The Hye-Phen

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Dear Armen (Excerpt)

by , | Nov 1, 2014 | Archives

lee williams boudakian is a queer, non-binary trans, Armenian-Liverpudlian mixie. Current love projects include Kalik, ShapeShift Arts, Dear Armen, and The HyePhen Mag.lee arrives at artmaking as acts of resistance, world&future visioning, and celebration towards liberation and healing.

Scene 1:

The stage is divided into three distinct areas claimed for Garo, Morkoor, and Garineh. Garo’s area has a desk, computer, books, papers strewn about, and cellphone. Morkoor’s area has minimal props, blue cloth, apron, and headscarf. Garineh’s area has a suitcase and bedsheets.

in darkness, The Voice of Armen begins to play.



Everything loses its contours…Where am I? What am I? … An imperceptible melody touches my ears. Is it the song of the stars dancing around the moon? Is it my body singing with happiness? Is it my soul, reaching the unattainable? It is the mystic rapture of being one with the night and the moon. It exists, then… The sun appears and restores form and outline to the earth. The desert is the desert, a floor of sand reflecting the heat of the solid sky. I am I, weary in a weary body. My soul is sobered; no longer lost in immensities, it takes up the burden of to-day. Has it lost for ever the way to that mystic happiness? No; some day, somewhere, I shall find again that incommunicable happiness.



Lights come up softly. Garo at home speaking with their partner. It’s a couple weeks before Garo’s presentation, and they are rehearsing and preparing for it. Garo is sitting at their desk, flipping through different pages of the presentation.

Isn’t that just the most beautiful? Are you gonna be jealous if I tell you, I’m falling in love with her? laughs. Shall we go into poly-relationship processing mode? laughs again.


This is taking a really long time to come together. It’s coming, but it’s not coming fast enough.

Yeah. I met with one of the academic advisors today. She read what I have and had little nice to say about it. She said… the research is thin. That I need more citations. That my work is young, and in in need of a lot of work.

looks discouraged.

Really? You don’t mind? It would be really helpful to rehearse this out loud and to hear what you think.

Okay. Like I said, it’s still super rough.

gets shy momentarily.

flips through notes a bit more. stands up and faces audience. begins speaking with purpose and intent.

Thank you so much for joining me here. My name is Garo Berberian and for my thesis, I’ve been researching Armen Ohanian’s life and creative works. In particular I’ve been focusing on Ohanian’s first published memoir, The Dancer of Shamakha.


As I share with you my research, I would like to acknowledge myself as a visitor to these lands. I am here to share with you work that intersects with herstories of genocide and displacement.


I recognize, it is a complicated thing to do this work while also living on lands whose indigenous people continue to experience and resist the effects of genocide.


I would like to invite the complexities of our intersecting realities and stories into this space, and to suggest the importance of naming our shared and different struggles.


A few words about myself and what brought me to Armen.

As a researcher and writer, I’m interested in the stories of women who are not often or not at all represented in literature or history books. I’m interested in remembering. I’m interested in writing about my ancestors. (stutters) Particularly the matrilineal line.


I’m a South West Asian Armenian, with members of my family more recently coming from Beirut Lebanon and Aleppo Syria. My family consists of genocide survivors, refugees, and now immigrants to this continent.


In my family, silence between women has been a common sound. The women in my family did not speak of their experiences…

And me, I’m interested in how I can write or speak into that silence.



moves to Morkoor’s area, picks up blue cloth and gets on all fours and starts wiping down the floors.

What do you mean the women in our family don’t speak of experiences?

What kind of things is this to say? Pshhht. Go upstairs and get your dirty laundry and put it in the washings. Inch amot.

to an audience member.

Family is the most important thing in the world, you know? The most important.

It must always comes first.

wiping intently.

You know, there are families who they don’t talk to each other? They don’t never call or speak with each other. They are like strangers. I know of one family like this. And that aunty, she is such a sad womens. She sacrifice everything, and now she is alone.

looks at audience member.

But not this family. This family we are not like this.

This family is the most important family.

responding to Garineh.

The mop? Garineh, I know what I’m doing. The mop doesn’t clean everything the way I like it. Look at these corners… you think the mop can get in there? Go from here, I just wiped down the floor under your feet. Go take the sheets from your bed and put them in the washings, I said already.

drops cloth and walks over to Garineh’s area.



picks up a corner of the bed sheet. continues coming back to the sheet, pulling it from one hand to the other.

Yup. That’s what she’s like. She compares us with other people and guilts us into not being like them. You’ve got to love ethnic guilt. That cultural post-genocidal guilt that gets you just where it counts.

But, try asking her a question about herself. Try. Try asking her what it was like before.

Oh, she’ll talk to you about the neighbours and she’ll talk to you about those other families, most of whom she invents, but she won’t actually talk about this one.

Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! They might hear you.

Yeah, no. We bury things. Time. Stories. Bodies. Bones. We bury them in our yards, sometimes in our closets. It’s a whole thing. Then we disinfect. We begin with the sheets on the bed. Always the sheets on the bed. They need to be bleached. Preferably washed the first time by bare hands dipped into the corrosive liquid. Kill two birds with one. Make. Sure. To. Remove. Any. Trace.

And me, I’m not interested in hiding or burying. I’m not interested in keeping the silence, in removing the blood and guts.

As far as I’m concerned, if it means staining all the white, then so be it.

drops sheets and moves across the stage, into Garo.



I’m interested in writing about the women that came before me who did not have documents or whose documents were lost because of displacement, deportation, migration, genocide.

Armen enters and sits at her desk.

Having limited understanding of the women I am a direct descendent of, I began more broadly researching historical Armenian women. Trying to piece together the missing links in my understanding and knowledge.

I found Armen, by chance. A friend asked me one day if I’d heard of Armen Ohanian.

I hadn’t. I looked her up. And so it began…

In the months I’ve been reading about and chasing after Armen, she has become… a kind of mentor. A kind of obsession. Reading her memoir and hunting down biographical information on her has been for me, a way of engaging with an Armenian woman’s voice that I’ve… felt…


You see… Armen left trails to follow, even if those trails don’t always lead to the “truth.” And somehow in finding some of Armen, I am finding something of myself..


Cue for Musician.



The Voice of Armen is heard through the whole space and the musician accompanies the her recorded voice.

I expressed, with a poetry of movement as cool and chaste as the dawn, the awakening of the human soul to the beauty of love.

Dancer should now be visible at back of venue.

Beyond the curtains the musicians touched the strings of their instruments. Music softer than the light of the candles and sweet as their perfume stole through the golden draperies. I rise, spreading my veils like transparent wings, and advancing into the open space begin my dance.

lee williams boudakian
lee williams boudakian is a queer, non-binary trans, Armenian-Liverpudlian mixie. Current love projects include Kalik, ShapeShift Arts, Dear Armen, and The HyePhen Mag.lee arrives at artmaking as acts of resistance, world&future visioning, and celebration towards liberation and healing.