Armenian Reporter – 4/7/2007 – arts & culture section

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April 7, 2007 — From the Arts & Culture section
All of the articles that appear below are special to the Armenian Reporter.
For photographs, visit

1. Guediguian’s film returns to Toronto
2. Aram Khachaturian four-CD box set released
3. Four Armenian films at the Syracuse film festival
4. Silent auction fundraiser for David of Sassoon animated film
5. AGBU Armenian Youth Association’s Genocide commemoration
6. ADAA launches $10,000 William Saroyan Prize for Playwriting

7. Film: Seaching for identity in a multicultural world (by Paul Chaderjian)
* Filmmaker Tamar Salibian goes behind the curtains with Beautiful Armenians

8. A musical journey in avant-garde folk: Arto Tunçboyaciyan and the
Armenian Navy Band (by Betty Panossian-Ter Sargssian)
* Sidebar: Merin siroon Ararat (Our lovely Ararat)
* Sidebar: In memory of Hrant Dink, for the truth

9. It’s all about the ice cream: Leading man Hrach Titizian teases his
audience with talent (by Paul Chaderjian)

10. In their own words: Online entertainment magazine logs 4 million
hits a month
* Three best friends turn Hollywood buzz into dreams come true

11. Celebrating a decade of chamber music: The National Chamber
Orchestra of Armenia is ten years old (by Betty Panossian-Ter

12. Essay: Up the hill but not over it. A story about my mom (by Armen D. Bacon)

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1. Guediguian’s film returns to Toronto

Armenian-French filmmaker Robert Guediguian’s latest film, Le voyage
en Arménie (Voyage to Armenia), was featured as part of the 10th
annual Cinefranco French-language film festival in Toronto last
Sunday, April 1. Le voyage en Arménie was one of 45 films from 12
countries screened. It tells the story of Anna, a French cardiologist,
who reconnects with her Armenian heritage. Anna’s journey begins when
her father runs away to the homeland. She is forced to follow him to a
foreign country and a culture foreign to her. The 2006 film was shot
entirely on location in Armenia. It was scored by Arto Tunçboyaciyan
(see page C6) and stars Ariane Ascaride, Gerard Meylan, Chorik
Grigorian, and Simon Abkarian. Le voyage en Arménie was also featured
at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival.


* * *

2. Aram Khachaturian four-CD box set released

The Hamazkayin Music Committee in Los Angeles has released a four-CD
collection of Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian’s piano solos.
Performing the genius composer’s music is world-renowned pianist Armen

The music notes on the box set explain Khachaturian’s uniqueness by
saying that he created a new aesthetic dimension in music "by blending
his individual creativity with the distinctive features common to West
European art forms, the style of medieval monophony, Armenian
folkloric traditions, the art of ashughs and the purism of artistic
expression of the great Komitas [Gomidas]."

With the release of this set, Hamazkayin has concluded a series that
offers those who value Armenian music history a collection of keyboard
compositions and arrangements from three titans of Armenian music:
Sayat Nova, Gomidas, and Aram Khachaturian.


* * *

3. Four Armenian films at the Syracuse film festival

Several Armenian and Armenian-themed films are scheduled to play at
the 2007 Syracuse International Film Festival from April 18-22. Three
are on the film festival program, and Carla Garapedian’s Screamers has
been added to the prefestival schedule. Screamers, which will be
screened on Sunday, April 15, is an examination of the reoccurrence of
genocides through the perspective of the world-renowned rock band
System Of A Down.

The three films to be screened as part of the festival include
Memories about Sayat Nova by Levon Grigorian. This documentary bears
the name that Sergei Parajanov wanted to use for his classic The Color
of Pomegranates. Memories features 30 minutes of censored and unedited
scenes from Parajanov’s original work of art. The second scheduled
film is Return Of the Poet by Harutyun Khachatryan. This 85-minute
documentary from Armenia is about the creation of a statute to honor
legendary artist Jivany. The final film from Armenia is a five-minute
animated piece titled Unemployed.


* * *

4. Silent auction fundraiser for David of Sassoon animated film

A group of young California Armenians are planning a silent auction
next weekend to raise funds for the production of a trailer for David
of Sassoon, an animated feature film for theatrical release. The
filmmakers hope to use the trailer to secure funding for the
production of the entire film.

On the auctioning block will be artwork from Sophia Gasparian,
Kaloust Guedelekian, Haik Melkonyan, Alexander Sadoyan, Arpine
Shakhbandaryan, Addis Zaryan, Arpine Alexanyan, Azad Derbedrosian, and
Lousine Karibian.

On Thursday, April 12, at 7 P.M., the public may view the art and
meet the artists at the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church, 3325
N. Glenoaks Blvd. in Burbank, California. The art will remain on
display at the Diocese on Friday, from 10 to 10, and on Saturday, from
9 until noon.


* * *

5. AGBU Armenian Youth Association’s Genocide commemoration

The Armenian Youth Association of the San Fernando Valley will be
commemorating the Armenian Genocide on Saturday, April 21, at the
Nazarian Center, 6844 Oakdale Avenue in Canoga Park, California. The
event will feature the Hye-Herosner Marching Band, the Sartarabad
Dance Group, and the bands Sight of Sound and Silent Noise.


* * *

6. ADAA launches $10,000 William Saroyan Prize for Playwriting

The Armenian Dramatic Arts Alliance (ADAA) and the William Saroyan
Foundation will hand out ten thousand dollars to the winner of the
William Saroyan Prize for Playwriting. The submission deadline for the
inaugural competition is February 15, 2008, and the winner will be
honored in August 2008 – the 100th anniversary of Saroyan’s birth.
Contest rules are posted, and all scripts must have an Armenian theme.


*** ************************************************** **********************

7. Film: Seaching for identity in a multicultural world

* Filmmaker Tamar Salibian goes behind the curtains with Beautiful Armenians

by Paul Chaderjian

Tamar Salibian set out to make a documentary about how 20- and
30-something Armenians dealt with being Armenians in America, how they
felt about issues like marrying non-Armenians, and how they connected
to their cultural heritage. When the 30-year-old finished her
documentary, Beautiful Armenians, she had given birth to a much more
personal film.

"It became personal," she says, "because my connection to the
culture is very personal. I’m not involved in the Armenian community,
per se. I don’t go to events so much, but my connection is through my
family and through memory."

The exploration of her personal connection to her culture took Tamar
to Europe, the Middle East, and the homeland. She interviewed her
grandmother, cousins, and friends to figure out how those close to her
were connected to the culture to which she was connected through them.
>From 30 hours of footage, she pieced together a 59-minute answer to
her questions.

Beautiful Armenians was Tamar’s thesis film in graduate school, the
California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, an hour north of
Hollywood. The private institute was funded by the likes of Walt
Disney to help students like Tamar explore the visual and performing

"I graduated from Cal Arts in 2004," she says, "and since then, I’ve
been working in reality TV and independent film postproduction,
assisting editors and producers, directors."

Among her credits are work on Donald Trump’s Apprentice reality
show, Survivor, and American Inventor. "There is a group of us," she
explains, "who help the editor by organizing the footage. We make very
specific and succinct notes on each tape; then editors use our notes
to piece together the script and the episodes."

Tamar is currently working for a small production company called
Allentown, which is coproducing a series called Sahara. "It’s about
these three individuals who are ultra marathon runners," she says.
"They have decided to run across the Sahara Desert. It’s a mission to
see if they can do it, and it also highlights the current situation in

Her personal mission is to exhibit Beautiful Armenians at more film
festivals. During the entire month of March, the documentary was
screened on local cable in the Boston area. It was also screened at
the Golden Apricot Film Festival in Yerevan last summer.

"I didn’t go," she says with a smile. "I was working. I had to pay
my bills." Since then, Tamar’s film was also screened at the San
Francisco Armenian Film Festival in February. "It was also screened as
part of an anthropology series at Eastern Washington University in
Spokane," she says. "It was really great for me, because it will
engage people to learn about their family history and to question
certain things about their culture."

Tamar says in examining the essence of her identity, she came to an
awareness that she doesn’t consider herself only as Armenian. "I
consider myself Armenian-American, female, documentarist, living in
Los Angeles, from such and such place," she explains. "We’re
multifaceted individuals."

There is not just one answer to the question of how someone is
connected to his or her culture, says Tamar. "I found Armenians who
don’t speak the language," she says, "but feel very connected to the

Tamar also interviewed her grandmother, who died last year, to get
an oral history of how her grandmother’s parents survived the
Genocide. Tamar talked to her grandmother on tape about how her family
ended up in Jordan, lived in Jerusalem, and left during the
Arab-Israeli War in 1948.

"I made a very conscious decision not to show any of the footage
that I had shot in Armenia," she says. "I was going to include it, but
I realized this is a Diaspora film, and I am a person from the

* Diasporan identity

Tamar’s Diasporan history began when her parents moved to Iowa to go
to graduate school. That’s where she was born. The family moved to Los
Angeles when she was three. Her mother taught at Ferrahian High
School, and Tamar attended Chamlian and Ferrahian until her parents
moved to Boston.

"My mom got a job at the Zoryan Institute," she says. "That was the
reason for moving. She is an English professor at Boston University
now. My father studied music. He’s a composer, and he has his own
recording company called Meg Recordings. He’s helping me with the
promotion and sales of the DVD."

Tamar received her bachelor’s from the Massachusetts College of Art,
then moved to New York City to work in publishing and photo sales. "I
moved initially to do an internship at Harper’s Magazine," she says.
"I thought publishing was a nice mix of photography and writing."

While working for a photography distribution company in New York,
Tamar realized she wasn’t doing anything to create her own art, so she
applied to graduate school.

"I moved from New York a week before 9-11," she says. "It was
strange not to be with my friends and coworkers [after 9-11]." The
film and video program she enrolled in allowed her to design her own
curriculum, and she focused on documentary filmmaking and film

"I think my best film at Cal Arts was a very short piece was called
Home," she says. "It was the precursor to Beautiful Armenians, a
little bit more comedic." Tamar says she shot the short film during a
visit home when her parents were discussing taking a trip to Europe.

"On the one hand it was very funny," she says, "because my father
refused to go anywhere. You know how, Armenians, stubborn Marashtsis.
And the wife, trying to understand why this individual won’t budge."

The seven-minute short was a hit at school and around the
film-festival circuit, says Tamar. After filming her parents for more
than 90 minutes, she pieced together the film that showed the dynamics
and her father’s eventual agreement to travel to Europe.

Ahead for the budding filmmaker is a second documentary she will
call Arabic Lessons. "It’s about American individuals who are studying
Arabic and why," she explains. "I want to focus on the West’s
perception of the Middle East and the Arab world pre- and post-9-11."

Tamar says she wants to find individuals, as she did in Beautiful
Armenians, "who are towing that line between two or three or more

**************************** ***********************************************

8 . A musical journey in avant-garde folk

* Arto Tunçboyaciyan and the Armenian Navy Band

by Betty Panossian-Ter Sargssian

The Armenian percussionist, vocalist, singer, and songwriter Arto
Tunç – boyaciyan shares with the Armenian Reporter his personal
philosophies about music, his roots, and Ararat. We had our
conversation at the Astral club in Yerevan, where the artist and his
band are currently performing.

* The sounds of music

The avant-garde folk music created by Arto Tunçboyaciyan and his
group, The Armenian Navy Band, is famous for its unique fusion of two
distinct musical worlds.

Arto’s sounds are rooted in traditional Armenian and Anatolian music
and energized with the dynamics of the present. The term "avant-garde
folk" best describes the musical character and dimensions of this
group, its perception of life and the range of its imagination.

"Folk serves our basic cultural needs," Arto told the Armenian
Reporter. "It is rooted deep down in our souls. It is our specific
flavor. Avant-garde folk does not have any national boundaries. It is
not limited by any definitive style."

Arto believes perceptions of modern life and national traditions can
be combined in any musical medium, be it symphonic, heavy metal, or
jazz. Therein lies the richness of his original creations, whose
ingredients include Armenian folk songs, Anatolian melodies, the tones
of jazz and the blues, and other musical experiences.

"My music has all the sounds of my life," Arto says. "It is the
voice of my life. What I live is translated into the sounds of my

For Arto, "Sayat Nova’s or Gomidas’s music is also in a way authentic jazz."

How’s that? "Because they have written the music of the lives. The
only difference is that each has composed with his own sounds."

The path pioneered by Arto and the Armenian Navy Band in the woods
of jazz, folk, and a little from every part of the music world is
built with a fascinating assortment of instruments, played by twelve
musicians from Armenia, gifted with particular virtuosity. The
melancholy of the duduk counterbalances the animated thrill of the
bass guitar. The zest of a bottle full of pebbles or water murmurs
about the bond with nature. Along with the duduk, the very Armenian
kamancha, zurna, and kanon furnish the band with the folk idiom, while
the piano, keyboards, trumpet, drums, sax, bass, and trombone complete
the avant-garde.

* Three CDs

Since 1998 Arto and the Armenian Navy Band have released three CDs,
Bzdig Zinvor (1999), New Apricot (2001), and Natural Seed (2004). The
compositions are all original to Arto Tunçboyaciyan. In 2006 Arto,
together with the Armenian Navy Band, were voted the audience’s
favorite world-music artist on BBC. Arto was selected as the favorite
performer of the year.

Their music not only has elements from the cultures and sounds of
Anatolia, but also manages to dig out the Armenian soul, blend it with
the sounds and meanings of the contemporary world, and express it with
words and lyrics that touch the soul.

"My words flow like water into my songs," Arto says. "I prefer to
talk the way ordinary people talk, and then my words will be possessed
by the ordinary and the intellectuals because I don’t intend to teach
people. I just want to share with them moments of my life."

* Releasing inner tensions

Arto was born in Turkey in 1957 and raised in the outskirts of Istanbul.

"We studied Turkish at the Armenian school, and the history book
would teach us that we, the Armenians, are a bad nation," he says.
"Neither our Turkish was perfect, nor was our Armenian the way it
should be." This created volcanoes of inner tensions and conflicts.

Arto was not among those who would keep such feelings locked inside.
He preferred to cry out, "in an Artoyan language." And that is a good
thing because the listener, "be it my mother or someone Japanese,
finds a common path in my music. They may not both understand the
lyrics, but pay attention to the meaning. But my mother may penetrate
into the real meanings of those sounds because they are dear to her;
they belong to our native lands."

The artist stressed, "I am from Anatolia, not from anywhere else,
and this means being exposed to different cultural elements." He
rejects the contention that his music is Turkish.

"To me there is no such thing as being genetically a Turk.
Turkishness is an imposed ideology, because they do not really know
what they believe in. I do not say this to offend anyone, as I often
have asked Turks to explain what it really means to be a Turk, but
still haven’t got an answer. Who are walking now on the lands of
Turkey?! Close your eyes and pick randomly anyone and you find their
ancestors to be Armenians, Kurds, Central Asians. I can prove this by
hundreds of examples."

* Climbing his way up

He wanted to be either a Caesar or nothing, but was certain that
playing in the streets would get him closer to the Hall of Fame.

The turning point in the artist’s life was moving to the United
States in 1981 to explore new musical dimensions and to give free
expression to his inner sounds. After being a well-known professional
musician in Istanbul, where he "couldn’t get all the meanings out of
the words," Arto preferred starting from zero in the Land of

"Those of our friends who thought playing at weddings was a better
start than the street are still entertaining wedding guests," Arto
says. Playing in the streets is the hardest thing for a musician, he
says, because "you have to capture the passersby’s attention, you have
to make them stop and listen to you."

* A musical journey

To listening to Arto’s music is to be carried away on a journey, one
where freedom spreads its wings. But that is only a facet of the
relationship between this musician and his band on the one side, and
their audience on the other. "I like to have eye contact with my
audience. I want to know who they really are. I feel excited about
what each meeting with my audience will bring to me and teach me. It
is my way to discover life," says Arto. Sometimes a group of ten fans
may fascinate him and his musicians and carry them away, he says.

The journey is not only from the past to the present, but also
involves time travel into the future. It aims to be the starting point
for the next generation. "I want the climax of my music to be the zero
point of the next generation. I am waiting for the Armenian youth to
pick the music up from where I have reached."

* Improvising on the way

A musical journey with Arto and the Armenian Navy Band may have many
unexpected turns and twists.

Improvisation is a vital part of the creativity of this artist and
his group. "When I play on my own 75-80 percent of my music is
improvised," Arto says. Often the whole band starts a musical
expedition that leads them to new and unknown spaces, from where it is
sometimes hard to find a way back home.

"In a way life is improvisation because when you wake up in the
morning in reality you do not know what is going to happen next. But
the most important is being part of the moment, helping it and being a
leader, learning how to react," Arto says.

And with this, Arto Tunç – boyaciyan headed backstage to raise the
sails for yet another voyage with the Armenian Navy Band.

* * *

Sidebar: Merin siroon Ararat (Our lovely Ararat)

The song "Ararat" has mesmerized listeners all over the world with its
simplicity. It is hitting the right chords, the emotional chords of
Armenians everywhere. Arto tells the story of the song in his own

"Ararat is not simply a word, a song, but a true story. Although we
had seen the mountain from the Turkish side, it doesn’t have the same
majestic look from there. It fills up your entire life. And I am
fascinated with it.

"When I first came to Armenia, the first morning I woke up at dawn
and saw a picture of Ararat hanging in my room, and I thought what a
beautiful and real-life picture they had made. Only when the sun rose
and the colors of Ararat changed did I realize that it wasn’t a
painting. It was the real one! In my song I am telling that story:

Beautiful, so beautiful,
You’re Ararat, hey jan!
Your picture is so different
>From the Armenian side.

"And what I want to say between the lines is that it’s preferable to
see the mountain from the green side of Armenia, than to possess it
from the other side and have it covered with blood and black."

* * *

Sidebar: In memory of Hrant Dink, for the truth

Politics have always been a part of Arto Tunçboyaciyan’s songs. His
latest project, currently in preproduction, is inspired by the
assassination of Hrant Dink and addresses the hatred that took away
his life.

"Hrant Dink was my good friend. The difference between us is that he
spoke a local language, whereas I use a global one," Arto told the
Armenian Reporter.

The song dedicated to the memory of Hrant Dink is not an end in
itself. It aims to mobilize hundreds of thousands of people in Turkey
around a struggle against hatred and anger. "Hrant was the victim of
hatred and resentment," Arto says.

The song will be in Turkish and is addressed to Turks. "Singing it
in Armenian would not make any sense, because Hrant wasn’t killed by
Armenians. I’m telling Turks that what happened was bad for Hrant, but
is bad for them, too. That Hrant can be killed in the flesh, but Hrant
Dinks never die."

Arto is not alone in his musical cry against hatred. A well-known
Turkish singer, Yashar, joins him to scream, "this huge amount of
hatred between our two peoples is caused by a concrete history, and we
have to do something about it."

Yashar senses the danger of the hostile sensitivity between the
Armenian and the Turkish people and "Hrant Dink’s murder is evidence
of it."

As an artist and a human being, Yashar thinks he can do something
about it and mold other people’s feelings because, "Hatred is a
serious sickness. The Turkish government doesn’t want to talk about
the stories and we want to know the truth. Turkish people have to know
the truth about the Armenian Genocide. There is a reality behind all
this talk and I want to know what it is. I see people from Kars, from
Van. I see you and know that there are stories behind your eyes. We
have to be able to look into each others eyes, get to know each other
again. That is my vision," Yashar says.

Yashar is not afraid of being involved in all this because it
reveals the humane, it fights against hatred.

He sings about war, yet he thinks about peace: "I want to explain
what war is in reality, because we more often than not see it as a TV
program, but the reality is much more horrible. I try to explain the
extent of atrocities that war may reach."

As a Turk who believes his roots are Armenian, Yashar reacts to the
fog around it by screaming about the truth. My ancestors "came from
Batumi and preferred to keep a lifelong silence about their origins.
And we, their children, are trying to dig up our past and reach our
Armenian roots. My father was afraid. They were all afraid and that
explains their silence," Yashar said.

Unlike his father, Yashar is not afraid to talk about his origins or
about the Genocide.

He will shout to thousands the truth about history.

**************************************** ***********************************

9. It’s all about the ice cream

* Leading man Hrach Titizian teases his audience with talent

by Paul Chaderjian

When the owner of a Glendale ice-cream parlor finds himself in the
middle of a messy separation from his wife, the manager of his shop,
Gevorg, offers him a place to stay. The only problem is that a former
employee, fired by the owner, is also staying with Gevorg. Now,
between sundaes and paydays, Gevorg and his two new roommates are
forced to deal with each others’ personal issues.

How will this all work out?

We won’t know until Float, the movie about these three odd bachelors
opens in theaters. Principal photography for the film completed in
Glendale last month, and now the filmmakers are engaged in the
laborious editing process.

Producing the film is none other than one of its three handsome
leading men, veteran actor Hrach Titizian. The 27-year-old and his
costar Johnny Asuncion, who directed the film, met in acting school
and decided they wanted to make a comedy and a drama, mixed into one.

* Resident entertainer

Hrach was born and raised in Southern California. His parents are from
Lebanon and Jordan, both Armenian; and ever since he was a child, he
says, his parents would ask him to entertain relatives and guests who
came to their house for a visit.

"When we had coffee or dessert," says Hrach, "it was always like,
‘sing this song, say this joke, imitate this person.’ I was always the
entertainer when I was a kid. I always had an interest in it."

In high school, Hrach was focusing mostly on his involvement in the
Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC). He says he didn’t participate
in any plays or musicals at Crescenta Valley High because he was busy
"trying to be cool." Even though he enjoyed the ROTC, he says he knew
he would never join the military. "I’m not the military type," he

Hrach used the discipline and training he exercised in the ROTC,
however, to pursue what he always wanted to do – act. After taking a
couple of acting classes at Pasadena City College and proving to
himself that he had a chance, Hrach dropped out of college to pursue
his passion.

Before telling his parents he was dropping out of college, Hrach
enrolled in acting school and started looking for opportunities to
audition for roles. Soon, he found work as an extra – a background
actor seen behind principal actors.

* Extra work with benefits

Working as an extra kept Hrach busy for a while. Among the shows he
acted in were the Fox Network’s hit series Felicity. Hrach also worked
on the TV show Las Vegas and a feature film called All Over the Guy.
Hrach’s first appearance on the silver screen was in this 2001 flop.

"I am one of the people at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting," he
says, but his appearance was not-so-anonymous. Even now, says Hrach,
when the film is on cable, friends and family call him and cheer him

"The camera pans and you can see my face on the screen," he says.
Hrach quickly adds that he wishes he had not taken the role because
the movie was a terrible one, and he was featured as an extra.

"A lot of people think that acting is something that you naturally
have or don’t have," he says. "I think it’s true to a certain extent,
but you always have to develop your technique."

Acting classes and background roles on a long list of shows and
movies, says Hrach, gave him a chance to get up in front of people,
cameras, and directors, to try different characters and learn what
worked and did not work. The extra work also opened more doors.

After taking on enough extra roles, Hrach was able to join the
Screen Actors Guild (SAG), a union actors must belong to in order to
work on most mainstream Hollywood productions.

"If a show likes you," he says, "they’ll bring you back over and
over again. You can try to negotiate with them. When you show up for a
job, you ask for a union voucher instead of a nonunion voucher. You
say, ‘I’m really trying to join the union. Is there any way you can
get me a union voucher?’"

* Union membership

Felicity and Buffy the Vampire Slayer casting directors helped Hrach
gain membership in SAG. "I joined the union and then stopped doing
extra work," he says.

Hrach says he did not want to be known as a professional extra.
"It’s a tough thing," he says, "because a lot of people get stuck in
that. They get comfortable. They’re getting a lot of work. They’re on
the sets. They feel like they’re doing something, but it’s just a
joke. They’re just background and they’re doing crosses and stuff."

By the time he was 24, Hrach says he was working on about three
television shows a month. He changed the agent who was representing
him, had new photographs taken, and soon he had speaking parts on
shows like CSI, where he played Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law. He was
also hired for an Aaron Spelling show, which promised him a recurring
role, but the show was canceled after eight episodes.

"There’s a show called The Shield," says Hrach, "and they had a
season where there was a story about an Armenian drug cartel, and I
got to play an Armenian. That was cool. I played a truck driver that
was working. Basically, I got pulled over and got roughed up before
they sent me to jail. It was cool, because the scene was with Michael

Some of the other projects that Hrach has recently appeared on
include Kiefer Sutherland’s series called 24 and The E-Ring, with
actors Benjamin Bratt and Dennis Hopper. Hrach was also on Alias and a
show called The Nine, which was about a group of people who witness a
bank robbery and what happens to their lives after the trauma. This
show, unfortunately, was also cancelled.

After many speaking parts on television, Hrach also scored a
supporting role in the upcoming Peter Berg movie called Kingdom,
starring Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner, and Jason Bateman.
The film will open sometime this month.

* Actor’s playpen

When Hrach was trying out different acting schools, he realized that
he wasn’t sticking around one school because he didn’t like the way
the schools were managed. "I stuck around the Beverly Hills Playhouse
and was active in class for a while," he says.

Hrach decided to start his own acting school. He leased a warehouse,
hired a couple of coaches, and recruited students. Over the past three
years, his school in Hollywood has a steady group of students, offers
weeknight and weekend classes, and offers its space as a rental
theatre for playwrights and directors.

"Our school doesn’t follow one specific school of technique or
method," says Hrach. "Each of our teachers has his or her own style
and approach. The classes do scene study, monologues, practice
audition techniques, and do exercises to build self-confidence and all
that stuff."

Hrach is also a student at his own acting school, where he met his
Float partner Johnny Asuncion. The two decided to shoot a short film
called First Sight and then collaborated on producing the ice cream
parlor comedy-drama.

Float, which was shot with the help of the Armenian community in
Glendale, also stars Gregory Itzin, Lauren Cohan, and Ashley Peldon.
Making a special appearance is none other than the hardest-working
Armenian actor in Hollywood these days, Ken Davitian.

Look for Hrach this month in The Kingdom, and coming soon to a
theatre near you, Float, where it’s all about the ice cream.

****************************************** *********************************

10. In their own words: Online entertainment magazine logs 4 million
hits a month

* Three best friends turn Hollywood buzz into dreams come true is one of the hottest entertainment news sites in the
world. With more than 4 million hits a month, Diana Magpapian, Nora
Gasparian, and Ani Esmailian bring readers up-to-the-minute
entertainment news, inside scoops, video reports, and exclusive photos
from the hottest spots in the world of entertainment. The Armenian
Reporter’s Paul Chaderjian asked the hottest entertainment reporters
in Hollywood about their work, their lives, and their dreams.

PC: How did you start your site?

DM: The site literally started as a joke. Ani Esmailian was in her
senior year at Cal State Los Angeles trying to get a job at US Weekly,
while Nora Gasparian got a monotonous job straight out of college
working for GE, and I was working at Paramount Studios for
Entertainment Tonight and The Insider. I would always invite Nora and
Ani to Hollywood parties, where we would mingle with Hollywood’s
elite. Ani would write stories to other bloggers and it would end up
in national publications. At one point she realized that she wants to
get credit for her stories and there came the idea – joke – of
creating our own blog. Nora jumped in on the idea while I was still
juggling my career at ET and trying to get a job outside of Paramount
as a reporter. The idea of Hollyscoop came about in January of 2006
but didn’t really go live until April of 2006. Hollyscoop has come a
very long way considering the short amount of time it has actually
been around. It has definitely not been easy considering the fact that
we all had full time jobs, and tried to juggle a million things at

PC: How often do you update the stories?

DM: The stories on our website are updated 24 hours a day. Our day
consists of waking up at 5 A.M. and working on the morning stories. We
are competing with New York and London news sources, and in our
business news gets old quickly. So, we must always be on top of it.
Our day is pretty intense whether it is Hollyscoop breaking the news
or reporting breaking news. We are usually called on radio shows from
London to Chicago to discuss hot topics of the day. We were recently
given our own weekly radio show which is broadcasted live on, where our listeners can chat with us while we report the
weekly newscasts. At the same time we do commentary work for our local
news stations for any breaking news stories. We must always stay on
top of things or else we lose credibility with our readers. There are
times when we are covering an event in the evening and need to rush
home to update the pictures and write the story before anyone else has
it. Most of the time, we are on three to five hours of sleep with our
hectic schedules.

PC: How do you decide whether something is worthy of coverage?

DM: We like to write about stories that we think are interesting and
are hot topics. Also through experience we have learned what stories
work with our demographics and what stories don’t.

PC: How often do you shoot videos for the site?

DM: At this point the video segments depend on what’s going on in
Hollywood. During award-show season, we have more video content.
However, that is something that we are working on. In the next couple
of months, there will be more videos. Stay tuned.

PC: What kind of popularity is the site enjoying? How many hits to
you get on an average day?

DM: The popularity our website has been enjoying has been
overwhelming. We get over 4 million hits a month. When we are out in
Los Angeles or New York and get recognized by our readers, that for us
is a huge success. We can’t stress how exciting it is for us to meet
our readers. After all, without them we wouldn’t exist. It’s
interesting when we are at events and some of our favorite celebrities
recognize us and know who we are. We are still trying absorb all of
that. Also, it’s very flattering when networks contact us and want to
work with us or use our material for their shows. We are getting our
stories linked from US Weekly, the New York Daily News, the Drudge
Report, the Washington Post, Fox News, and newspapers from Australia
to Canada. Our video content has been seen on shows for VH1.

PC: Where do you want to be in ten years?

AE: I see myself having my own shoe line, perfume, and magazine.

NG: To have franchises all over the world and have commercial and
residential investment properties.

DM: I see myself having my own TV talk show and following in the
footsteps of my idols Oprah and Anderson Cooper. We want Hollyscoop to
change the way people get their information. We want it to be a place
where our generation’s pop culture can be heavily influenced. We want
to see a Hollyscoop TV show, fashion line, and magazine and to be one
of the largest Internet sources for news.

PC: If you compared yourself to TMZ or Perez Hilton, what would you
say you do better than those sites?

DM: We are big fans of those sites and in some ways they influenced
us to create our own website. However, our website differs in many
ways – from our story content to our videos. Our videos are segments
and we try to make people feel like they are watching a segment from
an actual TV show. You will never see us stalk celebrities on the
street with our cameras or write derogatory comments about people. At
Hollyscoop, we like to bring out the positives and add a little humor
as well. We always get e-mails from our readers telling us that they
are living vicariously through us with our video content and our
blogs. That’s what we want to do. We want to make our readers see what
goes on behind the scenes at most of the events we attend and make
them feel like they are actually there.

PC: Do you get a lot of Armenian stories in your site?

DM: Our site is strictly about entertainment, music, and fashion. If
there is an Armenian celebrity, artist, or designer that is making
news, we will be covering it. We have written about Kim Kardashian,
Sylvester Stallone wanting to make a movie about the Armenian
Genocide, and Screamers with System Of A Down. We do a weekly write-up
called "Artist of the Week," where we cover up-and-coming artists. We
have written about a lovely Armenian singer named Mariette Soudjian,
who singes R&B, and Maria, who is a young aspiring singer. We also
wrote a story about the Armenian rapper Capitol Z and will be writing
a story about C Rouge, who is a DJ and mixed Armenian trance songs. We
have actually used his music in some of our video segments.

PC: Tell us about your Christmas Special for Horizon Armenian TV.

DM: I do freelance for Horizon TV, and the Christmas Special was
something that I was asked to be a part of. It was a fun and lively
segment, and I thought it would be great to be a part of it. Horizon
has now launched a new show called "Hye on L.A.," which is a type of
travel show, and you will be seeing more of me as the host of the show
in the coming months.

PC: Will we see more of you on television?

DM: You will definitely be seeing more of Hollyscoop on television.
I can’t reveal much on this because everything is in the works, but we
aren’t going anywhere and this is just the beginning.

* * *

Who’s who?

* Ani Esmailian

Ani was born in Tehran, Iran, in 1982. Her family moved to Germany
when Ani was three and made the big move to California a year later.
Although she attended American public schools, her parents made sure
she was involved in the Armenian community. Ani participated in team
sports through Homenetmen and took private Armenian classes. Although
she moved to the U.S. over 20 years ago, Ani’s parents still insist
that Armenian be their primary language at home to ensure that she
never loses touch with her heritage and culture.

* Nora Gasparian

My mother and father moved from Armenia in the 1970s. They met in 1977
and got married one year later. My brother and I both attended an
Armenian private school from age three. Under no circumstances would
my parents agree to let us go to a public school because they felt
like we would lose our identity as Armenians. In school, we
continuously volunteered for telethons, fund-raisers, and it didn’t
stop there. After graduation, my two best friends from Alex Pilibos
school and I moved to UCSB, where we continued to be active in the
Armenian Students’ Association. We also organized events to raise
awareness about the Genocide.

One thing I am aware of is the fact that I am very proud the be
Armenian. Every time the girls and I go out or travel, the one line
that never goes unsaid is, "Thank God we are Armenian." It gives us so
much pleasure to speak about our background to people that are not
familiar with our ethnicity.

* Diana Magpapian

My father moved to the U.S. from Armenia in 1976, and my mother
followed in 1980. The two met in 1981, and they married shortly after
that. I was born and raised in Los Angeles and attended Rose and Alex
Pilibos from the tender age of 3. My little brother Manuel was also
enrolled in Pilibos from the same age. We were always instilled with
Armenian values and were always reminded to never forget our heritage.
During my high school years, I was very active, sang in the school
choir, did volunteer work for Armenian organizations, telethons, and
politicians. I also danced for Hamazkayin’s Ani dance group and was
involved with Homenetmen TV, where I did hosting and producing.

I attended the University of of California Santa Barbara with my two
best friends. We were very active in the Armenian Students’
Association, where we organized events for the Armenian Genocide and
made documentaries, which were featured all over the campus.

I am extremely proud to be an Armenian! I think this feeling truly
developed when I was in Armenia on my senior class trip and just being
on the Armenian soil was surreal. I don’t think I can ever deny that I
am Armenian or forget my heritage and hopefully I will be able to
really give back to the Armenian community and my country.

**************************************** ***********************************

11. Celebrating a decade of chamber music

* The National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia is ten years old

by Betty Panossian-Ter Sargssian

"How much time do we have?" smiled maestro Aram Gharabekian as I sat
with him in his office in Yerevan and asked him to evaluate the
decade-long life of the National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia.

"Throwing a retrospective glance at the ten-year life of the
orchestra, I can say that it has been loaded with surprises and
amazing situations. To start with, ten years ago I could not even
picture that soon I’ll be living and working in Armenia as the
artistic director and conductor of the orchestra. It seemed so unreal
that even now I still keep wondering at that serendipity."

In 1997 the Armenian minister of culture extended a special
invitation to Gharabekian, a celebrated Armenian-American conductor,
appointing him artistic director and principal conductor of the NCOA.
The maestro, who according to the Boston Globe critic Richard Dyer,
"knows how to inspire an orchestra to give him what he wants," had
already made a name for himself in the international arena with his
critically acclaimed performances in major American venues, including
the Carnegie Hall, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and Boston’s
Symphony Hall and Jordan Hall, winning honors and awards.

Until 1997, there were two national chamber orchestras in Armenia.
The first was founded in 1961 by Zareh Sahakiants and was the second
chamber orchestra in the whole Soviet Union after the Moscow chamber
orchestra. The second chamber orchestra was founded in 1977 by Zaven
Vardanian and was known as the Yerevan Chamber Orchestra.

"In reality I inherited two orchestras with two experienced
personnel," the maestro recalled.

A decade is not a high age for any professional orchestra, but the
new National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia has benefited from the
prestigious artistic traditions of its parents.

Back then the orchestra had no money. But rehearsals went on anyway.
"I remember that during our first rehearsal we didn’t have enough
chairs for the musicians. The first administrative meeting was held on
the stones surrounding the fountains in Republic Square, because we
didn’t have our own place," recalled Gharabekian.

But the absence of funds, other resources, and even a proper place
did not hinder the musicians’ work. The orchestra had embarked on a
mission to establish itself and achieve international standards. "One
needs to earn the necessary resources with one’s own sweat, and to
this day we are guided by that motto," the maestro said.

During the past decade the NCOA has appeared in various
international venues, including a November 2002 concert in Berlin,
celebrating Aram Khachaturian’s centenarial, and performances in
Tbilisi, California, Toronto, and Montreal, as well as the Halle
Festival in Germany.

During the past decade NCOA has commissioned and premiered more than
40 new works and encouraged the integration of traditional Armenian
musical instruments such as the duduk, zurna, shvi, and kamancha in
works written especially for the orchestra.

In addition to the international classics such as Bach, Handel,
Brahms, Rossini, and Mozart, the orchestra’s repertoire includes
Armenian classics such as Gomidas, Khacahturian, Babajanian, and

* A smooth transition

The generation change in the orchestra was achieved smoothly and
without conflict. Seven of the musicians were in the previous chamber
orchestras since the day they were founded. But they have earned their
continued place, because being a member of this prestigious orchestra
requires success in repeated, demanding assessments. Once a year the
artistic board of the orchestra invites its musicians to new auditions
and only those who pass are included in the next term of the

During that period public auditions are held. There are many
musicians who would like to be part of this orchestra, but few make it
to the top of the short list. "During the past four years, I am glad
that the orchestra has maintained stability in personnel and this has
had a definite impact of the professional performance of the
orchestra. The minimum demand is that they must have completed the
conservatory – the Komitas (Gomidas) Conservatory in Yerevan. Some of
the applicants, young and promising musicians, have grown into musical
maturity under the wings of the orchestra," said the maestro, who
likes to speak of the orchestra as an organic body, with its own

Mr. Gharabekian said: "This may be the only orchestra in the world
where all the musicians have the same nationality and have completed
the same conservatory. There is no other such professional orchestra.
I cannot picture such a thing in today’s global world."

And what does that mean for the orchestra? "The musical traditions
and directions keep continuing. In that sense it is interesting, but
of course it may have its drawbacks."

The maestro is at the core of all this action, but all the same he
steps aside to throw the glance of an outsider. "I can honestly say
that I am glad about the achievements of the orchestra and I am really
proud of my musicians. We can take pride in our orchestra in the sense
that it can effectively compete with chamber orchestras of so many
developed countries. And our résumé proves that," Aram Gharabekian

This does not mean, however, that there are no new horizons to
reach. "My personal motto is that what we have achieved today is
unsatisfactory for tomorrow, and I try to inspire the orchestra with
this approach. We always have to surpass our limits."

The orchestra has matured and secured itself a fair position with
its virtuosi musicians. Much is still to be achieved, but the
ten-year-old orchestra faces serious challenges. The clear skies of
today may be dark and cloudy tomorrow. "One of the most important
challenges we face is to improve the quality of our musical
instruments," says the maestro, adding that by playing on the current
worn-out instruments the orchestra cannot live to fullest potential.
"Providing the musicians with instruments in line with professional
norms will no doubt carry the orchestra to higher levels."

If the instruments are worn out, does the orchestra owe its
reputation to the virtuosity of its musicians? "It is definitely so,"
Mr. Gharabekian agreed, adding that apart from mastering musical
compositions, the musicians of the NCOA learn to understand and veil
the faults of their instruments. "They are musical acrobats!"

The other major challenge facing the NCOA is that of sponsorship.
The orchestra is state funded, but that barely covers any of the
orchestra’s actual expenses. The Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Foundation
of London has been the orchestra’s biggest sponsor. "They believed in
the orchestra; they believed in our work. We are indebted to them for
our milestones," Mr. Gharabekian said.

The orchestra boasts of having the best-paid musicians in all of
Armenia. "It was one of the traditions of the chamber orchestra and we
have been able to continue it thanks to our sponsors," Mr. Gharabekian

But the foundation has been scaling back its grants over the past
two years, Mr. Gharabekian says. "This is understandable, since no
funding is eternal."

And he added, "I can honestly say that currently this institution is
unable to purchase even a single pencil! All of our allocated funds
are directed toward paying the wages of our musicians."

But NCOA is not alone in its mission. Since 2004 a project-oriented
foundation, Friends of NCOA, has organized special projects, such as
concerts in the regions of Armenia and concert tours. "We support NCOA
activities on a project-by-project basis," said Maria Titizian, the
executive director of Friends of NCOA. (Ms. Titizian is also a
columnist for the Armenian Reporter.)

Shake Havan, a member of the board of Friends of NCOA told the
Reporter, "NCOA informs us of what they need for a special project,
and we take care of that through campaigns."

Today Friends of NCOA has 67 members, including Armenians and
non-Armenians who live in Armenia and Armenians in the diaspora.

Hope is the last thing to die, and the faith the maestro has in his
orchestra is contagious. "We have the potential of a full-fledged
future and of international achievements," he believes.

* The tenth anniversary

The uncertainties of the future, however, do not slow down the
celebrations of a decade full of milestones.

The anniversary celebrations of the NCOA were to be set in motion on
April 5 with a gala concert and presentation. In conjunction with the
concert, a photo exhibit,"Ten Years at a Glance," was to highlight the
achievements of the orchestra. The gala was to include a screening of
the DVD of an open-air concert at the Zvartnots temple last year. Aida
Amirkhanian, a dancer and choreographer from the United States, who
was the soloist at the Zvartnots concert, was to be present on stage.
World-famous Italian virtuoso saxophonist Federico Mondelci was to be
another special guest of the orchestra.

The venue was to be the Russian-Armenian State University Concert
Hall. "It is a wonderful concert hall unlike any other in Armenia. In
every aspect, it has the qualifications of internationally acclaimed
concert halls," said the maestro. It was to be officially opened to
the public with the anniversary concert of the NCOA.

Over the coming weeks and months, the orchestra will continue its
anniversary celebrations. A four-concert French tour will be launched
in Lyon and culminate in Paris, as part of the year of Armenia in
France program.

During its ten years of existence, the NCOA has regularly toured the
regions of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, taking chamber music to the
wide public. During the past few years, at the end of the season the
orchestra has chosen a remote region in Armenia and has toured cities,
villages, and monasteries. The anniversary year will continue this
tradition, and the orchestra will tour fifteen cities in Armenia
starting from Meghri in the south, reaching Ijevan and Berd in the
north, and Gyumri and Spitak in the northeast, and of course, Artsakh
or Karabakh. The following station for the anniversary locomotive is a
return invitation to Saint Petersburg, where in July the NCOA will
perform two concerts at the 15th anniversary of the prestigious Saint
Petersburg Palaces Festival.

The celebrations will recommence in the fall, when, aided by the
United Nations, the orchestra will stage a special concert to
celebrate UN day in October.

The orchestra plans to stage yet another magnificent open-air
concert at an Armenian historical site. This year it may return to
Shushi, where it first started this tradition and which was followed
by two special open-air concerts, in Garni (2004) and in Zvartnots
(2006). One can picture such a concert in, for instance, Amberd. "Yes,
Ambert would be a fantastic potential site for a concert, but there
are huge problems to be solved first. It is enough to mention the
electricity. Of course in that sense the orchestra has achieved what
it seemed impossible only few years ago in Armenia. In Zvartnots we
built an amphitheater with room for a thousand spectators."

The maestro has big dreams for the orchestra. "We have spoken
through our work, and now present it to the judgment of the world,"
said Aram Gharabekian, and concluded: "Once again I step aside and as
a third person think that it would be a real pity for such an
institution to cease to exist."


************** ************************************************** ***********

12. Essay: Up the hill but not over it: A story about my mom

by Armen D. Bacon

I will let you in on a little secret – my mother just turned 80. She
started a list earlier in the year of ‘things she wanted to do for
this milestone birthday.’ If you happen to know her, you’ll understand
me when I tell you she wasn’t a bit shy about letting her daughters
know she wanted a special celebration. In case you don’t know her,
here is a hint: her birthday wish list included wearing a strapless
gown, flying first class, and at the last minute she added that she
might like to have Barry Manilow croon in her direction, maybe even
calling her up on stage to share the spotlight. It didn’t take us too
long to figure out that a trip to Las Vegas might accommodate her
‘wishful thinking fantasy.’ Much to our chagrin, however, she took a
fall a few months later, so we had to abandon the Viva Las Vegas idea.

Plan B began to evolve. We decided on a road trip ‘up the hill’ to
the nearby casino. There were 17 of us in all – well, 18 if you
include ‘lady luck.’ Twelve of her closest girlfriends, along with her
daughters and granddaughters were invited to board the private deluxe
bus to enjoy a day of friendship, lunch, and gambling. They had a
combined age of 1,120 years – but truthfully, as I closed my eyes for
a few moments on the bus, I realized that their spirit and spunk made
them little more than budding adolescent girls making an adventurous
getaway without their parents’ permission. They laughed and giggled,
recounted their first kisses, and shared beauty secrets as I quietly
marveled at their unwavering passion and lust for life.

She had met each of the remarkable women along her own life’s
journey. Some were old and dear family friends; others were part of
her card group; a handful were church friends; one shared her passion
for quilting; and the newest of the group was a classmate in her
Wednesday writing class. The youngest of the group was her neighbor, a
self-professed fourth daughter, who we learned would sneak into her
house without her knowledge to change light bulbs and do occasional
housework and maintenance as needed.

Most of them were retired now, but none of them was tired of living.
Au contraire. They were feisty and gregarious, laughing and singing
all the way up the mountain. As I studied their faces I realized that
these women had lived through wars and depressions. They had given
birth to and raised a generation of baby boomers. Each of them had a
unique life story. They had survived catastrophic illnesses, the loss
of husbands, and yet they continued to live for life – cherishing and
savoring every single moment. Today they were putting their troubles
behind them, and in honor of my mother, they filled her day with pure
happiness and joy.

I am still awestruck by the sisterhood that seemed to glue this pack
of women together. What they had in common was their friendship with
my mother. The bus trip conversation was a testament to their
knowledge of my mom – we entertained them with memory games that
included questions about her favorite color, first boyfriend, farthest
destination, favorite dessert, birthplace, and number of siblings. By
the last question, they were howling and hysterical, eager to share
new and untold secrets about my mother. As well as I thought I knew
her, I learned a lot about her on that bus ride (much of it
unsuitable for print).

What I learned about most was the incredible power of women and the
value of female friends. This group had become the band of angels
that lifts my mother and keeps her in flight. They encourage her to
soar, even on the days that are filled with the aches and pains of
senior life. Their unspoken promise to each other was to keep each
other young. They were a fountain of youth, a special club that on
this day convened solely to celebrate the woman, their friend, who is
my mother.

From penny slots to dollar poker, it was a lucky day for us all.
How fitting that we had gone to a casino. Life had been a gamble for
each of them – a game of chance. But it was their chance meeting that
brought them good fortune. My mother had hit the jackpot on her day of

We had taken a bus trip ‘up the hill’ but by day’s end, it was
evident that despite their age, none of these wonder women was
anywhere close to being over the hill.

(May 21, 2006)

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