The Search for Identity: What It Means to be an Actor

Armenian flag

By Melissa Dognazzi

In commemoration of the 100  year anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, Worcester State University’s Visual and Performing Arts Department staged a production of Richard Kalinoski’s Beast On the Moon, a story of two Armenian survivors struggling to move on and find a life of peace in America.

 

The play deals with identity, and how we deal with who we are once we’ve been through (literal) hell. It features a married pair of orphans, Aram (Eddie Sanchez)  and Seta Tomasian (Angela Georger). Seta is a young bride who can’t reconcile the innocence of her childhood  with the duties of being a wife. Her husband, Aram, is a man trying his best to start a family while adapting to life in America.

 

Though it is difficult for a contemporary actor to accurately portray a character based on individuals that suffered such real-life tragedy, they do so to provide remembrance for those who suffered and still do. Beast consists of a four-person cast, each actor or actress filling a vital role in the Armenian story.

 

“It’s about understanding genocide and human cruelty, what it does to another person,” Sanchez said. “It’s about how to survive as one strives for a new life. They deserve respect.”

 

Feeling the strain of identity is essential to the piece. The WSU cast delivered an impeccable portrayal of the grueling reality that is the life of survivors of the Armenian Genocide.

 

The focus of the show lies in the tension between husband and wife, which Georger and Sanchez craft beautifully. Their story is heartfelt, and familiar; the cast evoked a sense of relatable yet distant helplessness that had audience member’s eyes glistening with tears.

 

Bridging the gap between the actor and character can be quite challenging, particularly when trying to be historically precise.

 

“It’s difficult as there is a barrier between my experiences and the character’s,” Sanchez said. “Watching documentaries and studying the history was important. Their stories are very personal, the horrors they faced.”

 

It was clear that the actors embodied their characters, taking great care in the articulation of such a monumental historical period. They identified with them, felt their pain, and transformed together – all vital aspects of the play.

 

It’s about learning to fill the holes – something people today still continue to struggle with. The piece acknowledges the hardships survivors faced in daily life: growth into adulthood, conceivability, family expectations, poverty, rape, and death. The problem, as most of us can relate, is the process of coping with such suffering.

The Armenian Genocide was nothing close to what most face in their lifetime; many were horrifyingly slaughtered and those who remained suffered unbearable loss. It is pain, however, that connects one individual to another.

 

“All of us were clutching at something. I was clutching at life,” as Beast puts it.

 

As an attentive audience sat in a late Friday evening show on April 17, they were taken on a journey to see what it truly meant to be an Armenian in the 1920’s.

 

“They are from a time I want to understand,” said narrator Matt Gray.

 

This is what the collegiate, four-person cast brought to the stage: their truths, their pain, but most importantly, the stories of those who will never be forgotten.

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