Arthur Makaryan is an emerging NYC-based Armenian theater and opera director and a recent graduate of the Columbia Graduate School of the Arts and Juilliard Opera Directing Fellowship. He has worked all over the world, under the tutelage of Ann Bogart, Stephen Wadsworth and Tadashi Suzuki, among others. Makaryan is currently busy orchestrating the last preparatory activities before he takes off to Europe to present his latest endeavors to the international theatrical stage, “HamletMachine” and “Black Garden.”
Last summer, during a visit to Armenia, Makaryan started working on the solo performance—“HamletMachine.” The one-man show has all the credentials for contemporary art, a genre that is still not very popular in Armenia.
The adaptation centers on Hamlet’s visit to a psychotherapist, where Hamlet is in emotional turmoil trying to reevaluate, justify and understand the motives of people he kills in Shakespeare’s play. Hamlet is presented as a utilitarian, who adheres to maximize the good and produce the best consequences possible despite all the circumstances present. This is in direct contrast to Kant’s moral philosophy where all actions are performed in accordance with some underlying principle and duty rather than emotions or end goals. “A lot of times, within the Armenian reality as well, the matter of pride and revenge is placed above the ramifications which sometimes can be catastrophic. Diplomacy, fair judgment and the ability to see the bigger picture are the core messages of the play,” says Makaryan.
“HamletMachine” has been presented in Armmono International Festival in Yerevan and was recently part of the Golden Gates festival in Russia at Vladimir Theatre. Later this year, Makaryan and his team have performances in Lithuania, Moldova and New York. In New York, they will be playing at Theatre Row on 42nd Street— a famous district part of the United Solo Theatre Festival, the world’s largest solo theatre festival on October 24th.
The ideas of diplomacy, tolerance, self-criticism and self-reflection run as a red thread through Makaryan’s Black Garden. The play is inspired by the historical events in Nagorno-Karabakh where over 30,000 soldiers were killed between 1988-1994. It is a theatrical collage that portrays the distressing extent of an Armenian woman’s trauma who is haunted by the memories of a lost lover.
Makaryan and his team intended to launch a dialogue towards peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan, countries that have been unable to resolve a conflict over the disputed territory for decades. “As an Armenian, I have never met an Azeri in my life, yet we are presumed enemies. With this play, we try to bring awareness of the conflict to an international stage and create a platform for a dialogue,” says Makaryan.
It’s interesting to note that the author of Black Garden, a play about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict—a contentious topic which is so incredibly Armenian, is American. The playwright is Gordon Penn. Makaryan met Penn at Columbia University. Gordon did not know much about Armenia until he started managing actors in Los Angeles and living in a Hollywood community known as Little Armenia.
Black Garden was among the official selections of the Pleins Feux festival in Paris earlier this month at the Théâtre de l’Opprimé (Theatre of the Oppressed).
With the new political reality in Armenia, Makaryan is very optimistic and motivated to get started with new initiatives. “I would love to work with the National Theatre of Armenia and the National Opera and Ballet Theatre, as the new directions are extremely progressive and supportive of producing new plays and operas. I’d love to have an input into the development of the Armenian theatre.” .
He has also been thinking about starting an English speaking performance series in Armenia which would not only make the international language more scalable across the country but will also give an opportunity to perform plays in their original language. Similarly, Makaryan also plans to launch a project to translate Armenian plays into English. “This will multiply our chances to be presented on the international stage and make our message more accessible and relatable.”