For a quarter century, Kasbar Ipegian was an unquestionable authority as a talented director and actor in Tbilisi, Constantinople, Tehran, Baghdad, and Egypt.
Kasbar Ipegian, as one of Hamazkayin’s founders, was instrumental in the rise of a theater movement in the organization, just as Hamazkayin’s educational and publishing achievements could be attributed to Levon Shant and Nigol Aghpalian’s efforts.
In 1930, Kasbar Ipegian settled in Beirut. Barely a year later he successfully directed the premiere of Levon Shant’s “Oshin Bail.” In 1934, he successfully staged his own play: “Ara and Shamiram.”
As the president of the Beirut Committee of Hamazkayin, in 1941 Kasbar Ipegian formed the Hamazkayin Theater Association. The Association aimed to reestablish and spread the art of theater in the diaspora. The Association also aimed to enhance Armenian theater’s educational role in the preservation of national identity. The Hamazkayin Theater Association’s debut performance was “The princess of the fallen fortress,” by Levon Shant in 1942. It was followed by Papken Papazian’s “My baby” in 1943, Levon Shant’s “Ancient gods” in 1944, and finally “The Caesar” in 1945.
Kasbar Ipegian died in 1952. In his memory, the Hamazkayin Theater Association renamed itself Hamazkayin Kasbar Ipegian Theater Company, the name it still carries today.
Kasbar Ipegian’s worthy successor, George Sarkissian, served as stage director and actor with great passion.
The Kasbar Ipegian Theater Company consistently strives to preserve the purity of the Armenian language, fosters Armenian customs, and spreads Armenian culture.
The staged plays had educational missions. The plays cultivated the public’s artistic taste in a unique cultural atmosphere. As a result, a cultural boom was seen not only in Lebanon, but also in the Middle East and other far-off Armenian communities, where the theater company toured.
For 30 years, Georges Sarkissian ignited enthusiasm wherever he went through his devoted work. Due to his efforts, the Lebanese Armenian community acquired its own theater, the Hagop Der Melkonian Theater House. The theater was constructed and equipped due to the gracious donations of benefactor Hagop Der Melkonian.
Following Georges Sarkissian’s death, the theater company ceased its activities for a few years. Later attempts were made to revitalize the theater company.
The theater company resurrected its activities for a period, under the direction of Dr. Papken Papazian. The company staged the plays “Oshin Bail” and “Barouir Haigaz and Movses Khorenatsi.” The theater company once again ceased its activities for a period. Then, the company’s members made every effort to re-stage Georges Sarkissian’s last work: Jacques Hagopian’s “The crane calls.” However, this effort was unable to resurrect the theater company’s glorious past.
The year 1988 was a turning point in the theater company’s history. On Hamazkayin’s 60th anniversary, the central and regional committees in Lebanon asked director and actor Varoujan Khedeshian to stage a grand production sponsored by the two committees. Indeed, the staging of Levon Shant’s “Ancient gods” resonated well with the audience and signaled the beginning of a new era: that of cooperation with Varoujan Khedeshian.
Varoujan Khedeshian took his early steps in theater in the Kasbar Ipegian Theater Company and was a member of the company for 30 years. He was the most suitable candidate to take upon the task of reorganizing the theater company, from which he had risen as an actor and director. Varoujan Khedeshian received stage and theater education in London. For some time he directed the Levon Shant Theater Company of the Bourj Hamoud chapter of Hamazkayin in Lebanon. Afterward, he created his own theater company, Tadron 67, which ceased to operate after several years. Thus, Varoujan Khedeshian, under the sponsorship of the Regional Committee of Hamazkayin, assumed the leadership of Kasbar Ipegian Theater Company. At that time, taking into consideration the modifications within the structure of Hamazkayin and the formation of new regional committees in various new countries, the Kasbar Ipegian Theater Company ceased to be an independent unit of the Central Committee of Hamazkayin and recommenced its activities under the sponsorship of the Regional Committee of Hamazkayin in Lebanon.
For around 15 years, Varoujan Khedeshian conducted led the company. He staged the plays of numerous Armenian and foreign playwrights, including “Ancient gods,” “The Caesar,” “By way of sky,” “Until where?” and others. The play “The price” stood out among the works of foreign playwrights Varoujan Khedeshian staged. The play introduced to the Lebanese-Armenian stage the marvelous performance of two prominent actors from Armenia: Sos Sargsyan and Vigen Stepanyan.
Because of his academic background, Varoujan Khedeshian succeeded in blending the old with the new. He brought freshness to the theater company, and earned several honors, the last of which was the “Mesrob Mashdots” medal bestowed by His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the House of Cilicia. Varoujan Khedeshian was also decorated with the honor of the Central Committee of Hamazkayin.
Succeeding Varoujan Khedeshian, director and actor Davit Hakobyan from Armenia directed the theater company for a while. He staged a series of plays.
The theater company’s achievements could not attained such success without the sacrifice and devotion of hundreds of actors and volunteers who worked behind the scenes, and who have carried the theater along with the stage directors. Together, and as an entity, they all have succeeded in preserving the theater company’s good name and have achieved new milestones.