This year, the Tumanyan International Storytelling Festival celebrates stories of place. We invite you to think about the places that shape you, and to explore places you’ve never even dreamed of going. Each piece in this year’s program was carefully considered and selected because of the way it engages with, questions, and immerses us in a place.
A common thread that weaves through many of our segments is places of memory. Planned Outage, a play written by Anahit Ghazaryan and directed by Nadezhda Israyelyan, is based on the compiled memories of people who grew up in the 1990s, during Armenia’s “cold and dark years.” Tigran Amiryan and Aram Pachyan will present the latest publication of the Cultural and Social Narratives Laboratory, Getar: Memory of a River, which explores a now-hidden element of Yerevan’s landscape and identity. And writers Nancy Agabian and Shushan Avagyan will weave together passages from their latest books, both of which blend past and present in place.
Hand in hand with places of memory, and sometimes indistinguishable from them, are places of myth. Mahir Özcan will tell the story of “Kuku,” his original tale based on themes and motifs from Hamshen-Armenian folklore. Melisa Ferahyan will take us to “the Golden City,” an old Indian tale set in an imaginary city, which was translated to Armenian by Hovhannes Tumanyan. And Mara Menzies will blend myths and legends from her two places of heritage – Kenya and Scotland – with a contemporary twist.
Kourken Papazian and Raffi Feghali, both hailing from Lebanon, will delve into the places they’re from – Papazian through a discussion of his film, Gharibiyyeh, which documents the life of Armenians in West Beirut, and Feghali through his storytelling performance, “Anatomy of a Home,” which explores the profound concept of home – chosen, forced, in between, both, or other.
Our musical performances will take us on journeys through all kinds of places. Sevana Tchakerian will share songs and stories from her recent travels through Anatolia. Alin Demirdjian will take us on a musical voyage through the provinces of Armenia and Artsakh, with a detour to Argentina, where she’s from. Tara Baghdasarian’s Armenglish melodies will take us down a path of repatriation, identity and resilience. And Shushiki Band will transport us to the distant but familiar past with their ethereal renditions of Armenian folk songs.
Finally, it’s impossible to think about place without reflecting on this place: the town of Tumanyan and the stunning Debed Canyon where it’s located. We’ll have two story-led hikes – the Giqor Trail and Kobayr Monastery – to get rooted in the terrain and the stories it has inspired. And we’ll turn to the stories this place continues to inspire. The town of Tumanyan now hosts a unique artists’ community, Abastan. The artist-residents will share work that engages with their adoptive home. And we’ll have a listening party for the podcast, Country of Dust, featuring an episode that traces the unlikely path of two Abastan residents, from Russia to northern Armenia.
Closing the festival, we’ll enjoy a performance of Loretsi Sako, one of Hovhannes Tumanyan’s masterpieces, by Sos Sargsyan National Theatre. We can’t think of a better way to honor this place, its unique character, and the people who have made it legendary.