For Ghazal Azarbad, performing in theatre is just as exciting as it was inexplicable when she started.
“I didn’t really know much about acting [then], [but] I really liked affecting people -- making them laugh, cry, whatever,” said Azarbad, who started acting early in her pre-teens, participating in various school musicals and acting classes in Coquitlam.
“From then on I just realized that this is what I really enjoy doing. I also enjoy singing, I enjoy improv ... I don’t know what else to say really.”
Originally from Iran and coming from a fairly traditional family, Azarbad’s pursuit in acting was not something her parents were keen on. Combined with the fact that she was unable to properly articulate how she felt, they initially wrote it off as just another adolescent phase.
Realizing later how serious she was though, they became all ears -- albeit, with a substantial amount of concern.
“My family are either doctors, engineers or lawyers,” said Azarbad, aware of the disadvantage from the get-go. “The fact that I’m not necessarily guaranteed a job for the rest of my life and even health insurance, at first really scared them.”
But she trudged on, joining clubs such as UBC Players and UBC Improv in her early undergrad, and ultimately getting admitted into the BFA acting program.
Now about to graduate after starring in multiple UBC productions including The Bacchae 2.1, Triumph of Love and the film Mercury Falling, the experience was a time where she did what she loves and learned from it.
“For so long [I did acting] on the side for fun, [it] was a place where I got to relax,” she said. “It became my work and became the only thing that I was studying for and memorizing things for, and actually [trying] to understand and apply it to real life.”
The connection between her work and personal life is of utmost importance for Azarbad. She found that the stresses and merits of both aspects frequently spilled into each other.
“I don’t think how I can do better at the rehearsal, I think how I can do better in my life,” she said. “When I say well in life, I mean not taking care of myself, being as healthy and as happy and as on track as I possibly can be. That’s where my work ethic lies.”
On that note, the chemistry with the cast and crew becomes just as essential. “If I’m not in a place of love with everyone in the room, then it hinders my performance … I can’t open up or be vulnerable because I’m scared,” she said. “[If] you don’t have that love, understanding and chemistry then you can’t necessarily afford to go to those places.”
Chemistry and emotional issues only top the numerous issues Azarbad faces as an actress. From the copious performance multi-tasking -- especially in musicals -- to her uninsured future, it definitely isn’t a path taken by those without the passion. Fortunately, Azarbad credits her good company of faculty and fellow BFA students for keeping her going.
“I learned so much from them … how to embrace how different we can all be … how we’re all just people trying to figure out our process,” she said. “On the first day of classes [at UBC] they said ‘you are enough’… I’ve come to understand [what] that means. I don’t have to be a certain way to impress [a] director … It’s my job to be the kind of actor that I am so that they can decide if [that’s what] they need in this production.”
As for her parents? They are more supportive than ever.
“The more they see how much I love what I’m doing … [it] makes them happy,” she said. “In spite of their own fears … watching them try and putting their effort into it is what’s really important to me.”
As for her future plans, Azarbad plans to go on a well-earned vacation in Europe, and then audition to as many performance opportunities as possible. For those following in her footsteps she simply had this to say:
“Forgive yourself instantly and don’t apologize for who you are. I know how cheesy that sounds but [those] are the only things you’ll ever need.”