The Student Life: Pomona College
April 25, 2014 Friday

by: Abigail MacCumber

When Anoush Baghdassarian CM '17 approached Claremont McKenna College's
Center for Human Rights Leadership about producing her play Found,
a historical fiction piece that tells the story of Armenian genocide
survivor Lucine, she did not expect the amount of encouragement and
support she rapidly received.

"At the very beginning of the year, I went to the Center for Human
Rights and told them how I wanted to be a part of the institution,
because their work is something I'm really passionate about,"
Baghdassarian said. "I showed them my playand told them I wanted to
perform it here eventually, but maybe not this yearbecause I'm only
a freshman. They thought it was really great, and encouragedme to
produce it this year."

Incollaboration with the Center for Human Rights Leadership, the Marian
Miner Cook Athenaeum at CMC hosts aspeaker about the Armenian genocide
every year. After proposing her play andtalking to the directors of the
Athenaeum, Baghdassarian was invited to be thisyear's presenter. Her
play was shown yesterday, April 24 at the Athenaeum, and will also
be shown tonight, April 25 at Allen Theatre at Pomona College.

Coming froman Armenian family, Baghdassarian was greatly inspired by
her family andheritage. Her relatives fled Armenia-her mother's side to
Uruguay and herfather's side to Greece and Egypt-during the genocide,
in which 1.5 million people were killed as the Ottoman Empire during
World War I.

"My wholelife, I've learned about the Armenian genocide," Baghdassarian
said. "I went to Armenian school onSaturdays when I was younger. I
would wear this bracelet they gave us that said 'Remember the
forgotten,' because the Armenian genocide is known as the'forgotten'
genocide. Whenever someone would ask me about my nationality,
Ialways said I was Armenian first, but then add Egyptian, Greek,
and Uruguayan.People would ask me how that was possible, and I would
explain how my familyhad to move because of the genocide."

"Being Armenian has always been a big partof who I am," she added.

Growing up,it was this "forgotten genocide" and her upbringing that
inspired Baghdassarianto educate others. In sixth grade, she crafted
a poster presentation, decoratedin the colors of the Armenian flag,
with facts and photos to present to herclass. She continued to present
to her social studies classes through 11th grade.

But Baghdassarian's work to promote education and humanrights advocacy
did not stop there. In 12th grade, Baghdassarian took a playwriting
class at a one-day theater festival in New York that she had always
attended. It was there that she wrote a monologue that became the
basis of her play.

"I wrote mine, and it ended up beingabout a girl who was talking to
her therapist or her friends about the deathsof her family, and about
being alone," Baghdassarian said. "She wondered if her brother was
stillalive. From that monologue the whole other play came about."

"I wrote the first scene of the play; my teacher thought it was
reallygood," she added. "So he told me to keep writing."

Found depicts the life of the character Lucine in an artistic and
interesting way; it is clear that her love of theater influenced her
writing process. The stage is split. One side depicts Lucine in 1915,
while the other depicts her in 1925. 1925 Lucine writes in her diary
of what she witnessed during the genocide as 1915 Lucine acts it out.

Baghdassariansaid she was inspired by her grandmother, who was the
first Armenian woman elected tothe council that chooses the Armenian
archbishop. She also drew on stories from herfamily and survivors
from the Armenian old-age home in New York, incorporating some of
these experiences into her play.

"Thesedifferent influences encouraged me to do the play, and this
really supportedand inspired me to do what I love, which is theater
and acting as well asraising awareness about the Armenian genocide,"
Baghdassarian said.

Found has drawn a cast dedicated to portraying the heavy subject
matter with taste and integrity.

"I thinkthe most amazing part of this whole thing is that it's
completely student-run," said Nooshin Beygui SC '17, who plays the
character of Mayrig. "You wouldn't believe from looking at the play,
from seeing the subject matter,that it was actually written by a
student-by a first-year, even. It's veryinspiring that she could
be so creative and could touch on such a heavy subjectmatter. Scene
after scene, it can get difficult because we portrayso much loss and
so much tragedy."

Beyguinoted, however, that despite the play's heavy content, the cast
has still managed to have fun with the many hours they have spent
together thesepast weeks.

Despite her impressive work, Baghdassarian did not expect the support
she received.

"I am just so shocked and amazed," Baghdassarian said. "TheAthenaeum
is such a great venue, and I'm really thankful that they're letting
meuse it. Everyone's heard about the Holocaust. It was a much larger
scale. Six million Jews died, whereas 1.5 million people died in the
Armenian genocide.But it isn't just a saying that 'history repeats
itself.' It's a very definitefact."

"If I can inform people about what happened and show themthat this
isn't going to stop unless we do something about it, maybe I caninspire
others," she said.

Found will be shown today, April 25 at 8 p.m. at the Allen Theatre
at Pomona.