Despite the Bogosian family keeping the past under wraps, the events of 1915-1923 obviously had quite a pull on Eric, who admits to being fascinated by detective work and solving mysteries.
World-renowned actor and performance artist Eric Bogosian is perhaps best known for his recurring role as Captain Daniel Ross on the hit TV detective show “Law and Order.” He has authored six plays and starred in many of his own plays, including “Talk Radio” and “subUrbia.” Born in Boston, he grew up in Woburn, Massachusetts, where he graduated from high school before moving to Ohio to attend Oberlin College.
Once in New York City, he landed a job at The Kitchen in SoHo, where he met many visual artists, composers and choreographers who influenced his thinking. Soon he was making his own “pieces” that straddled the performance art/theater world. Joe Papp discovered him in 1982 and began to produce his work at The Public Theater. In 1987 he wrote and starred in the “Talk Radio” play at the Public, where Papp introduced him to producer Ed Pressman. Pressman invited Oliver Stone into the party.
Eric has been married to stage director Jo Bonney for 35 years. They live in New York City with their two children.
Photo: Courtesy of Eric Bogosian
Bogosian lives an independent life and is fiercely involved in his work. “I play Texas Hold ‘Em (poker) often. I read. I bird watch. I spend a lot of time in Northern New Jersey, where I have a house. Until I published ‘Operation Nemesis’ this spring, I would say my greatest achievement as an artist was my theater work.”
“Operation Nemesis” tells the story of a group of Armenians who managed to track down and kill most of the Young Turk leaders responsible for the Armenian Genocide, in which 1.5 million Armenian subjects of the empire were exterminated. These leaders of the Young Turk Committee of Union and Progress were sentenced to death during a trial in Constantinople after the Ottomans were defeated in World War I, but managed to flee to Germany, Russia and elsewhere, avoiding execution. Armenians who plotted the revenge named their operation “Nemesis” after the old Greek goddess of retribution. Interestingly, a German court later acquitted Soghoman Tehlirian, who killed Talaat Pasha, the Ottoman Minister of Interior Affairs and one of the main perpetrators of the Genocide, in the center of Berlin.
Bogosian’s grandparents survived the Genocide.
“I am conscious that there were so-called ‘saviors’ in my family. Two of my grandfathers were deacons in the Armenian Church. My grandfather Megerdich escaped the Genocide, but I’m not sure how. He rescued his mother as well, after his father was killed. She lived with him for the rest of her life in Watertown, Massachusetts. She did not speak English. I only know that my grandfather moved through Le Havre on his way to the United States in 1915. I assume he travelled by steamship with his mother. They were from Kharpert (now Elazig in eastern Turkey). He moved to Watertown and was immediately drafted into the United States army, but I don’t think he served in any capacity beyond training. After the war, he got a job with the Boston Transit System.”
Photo: Kharberd, Upper side, Euphrates College
As is the case with many other Armenian families, the event itself was rarely discussed in the Bogosians’ home.
“In general my family does not talk about the Genocide or what happened in Turkey. They consider this to be negative thinking. And although my birthday is April 24th (Armenian Genocide Commemoration Day, the day in 1915 when hundreds of Armenian intellectuals and community leaders were arrested by the Ottomans and eventually killed or sent on death marches to Syrian deserts), the event was never really discussed at home. They never told me that was a special day. When I became a performer, I didn't want my Armenian identity to define me, or to be viewed as an ‘ethnic’ actor.”
However, this didn’t prevent Eric from learning about the tragic events that changed his ancestors’ fates. “I learned about Megerdich’s experiences in Turkey at a very young age. Perhaps four? I have studied the Armenian Genocide my entire life, but accelerated my study in the last ten years…Unfortunately, we don’t have any objects or mementos from Kharpert, our hometown in the old country.”
Despite the Bogosian family keeping the past under wraps, the events of 1915-1923 obviously had quite a pull on Eric, who admits to being fascinated by detective work and solving mysteries: “Of course, the history of my family vis-à-vis the Armenian Genocide sparked an interest in it. Obviously, this led to my work over the last ten years, resulting in ‘Operation Nemesis,’ which is a distillation of what I learned…My fascination with the mystery behind it, with figuring out how it all happened – and my work as a detective on ‘Law and Order’ – is of course related to what happened in the past.”
The story is verified by the 100 LIVES Research Team.
Archival photo credit: Vahe Hayk․ Kharberd and her Golden Plain: Memorial And National Historical Industrial and Ethnological Memorial Book. New York, Kharberd Armenian Patriotic Union, 1959.