GLENDALE -- Lilly Thomassian teaches piano for a living, but the
Glendale resident is making a name for herself as a playwright.
"Let The Rocks Speak," Thomassian's play about three family members
devastated by the 1915 Armenian Genocide, has received national acclaim.
Last month, the play received the 2001-2002 Catawba College Peterson
Playwright Award. Thomassian's play was selected from approximately 300
entries in the competition, said James Epperson, chairman of the theater
arts department at Catawba in Salisbury, N.C.
The play will be produced in October at the Kennedy Center/American
College Theatre Festival in Raleigh, N.C.
"People kept telling me it was good play," Thomassian, 48, said
Monday. "But then to have it recognized like that was like a dream come
true for me."
The play, set in New York City in 1925, centers around a father and
two daughters who survived the genocide, but have trouble coping with the
loss of other family members.
"They are all scarred by what has happened but they are not talking
about it," Thomassian said. "It's only when they reveal everything that
has happened can they take the first step toward healing."
The father keeps a pile of of rocks in their living room to serve as a
"The rocks represent the soul of the victims," Thomassian said. "By
keeping the rocks he keeps the spirit of the dead alive."
The Peterson Playwright competition, which netted Thomassian $2,000 in
prize money, is designed to assist emerging playwrights who are trying to
have their scripts developed for first production.
"It's well written," Epperson said Monday. "She has a very strong
talent for dialogue, for creating a very compelling story.
Thomassian tells her story with the help of a chorus.
"It's very theatrical would be the best way to describe it," Epperson
Thomassian developed the play from a poem she wrote three years ago
called "The Long March," about Armenians being led from their homes to
the desert by Turkish soldiers to die.
The idea for the play came two years ago after she read a newspaper
article on Armenian Genocide survivors.
"It's not a realistic play, it's kind of surreal," she said. "It has
realistic moments, but it becomes surreal."
Thomassian, who is Armenian, was born and raised in Iran, but grew up
in Switzerland. She returned to Iran following high school, but fled to
the U.S. in 1979 following the Iranian Revolution.
"Every Armenian grew up with stories about the Armenian Genocide
instead of fairy tales," she said. "It's a part of their culture, so even
if you're not involved directly, it's as if you were involved because
it's talked about so much."