Sunday, May 21, 2023
4:00 P.M.
Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry
1 Royce Cir #101B, Storrs, CT 06268

Performer/Writer Sona Tatoyan holding her great-great grandfather’s Karagöz puppets. (Photograph by Alex Griffin)

Azad (“Free” in Armenian) is a kaleidoscopic story within a story within a story, centered on a storyteller’s discovery of her great-great grandfather’s handmade Karagöz shadow puppets in Aleppo during the Syrian war, a century after he salvaged his family and his art from the Armenian Genocide.

When Sona Tatoyan unearths a trunk in the attic of the abandoned family home, filled with Abkar Knadjian’s Karagöz and ancient magic tricks, she encounters his life and art, along with the ghosts of generations of family members long gone.

At the same time, she grapples with the recent indictment–and possible life sentence in prison–of her dear friend and patron, Turkish human rights activist Osman Kavala.

Amidst this backdrop of pain and loss, she discovers 1001 Nights. At the heart of this cornerstone of Middle Eastern literature is another storyteller, ScherAzad (the bold, brilliant weaver of tales who counters destruction with creation), who catalyzes an epiphany for Sona: the frame story of 1001 Nights is a story of how trauma transpires and how it is healed.

**NOTE: This performance is recommended for mature audiences due to adult language and sexual innuendo. 

The Northeast Human Rights Film Festival will host a closing reception following the performance of Azad. Please join us for post-show refreshments and a celebratory gathering after Azad.


Recipient of the inaugural UConn Global Affairs Digital Media Residency

Azad is being workshopped and performed at UConn through the generous and exclusive support of UConn Global Affairs and Dodd Human Rights Impact, with additional funding provided by the Levant Foundation. For two weeks prior to the NEHRFF, the Azad production team will be hosted at UConn to workshop and further develop this brand new work, with technical support provided by the Digital Media & Design Department, Dramatic Arts Department,  and the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, which is also the venue producing the production on May 21. 

With special initiative such as the Norian Armenian Programs, Middle East Studies, and Abrahamic Programs, and the Gladstein Family Human Rights Institute with its Human Rights Film and Digital Media Initiative, UConn Global Affairs is an ideal partner for Azad, a powerful multimedia puppetry performance that addresses issues of human rights, the Armenian genocide, Aleppo and the Middle East through Sona Tatoyan’s family histories and personal stories around healing.

UConn Global Affairs logo
Year: work-in-progress Creator / Performer / Storyteller: Sona Tatoyan
Genre: Multimedia puppetry performance Director: Jared Mezzocchi
Runtime: 90 minutes Story Consultant/ Director Advisor: Bill Pullman
Languages: English Karagöz puppeteer: Amy Liou
Countries: United States, Syria, Armenia Karagöz Creative Consultant and Puppet Maker: Ayhan Hulagu
Choreographer: Chelsea Didier
Oud Player: Ara Dinkjian
Technical Producer/Sound Maestro: Isaac Saboohi
Aleppo Producer: Antoine Makdis