Interview: Leslie Ayvazian Is Gearing up for Her Residency at Pangea

Theater artist Leslie Ayvazian is bringing her latest experiments in “mercurial minimalism” to Pangea through July 23

By: May. 04, 2024
Interview: Leslie Ayvazian Is Gearing up for Her Residency at Pangea
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Theater artist Leslie Ayvazian is bringing her latest experiments in “mercurial minimalism” to Pangea. Starting this Tuesday, May 7, and running through Tue July 23, she’s alternating two of her popular chamber shows – Porcupine Girl and Mention My Beauty – both of which “have developed loyal followings among some of New York’s leading Downtown theater artists, even while Ayvazian keeps them studiously off the radar.”

In the works, Ayvazian “boldly chronicles her coming of age in the ‘60s and ‘70s, the anti-war movement, the women’s movement and the sexual revolution (hello!), and the lingering legacies of genocide (hello!), like her family’s Armenian nightmare in the early 20th century, Ayvazian, who is the current head of playwriting at Columbia University’s Graduate School of the Arts, Ayvazian creates shows that are bounteously spare.”

Porcupine Girl will be on Tuesdays May 7, June 11 and July 9, and Mention My Beauty” is on Tuesdays May 28, June 25, and July 23, all at 7 pm.  Tickets for all dates, which are $20 when purchased in advance, are on sale at

We spoke with Ayvazian about the upcoming shows and the inspiration behind them.

How are you feeling about your upcoming residency at Pangea?

I’m grateful to Pangea for inviting me to be “in Residence” over the summer.  I have always believed in Salon theatre.  I’ve been interested in gathering people to create together, all my life.  Even as a  kid, I made up the games the neighborhood played.   In 1977, my new husband and I found a 2000 square foot loft in Soho – on the corner of Prince and Mercer.  Beautiful – internal columns, brick walls, freight elevator, no heat on weekends.  I invited everyone.  We read plays, we created plays, we performed our own work.  We were young and ready and full of desire to be employed in the theatre.   I  continued those gatherings even when I took a departure, had a child, moved to the suburbs and lived in a normal house.   Still we gathered, in the dining room. 

I like to begin things. I love process.  I love teaching and listening.   I also love to stimulate the imagination.  

What was the process of writing these shows like?

Porcupine Girl was created over the pandemic.  I hired a dramaturgy student who lived nearby to come to my west side apartment.  We were double masked and a whole room apart, and I dictated the story to her.   She was focused and quick.  She also was careful with her enthusiasm.  Sometimes, she would give a quick laugh to something I said.  I noted those moments. 

Where did your ideas come from?

I know I carry anger.  I am an Armenian.  I am of the generation where my father, at age 3, witnessed the genocide.  I grew up in a household that harbored fear and sadness.  We were the unseen race.  We had no allies.  When I saw my grandmother sit and look out the window, mid-sentence, and tears would roll down her face, I knew she was remembering something she couldn’t describe.  And I - even as a young girl - wanted to find the words.  I wanted to say things and share information.  I wanted to tell stories.    I also recognized that I had anger.  And I didn’t know what to do with it.   During the slow time of the long first pandemic year, I decided to examine what it was like to live with the feeling that I had internal quills.  And thus, Porcupine Girl was born.  And the truth is, this is also the genesis of Mention My Beauty.  Both live in the world of questions, more than answers.  How do we harvest what we are good at?  How do we give that, somehow, to the world?  The theatre has always been the answer for me. 

I am 75 years old.  A few weeks ago – I was walking to my job at Columbia and I was punched in the head.  Over the course of the last several weeks, I’ve worked to regain my balance.  Writing has helped me do that. 

Pangea has invited me to share my work.  I’m happy to perform both shows.  And I plan to add the piece I created about being hit.  It’s called Punched.  It’s three pages long.   After both shows, I will ask the audience if anyone wants to stay.  I plan to read this new piece and to see if we think it’s going somewhere.

Pangea is allowing me to continue to work.  To continue to investigate what’s on my mind.  And they are giving me the precious opportunity to share all of that with all who show up.

Learn more about Leslie on her website.


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