Illuminating History: A Conversation with the Cast of RED DOG HOWLS

Intrepid_StageReadings_widget_RDH“It scares me how close this story is to mine.”

When Craig Noel Award-winning actor Jeffrey Jones first approached Intrepid Producing Artistic Director Christy Yael-Cox about the play Red Dog Howls, he told her how much this play speaks to him, not only because it challenges him as an actor, but also because it is a familiar retelling of his own Armenian family history.

“This story of Michael is so similiar to my past that I can’t help but to relate so deeply to the entire play,” says Jeffrey. “It is so spot on.”

Jeffrey Jones as Michael Kiriakos

Jeffrey Jones as Michael Kiriakos

Presented as part of the Intrepid Staged Reading Series, Red Dog Howls by Alexander Dinelaris, writer of the Oscar-winning film, Birdman, explores a very dark corner of world history.

In April 1915, 1.5 million Armenians were tortured and murdered during the decline of the Ottoman Empire in what is now acknowledged in most of the world as a genocide. Stories of the survivors, wherever they are heard, are hauntingly and profoundly resonant and the Armenian community works tirelessly to increase awareness of these events.

To that end, Intrepid will host a talkback panel immediately following the reading with critically-acclaimed author Dawn Anahid MacKeen, noted photographer Bardig Kouyoumdjian and the cast, moderated by Armenian Studies lecturer, Jack Nalbandian.

“I am Armenian and this story helps connect my awareness to my ancestry,” says Jeffrey, who cared for his grandmother, Elizabeth Toshigian, a survivor, until her passing. In the play, the main character, Michael Kiriakos, discovers a pack of mysterious letters left behind by his recently deceased father, which lead him to Rose, an Armenian woman who holds the secrets to his family history.

Dagmar Fields as Rose Afratian

Dagmar Fields as Rose Afratian

“My grandmother escaped the genocide at age 13, after watching the Gendarmes slaughter her family. She was the only one who survived,” explains Jeffrey. “She taught me our language, our food, our music, our dancing, our poetry and all our great writers, and mostly our religion, and how millions of Armenians refused to give up their faith and died for it. Like, in a way, they died for me to live.”

As Michael and Rose get to know each other, history becomes present and Michael begins to understand the emotional landscape of his own heritage and family.

Joining the cast as Rose, the strong, dynamic matriarch, is Dagmar Fields, recently seen in Intrepid’s I Hate Hamlet. While she admits that she did not have an extensive knowledge of the Armenian Genocide before encountering this play, Dagmar understand the importance of telling the story of Rose.

“The testimony to survival, family, and the healing power of love in this script help to explain why the soul of man perseveres,” says Dagmar, “despite all we can do as a race to create our own destruction.”

DeAnna Driscoll as Gabriella Kiriakos

DeAnna Driscoll as Gabriella Kiriakos

DeAnna Driscoll will also join the cast as Gabriella, Michael’s expectant wife, whose pregnancy prompts him to seek out the answers to the questions of his family’s history. Both DeAnna and Jeffrey were part of the Craig Noel Award-winning ensemble of Intrepid’s The Quality of Life. For DeAnna, the exploration of the darkness of this period of history was insightful and illuminating.

“I feel the Armenian Genocide is one that is often ignored, and if not ignored, our society, in general, is rather uneducated about it,” says DeAnna. “This play can be a catalyst to deeper understanding and empathy.”

Alexander Dinelaris, who was raised by his Armenian grandmother, has stated that the purpose of the play is to both raise awareness about these events, but to also connect with the ideas of making the future brighter and moving forward.

“I don’t think this play is just for the Armenian people; I think the Armenian people know their own story,” he said in an interview with Horizon Television’s Ani Tatevosyan. “This play goes out to non-Armenians, to tell the story very starkly of what happened to the Armenian culture. So, I think I wrote this play on behalf of my grandmother, and my family and the Armenians that I knew and loved. I wrote it to say, ‘This happened. Pay attention!’”

“I think the play, in the end, is really about putting the pain of our pasts, whether it’s Armenian or any other culture in the world, to sleep, to rest, and carrying with us the strength and the lessons of our ancestors,” Dinelaris continues. “I think that is the message to the audience.”

Red Dog Howls, a staged reading, by Alexander Dinelaris. Monday, April 25. 630 pm wine and appetizer reception. 7 pm reading, followed by talkback.
Encinitas Library. 540 Cornish Drive.
Audience advisory: Appropriate for ages 16+ due to graphic imagery. $15.

RSVP to boxoffice@intrepidtheatre.org and pay with cash/check at the door or click here to purchase tickets online.

Encinitas Library