A Review of “On Air”

IMG_3686

My new play, On Air, which I blogged about earlier this summer, received a wonderful production at Scripps Ranch Theatre, San Diego, in July 2016, produced by Robert May.

I’m happy to feature here a review of the play by San Diego-based writer, artist and professor Mindy Donner.


ON AIR
Scripps Ranch Theatre (SRT) presents the 5th Annual OUT ON A LIMB:
New Plays from America’s Finest City 2016

ON AIR is one of those plays informed by and telling about the Viet Nam War
era, and they get it right! “They” are the powerful playwright, Lisa Kirazian; director,
Liz Shipman; their fine cast, and the tech folks at Scripps Ranch Theatre.
The plot takes us along the journey of a dedicated educator, writer and on-air
producer of a reader’s theater hour at a local east county, San Diego radio station. The
entire production echoes and amplifies the eidetic quality of the writing, and that of our
central character, Gary Gordian, a community college professor who believes not only in
his students, but in the transformational possibilities inherent in delving into great works
of literature.

IMG_3681

Gary Gordian’s character and story is based upon and inspired by a real-life Gary
and his wife, Siran. Francis Gercke’s Gary was so believable and passionate that I could
hardly believe he was cast just two weeks prior to the opening. This is a great love story:
the love of Gary for Siran, a poetic seamstress who emigrated from Beirut; her love for
Gary and family; and Gary’s love of teaching the great books to a cadre of students
with limited resources. Siran, as played by Mariel Shaw, is graceful in all aspects,
shimmers with an ethereal beauty and has a core made of steel.

IMG_3679

Throughout the play, the pervasive thread is that of Gary longing for “greatness”–
to be a successful writer, to teach at Berkeley, to earn a real salary–and that of Siran’s
longing for home and family–her need to stay in one place close to extended family.
Siran’s rather old-world brother, Van, is asked to not visit after a boorish evening at
dinner at which he orders his sister around and around! Van is performed by Carlos
Angel-Barajas, who takes another turn as Juan, a Spanish writer with whom Gary has a
meaningful correspondence. While Juan is a more empathetic character, it is revealed
that Van wanted to be a priest, rather than a banker. No character is allowed to be one dimensional in this production.

And that is not the only relationship which becomes strained and frayed—Gary’s
“friend” at the college warns him that he is up for review and suspected of altering
students’ grade in order to give them a military deferment. Charles Peters is jocular and
almost despicable as Ben, fellow professor—who is on the make with his female
students. Gary’s radio station threatens to cut his show, as the listening audience for
“great books” in San Diego is on the wane. Disillusionment threatens to take over Gary’s
soul, if not livelihood.

The stage, which is long and shallow, is deftly designed into smaller focus areas
which become Gary’s college office with desk, his tiny writing study, the Gordian’s living
room, and offstage is quite believable as their bedroom. This suited the play, and the
acting within to a tee. Kudos to Bob Shuttleworth, scenic designer, and Liz Shipman,
who envisioned the perfect world for this play.

IMG_3684

Gary’s college students were delightful with earnest longings, confusion, angst
and all that students really experienced during that fateful era. Robert Bradvica, as
Steven; Michael Crosby as Mitch; Christopher Torborg as Shay, and Michelle Marie
Trester as Abbey/Toni—all were praiseworthy.

Gary gets his opportunity to take a job at Berkeley; Siran almost dies bearing their
child; and they transform into people who now know what is most important.
Siran realizes that “home” is where Gary and their child reside. Gary knows he is
committed to teach these community college students, who truly need him.

The delicacy and beauty of Siran in the “hospital”, a chair, her child which is
birthed from a blanket folded just so, and nurtured by mother and father, and Siran’s
Armenian dance of joie de vivre to follow are traces of director and choreographer Liz
Shipman’s imaginative fingerprint on this production.

This memorable and inspiring production needs to be mounted again for a longer
run, so that more audiences can enjoy this work.


Thank you, Mindy. Thank you, director Liz and cast. And thank you, producer Robert May and SRT!

Onward!

(all photos by Darren Scott)

My Guest Piece in “The Dramatist”

dgtwitter

Writers often get the question, “So what are you working on?” and most of us enjoy answering with our latest project.

But what’s even more interesting is not when people ask “What,” but when people ask “Why.” “Why are you working on that particular project? Why do you like to write about XYZ?”

I recently had the opportunity to contribute a piece to the May/June 2016 issue of The Dramatist magazine, a magazine for members of The Dramatists Guild, which supports professional playwrights and other theater artists.

This issue was entitled, “The Ethics of Ethnic,” exploring a variety of issues for writers writing about ethnicity.

DramatistMay2016Cover

Although the magazine is for members only, they allowed me to reprint it here, in the text below or the PDF link here: My Piece in The Dramatist

Let me know your thoughts!

DramatistMay2016ArticleCover

“In your opinion, what are the obligations of a dramatist writing outside her/his own ethnicity?”

When I once told a fellow playwright, far more famous than I, how I rarely write about my own ethnicity, she looked at me incredulously and said, “I can’t imagine not writing about it!”

But isn’t that what our playwriting, and our life in the arts, should be about? Doing the very thing we cannot imagine? Getting out of our comfort zone, losing ourselves in the wonderful and scary ‘otherness’ of life, of our world, of our friends – and enemies?

One of the best compliments I ever received as a playwright was when I wrote a play about an African American poet/civil rights activist. At the first staged reading at the Fountain Theater in Los Angeles, one of the elder actors (African American) looked at me shocked when I was introduced as the playwright. He told me later: “I thought the person who wrote this was black. There are things in here I thought only a black person would know and understand. I was a boy sitting in the pew at my Baptist church in Chicago when Dr. King came and spoke – no one talks about that speech. But you did.”

I relish the opportunity to research about ethnicities and histories other than my own – just as I am always beyond thrilled and honored when non-Armenian playwrights choose to explore “my” Armenian history. I serve on the board of the Armenian Dramatic Arts Alliance, which helps get the Armenian story, and other human rights stories, told onstage (www.armeniandrama.org). And when the work of non-Armenian playwrights writing about Armenian topics gives me insight into my own ethnic identity – strengths and weaknesses alike – it inspires and reminds me that the interdependence of art and artists across boundaries makes us all better, wiser and stronger.

Several years ago I wrote a play about multi-faith immigrants across ethnicities living in San Diego, commissioned by the Playwrights Project, which builds literacy, creativity, and communication by empowering individuals to voice their stories through playwriting (www.playwrightsproject.org). In researching the writing of other playwrights – and in speaking with everyone from a surviving Lost Boy of Sudan, to a Vietnamese refugee, to recently emigrated Muslims trying to navigate their post 9/11 community – I found such resonance with my own Armenian history, and that of so many other people groups: the pulls of passion and pride, misplaced trust leading to tragedy, glimmers of grace and help amid war horrors, clinging to hope over bitterness, perseverance over surrender. Audience members of all backgrounds came up to me after the performances, thanking me for ‘understanding’ and sharing their story.

Our story.

Shared suffering, shared survival, shared triumph. Oh, how we are not alone!

The responsibility I hold in writing about other ethnicities works hand in hand with the responsibility I believe we all have as artists — to understand and encourage our audiences and each other. Writing outside of our ethnicity, embracing and sharing its new insights, helps us recognize that our ‘otherness’ is, perhaps, not so ‘other’ after all.

 


LISA KIRAZIAN’s plays include On Air, The Blackstone Sessions, Switch, The Visitor, Six Views, and numerous one-acts. Productions & Readings: Fountain Theatre, Long Beach Playhouse, Scripps Ranch Theatre, DG Friday Night Footlights, Playwrights Project, Barrow Group, and several festivals. Publications: Los Angeles Times, Performing Arts Magazine, San Diego Union Tribune, Audition Monologues for Young Women #2 (Ratliff), various literary journals. Boards: Armenian Dramatic Arts Alliance (ADAA), Playwrights Project (Past President). Lisa is a Stanford graduate. www.lisakirazian.com.


 

Onward!

 

 

The Truth Will Set You Free: Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day

13055481_10153607326844639_6307757761936809355_n

Yesterday, Armenians around the world commemorated the 101st anniversary of the Armenian Genocide of 1915, when 1.5 million Armenians were systematically murdered by the Ottoman Turkish Empire for refusing to renounce their Christian faith and Armenian culture.

There were marches of 100,000+ people over the weekend; performances of new music, films and plays; peaceful demonstrations at memorial monuments, lectures and sacred services; and a shining new tribute: the recently inaugurated Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity, co-developed by Armenian and non-Armenian philanthropists, Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel and George and Amal Clooney — “On behalf of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide and in gratitude to their saviors” — and awarded “to an individual whose actions have had an exceptional impact on preserving human life and advancing humanitarian causes.” The award was announced yesterday in Yerevan, Armenia’s capital (click here for announcement), and will be announced there each year.

These forward-looking, inspiring events help show that the Turks and their Genocide of Armenians did not succeed in eliminating Armenians — they show that the world is starting to understand and embrace the truth of our history. But whether the world ever fully accepts it or not, Armenians are stronger and freer than ever by faith in God, and by perseverance to the values that matter most: love, compassion, dignity, spiritual commitment, regardless of what lies or horrors swarm around us. Although Turkey’s recogition would go a long way in healing many hearts and souls, Armenians don’t have to wait for that reluctant recognition to accomplish all they were put on this earth to do.

But genocides continue, as we see in today’s news. Christians and other groups keep getting persecuted for their beliefs, particularly in the Muslim world. And countries, because of their power, allies or strategic connections and resources, continue to literally get away with murder. Even today, Turkey denies carrying out the Armenian Genocide 100 years ago.

On the PR battlefront, the current Turkish goverment is also trying to murder the truth of history by funding full-page ads in the New York Times and Washington Post, buying up billboards near Genocide recogition event sites, and even creating websites claiming to seek truth and peace about the 1915 genocide yet which only deny its realities.

So the fight continues to advocate for full recognition, to tell our own true stories, and to sustain our heritage, culture and faith in new ways. One theater organization, the Armenian Dramatic Arts Alliance (ADAA), accomplishes this mission by encouraging Armenian stories and wider human-rights stories to be told onstage via playwriting contests and readings. As ADAA’s slogan reads: “It’s Time Our Stories Were Told.” We can never stop telling them.

For my husband and me, our day took place at the 31st Times Square Armenian Genocide Commemoration in New York, co-sponsored by the Armenian fraternal and charitable organizations we are deeply involved in, The Knights and Daughters of Vartan.

13087672_10153607314234639_8038809438632039992_n

More than 3,000 people congregated in Times Square, to hear politicians, academics, advocates, clergy and community leaders (including my husband) speak the truth and to urge everyone to participate in local advocacy as much as possible — calling your congressman to get an Armenian Genocide resolution passed; writing your State Assemblyman to get the Armenian Genocide taught in the schools, building relationships and telling our stories as much as possible to raise awareness. It was an inspiring event.

And yet, just two days before, a pro-Turkish group hired a plane to skywrite messages of Armenian Genocide denial high in the New York skies, also paying a troupe of people to dance below as the messages appeared.

Really?

The mere presence of denial and antagonism does not mean that truth-tellers should stop telling the truth, or stop advocating for it. In fact, the presence of opposition affirms our need to get the truth out there even more. Not with hatred or closedmindedness, but with an honest view toward recognition, repararation and perhaps, even reconciliation. And I think only God can change people’s hearts, if they are open to it.

But even if those things never occur, the victory is won. We were not wiped out. We are still here. And as voices young and old rang out to the heavens yesterday, our sainted ancestors heard and smiled in glory.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:38

Onward.

13103439_996068017107168_8690765785123289023_n

For more information:

About the Armenian Genocide:

http://www.armenian-genocide.org/

http://www.armeniangenocidemuseum.org/#home

http://armeniangenocide100.org/en/

About The Aurora Prize: https://auroraprize.com/en/prize

About the Knights and Daughters of Vartan: www.kofv.org

About the Armenian Dramatic Arts Alliance: www.armeniandrama.org

RRBC Back to School Book and Blog Block Party!

block-party-badge1

HELLO FRIENDS!

So happy to welcome you to my blog today, from San Diego, California! Thanks to the Rave Reviews Book Club (RRBC) for the opportunity to share more about my work! The RRBC Back to School Book and Blog Party in September has been a blast of inspiration so far, visiting so many great author sites, and I’m so happy to be involved! Click here for all the other participants this month so you can visit their blogs too. And if you’re not one one already, consider becoming a member of RRBC!

I would love to receive your comments — not only because writers encouraging writers is the BEST thing, but also so that you can be rewarded! Anyone who leaves me a comment today (9/21) is eligible for these prizes:

My GIVEAWAYS today are:

1. One Amazon $25 gift card!! (WINNER: John Fioravanti)

2. One Starbucks $15 gift card! (WINNER: Amy Reece)

3. One Hard Copy of BRAVURA, first novel in “The Music We Made” series (WINNER: Michael King)

4. One Kindle E-Book Copy of BRAVURA, first novel in “The Music We Made” series (WINNER: clynsg)

Total Winners: 4 (Will ship anywhere!)

THANKS RRBC!

I’ve been an RRBC member for just under a year but have been blessed to meet many of you and read your fine work as a result. I look forward to getting to know you better. RRBC founder Nonnie Jules recently encouraged me to engage more, helping me see the difference between support (which I had been doing with reviews, tweets, etc.) and engagement (discussing authors’ works on the RRBC website, commenting on blogs, getting to actually know some of you, and sharing more about my own writing, which I hadn’t been doing). It was an A-Ha! Moment I truly appreciate. It’s made my experience even deeper and more satisfying, and I can’t wait to keep going “Onward!” (as I like to say at the end of all my blog posts).

Earlier this year, I was also very fortunate to have a piece in the first volume of the RRBC anthology, Rave Soup for the Writer’s Soul (available here) and to have my blog win “Best Blog – Third Place” in RRBC’s contest! That was a real affirmation, since I’ve only been blogging for about a year and a half. Thank you! I appreciate your inspiring examples and kind support.

cropped-screen-shot-2014-01-10-at-4-05-55-pm.png

My Website

My Amazon Author Page

Twitter: @kirazian, @TheMusicWeMade, @ReflectionDay1.  Instagram: lisakirazian

A BIT OF BACKGROUND!

I’m a longtime writer and director of plays and films and a more recent fiction author. I’ve also edited books for publishers and audiobook producers for several years and have published numerous nonfiction articles. All of these experiences — plus growing up an avid reader, the daughter of an English professor, and studying writing/literature at Stanford — truly informed me when I finally started writing fiction seriously.  In all forms, however, I love writing about women, artists and anyone who is facing a crossroads of character or faith. I feel I was put on this earth to encourage people to learn more about God, themselves and each other, through my writing, speaking and relationships. (Bio at end of post).

MY BOOK SERIES

A longform television script I wrote years ago became the basis for my first novel series, The Music We Made, about three generations of the Driscoll family of musicians in London. From 1960’s London to the present, we follow siblings Kate Driscoll (an inspired violinist) and Neil Driscoll (a troubled pianist) and their circle of friends and loves — from childhood auditions to conservatoire to the world stage, and the challenges they face onstage and off.

For me, the series is a love letter to music, a valentine to musicians.  Its theme quote is TS Eliot’s unforgettable line: “You are the music while the music lasts.”

The first book in the series, years in the making, is BRAVURA, released December 2014. It was inspired by my experiences as a violinist. How this book came about is detailed in my blog post, “The Journey of an Idea,” (click here).

Bravura_2final

BRAVURA on Amazon

You can read the first chapter of BRAVURA here.  It’s been featured on Literary Fiction Book Review here. And you can watch the book trailer to BRAVURA here:

The next book in the series, APPASSIONATO, comes out this Winter in late 2015/early 2016. It continues the story of the next generation: Jenny Driscoll, a composer and conductor, navigating her personal and professional life in London in the 1990’s.

7328fd_bed35cffab954c2f95aee64b08b7f666.jpg_srz_p_308_483_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srz

You can read the first chapter of APPASSIONATO here. And you can watch the trailer to APPASSIONATO here:

The final book in the series, CADENZA, will come out in Fall 2017.  It takes the series to America in the present day, where Jenny Driscoll’s grown son, opera tenor Brian Martin, travels to find out what he never knew about his grandmother, the famous American soprano, Maggie Crawford.

Cadenza_Final_1

The entire Music We Made series of books is also being adapted for television, which I’m thrilled about. As all writers know, it’s a marathon to get our work to be the best it can be — and to get it to the right audience, but I’m willing to stay the course! I hope you are, too.

OTHER WORK

Just for a little change, I also wanted to share about my most recent film, REFLECTION DAY, which I wrote (adapted from a stage play) and directed:

ReflectionDayVertical_9.22.13-2

REFLECTION DAY is about an African American woman with Alzheimer’s and her young male caregiver. It screened at several film festivals last year across the US and is being used as a teaching tool for nurses and caregivers at various schools and facilities. I was proud to be a part of this production. You can watch the trailer here.

RDHallJohnsonAndre                                                          Rich Pierre-Louis and Edythe Davis in “Reflection Day.”

We never know what direction our creativity will take us, but all I know is that we have to follow it, no matter what the risk or challenge. That’s all for now, Friends! Keep going, keep writing, and don’t forget to leave a comment! Thank you!

ONWARD!

Screen shot 2015-09-19 at 7.47.06 PM

I’m proud to say that the fantastic artist Natalie Kaldjian designed all my book covers and can be reached at http://www.nataliekaldjian.com.

LISA’S BIOGRAPHY

Lisa Kirazian is a writer of plays, screenplays, articles and a new novel series.  Her scripts have been produced and published nationwide and she directs for stage and screen.  Her articles have also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Performing Arts Magazine, NPR/KPBS Radio, Student Leadership Magazine, and the San Diego Union Tribune.

Lisa was born and raised in San Diego and is a graduate of Stanford University.  Her writing mentors have included Anna Deavere Smith, Paul Peterson, Janet Tiger, and Paula Vogel.

She resides with her husband Steve in San Diego, California, and their two daughters.  Lisa serves on several arts boards, is active in her Armenian community, and is a popular speaker.  She blogs weekly about writing and creativity and is currently at work on a new play, a new novel, and a book about mentorship.

Time-Saving Tips for Writers — or Anyone

time clock warp MGD©

The next three weeks are major for me, as I help put on a conference for a national women’s organization I currently chair. Lots of workshop material to finalize, speeches to write and present, business sessions to run, and supplementary resources to prepare for participants.

I have to be ON and make every minute count. Not just for the conference, but for our family, relatives coming to town, my other writing projects, my own health and sleep — everything. People often comment that I do too much, and it’s true (and I do even more than most of them know!).  But I’m able to do ‘a lot’ because of some time-saving tips that have hugely helped me over the years.

Continue reading

When I Grow Up: Matilda and Our Armenian Daughters

file000612565099

And when I grow up, when I grow up, I will be brave enough
To fight the creatures that you have to fight beneath the bed each night to
Be a grown up.

“When I Grow Up,” Matilda (Original Broadway Production, Music and Lyrics by Tim Minchin)

We were in New York last week with our daughters – their first time there. I wrote last week about the special Armenian Genocide Commemorations we were honored to participate in. Unforgettable.

But it was also an unforgettable family weekend with our girls: Going to the top of the Empire State Building to take in the view of the city and the Statue of Liberty, shopping at the Toys R Us (with the four-story ferris wheel inside!) and the larger-than-life M&M Store in Times Square, eating Junior’s Cheesecake, seeing their aunt and uncle, cousins, great aunt and uncle, family — and seeing their first Broadway show.

matildanyc

Their first Broadway show – no small moment for this playwright. Thanks to some finagling by their uncle, my brother-in-law, we got tickets to see Matilda, one of my older daughter’s favorite books.

It was a delight, deeply meaningful and yet also humorous and musically catchy. A brave and unusually gifted girl overcoming a horrible family situation and bonding with a kind teacher who also benefits from the girl’s bravery and becomes braver herself.

Continue reading

The Voice of Victory

11154977_1578224645763951_4930537948063461963_o

Yesterday, April 26, 2015, I had the privilege of speaking in Times Square for the 100th Armenian Genocide Commemoration – a call to remember the 1.5 million Armenians massacred by Ottoman Turkey seeking to ethnically cleanse its country (a good portion of which used to be ancient Armenia).

Among writers and scholars far more qualified than I to speak on the subject, I was honored to be there because of service, because I currently chair a national Armenian women’s organization dedicated to serving our people around the world.

Sometimes when we serve, we go on unexpected journeys, learning unexpected lessons and benefiting from unexpected opportunities. Yesterday’s was the largest crowd I had ever given a speech to, and perhaps ignorance is bliss: I later learned that there were 15,000 people in the crowd, which might have been a knee-freezer had I known earlier!

Continue reading