BY MHER JANIAN
Quite often the younger generation is criticized for their unawareness of significant issues in the community and for their lack of dedication to the Armenian culture and cause. Many say they will fall prey to assimilation, marry non-Armenians, lose the language and within another generation or so only a few scattered remnants of the Armenian identity will exist in the Diaspora.
But what I realized recently after seeing Taleen Babayan’s play Where Is Your Groom II on Sunday, March 26 at the Miller Theatre in New York City, is that the next generation is alive and well and may actually be better prepared to carry on the torch.
Taleen’s play not only skillfully interweaved the Armenian and English languages, it also brought to light important issues in our community that we need to face head on – assimilation, the church, language – and questions we need to ask ourselves as we raise another generation in the Diaspora – can our culture sustain if we create new families with non-Armenians? Is the church still a leader in preserving the Armenian faith and culture? It also touched upon universal topics of marriage, religion as well as the new generation’s search for meaning in life versus the parent’s generation of traditional work values and social mobility.
The story follows the successful original play, Where Is Your Groom? (Pesad Oor Eh) which debuted at the Greenwich Village’s Players Theatre in 2013 and performed for 10 enthusiastic Armenian communities across the country. While the first part revolved around a Diasporan family’s efforts to find their daughter a suitable Armenian partner, the second one focuses on planning the wedding itself alongside overbearing – yet loving – parents and generational differences. Both plays invoked literary, cultural and historical references while discussing important contemporary issues such as challenges in the homeland along with familial and political issues.
The allure here is that all of this is done in a comical and satirical fashion, appealing to all generations and all Diasporan Armenians, from the Beirutzis to the Bolsahyes to the Russa-hyes to the Ameriga-hyes. The laughs were non-stop among the almost 600 guests during the two hour performance that was both entertaining and meaningful. For me, it made me feel like I was back in my birthplace of Beirut, and I am sure many others felt the same way as we collectively engaged in an afternoon of comedy, nostalgia and enticing dialogue. We thought about the play well after it was over and examined our own selves in the process.
As someone who has been involved in the Armenian culture and community spanning from Beirut to New York, this was the first time I saw a vibrant group on stage conveying an important message in a humorous way. Since my move to New York over 10 years ago I have been to countless performances and cultural events but what I witnessed at this particular play was unique in that the whole group consisted of the younger generation on stage and also in the audience. What is key to mention here is that all of this was done without the assistance or aid of any Armenian organization – and it’s becoming more and more evident that we as Armenians tend to be more productive and successful on our own, instead of in groups and organizations.
Where Is Your Groom II is about our everyday lives and the pressing questions we need to ask ourselves – and this is exactly what the coming generations need. We can’t always take the reigns – we have to let others lead as well. We need to make sure we step aside to give the next generation the support, the encouragement and the opportunity to express their ideas and to create change in their own personalized and creative ways.
This play spoke to my heart. And it made me realize that as long as there are even a handful of young Armenians who are concerned with championing our culture and our cause then we will continue our presence in the Diaspora that will in turn strengthen our homeland. As Vahan Tekeyan says, Partzratzeer yev Partzratzoor (climb and raise others up with you) – and bravo to Taleen for doing just that.