Montreal born Armenian actress Tamara Sevunts takes over the stage in New York City

By Diana Skaya

Tamara Sevunts took over the stage in New York City in May, performing in a play about the Armenian genocide.

She comes from a lineage of inspiring artists. Her great-grandfather Garegin Sevunts was a famous Soviet author, and her father Levon Sevunts is an accomplished journalist, currently working for the CBC.  

Among her many talents, Tamara also speaks several languages, including Armenian, Russian and Spanish.

Horizon Weekly was curious to find out more.

HW: –Tamara, tell us about your artistic background and how you ended up in New York City.

My grandmother, Tinatin Kakabadze, is almost entirely responsible for my artistic penchant. She was and is my piano teacher, and the voice that’s told me I’m an actress since I was 3 years old.

I first performed on stage at 5 years old, for a piano concerto. Classical music was my first love, my education, my introduction to the world of art and to performance.                    I always knew that I wanted to be an actress, and was constantly reminded by my grandmother, that I was one. I was able to pursue that dream once I graduated CEGEP in Montreal and was accepted to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, which brought me to NYC. I moved when I was 19 and was essentially living on my own — my entire family is in Montreal. That was perhaps the biggest challenge.

HW: – You took over the stage in New York with a play about the Armenian Genocide called Daybreak. Tell us about the play.

“Daybreak” is a dream play written by Joyce Van Dyke, and inspired by her grandmother’s story of surviving the genocide. It tells the story of two women, survivors, whose bond of friendship carries them from memories of 1915 into the future on their path to healing.  Joyce’s approach to the topic of genocide is singular — the play looks back to the past, examines the emotional wounds caused by trauma through different voices, but also projects a future where reconciliation is possible. The dream aspect of the piece allows us to suspend reality, mirroring the way in which such events influence our perception of time and place. Borne out of this device is a depth I kept discovering through rehearsals and performances.

HW: -How did this idea of the play come about and how did you get involved in the project?

A man by the name of Martin Deranian came up to Joyce some years ago and introduced himself as the son of Varter Nazarian Deranian, the best of friend of Joyce’s grandmother, Elmas. After much insisting and encouragement, Martin convinced Joyce to write a play about the two women, about their friendship and about their stories. It was workshopped in Boston first, six years ago under the name “Deported”. Joyce kept developing it. It turned into “Daybreak”, which was eventually picked up by the Pan Asian Repertory Theatre for its world premiere in NYC this spring. I was invited to audition for the part of Varter thanks to my friend and now cast-mate, Melis Aker. The rest is history…
HW: -What were some reactions about the theme of the play that you may have heard from non-Armenians, from those who were not familiar with the Genocide?

Everyone walked away from the play telling me how they had been moved. Although the play rests on a specific cultural history, it is not a piece about history so much as a piece about people experiencing pain, trauma and seeking to overcome it. These themes, like love and friendship, motherhood and family ties are the universal themes in the play which resonate loudly with all audience members. Most non-Armenians I spoke to after performances, insisted on what an important piece they’d seen, and how they related to it on so many different levels.
HW: -A few months ago you filmed a short film in Armenia. Tell us about that and when and where we can expect to see it.

We filmed “Tale of the Anguished Gardener” in a village called Gargar in the Lori region of Armenia in October 2017. It was one of the most exciting and fulfilling experiences I’ve had to date as an artist. It was cold, it was a difficult set to be on — we had limited resources, but the heart and soul every single person poured into the project made it an unforgettable experience. The film is currently in post-production. Once it is finished, we’re hoping for a festival run, at which point audiences will be able to see it.

You can view the trailer for the film along with Tamara’s other projects on her website.


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