Asbarez – The world premiere production of “William Saroyan: The Unpublished Plays in Performance” will have its final engagement at UCLA on Sunday, October 28.
Presented by the Richard Hovannisian Endowed Chair in Modern Armenian History and co-sponsored by the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies, the production will be performed at the Jan Popper Theater of the university’s Schoenberg Hall, 445 Charles E. Young Drive East. Parking is available in Structure 2.
Staged by Vista Players, a “boundlessly talented” ensemble that “set the standard by which others were judged” (Sacramento News & Review), the production is the creation of award-winning playwright and director Aram Kouyoumdjian, who was granted special permission by Stanford University Libraries (where the Saroyan Collection is housed) to stage excerpts from the unpublished manuscripts.
Kouyoumdjian’s script, which weaves narration through selections from such Saroyan plays as “Home to Hayastan” and “Ouzenk Chouzenk Hai Yenk” (Like It or Not, We’re Armenians), explores themes like immigration, the trauma of genocide, and the notion of repatriation. Four performers – Jade Hykush, Will Maizel, Bailey Sorrel, and Robert Walters – tackle nearly 30 roles during the course of the 75-minute production.
The production had its first performance last month at the Los Angeles Central Library’s Taper Auditorium, where it was greeted by an overflow audience. In his “Asbarez” review, critic Ishkhan Jinbashian hailed the production as a “drop-dead gorgeous tapestry of storytelling and reflection.”
Since then, the production has traveled with its original cast for shows in Fresno (at the UC Center) and in Orange County (at UC Irvine) before returning to L.A. for an encore performance – this one at the Ararat-Eskijian Museum. The cast has garnered standing ovations in all three geographies, and audiences have described the experience as “moving, heartfelt, captivating”; “brilliantly staged”; and “beautifully performed.”