This previous week, I attended a efficiency of Azad, starring author, performer and co-director Sona Tatoyan, and I can confidently say that I left the playhouse a modified particular person. Entering the Pico Playhouse foyer for the displaying, I wasn’t fairly certain what to anticipate, as I had a free thought of the efficiency. From what I learn on-line, it was a mix of the classical artwork of oral Middle-Eastern storytelling, the traditional artform of Anatolian Karagöz shadow puppets and the great thing about fashionable cinema. I flipped by way of this system I used to be handed for a second, then determined to take my seat. What I didn’t know then that I do know now’s that Azad endlessly altered my mindset.
Walking by way of the doorways of the black field theater, I used to be greeted with an ambrosial odor harking back to my go to to a church in Lebanon. I couldn’t determine why I instantly considered the church nor might I pinpoint the perfume notes, however presumably a mixture of amber, jasmine, sandalwood, incense, oudh? I couldn’t fairly put my finger on it. Nevertheless, and for no matter motive, it smelled like house.
As I continued my stroll to my seat within the intimate theater, ornate Armenian rugs had been skillfully sprawled on the ground, lit candles brightened up the room, and within the distant nook, Middle-Eastern melodies crammed the air by way of the arms of a person enjoying an oud, who I later realized was Dimitris Mahlis. I used to be past dazzled on the consideration to element.
I opened this system as soon as extra. In addition to Tatoyan and Mahlis, the group that was in a position to execute this feat contains co-director Jeremy Boxer, Karagöz puppeteer Ahmad Sayeed, musician and sound designer KÁRYYN, Aleppo producer Antoine Makdis, govt producer Ahmad Zahra and affiliate producer Garo Kharadjian.
And then, it started.
Azad (that means “free” in Armenian) is “a kaleidoscopic story within a story within a story,” taking viewers members from a Middle Eastern espresso store through the Ottoman period to a pre-civil warfare Aleppo. It follows Tatoyan’s discovery of her great-great-grandfather’s shadow puppets, which she positioned a century after the Armenian Genocide within the attic of her household house in Aleppo, Syria.
Her great-great-grandfather was a talented storyteller (Hakawati) whose chosen artform was Karagöz, an historic, Anatolian type of pre-cinema that performs with the connection of shadow and lightweight. As Tatoyan describes it, it’s an “alchemist of imagination.” More than that, it allowed for storytellers – like her great-great-grandfather – to “speak the unspeakable,” criticizing the uncriticizable in a time the place doing so might get you killed.
This journey leads our storyteller to find One Thousand and One Nights, the one guide she introduced on her journey to Aleppo. In the body story of the novel, the viewers hears the famed Middle Eastern folktale that follows a king named Shahryar who discovers that his spouse is being untrue. This unimaginable ache leads the king to imagine that every one girls are the identical, deciding that he’ll take a brand new bride every night and kill her the following morning. A particular character that stands proud is ScherAzad , the daughter of the vizier, who begs her father to supply her up because the king’s subsequent bride. The astute ScherAzad begins to weave magical tales each night, leaving the story on the most suspenseful, heightened second, a second the king desires to know all about. ScherAzad says that she is going to proceed the story…the next morning. She does this for 1,001 nights. During this time, King Shahryar falls in love with ScherAzad, the girl who healed him by way of the facility of storytelling.
“They were moral tales exploring all the shades of the human condition…our capacity for transformation,” says Tatoyan. “The framed story of One Thousand and One Nights is a story of healing trauma.”
A seamless mix of all classes of artistry, Azad makes use of numerous types of storytelling, starting from oral to puppetry, and takes us on Tatoyan’s self-discovery. I’ve by no means seen something fairly prefer it earlier than. It is a query most immigrant kids like myself know properly: the place is house? Is house the place I used to be born? Is house the place I come from? These questions are answered in Azad, and generally, are left unanswered, showcasing to the viewers that it’s okay to have a tough time discerning our identification.
I left the playhouse that night…totally different. I’ve by no means been to an area that allowed me to know that my struggles with identification aren’t one thing I take care of alone. In that room, with an viewers of young and old, Armenian and non-Armenian, we had been all sure by a typical thread: the will to be free.