William Saroyan was ahead of his time, writing about the challenge of diaspora and immigrant life in America.
Which gives his work significance, even close to 40 years years after his death.
“Those themes are very much pulsating today,” says Aram Kouyoumdjian, who premiered a set of previously unpublished and unperformed plays by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author earlier this month at the Los Angeles Central Library.
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The plays — six of them, done in excerpts over 75 minutes — come from the William Saroyan Collection at Stanford University, part of a stash that Kouyoumdjian discovered while working on his master’s thesis in English literature. They were written in the 1970s, late in Saroyan’s career, and are examples of Saroyan’s diaspora writing, Kouyoumdjian says.
He makes the distinction between that and Saroyan’s ethnic writing, in that while these plays are about the Armenian experience, they explore the feeling of otherness that comes with being in a new country.
“Even though Saroyan wrote about the immigrant experience in his fiction, it’s not as well-known in his plays,” says Kouyoumdjian, who directed the four-member cast from the Sacramento-based Vista Players.
The plays, woven together with literary content and biographical information, have names like “Ouzenk Chouzenk Hai Yenk” (Like It or Not, We’re Armenians) and explore topics like the trauma of genocide and the notion of repatriations.
Hopefully, the performance shows the breadth of Saroyan’s work, Kouyoumdjian says. And there is more of that work that remains to be discovered, he says.
“There are boxes and boxes at Stanford that have yet to be studied.”
“William Saroyan: The Unpublished Plays In Performance”
- 6:50 p.m. Friday
- Armenian Museum of Fresno, 550 E. Shaw Ave.
- Free, reservations required
- 559-224-1001, www.armof.org
Six other noteworthy events happening this week:
- Keak da Sneak 5 p.m. Friday. 2029 East Olive Avenue. $20. 916-712-1995, eventbrite.com
- Como La Flor: Tribute to Selena 7 p.m. Friday. Arte Americas, 1630 Van Ness Ave. $10-$12. 559-266-2623, www.arteamericas.org
- Last Curtain Call red carpet screening 6 p.m. Saturday. Maya Cinemas at Campus Point. $10.50. mayacinemas.com/fresno
- MFA Faculty Reading 7 p.m. Saturday. Arte Americas , 1630 Van Ness Ave. Free. 559-278-1569, www.fresnostate.edu
- Caruthers Fair 10 a.m. Wednesday though Saturday. Free. 13595 S. Raider Ave., Caruthers. 559-864-3768, www.caruthersfair.com
- The Big Fresno Fair 11 a.m. Oct. 3. Through Oct. 14. 1121 S. Chance Ave. $8-$12. 559-650-3247, www.fresnofair.com