- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
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 October 3, 2003 

Dramatic Changes: Theater's reconstruction beyond "wildest dreams" of thespians

The renovation of the 35 year old theater made it unrecognizable to even those who know it well.

Cultural life in Yerevan has been enriched with the reopening of the Hrachya Ghaplanyan Dramatic Theater.

One of 34 cultural centers of Yerevan, Gyumri and Vanadazor to benefit from the Lincy Foundation's $17.5 million donation to the arts in Armenia, the Ghaplanyan has a $630,000 new look.

From stage to washrooms, the renovation of the 35 year old theater made it almost unrecognizable to even those who know it well.

"I'm not very romantic, but I want to say that it is fantastic", says director and art manager of the theater Armen Khandikyan.

Among improvements is a new boiler room for heating, changing conditions well-known to Armenian performances in which theaters become so cold in winter the audience wear heavy coats and the actors can see their breath.

"When we opened the boxes with light and sound equipment all of us were filled with astonishment and admiration. It was a production of 2000. For correct and proper exploitation of that equipment we invited special experts so that they could teach our workers how to use it," says Khandikyan (before the theater was using equipment inherited from the 1970s).

He assures that one can't find a place in the theater that hasn't been reconstructed.

On September 25 President Robert Kocharyan, Yerevan Mayor Yervand Zakharyan, executive director of Lincy Foundation board of trustees Harut Sassunian, representatives of different theaters and well-known artists were among the first see the new hall.

The Ghaplanyan first opened in 1967 and was one of a few cultural centers to keep functioning during the dark and cold years of early independence in 1992-93. During those times the theater presented performances by candlelight, water froze in cups in the makeup rooms, and staff provided household goods for props and everyday dress as costumes.

Today, actors can enjoy comfortable rehearsal rooms, dressing rooms with showers and other amenities of 21st century stage performance.

"Even in our wildest dreams we couldn't imagine such a beautiful building corresponding to the European standards," says Honored Actor Artur Utmazyan.

Some say the new theater will produce inspired work, as actors think that they have no right to perform poorly in such a place and in such conditions they must turn every performance into a memorable one.

"Renewed energy and new desire for living and creating penetrate the heart of any mortal, who gets an apartment repaired in a new fashion. This is a home for us, where we have spent most of our lives," says People's Actor Guzh Manukyan.

With the feeling of their own home's reconstruction actors and director had been spending their time in the theater during reconstruction works not only watching but also assisting construction workers.

Actors from the theater gathered before dignitaries inspecting the theater last weekend and presented a letter for philanthropist American benefactor Kirk Kirkorian, expressing hope that the theater can thank him one day with a performance of gratitude.

The theater will open to the public later this month with 15 performances (Pertch Zeituntsyan's "Jesus from Nazareth and his 12 Disciples", Paronyan's "Honorable Beggars", works of classical and modern European authors), which have also been renewed. "Not only stage direction and acting part but decors and dresses as well and everything must be presented to our dear Yerevan citizens in a fresh view," says Khandikyan.

He also promises that he will make a surprise for his audience by adding five completely new performances to the renewed old plays.

According to Agnes
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