Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

The Armenian proignitors of the Ottoman theatre

Posted by Fredsvenn on January 3, 2015

Arusyak Papazian

In the 1850s, the modern theatre was founded in the Ottoman Empire by an Armenian theatre company. As Muslims did not consider acting a suitable profession, the first actors in the Ottoman Empire was Christian Armenians, and the stigma of the profession was especially the case for females.

The actresses received a higher salary than their male colleagues, and they could also continue their careers undisturbed after the Armenian theater monopoly was abolished in the Ottoman Empire in 1879; after this point, male Armenian actors found competition from Muslim Turkish male actors, while no Muslim Turkish female actor ever performed on stage before 1919.

Arusyak Papazian (1841-1907) and Aghavni Papazian (floruit 1879) was both Ottoman Armenian actresses, and are counted as the first professional female actors in the Ottoman Empire and thereby the Middle East.

They are mentioned by the historian Mikael Nalbandian as two pioneers in defying prejudices by performing on stage. As such, they became publicly visible women in the Muslim Ottoman Empire in a period when the female members of the audience had to watch their plays from behind screens.

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