Mkhitar Gosh lived and created in the 12th and the 13th centuries. In his life time he wrote more than a dozen works, including the first Armenian criminal code, Fables, a number of prayers, sermons and theological works. He received the title of “ vardapet ” twice. Historians tell us that having the title of “vardapet” he wanted to get deeper knowledge from a Greek philosopher and theologian who was teaching and giving “vardapet” certificates. So he concealed his first “vardapet” certificate to get the second one with deeper knowledge. He opened a school in New Getik and inspired a generation of students many of whom became prominent theologians and historians of 13th century Armenia.
Armenian historian Kirakos of Gandzak wrote the biography of Mkhitar Gosh. According to Kirakos of Gandzak, Mkhitar was born in the city of Gandzak (modern Kirovabad) in the 1320s. He became a clergyman and came to Getik monastery. This monastery was destroyed by the earthquake and Mkhitar decided to build a new monastery with the name Nor Getik. A new village was formed near this monastery by the survivals of the earthquake. After his death the Nor Getik monastery was renamed Goshavank. The most significant works by Mkhitar Gosh are considered to be “Datastanagirq”(Criminal and civil code or the first Armenian law book) and fables.
According to Plutarch the history of Armenian theatre begins in 70 BC when Tigran the Great opened the first public theatre in Tigranakert. Artavazd II, who was Tigran the Great’s son, built the second public theatre in Artashat which survived until the second century AD. Artavazd II is considered to be the first Armenian playwright as he himself wrote tragedies for his theatre.
The real development of the Armenian theatre started in the 19th century when the western Armenian playwrights began to create, among them Petros Duryan, Levon Shant and Hakob Paronyan. Levon Shant’s and Hakob Paronyan’s plays are still being staged at different Armenian theatres nowadays. Hakob Paronyan’s “Brother Baghdasar” has been a great success in the Armenian theatres. In 1855 Armenian theatres were built in Constantinople, Turkey. In fact Armenians did a great deal for the development of the Turkish theatre as well.
The Armenian Drama academic theatre after Sundukyan was first built in Yerevan in 1922 and was rebuilt in 1965. Now there are several theatres in Yerevan: The Sundukyan Academic Theatre, The Yerevan Drama Theatre, The Theatre of Musical Comedy after Paronyan, The Russian Drama Theatre after Stanislavsky, The Actor Theatre after Mher Mkrtchyan, The Chamber Theatre and some others. All these theatres have been repaired with the financial assistance of Lince Fund. Now these theatres have air conditioning systems and are equipped with the latest stage machinery and requisites. But the problem is that very few people go to the theatre. The prefer to stay at home and watch TV. Almost all the theatres have the proplem of realizing their tickets. I think the main reason of this problem is that there aren’t any performances which are worth watching. People usually go to the theatre to see their favourite actors. There aren’t any actors now who are loved by most of the people. I mean actors like Karp Khachvankyan, Mher Mkrtchyan, Metaksya Simonyan, Hrachya Nersesyan and so on. I have heard about them from my grandparents.
I last went to the theatre 3 years ago. A festival of mono theatres was organized in Yerevan and I was happy to buy a ticket for the opening ceremony. My seat was in the pits. All the seats in the stalls were occupied by the guests from different countries and also by journalists and some members of our government. The boxes were also occupied by big authorities. I noticed Silva Kaputikyan sitting in one of the boxes. All the seats in the balcony were also occupied. So the house was full. I’ll always remember one incident during the opening ceremony. When the representative of Japan was invited onto the stage, he took off his shoes and went up the stairs to the stage barefooted. The audience applauded him heartily. In return to this an Armenian from abroad bent down and kissed the floor of the stage when his name was announced.
Vardan Petrosyan opened the festival with his performance “On Fire”. Vardan Petrosyan lives and works in Paris. He is considered to be one of the most talented Armenian actors now. He is good at imitating different political leaders, actors, singers and at the same time he isn’t afraid of criticizing the government. He sings, recites, tells jokes, plays different musical instruments and dances at the same time. When he is on the stage the audience can’t help laughing, admiring, rejoicing, enjoying every moment. The main idea of the performance is that our country, Armenia, is on fire and there is nobody to put it out. He offers different solutions and then criticizes them. I wonder how he manages to keep the audience interested in his words and motions for two hours without showing that he is tired. I enjoyed myself greatly during that performance.
khitar Sebastatsi was born in 1676 in Sebastia. His real name was Manuk, but when he became a clergyman, he got a new name Mkhitar. He got his primary education in the Monastery Nshan. When he was a young student he liked to ask questions, think logically and analyze. Little Mkhitar wanted to get a good education and for that purpose he came to Echmiatsin on foot. Even in Echmiatsin there were no good educated clergymen and he couldn’t find what he wanted. The clergymen in Echmiatsin treated Mkhitar as a servant, not a student. Soon Mkhitar understood that he couldn’t have a good future in Echmiatsin and ran away to the Sevan Monastery, but the Sevan Monastery and its clergymen were in no way different from those in Echmiatsin. Mkhitar left Sevan for Syria hoping to get light for his knowledge striving soul. There he made friends with the best clergymen who advised him to work as a catholic preacher but Mkhitar expressed his wish first to be ordained a priest. His wish was realized in his birthplace in Sebastia in the St Nshan Monastery in 1696.
In 1701 Mkhitar realized his longed for dream by organizing a religious congregation in Polis, Turkey. There were 10 members in it. The Armenian Apostolic Church was against this congregation as it reminded of a catholic origin. In 1706 Mkhitar had to move to Italy with his adherents. The Pope of Rome granted the Mkhitarean Congregation a small island near Venice, St.Lazar. Due to Mkhitar Sebastatsi St Lazar became an Armenian spiritual and cultural centre in Europe. This congregation bcame a special school for young Armenians striving for knowledge. Mkhitar Sebastatsi had to work and serve his two masters, the Rome Catholic Church and the Armenian nation. He had to write catholic religious books in order to be financed by the Pope of Rome but his most important creations for his nation were his first Armenian grammar books and dictionaries. Mkhitar’s most significant piece of work is the dictionary “Նոր բառգիրք Հայկազյան լեզվի” but this dictionary took such a long time to finish that he himself didn’t see it published. This dictionary was first published after his death in 1749. The second volume of the dictionary came out in 1769.
The Mkhitarean Congregation was the first to publish the manuscripts by Agatangeghos, Pavstos Buzand, Movses Khorenatsi, Nerses Shnorhali and others. They also translated the masterpieces of Greek and Romanic classical literature, the best pieces of West European literature and the best European text-books of different subjects for Armenian schools.