Abaga, de Torange Yeghiazarian


Characters -
ARAM, young Armenian Christian man
JEYRAN, young Turkish Moslem woman
ARAM'S MOTHER
JEYRAN'S FATHER
HAMPER, Aram’s uncle (may double as Jeyran’s father)
ZARIN, Aram and Jeyran’s daughter
DAVID, young Jewish man



The time & place shifts between Constantinople in 1915 and Jerusalem in 1935.
The set should be minimal, time/space shifts indicated by lighting & props, and/or dedicated space on stage.


Background
On April 24, 1915 a number of Armenian artists and intellectuals were arrested and later executed by the Turkish government. This day has come to symbolize the systematic annihilation of the Armenian people at the hand of the Turkish government, first under the Ottoman Empire and later the Republic established by the Young Turks, in late 19th century and early 20th. Some survived the massacre and settled all around the Middle East, Europe and America.
In the same circa, Jewish villages in Russia, later Soviet Union, were systematically evacuated under The Pogrom. The first wave of Jewish migration to Palestine took place in 1924-25. In 1929 a major clash took place between the Arabs and the Jews in Palestine at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. Followed by the Arab Revolt in 1936-39. The British government issued the Balfour Declaration in 1917, adopted by The League of Nations in 1923, lending support to the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine provided that Jews and the existing non-Jewish communities would enjoy the same religious freedom and political rights. As the persecution of Jews in Germany (and other European nations) escalated, the number of Jewish immigrants increased in Palestine and the hostilities grew between Arabs and Jews.
On November 12, 1947, the United Nations adopted Assembly Resolution 181 recommending the establishment of two sovereign states joined in an economic federation with Jerusalem having a separate status as an international city under UN administration. On May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion, head of the Jewsih Agency, formally proclaimed the establishment of Israel as an independent state. On May 15th, 1947, the contiguous Arab states sent contingents of their armies into Palestine as the last British forces were departing.

Spot light up slowly. Zarin is center stage
.


ZARIN: I was born on a cold October morning. To the beautiful Jeyran and the generous-hearted Aram, who died a hero. My head never knew the loving touch of a father’s hand. It was my great uncle, Hamper who taught me the ways of life, and yes, the value of patience. My mother although capable and kind, always seemed in search of something. Something she had lost long ago. But we had lost so much; it was difficult to know exactly what was responsible for the hole in her heart. To know exactly when was it that Jeyran gave up on love. Was it the day Aram was shot at the demonstration? Was it the day she was forced to leave her home for an unknown distant land? Or was it all because of me? When she found out that I had set up camp inside her womb and that I intended to enter this world against all my mother’s might, living proof of her shame for the whole world to see. Blame? No, I don’t blame her. I love her.


Cassock music. Aram sitting on the floor, his head on his mother’s lap.


ARAM: Bayts, Mayreeg jan, seeroom em iren. (But, dear mom, I love her) I love her more than life itself.

MOTHER: Inch bes garelyeh Turkeen sirel? (how can one love a Turk?)To love a Turk? How? It’s impossible… Aram jan (dear), let me find you a beautiful Armenian girl, I’ll call your uncle-

ARAM: I have found some one.

MOTHER: No! (pause) Your father will weep in heaven. Do you want us to be shunned by everyone who has helped us survive these difficult years? How will I ever be able to look into the eyes of the Der Hayr (Holy Father)?


Turkish music of 1910-20’s begins to play. Aram’s mother remains seated in the dark, light shifts to Aram and Jeyran.


JEYRAN: He was the most handsome man I had ever seen. His eyes…full of kindness, his hands -

ARAM: Would you like some fresh walnuts?

JEYRAN: Thanks.

ARAM: You’re in my engineering class.

JEYRAN: I know.

ARAM: My name is Aram.

JEYRAN: I know.

ARAM: You’re the only girl in the whole Daralfenun (university). (pause) You want to be an engineer?

JEYRAN: Yes.

ARAM: Do you like Istanbul?

JEYRAN: Yes. Very much.

ARAM: Me too. It’s a lot better than Van.

JEYRAN: You’re Armenian.


Light shift. The stage is dark except for bright white light on Jeyran.


JAYRAN’S FATHER: On-eh? (He’s what? [In Turkish])

JEYRAN: But I love him.

ARAM: I love her.

ARAM’S MOTHER: They killed your father. Have you forgotten? They would have killed us too. God bless the DER HAYR for hiding us all in the church.

ARAM: Mayreeg, that was years ago. I’ve grown up here. I’m one of them.

MOTHER: Don’t ever say that! You’ll never be one of them. They’re murderers.

ARAM: Then why did you bring me here? Why send me to their University? Why didn’t you take me to Syria or America? Why stay in Turkey and live among murderers?

MOTHER: Oh, Asdvajz im (my God), okneer injz (help me). How can I ever make you understand? We’re unwelcomed guests in this country. They destroyed our land…our small nation, powerless and poor. The Persians, the Turks, the Russians… they’ve all taken a piece of us and now, we’re homeless. Where was I to take you? No one survived the walk to Syria. America you say? I didn’t know how…Forgive me; if I’ve failed you… forgive me.

ARAM: Mayreeg jan, nereer injz (forgive me), forgive me. Of course you haven’t failed me. I owe everything to you. I’ll do anything for you. Please, stop crying.
Music. Armenian Doodook.

ZARIN: When does love become a crime and blood an obligation? From the day I was born I was asked, what are you? Christian, or Moslem? Turk, or Armenian?

JEYRAN: Don’t tell anyone.

ZARIN: Why?

JEYRAN: Listen to me. People don’t need to know everything.

ZARIN: I don’t want to lie.

JEYRAN: It’s not lying.

HAMPER: Leave the girl alone, seerelis (dear). Come, come to uncle. Shall I tell you a story? Eench (what)? AKHTAMAR, or SASOONTZI DAVEED?

ZARIN: Did you come here because of shame too?

JEYRAN: Zarin!

ZARIN: What?

HAMPER: No, I came because of fear.

ZARIN: But you’re not afraid of anything.

HAMPER: Some things, yes. Some things even scare me.

ZARIN: Like what?

HAMPER: The horrible things human beings can do to each other…


Light shift. Zarin & David books in hand run ‘down the stairs’ and into one another.


DAVID: Oh, excuse me. Let me, Oh, No, it was my fault. Sorry, (drops books) Oh, Zarin, you’re so clumsy.

ZARIN: Thanks, I’m late for my class. Sorry.

DAVID: You’re in my engineering class.

ZARIN: Oh?

DAVID: Hard not to notice.

ZARIN: I’m the only girl, I know.

DAVID: Do you want to be an engineer?

ZARIN: Do people take that class for any other reason? I should go.

DAVID: My name is David.

ZARIN: Zarin.

DAVID: I know.


Light shift.


ARAM: When does love become a reason to hate? And blood cause for shame? My grandfather was killed in the battle of Zeytoon. My father in Van, the day it was burned down to the ground. Everyone said they were very brave for standing up to the Turks. I only remember the look in my father’s eyes right before the officer yelled ‘fire!’ There was only fear. Only fear. I held on to my mother’s skirt. She did not cry.

HAMPER: I left my brother to man the family and came to Palestine. That was almost forty years ago. Beautiful Palestine where Christian and Moslem live side by side, in peace. Oh, little fights here and there, trifles between neighbors. Hamper (patince)… to be alive is to be patient. This land has given me new hope, a new beginning. Today, park asdvajz (God be thanked) I am able to house my nephew’s wife and their little girl, Zarin.


Light shift. Zarin and David at the University cafeteria.


ZARIN: But Christianity has failed as a solution for the modern civic society. I mean look at how they killed each other all over Europe. Less than 20 years after the Great War, the war that was supposed to end all wars, except that it hasn’t, Europe is just bursting with conflict. The rapid military build up smells of another war. With all this how can you claim any thing is left of Christian brotherhood? I dare say Jesus gave his life in vain.

DAVID: And you see yourself as-

ZARIN: It’s irrelevant what I am. The point is that religion must be eliminated from civic life. If we are to have any hope of peace and progress.

DAVID: Eliminated?

ZARIN: Look at Islam, a great religion in its own time, certainly, but how is it helping Moslems now? They’ve been turned into slaves of colonialist powers. Take the University for example, how many Moslems do you see there? I can count the number of Moslem girls with one hand. And this is a religion that boasts of valuing knowledge and education above all else.

DAVID: Although I see your point-

ZARIN: Mosques used to be civic centers. Where the most eloquent political debates took place. All that happens there now is wailing and crying. That’s the nature of religion: shame, guilt, martyrdom. The church claims we’re born from sin. Your life’s sole purpose is to pay for your parents’ mistake!

DAVID: Unfortunately I don’t frequent the mosques in Jerusalem but-

ZARIN: Yes, not many Christians do. I only go to study the counter-opinion.

DAVID: I’m glad you have an interest in the counter-opinion! (pause) You feel closer to your mother? To Islam?

ZARIN: I suppose the fact that religion prevented my parents’ union has influenced my sensibility. But the greater influence has been Jerusalem.

DAVID: How?

ZARIN: Growing up here in the birthplace of all three major religions. Frankly, they seem identical. The scriptures preach similar notions. Then why such bloodshed in the name of religion?

DAVID: It’s not about religion. It’s about land.

ZARIN: It makes no sense.

DAVID: How does your father respond to your views?

ZARIN: He’s dead. He was shot in a demonstration. In Istanbul. Before I was born.

DAVID: I’m sorry.

ZARIN: It’s OK. I never knew him. It’s hard to miss some one you don’t know.

DAVID: I think I’ve missed you without knowing you. (pause) Would you like some fresh walnuts?

Light shift. Jeyran is behind a desk. She reads as she writes. Aram joins in taking out the letter from his pocket.

JEYRAN: Dearest Aram, it’s been almost two weeks that I haven’t seen you. Will you ever stop by again, or am I destined to perish in this never-ending solitude? Your hands…

ARAM: I miss your hands…

JEYRAN: I miss your hands…

ARAM: …touching my face…

JEYRAN: Will the day ever come…

ARAM: When those hands touch my face again?

JEYRAN: When those hands touch my face again?

JEYRAN’S FATHER: I told you, the day you marry an Armenian is the day I hang my Pasha hat and die. I have no patience for their ungrateful pleas in the Majlis (parliament) and I won’t stand for them meddling in my family affairs. What? Give my own daughter to some filthy Najis (unholy)? I sent you to Daralfenun, to the university, to get an education, to help modernize our great nation. How many girls get a chance like that, hum? You ungrateful little tramp. I am a modern man, with an eye to the future. Let anyone who disagrees come forward and speak out.


Light shift. Turkish Ashigh music.


ZARIN: When does duty supersede love? The Young Turks wanted to build a modern nation. There was no room for Armenians. No mixing of bloods, a pure race building a pure future. The Zionists wanted a land of their own, a home. Will there be room for everyone?


Light shift. Hamper and Jeyran sipping coffee.


HAMPER: Oh, you shouldn’t blame her. She’s young. This is her time to be idealistic. She’ll learn, she’ll learn. Hamperir kich me (be a little patient).

JEYRAN: She thinks I hate her. Never wanted her. If she only knew…

HAMPER: She’s the only reason you’re alive.

JEYRAN: The day they killed Aram, I wanted to die.

HAMPER: I know, I know… Me too. His poor mother almost did.

ARAM: She blamed me too.

HAMPER: She was devastated. Her only son, no husband.

JEYRAN: She said I killed him.

HAMPER: She didn’t mean it, sirelees (my dear). Why open up old wounds? Here, let me look at your cup. A beautiful future… Oh, I see it so clearly…


Light shift. Zarin and David walking side by side.


ZARIN: These are delicious. My mother hates walnuts. Can’t stand the sight of them.

DAVID: We came from Russia. 1925.

ZARIN: You were born there?

DAVID: Yes, in Kiev.

ZARIN: Why here?

DAVID: The land of the prophet!

ZARIN: You too!

DAVID: It is important to my parents.

ZARIN: Not to you?

DAVID: I suppose, yes it is important to me too. But I share your fear that religion-

ZARIN: Is the opium of the masses! I knew you would. How deliciously un-Christian of you.

DAVID: I’m Jewish. (pause) My family had to leave their home too. The Armenians aren’t the only ones. In our case, it was called The Pogrom.


Light shift.


JEYRAN: He’s what?

ZARIN: And what’s wrong with that?

JEYRAN: With all the fighting going on? Or are you deaf to that part of the news?

ZARIN: Mother, I love him and I’m going to marry him. You of all people I would have expected to understand.

JEYRAN: Oh, I understand. I understand the hurt you will feel when you become the target of his family’s abuse. It won’t be because of who you are, No…they won’t remember how he loved you, or how much you care for him, all they’ll see is that you are not one of them. Every time they look at you, that’s all they will see.

ZARIN: We won’t give them the chance. We’re leaving for America.

HAMPER
Inch g-ses (what are you saying)?

ZARIN: As soon as we’re married.

JEYRAN: Will he even come to ask for your hand?

ZARIN: Mother…please.

JEYRAN: Get out! Get out of here, you’re not my daughter. (Zarin exits) I don’t know who you are! Get out!

HAMPER: Patience, seerelis… why scream at the poor girl? We should be happy she’s found another set of ears to fill. Seerelis, don’t be angry with her…


Light shift. Spotlight on David.


DAVID: My brother was killed at the Wailing Wall in 1929. The crowd trampled him after he shot two Arabs to death. My father said, “It’s the price we have to pay for a Homeland.” Then he handed me my brother’s gun.


Light shift. Jeyran and Aram walking side by side.


ARAM: I came as quickly as I received your letter.

JEYRAN: You have to come and ask for my hand.

ARAM: But your father will kill me.

JEYRAN: He wouldn’t. He just wanted to scare you.

ARAM: He succeeded. My darling, I love you so much. I want us to spend the rest of our lives together. But I need time to figure something out. I can’t just show up there without a plan.

JEYRAN: Is joining tomorrow’s demonstration part of your plan?

ARAM: What? How did you know?

JEYRAN: I didn’t.

ARAM: Oh, don’t be mad. It’s at the university. (pause) We have to do something. Yes, in fact it is part of my plan. To ask for a government where people of all religions are treated the same.

JEYRAN: My father knows.

ARAM: And?

JEYRAN: The police will be there. They know. They will be waiting for an opportunity.

ARAM: The students have been demonstrating for weeks now. It’s all in support of the revolution. The young people are all on the same side. Jeyran, my love-

JEYRAN: Seerelis (my love, in Armenian)

ARAM: Ask im (my love, in Turkish)

JEYRAN: Please be careful. I need you now.

ARAM: I need you too. Always. (they embrace) I have to go. Bucheegner… (kisses)

JEYRAN: Bucheegner… (Aram begins to leave) Aram…

ARAM: What…

JEYRAN: Nothing.


Light shift.


HAMPER: I’m old. Tired. (he wipes his brow and sighs- pause) When does the human heart turn into stone? (pause)When does your neighbor stop recognizing you?


Light shift. Zarin and David sitting under an olive tree.


ZARIN: The days of colonialism are numbered, the mandate soon to be removed. They have no choice. They can’t afford to forever maintain an empire thousands of kilometers away.

DAVID: My parents want me to join the Haganah.

ZARIN: Who are they?

DAVID: The secret army-

ZARIN: To fight the British?

DAVID: And the Arabs.

ZARIN: Why the Arabs? We should unite against the colonialists.

DAVID: You’re not an Arab.

ZARIN: No… but if I were, what? (pause) Why haven’t you introduced me to your family?

DAVID: The only thing that’s keeping my parents alive is the promise of a Jewish State. I have to help make that dream a reality.

ZARIN: Is that what you want to do?

DAVID: I want to go to America.

ZARIN: Then we’ll go to America. We’ll join the labor movement there. It makes sense for America to lead the International. Oh, I can smell a revolution…

DAVID: No revolutions… and no wars, please. But how can I leave them? My family lost everything to come here …

ZARIN: I know. But if you don’t believe in the way-

DAVID: But if I stay, maybe I can influence it. I can… I have to stay and help. We need a home. This is our only chance.


Light shift.


JEYRAN: Why is the willingness to die the ultimate sacrifice when it’s the living who have to spend the rest of their life rebuilding what was destroyed? (pause)I held her in my arms. Her eyes bright like a thousand stars. Those perfect hands, perfect mouth. Aram, where are you to see this? Where? Why did you leave me? Won’t anyone ever stay…


Light shift.


ZARIN: No… He couldn’t, he didn’t want to… You saw him at the riots? No… he doesn’t believe in wars, or revolutions.

HAMPER: Sh…hamper seerelis, hamperir. Only patience, that’s all. In life, only patience.

ZARIN: Will I ever see him again?


Spotlight on David.


DAVID: We had taken over the safety of the city. When the fighting broke out in 1936 we had enough guns to defend ourselves. Enough guns to kill, and be killed.
Light shift. Every one has left except:

MOTHER: When is it time to stop?

HAMPER: When is it time to stop?

JEYRAN: How much bloodshed is enough bloodshed?

HAMPER: Homeless in your own homeland…

ZARIN: Never belonging… A land in between borders drawn with blood.

HAMPER: Sometimes, it’s difficult to be patient…

ZARIN: From the time I remember I was asked “what are you, Moslem or Christian? Turk or Armenian?” Look at me, I am human. Why is that not enough?


BLACK OUT


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