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Life and career
Ouzounian was born in New York City. He is of Scotch-Irish descent, and was adopted by an Armenian-Italian-Finnish family. Ouzounian was educated at Regis High School, and in 1970 received his B.A. in English Literature from Fordham University. He completed his M.A. studies in Theatre and Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia in 1972 and was made an honorary Doctor of Sacred Letters by Thorneloe University in 2003. Ouzounian has worked professionally in the world of the performing arts and arts journalism for the past 40 years. In that time, he has written, directed, or acted in over 250 productions, served as Artistic Director of five major Canadian theatres, including Neptune Theater in Halifax, been an Associate Director of the Stratford Festival of Canada for four seasons, and worked as Harold Prince's assistant on the original Toronto production of The Phantom of the Opera. He was President of the Board of the Arts Foundation of Toronto from 1996-1998.
He has served on the boards of Community Living Toronto and Surrey Place Foundation, as well as organizing fund-raising galas for both organizations, including the popular series of “Night of Stars” Concerts for Community Living Toronto, featuring artists like Colm Wilkinson, Louise Pitre and The Barenaked Ladies.
Ouzounian lives in downtown Toronto and has been married since 1977 to his wife, Pamela. They have two children.
Ouzounian is a journalist whose work has been seen in major Canadian publications and is a public speaker. Since 2000, he has been the chief theatre critic for the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest daily newspaper. Beyond his duties as theatre critic, he also writes numerous celebrity profiles, travel and restaurant features for the Star.
In the summer of 2003, McArthur & Company published Are You Trying to Seduce Me, Miss Turner?, a collection of the celebrity interviews he had conducted since joining the Toronto Star.
Recent musical theatre credits, written with music by his longtime collaborator Marek Norman, include:
- "Dracula: A Chamber Musical": (Book/Lyrics): The original production (directed by Ouzounian) played to record houses at the Stratford Festival for six months after its June 1999 opening. It later televised for international sale, broadcast on CBC-TV and won a Gemini award for its leading actor, Juan Chioran. It received its American premiere at the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, Massachusetts in October 2002, and was seen at the Charlottetown Festival in the summer of 2003.
- Emily (based on the Emily of New Moon trilogy by Lucy Maud Montgomery): (Book/Lyrics) Debuted in 1999 at Charlottetown Festival of Prince Edward Island, and returned for a second season in 2000. A new revised version of the show was produced by Talk Is Free Theatre, Barrie, Ontario in May 2006, directed by Ouzounian. "Emily" was also mounted by Gateway Theatre, Richmond, British Columbia, in December 2006 and will be revived in Barrie in November 2007.
- "Larry's Party" (based on the novel by Carol Shields novel): (Book/Lyrics) Commissioned by the Canadian Stage Company of Toronto, starring Tony Award-winner Brent Carver, "Larry's Party" broke box office records in Toronto before enjoying equally successful runs in Ottawa and Winnipeg as well as being nominated for a Dora Award for Best New Musical.
The scripts to Dracula, Emily, and Larry's Party have been published by McArthur & Company.
He has written the book for another musical retelling of the famous vampire legend. This one is called Dracula - Entre l'amour et la mort, starring Bruno Pelletier, and had its premiere in Montreal in February 2006 to rave notices and toured successfully throughout Quebec until December 2006.
His earlier works for the stage include the 1978 off-Broadway revue A Bistro Car on the C.N.R. and musical adaptations of "The Merry Wives of Windsor", "Two Gentlemen of Verona", "Macbeth", and "Love's Labour's Lost". Original musicals include "Olympiad", "O, Juan de Fouca!", "Reprise", "Cornucopia", "The Great Adventure" and "Hasten to Come Before Winter".
Ouzounian also wrote the plays "Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are", "The Chekhov Kids", "British Properties", "The City Show", and "West". He has also written adaptations/translations of "Scapin", "Tartuffe" and "Encore Brel".
In 2009, he directed the Canadian premiere production of "Jerry Springer: The Opera", at Hart House Theatre, in Toronto. To date, it remains the only production of the show, anywhere in the world, to have NOT been targeted by protests, threats, or hate-mail. This is because Canadians are either remarkably tolerant or remarkably apathetic.
Radio and television
From January 1990 through June 2004, Ouzounian was the host of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's musical theatre program Say It With Music, which aired every Sunday on CBC Radio 2 across Canada and worldwide on the internet. During the period from March 1991 through May 2000, he was also the theatre critic for CBC Radio One Toronto (formerly CBLA) reviewing shows on a weekly basis.
From 1995 to 2000, he was Creative Head of Arts at TVOntario, Canada's largest educational broadcaster, where his duties included hosting 104 episodes of the arts interview series Dialogue, and executive producing the three-time Gemini-nominated book series Imprint.
He also served as producer/host/interviewer for CBC Television on a 13-part series about the 50-year history of the Stratford Festival entitled Stratford Gold, which aired in the summer of 2002 and was published simultaneously in book form by McArthur & Company.
- Are You Trying to Seduce Me, Miss Turner? Stars talk to the Star ISBN 978-1-55278-360-3
- Stratford Gold ISBN 978-1-55278-271-2
- The Armenian Martin was hoping I was another haygagan (fellow countryman)... (... I was a Scotch-Irish kid adopted by an Armenian-Italian-Finnish family.)
- Scott, Alec (January 2006). "The Populist", Toronto Life 40 (1): 31–35.