The rocks have spoken

Tim Willert

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."

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