20 Champions: Termeh Yeghiazarian

Termeh Yeghiazarian, a visual artist, is one of the co-founders of Golden Thread. She was an essential part of the discussions that led to Golden Thread’s inclusive and groundbreaking vision of Middle Eastern-American theatre. She is also Torange Yeghiazarian’s sister, and artistic talent and disregard to instructions must run in the Yeghiazarian family, as Termeh answered our questions with a freeform blog. We’re so very excited to include her voice in this celebration of 20 years.

About twenty years ago, my sister informed me that we, along with three of our friends, were starting a production company! There had been numerous discussions prior to the announcement, about the need for suitable creative platforms where transplanted artists like us, from Iran and the neighboring regions popularly known as the Middle East, can tell our stories truthfully and with artistic integrity. The announcement came as a surprise nevertheless because, we’d never discussed creating our own platform!

Many a conversation at dinner parties, coffee with friends or cocktail parties would eventually and inadvertently lead to the issues encountered by each of us, artists at the onset of our careers and the scarcity of opportunities that did not conform to popular “Middle Eastern” stereotypes. Set against the politically hostile background of the early 90’s and faced with a largely uninformed or misinformed public, the move was a bold one. It certainly required strong conviction and a level of commitment to perseverance that we where yet to grasp.

Yet, when I was approached to write something about the early days of Golden Thread and share some stories, honestly, I couldn’t think of any specific event to focus on. Nor could I think of any amusing anecdotes to tell. What I do remember are little vignettes that define just a little part of my experience with Golden Thread.

Like, that time when the opening of a play coincided with El Niño grand slam storm hitting the Bay Area in full force with torrential rain and unprecedented strong gusts, bringing all forms of transportation to a halt. Show time arrived and no audience. Except for one! One dedicated fan of theater, of this theater company in particular, who somehow miraculously made it through the storm of the decade and sat enthusiastically, waiting for the show to go on. And the show did go on! The old theater adage, like glue, kept it all together indoors as all else seemed to be falling apart outside. I can still hear the sound of the ravaging storm and the muffled bangs of various unknown objects being thrown around outside as we watched one of the best performances of the season, appreciated by perhaps the most devoted fan in the world.

There are a series of vivid vignettes related to the fundraising art auctions that we used to organize. How our entire Board would volunteer for pretty much every aspect of the event. The generosity of over 30 artists who would donate to the good cause every year. Not to mention donations of goods and services from so many supportive purveyors and volunteers. On the day of the event, every Board member and volunteer would show up looking fresh, sharp and utterly enthusiastic, despite having installed the show only few hours ago. I remember how fun the events were, with live music, an actual auctioneer, good food and drinks, and a few people sportily bidding over each other. I say “a few people” because considering the effort that went into organizing the event, we had a relatively small pool of supporters many of whom were friends and family. The events were big but felt intimate.

Another time, when I was going through a particularly painful breakup, Torange, partly to distract me I’m sure, asked me to help with light and sound in the control room during a couple of performances. There, in that small discreet room positioned above the audience and the stage, pressing the thunder and lightening button like some Godlike presence inadvertently and humorously became an act of self-empowerment in an otherwise chaotic time in my personal life. To sit next to my sister, in that dark intimate room where she was running the other control board, embraced by her comforting presence, to feel supported, to know that against all odds, there is a place to hold and a task to be done for a greater purpose was, a reassuring moment that helped me “reorient” myself, pun intended!

At the end of the day and on so many levels, Golden Thread has been a safe haven against adverse conditions, political, cultural, artistic, social, personal, and even bad weather! To feel that regardless of the challenges of the day, there is a potential to turn the tides, or at least to initiate change in some small way…this is why I need Golden Thread. This is why we need Golden Thread.

Read the rest of our “20 Champions for 20 Years” blog series!

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