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Yeranuhi Soghoyan

Gyumri Puppet Theater: Staging Plays for Adults to Raise Much Needed Revenue

It’s 7pm and the doors of the 83-year-old Alikhanyan Puppet Theater in Gyumri are open.

This evening, however, instead of children lining up to get inside  groups of adults have arrived to see the premier of Ryūnosuke Akutagawa’s  “Conversation in the Dark”. Akutagawa (1892-1927) is known as Japan’s Edgar Allen Poe and many consider him the country’s best short story writer.

Hovhannisyan, the play’s director, is on hand to greet the audience, assuring them that the puppet theater will continue to organize such events targeting an adult audience.

Theater Acting Director Armenuhi Manukyan says that she’s decided to provide a venue to all those who would like to perform, and this is the first collaboration.

“We don’t want the theater to remain empty. People can come, stage plays and experiment. The additional revenue can also allow us to resolve some minor issues,” says Manukyan.

Hetq wrote about many problems facing the puppet theatre in 2014. The only issue that has since been resolved is the replacement of the three-meter-windows on the second floor.

In 1984, the theatre was moved to a former pub. Though it’s located in the center of the city, the construction is not quite adapted to the theatre needs. Also, the building requires major repair works. “There is a question of moving all the time, but since there is no building to move to, then we need to repair this one," says Manukyan.

Manukyan assumed the post of the director in August this year, after the former director had retired. She has eleven years of experience in the same theatre as a play director.

The puppet theater is under the jurisdiction of the Gyumri Municipality. The municipality is able to cover only the salary of 35 employees, which is minimal - 55-57 thousand drams. Manukyan says cleaners and artists get the same salary, and the salary of the director is only 5,000 drams higher.

In order to make any repair, the theatre has to find financial supporters. The theater recently found one, thus allowing the staff to build a new bathroom since the old one was used both by theater staff and visitors.

"We have four new plays every year. The ticket price is 400 drams. We prepare puppets in our professional studio, but we don’t enjoy the same conditions as the Yerevan Puppet Theater. We feel very bad when we are forced to play under a dripping roof. It’s not appropriate when we put  have to put containers to catch the dripping water next to the children sitting in the hall,” the director says.

The official visit of Armenian President Armen Sarkissian at the beginning of December raised the spirits of the theatre staff. President Sarkissian watched one of the puppet plays together with children and got acquainted with the building conditions.

Manukyan hopes the visit will produce positive results. She says the theater wants to perform in Europe, particularly Germany and France. Manukyan also plans to collaborate with the Yerevan Puppet Theatre to implement new projects and ideas.