Four Sisters.” One of the sisters goes to Armenia, in the repatriation just like Zaruhi. However there is also an Egyptian part, where Armani’s grandmother went and Armani herself was born, and sections concerning Australia and Canada, because the four sisters each went somewhere else. Armani exclaimed, “With those four sisters, you tell the entire story of the diaspora!”

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