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19th Century Playwrights >> Levon Shant
Levon Shant (1858-1935), 19th Century Armenian Playwright Levon Shant is regarded by many as the greatest Armenian playwright. His plays The Emperor and Ancient Gods remain among the most frequently staged Armenian dramas. Born in 1869 into the wealthy Seghbosian family of Constantinople, Levon was orphaned at the age of six. He made his debut as a writer in 1891, writing essays and poetry at first and then short stories and novels, adopting Shant (lightning bolt) as his pen-name. After attending various universities in Germany, he moved to Paris in 1899 where he got a job as the business manager of a theatre and first began to write plays. Returning to the Caucasus, he joined Vernatun (Upper Room), an Armenian literary group in Tiflis, with whose support his first plays were published and performed. His symbolist drama Ancient Gods (1908) revolutionized the Armenian literary world when it made its debut in Tiflis in 1913. Translated into German, Italian, French, and Russian, it was directed by Stanislavksy in 1917. Shant’s royalties from Ancient Gods allowed him to return to Europe in 1913, thus escaping the fate of his colleagues who were killed in the Armenian genocide of 1915. Remaining in Europe for most of the next five years, Shant returned to Yerevan to serve as a Member of Parliament in the short-lived Armenian Republic (1918-20), and was imprisoned following the establishment of the Soviet regime in Armenia. When he was freed by an underground movement that liberated hundreds of prisoners in 1921, he fled to Teheran. Subsequently Shant wrote only two more plays, including The Princess of the Fallen Castle, and devoted his energies to founding the Hamazkayin Cultural Foundation and the Armenian Academy of Beirut, where he was the principal until his death in 1951. Meanwhile Shant’s plays had been banned by the Soviets. But since the dissolution of the U.S.S.R. in 1991 and Armenian independence, his plays have returned to the boards with the acclaim that is their due.
THE “I” MAN (Esi marde), 1901
FOR SOMEONE ELSE (Urishi hamar), 1903
ON THE ROAD (Chambun vray), 1904
ANCIENT GODS (Hin astuatsner), 1908
THE PRINCESS OF THE FALLEN CASTLE (Inkats berdi ishkhanuhin)
THE CHAINED (Shghayuatse), 1918
ANCIENT GODS (Hin Astvatzner) 1993, produced by Mitre, drama (based on L. Shant’s play of the same name), 92min. (2539m), color. Prod. S.Arakelov, E.Grigoryan, A.Khachatryan, Scr./Dir. A.Kajvoryan

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