Yegziaharian, Torange is an actress, playwright, director, producer and founder of the first Middle Eastern American theater company, Golden Thread Productions.
Born in Iran to a Muslim mother and a Christian father of Armenian heritage, Yeghiazarian came to America in 1978, right before the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Her family settled in Boston, where she did plays in English at her high school, in Persian with an Iranian theater company, and in Armenian through the arts wing of an Armenian organization that she joined.
“I didn’t pursue a degree in theater because I didn’t think I’d get work,” she reflects. “My dream career as a child was to become a heart surgeon.” By the time she earned her B.S. in 1990 from Northeastern University in Boston, however, she was disillusioned with the practice of American medicine and decided to pursue her Master’s degree in theater. “In a way, theater for me is like practicing medicine. It’s healing and has its roots in magic and ritual.”
Yeghiazarian auditioned for several drama programs on both coasts and remembers the man who ran one tryout “being honest enough to tell me that, because of my accent, I’d never get a leading role, just minor ethnic parts.” She worked as a clinical microbiologist at the New England Medical Center, a career she was able to transfer to the West Coast when she decided to join family members who had settled in the Bay Area. While doing AIDs research and co-authoring scientific articles with titles like “Quantification of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 RNA Levels in Plasma by Using Small Volume-Format Branched-DNA Assays,” she earned an M.A. in theater from San Francisco State.
Golden Thread Productions evolved from a production of Yeghiazarian’s thesis play, a Middle Eastern adaptation of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata called Operation No Penetration. The history of the company is included in the Middle Eastern Theater essay.