month ago the renovated Puppet Theater opened
its season with Little Idas
One month ago Yerevan's popular Puppet theater
had a grand opening to show off its new and modern
hall provided by a $550,000 renovation by the
Lincy Foundation. The theater got new seats, a
new sound and lighting system and new facilities
for enhancing the art of its actors and designers.
The 300-seat hall opened its season with "Little
Ida's Flowers" and was met by a full house.
Part of the renovation, as well as those in all
of the 35 theaters that are among Lincy's $17.5
million cultural center renovation program, includes
modernizing heating facilities. Typically, performance
halls and theaters have closed during winter months
because of poor or no heating. In some halls,
shows go on, on stages so cold actors can see
their breath and the audience sits in hats and
The Lincy renovation was intended to bring long-awaited
relief to those conditions by installing separate
boiler rooms for heaters in some theaters.
At the Puppet Theater, the Foundation spent $80,000
on a new heating boiler room.
But in spite of the months of renovation and
the optimism with which the re-opening was met,
the Puppet Theater may be about to close, because
it cannot pay its $11,000 heating bill. (The theater's
annual income is about $24,000 earned from daily
The new boiler was built to serve the Puppet
Theater and the National Center of Aesthetics.
But for reasons that are not clear the boiler
has become the property of Heat Economy, a closed
corporation of the Yerevan municipal government
that manages such services for the city, including
providing gas for heating public buildings.
The boiler sits near the theater, which itself
is next to a large residential building. Theater
officials suspect that Heat Economy has plans
to divert heating from the Puppet Theater boiler
to the nearby apartments, leaving the theater
unable to know what portion of the gas was used
for its purposes.
Babayan assures that if the boiler room belonged
to the theater then heating expenses would be
three times less, according to calculations made
by specialists. If the theater were in charge
of heating, the director says, it would be turned
off at night and on days when the theater is dark.
Then, the theater would pay only for the consumed
gas, water and electricity, avoiding the heating
service charge and other state taxes.
"Our property depends on other people.
It's like if your neighbor uses electricity in
your house and you must pay him for the electricity
he used then, of course, he will use as much electricity
as he can so that he could get much money from
you," explains director of the Puppet theater
Yerevan State Spendiaryan Opera Theater, the
House of Chamber Music, State Art Gallery and
a few other institutions reconstructed by Lincy
face the same problem. Only Matenadaran, Dramatic
Theater and Sundukyan Theater have control of
their boiler rooms.
new boiler room cost $80,000 was built to
serve the Puppet Theater so that the theater
can serve the audience in winter.
Chief engineer and former head of Heat Economy,
Robert Budaghyan says his company is demanding
advance payment because in the past many public
buildings have had problems paying their bills.
"If they don't pay in advance then they
will not have heating," says Budaghyan.
If the heating system is not in service theaters
face possible closer of five months - until warmer
"You should not even keep a computer in
a room where temperature is lower than 12 degrees,
not to mention new light, audio-video equipment
and loud-speakers that we have. If the temperature
is -1 then in Spring they will break down,"
Administrations of the Puppet Theater and Opera
Theater appealed to the Ministry of Culture and
Municipality, who promised to solve the problem.
Heat Economy's Budaghyan says he received an appeal
from the Ministry of Culture, but insists there
will be no allowance for them.
Director of Opera Theater Kamo Hovhannisyan says
that they are not going to present expensive boiler
room to somebody else.
"One day we will see how Heat Economy uses
the boiler room in their discretion by selling
heating to whomever they want," assures Hovhannisyan.
The Ministry of Culture suggested to Babayan to
solve the problem by increasing ticket prices
at the Puppet Theater. Presently the admission
cost is 300 drams (about 50 cents). But even if
ticket prices became 5000 drams (about $8) and
all shows were sold out, revenue from tickets
sales would cover only half the heating bill.
"Who would visit the theater in that case,
when even now some people cannot afford to bring
their children?" Babayan asks.
The Puppet Theater is left, then, to consider
doing what it has done in the past, for special
performances such as its popular New Year pageant.
While its $80,000 boiler sits idle, cheap electric
space heaters will be brought into the new hall
to offer at least enough warmth for children to
enjoy the New Year performance.