An Evening of Armenian Storytellers in NYC

Anoush Tatevossian, Rob Paravonian, Aida Zilelian, Alan Semerdjian, Lisa Yapp, Justin McElwee, Anoush Froundjian and Tamar Vezirian (l-r)

On June 8, 2024, the Tumanyan Storytelling initiative’s co-founder Anoush Tatevossian and NYC-based author Aida Zilelian, co-hosted “An Evening of Armenian Storytellers” at the Atamian Hovsepian Curatorial Practice in Manhattan. 

This was the first event of its kind in New York, showcasing the art of oral first-person storytelling. With an audience of approximately 70 attendees, the standing-room-only event offered an intimate and joyful opportunity to hear from six talented artists who shared their personal stories of the Armenian-American diasporan experience. 

Anoush Tatevossian opened the event by sharing the story of the founding of the Tumanyan International Storytelling Festival ( in the aftermath of the 2020 war in Armenia. It is a new cultural initiative dedicated to re-connecting contemporary audiences with the rich tradition of storytelling and serves as a platform for both preserving culture and enabling the creation of new Armenian narratives. Co-organizer Aida Zilelian shared a reflection on reconnecting with distant cousins who she came to find were connected to her Armenian family roots through shared traditions. 

​Anoush Froundjian told a story of marrying a non-Armenian and the process of having him baptized as an adult so they could be married in the Armenian church. 

Rob Paravonian tells a story about discovering old photos from his father’s trip to Soviet Armenia

Rob Paravonian reflected upon his recent discovery of photo slides from his father’s visit to Soviet Armenia. He told a story of how his uncle was a missionary Christian who visited Soviet Armenia and one of the few linkages he has to the country and culture. 

​Tamar Vezirian, who was born in Lebanon and whose family came to the U.S. during the civil war, told a story of breaking away from her Armenian upbringing by coming to New York as a young adult, only to befriend and move in with an elderly Armenian woman who reminded her exactly of her own family dynamics.  

​Lisa Yapp told a both comedic and touching story of being Armenian in the melting pot that is the United States and how melancholic it can be to try and maintain “tradition for one” over generations, as she is the last of her family members left with a linkage to her Armenian heritage.   

Storyteller Lisa Yapp describes her efforts at keeping Armenian family traditions alive in America

​Justin McElwee, the non-Armenian husband of Anoush Froundjian, rounded out the night with his own reflections and comedic story of meeting Anoush’s large Armenian family. 

Finally, singer-songwriter and poet Alan Semerjian played two original songs on guitar, culminating in bringing the audience together to sing along in a moment of harmony and unity. 

Feedback from attendees and participants was overwhelmingly positive, and discussions are already underway about hosting a second edition later this year due to popular demand. Tumanyan Storytelling is grateful for the support of the Atamian-Hovsepian Curatorial Practice, and AGBU Arts and NAASR for their sponsorship.

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Guest Contributor

Guest contributions to the Armenian Weekly are informative articles or press releases written and submitted by members of the community.

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