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The Hats of Mr. Zenobe: A Satirical Tragicomedy in Two Acts for Solo Actor

The Hats of Mr. Zenobe: A Satirical Tragicomedy in Two Acts for Solo Actor Paperback - 1997

by Robert Astle

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From the publisher

Playwright Robert Astle says: "I first became aware of the story of Vahan Poladian, the inspiration for Mr. Zenobe, through my colleague Agns Limbos, to whom I had sent some rough notes on the new piece I was working on. One day I received a phone call from Agns, who was on tour in Switzerland. She had just visited the Muse de L'Art Brut (Outsider Art Museum) in Lausanne and seen Vahan Poladian's remarkable collection housed there. Strangely enough, his story dovetailed with many of the ideas that I had sent to Agns just months earlier. I travelled to Lausanne myself, and spent an incredible day looking at Poladian's creations and screening the short film Monsieur Poladian St. Raphael. I was shocked and astonished by his story of exile, crumbled spirit, then spectacular transformation of creative ardour, verve, and passion.

Vahan Poladian was born in Kayseri, Turkey in 1902. The Turks began systematically killing the Armenians in 1915, with a death toll that reached 1.5 million. Poladian's family fled the country. With the assistance of relatives, Poladian attempted to immigrate to the USA, but he was refused entry. He went instead to Cuba, where he worked as a travelling salesman. But this did not last long. Poladian was able to return to Europe when France accepted him as an immigrant. He settled in Paris, where he made contact with the expatriate Armenian community. Poladian married an Armenian woman who bore him a daughter, Viviane. With the onset of the Second World War, however, Poladian was conscripted by the French Army, and forced to leave his family. His unit was captured by the Germans and Poladian was sent to a POW camp.

Upon his release at the end of the war, Poladian made his way back to Paris, only to discover that his wife and child had disappeared. For several years he searched in vain for them. His mother had also immigrated to France and he was briefly reunited with her after the war. She died soon after, however, and her death and the loss of his wife and child was a devastating shock for Poladian. Poladian became "socially autistic," closing off the world. In 1966, at the age of 64, he entered the Armenian Home in St. Raphael, France. He would spend his remaining years there. The Home gave Poladian a stipend of one franc a day, which he used to create an amazing phantasmagoria of hats and costumes. Twice daily he paraded through the streets of St. Raphael, showing his collection of "Ancient Terrors and Glories," always with "the hope to change the world with laughter."

Vahan Poladian died quietly in the Armenian Home in 1982 after refusing to eat. Part of his enormous collection of hats and costumes was donated to the Muse de L'Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland."


  • Title The Hats of Mr. Zenobe: A Satirical Tragicomedy in Two Acts for Solo Actor
  • Author Robert Astle
  • Binding Paperback
  • Pages 64
  • Volumes 1
  • Language ENG
  • Publisher Signature Editions
  • Date 1997-12
  • Illustrated Yes
  • ISBN 9780921833536 / 0921833539
  • Weight 0.22 lbs (0.10 kg)
  • Dimensions 8.02 x 6 x 0.17 in (20.37 x 15.24 x 0.43 cm)
  • Library of Congress subjects Tragicomedy, Eccentrics and eccentricities - Drama
  • Library of Congress Catalog Number 98140812
  • Dewey Decimal Code 812.54

About the author

Robert Astle is a writer, director and teacher. His solo plays Heart of a Dog and The Hats of Mr. Zenobe have been produced and performed in Canada, the USA and Europe; the Toronto production of The Hats of Mr. Zenobe garnered him four Dora Award nominations. In the 1980s he was a member of Small Change Theatre, a company that toured clown and mask plays around the globe. He taught clown and bouffon theatre at Concordia University as well as playwriting at the National Theatre School of Canada and was the Playwright in Residence at Montreal's Centaur Theatre. He presently lives in New York.

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Hats of Mr. Zenobe, The (Performance Series)

by Astle, Robert

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