Entertainment Magazine: Entertaining Tucson Vol. 1: Armen Dirtadian

Armen Dirtadian:
A golfer in sheik’s clothing

By P.L. Wylie 

September 1985 - Entertainment Magazine. Page 19

Armen Dirtadian:A golfer in sheik’s clothing (8/1984)Recipe: Take the Tucson City Amateur Golf Champion, mix with two-time winner of Pima County Golf Amateur Championship contest, stir in a big helping of acting/musical talent (exhibited in starring roles Including the recent Arizona Theatre Company’s production of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” add a dash of 6’-3” tall dark good looks, bake in the love of Tucson by a native.

The resulting dish is The Gaslight’s current leading man in their production of “The Sheik,” Armen Dirtadian.

“The Sheik” is a melodrama playing through September 14th (1985) with Dirtadian performing a very romantic lead. The tendency in a melodrama is to play for laughs. But, Dirtadian plays “The Sheik” very straight and very believable. “I think every actor must act the part as though he really is that person,” Dirtadian says, “or how that person would act. That is how I see it. If I were “The Sheik” and saw this girl and believed she was the most beautiful girl in my life, I would give up my kingdom for her. That is how I play it.” Dirtadian thinks in “The Sheik” he has one of the best first entrances he has ever had. This is one of Peter Van Slyke’s best scripts (Van Slyke is the writer/director). Dirtadian said he had a fever and was very sick the first week of the run of the show but went on anyway. This reporter saw the show the first week and can attest that Dirtadian gave a great performance.

Dirtadian is a low-key actor/singer. When he took acting lessons in high school he was very shy and inhibited about going on stage. Also, he says, “I thought actors and actresses were weird people.” He won poetry reading contests in junior high, was on the speech team in high school and was a speech major at the University of Arizona.

Not only a musician and actor, Dirtadian has been a teacher of Physical Education and Music/Drama at Holiday Intermediate School in Tucson for the past nine years. During the 1977 school year there, the school librarian told him about auditions being held at Salpointe High School for their production of “Fiddler on the Roof” and suggested he try out. He had not performed on stage since his high school acting lessons. He went to the audition “just for something to do,” Dirtadian says. To his surprise he got the lead part. The play sold out every night, and from there he branched out.

Dirtadian progressed to many productions at SALOC (Southern Arizona Light Opera Company), appearances at The Playbox Theatre, the lead in “Simon Peter” for the past several years, the aforementioned Arizona Theatre Company’s production of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and for the past three years various performances at The Gaslight Theatre. Between plays he has performed as a nightclub singer at The Tender Trap concentrating on jazz and standards. He recently completed a stint in SALOC’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof” with a New York director. He is now taking a six-month hiatus from school teaching to further his musical and to appear at The Gaslight.

Dirtadian started at The Gaslight three years ago in a play entitled “The Pirate King” playing the Pirate. He followed this with the lead in Gaslight’s “Zorro.” In their production of “Shootout at Black Canyon City” he played his first bad guy role. “It’s much better playing the bad guy than the good guy, because it is a lot easier”

After “Shootout,” The Gaslight decided to produce “The Sheik” and hired Dirtadian to play the lead role. “Every actor and actress here at The Gaslight has worked on the legitimate stage, and it is a pleasure to work with professionals the caliber of the performers here,” Dirtadian remarks.

Dirtadian has taken acting lessons at Arizona Theatre Company’s Encompass program, but feels he has learned a lot through experience. “I have seen people take acting lessons and then don’t perform,” Dirtadian said. “You should take acting lessons in order to act, but I have seen others getting tied up in the theory of acting. What they should be doing is getting hard knocks on the stage along with their lessons. There is no substitute for experience.  You get on the stage and you give the audience the best you can and you learn from that.”

Dirtadian’s hobby is golf. He plays mostly in the summer. Even after winning several prestigious golfing awards, he has recently started taking golfing lessons from a local professional golfer. He says he now doesn’t have to spend as much time on the fundamentals and is playing very well.

When questioned about which he prefers– acting, singing, golfing or teaching, Dirtadian said, “I’m not the kind of a person to prefer one over the other. I’m kind of hexed – I have to do them all or I can’t be happy.”

Dirtadian is a native Tucsonan, the oldest of three children. His sister, brother and parents all live in Tucson and none of them are interested in acting, but they all play golf. “Who knows where I got this interest in performing– maybe being the oldest child, the way I got attention was through acting,” states Dirtadian. He is married, and says that his wife is not interested in acting “at all” but does come to see him perform.

Dirtadian says that he is staying in Tucson. “I love Tucson, and I am not wiling to give up maybe 10-15 years of my life to live in a big city to make it big in the entertainment business. That is what it takes. But, I think have a lot to offer Tucson with my teaching and performing. I intend to stay here. I really want to thank the people here for supporting me. They seem to like my work and I enjoy performing for them.”

When asked why he thinks Tucsonans sometimes don’t appreciate local talent, Dirtadian says, “Tucsonans cannot understand how anyone that is good can stay in Tucson. I think the mystique is that if someone is from L.A. or New York or Chicago, the audience automatically thinks that person is really very good. I have worked with people from those places, and I think we have just as good talents here. Just because you are from a big city doesn’t necessarily mean you are good. However, I think people here feel this way about everything, not just acting; because a lot of people still think of Tucson as a cow town. If you really want to make it big financially in the entertainment fields you have to be willing to give up a big portion of your life and go to a city like L.A. or New York, because that is where everything is. And, I am not willing to pay that price.”

This reporter believes that a lot of people in Tucson are glad Armen Dirtadian has decided to stay with us in this “cow town” and continue his enjoyable performing for us.

2014 © Entertainment Magazine and BZB Publishing, Inc., Robert Zucker and Newsreal, Jonathan L. All rights are reserved. These are the compiled works of contributed materials from writers and photographers previously published in the Tucson Teen, Magazine, Entertainment Magazine and Newsreal newspapers, and from Entertainment Magazine On Line (EMOL.org). No part of the material protected by this copyright may be reproduced or utilized in any means, electronic or mechanical, without written permission from the publisher.

Permission is granted to use quotes and cite references to the contents in this book with proper credit noted: “Entertaining Tucson Across the Decades,” © 2014 Entertainment Magazine.”

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Entertaining Tucson Across the Decades
Volume 1

by Robert E. Zucker

The local entertainment scene in Tucson, Arizona during the 1950s through 1985 was vibrant– from the ‘50s rock and roll of the Dearly Beloved to the ‘80s with the Pills, Giant Sandworms and everything in between– classic rock, disco, alternative, punk, hard core, country, swing and Big Band. Hundreds of bands and thousands of entertainers over three decades. Within these pages are the memories and the experiences of those people and places.

These are the original articles and interviews published in several local newspapers that covered the Tucson entertainment scene over the decades. Follow their stories through the years– the big breaks, record releases, hot performances and duds, break ups, tragedies, personal insights and struggles.

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