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Vahe Sarukhanyan

Yerevan Actor Teaches Armenian Kids in Istanbul

Ten years ago actor Aram Kostanyan moved to Istanbul, leaving the familiar stage in Yerevan for a new one waiting in Turkey.

The actor says that he reached a point in his life where he felt the need for new challenges and modes of self-expression.

"As a rank and file actor, you have to wait on the sidelines until someone invites you to play a part. Sometimes you can go without acting for a year. Of course, I didn't come to Istanbul to act but rather to keep myself afloat financially," Kostanyan told me, adding that he chose Istanbul because his ancestors come from there and that he still has family in the city.

Aram never thought he'd wind up staying for ten years. He met and proposed to his future wife Lusineh just before coming here for what was just supposed to be a month.

Arriving in Istanbul, the actor became friends with Robert Hadejian, the editor of the newspaper Marmara, who had seen Aram act in "Levon 7th" back in Yerevan.

Hadejian suggested that Aram draft a project and he did, a literary recital entitled "A tour through the Bolsahay literature garden", an obvious reference to Baronian's "A tour through the neighbourhoods of Bolis".

Aram later met with Istanbul Armenian Patriarch Mesrop Mutafyan who suggested that he conduct acting lessons for Armenian children spending their summers at the Knali Island. This was followed by invitations from various Armenian schools.

Istanbul was once abuzz with Armenian artists and theatrical life. Today, there are only a handful of school drama groups.

Aram says that an audience for Armenian theatre is growing smaller by the year. But Aram says there is a core group of theatre goers that remain devoted to the dramatic arts.

The actor's two sons, Haroutyun and Avetis, were born in Istanbul.

"Two years ago, when he wanted to baptize the boys, the church said we needed marriage documentation. Well we had no such papers, but they made an exception," jokes Aram. "We had the church marriage ceremony and then the boys were baptized in the St. Stepanos Church in Yesilkoy.

Aram hasn't been back to Armenia since arriving in Istanbul, although he has relatives back home and feels a longing to return one day.

The actor says there's a passport issue and if he returns to Armenia he won't be let back in. There's unfinished work to complete in Istanbul for which he is responsible.

These days, Aram mostly teaches at the Yesilkoy and Dadian schools. His two sons attend the latter one. Again, the church made an exception since Aram isn't a Turkish citizen. Next year they plan to send Haroutyun to Yerevan for schooling.

"Sure it's tough being away from home and friends. You get all kinds of news from Yerevan, the good and the bad. You just want to be there to share those feelings with people who you grew up with," Aram said.

Istanbul-Yerevan