Trauma, Magic, Love: Being In Aleppo with Karagöz Puppets, My Ancestors and the Spirit of Osman Kavala


Monday, September 16, 2019, 5:00pm to 7:00pm


CMES, Rm 102, 38 Kirkland St, Cambridge, MA 02138

The Hrant Dink Memorial CMES Fund is pleased to present a talk and Karagöz puppet show featuring

Sona Tatoyan, stage & film actress, writer, and activist, and Ayhan Hülagü, journalist, actor, artist, and puppet master.

CMES welcomes Syrian-Armenian-American actress Sona Tatoyan as she presents her Armenian grandfather’s hand-made Karagöz shadow puppets, which were recently re-discovered in the family home in Aleppo, Syria. Ms. Tatoyan will speak about finding the trove of puppets in the context of her visit to Aleppo as well as the tradition of puppetry in the Middle East and her plans for an exhibition of this remarkable art form that entertained millions until the age of cinema.

Ms. Tatoyan will be joined by Mr. Ayhan Hülagü, a shadow puppet performer, who specializes in the traditional Ottoman shadow puppet theater called Karagöz, and founded the Karagöz Theater Company in 2017 in Washington, DC. Mr. Hülagü will close this event by presenting a brief shadow puppet show with Ms. Tatoyan’s grandfather’s puppets. This will be the first time Ms. Tatoyan will see her family’s puppets used in a traditional Karagöz show.

Sona Tatoyan is a first generation Syrian-Armenian-American stage and film actor/writer/producer/ and entrepreneur with bases in LA, Berlin and Armenia currently based in Aleppo, Syria.

Ms. Tatoyan is a graduate of the William Esper Studio where she studied with the legendary Bill Esper himself. She holds a BA in Theatre and English Literature from Wake Forest University, and speaks English, Armenian, French and some Spanish. Ms. Tatoyan is a second-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and received her Yoga Teacher Training certification in India.

An accomplished stage actress, Ms. Tatoyan was featured in the world premieres of José Rivera’s BRAINPEOPLE at The American Conservatory Theater, MASSACRE (Sing to your Children) at The Goodman Theater, and BOLEROS FOR THE DISENCHANTED, 2008 winner Outstanding Ensemble Connecticut Critics Awards, at Yale Repertory Theater, among others.

Ms. Tatoyan’s feature film debut was the lead role in The Journey (2002) – the first American
independent film ever shot in Armenia. The Journey won the Audience Award at the Milan International Film Festival in 2002.

As a writer, her first feature film script The First Full Moon -- a 2011 Sundance/RAWI participant and 2012 Dubai Film Connection/Festival Project-- examines a contemporary American-Armenian woman’s complicated connection to her roots in Syria.

Through her new social justice/social enterprise production company Disruptive Narrative, co-founded with International Human Rights Barrister Jennifer Robinson of Doughty Street Chambers, Ms. Tatoyan is in development with Three Apples Fell From Heaven. Co-produced by Radical Media, Three Apples is a magical realistic television series that elucidates the story of the Armenian Genocide through the previously unexplored feminine POV and its interconnection to Aleppo, Syria 2011-2018.

For Disruptive Narrative, she is currently penning the feature script Lie.Sex.Death. (LSD). In addition, she is conceiving Serpent, a Multi-Media VR experience in Aleppo.

Ms. Tatoyan and Ms. Robinson have also founded Hakawati: the Berlin/Los Angeles based social justice vehicle. Among various things, Hakawati will design and implement storytelling labs in various disciplines of cinema in frontline communities in partnership with The Sundance Institute.

Ms. Tatoyan has served on the World Cinema Jury of the Duhok International Film Festival in Iraqi Kurdistan (2016) and as the Rudolf Arnheim Guest Artist Professor at Humboldt University in Berlin (2017).

Ayhan Hülagü’s acquaintance with traditional arts, and specifically Karagöz, started in high school years. He took part in school plays. His interest in Karagöz took a more professional turn when he went to university. He immersed himself in theatre, various forms of art and Karagöz at college years. His career since then evolved in that direction, steeped in many forms of art. He founded the theater group called Hayal Perdesi Oyuncuları in 2005 while continuing his education at Pamukkale University (PAU) in Turkey. He later launched the PAU Theatre Festival; an annual showcase performed by a group of teenagers and college students with a 12-year successful run. After obtaining his college degree, he joined the Studio Players in Istanbul, an established theater group, to further advance his acting skills, and continued his career as a stage artist.

Hülagü developed an interest in shadow puppetry and started performing professionally soon after completing a course in shadow plays offered jointly by the Turkish Ministry of arts and culture and International Puppetry Association (UNIMA) in Istanbul, in 2011. After Karagoz, the traditional Anatolian shadow play character was included in UNESCO’s list. Hülagü staged a number of shadow plays in various parts of Turkey. In 2015, he launched the Karagöz Trilogy, ‘Karagöz in the streets,’ ‘Karagöz on the Road, and ‘Karagöz Returns Home.’

Hülagü brought his artistic experience to the U.S. where he staged many plays across America. After a successful run of Karagöz plays, he established himself as a promising young artist, offering something authentic and traditional to the American audience with exhibited passion. His success and strong display of his commitment to advance this art form, new to the U.S. audience, allowed him to obtain the Extraordinary Ability Visa (Einstein), which is only granted to prominent and distinguished figures of great talent who established themselves in their respective fields either in science or art. He founded Karagöz Theatre Company in the U.S. in 2017. His shows debuted in Washington, D.C., and were played in Miami, Iowa City (Iowa), Virginia, Minnesota, Maryland and New York City. As part of his projects in the US, Hülagü organized workshops and exhibitions to win new fans and audiences for puppet play. He taught short courses and offered training on this traditional play, which has been added to the UNESCO’s list of Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Contact: Liz Flanagan