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Meet Armina LaManna

Today we’d like to introduce you to Armina LaManna.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
It was at a very early age that I figured out what I was going to do with the rest of my life. The moment I was admitted to the theatre academy in Yerevan when I was six, I knew that I was to spend my life in the theatre. After spending seven years of training and performing in the former USSR, I found myself in the United States. I continued acting until college; it was there that I discovered directing and everything made even more sense. This past September, I celebrated the 35th anniversary of my life in the theatre. Storytelling has and always shall be how I try to make the world around me a better place.

Please tell us about your art.
My passion and vocation is the art of live theatre. For a long time, my focus has been political drama. Recently, I also began creating theatre for young audiences. My colleagues and I were flabbergasted to discover that the entertainment capital of the world did not have a professional theatre dedicated solely to programming for young audiences. In 2016, we set out to create such a company, and in 2019, we held our inaugural production created for kids in elementary school. The feedback has been incredible; kids, parents, educators, and critics alike, loved the production and its interactive/multi-media elements, along with the focus we placed on the themes in the play. These themes comprised gender parity, moral courage, determination, and tolerance. Our company – Imagine Project – is dedicated to telling stories that spotlight female heroes representative of the diverse population in our county.

Because plays can profoundly affect those who see them, directors and playwrights, as storytellers, find themselves in a certain position of power – the power to influence. I do not take this responsibility lightly. Perhaps it is because I grew up in a Communist country where the stakes of artistic expression were so high. For a while now, I have been guided by Brecht’s words that “art is not a mirror to humanity, but a hammer with which to shape it.” For this reason, I like drama that holds political and social value. No, I do not like didactic plays; what I enjoy are plays that jar the audience out of complacency, push the audience to question long-standing beliefs—plays that spark dialogue. It is for this reason that as a director I choose to work on complex pieces that stimulate the audience to look at the world in a new light. And as a playwright, I choose to tell the stories of men and women who are flawed, relevant in their missions and experiences, and allow the audience to see itself in the journeys that my heroes take.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing artists today?
When faced with a despotic and inept government whose barrage of everyday decisions vitiate the lives of people and the environment, helplessness and disenfranchisement often become the new “normal”. It is in fact in moments like this that the arts, in particular, theatre, have a responsibility to counteract these debilitating forces by igniting inspiration, courage, and ambition for proactive engagement with how our lives unfold. This is a heavy burden and the biggest challenge for artists today. A challenge that can only be met when our work is chosen with our audiences in mind – when our work is relevant.

Needless to say, artists also have a constant challenge companion in the form of non-existent financial security and stability. While we as a nation take great pride in the accomplishments of our artists, actors, directors, writers, musicians, photographers, etc., we do not support them. Not only do we not allocate the funds necessary to support a healthy industry for artists (so that they do not need to hold five other jobs in other industries), but we devalue it further by often asking these artists to work without wages. (I would be remiss if I didn’t call out artists who accept these unpaid jobs and thus contribute to the cheapening of our vocations and the near impossibility for other artists to make wages for their hard work.)

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
To see my work, follow my social media accounts, which always announce all my projects. I can be found on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ArminaLaManna and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/arminalamannastage/. The newsfeed at arminalamanna.com also covers all my current and upcoming work. To support my work, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to Imagine Project at http://imagineprojectca.com/giving.

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Image Credit:
Ed Krieger

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