Ghazal Azarbad has been admitted to the next cohort of the Soulpepper Academy. A 2015 BFA Acting Grad and winner of the 2014 Hnatyshyn National award for Emerging Artist – English theatre, this is an enormous accomplishment.
The Academy is composed of actors, designers, directors, playwrights, and producers. The curriculum aims to develop theatre artists who will, upon graduation, be ready to create, contribute to, and work with Soulpepper and other professional performing arts companies. Soulpepper strives to play a significant role in the development of future generations of theatre artists through the Soulpepper Academy. This full-time, paid training program was launched in 2006.
After processing 1,148 applications, a nation-wide audition process, and an intense final round of in-person auditions, here are the 17 artists of the fifth Soulpepper Academy:
Ghazal Azarbad is an actor, singer, and improviser. She was born in Mashhad, Iran and moved to Vancouver, Canada at the age of three. Upon landing in Canada, her family and her went straight from the airport to the movie theatre to watch Titanic 7 or 8 times because her only memory of her first few months in Canada was watching Leo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet run away from water. Ghazal has been performing since middle school and has dedicated herself specifically to acting for ten years. Select credits include, See Bob Run (Shift Theatre), Twelfth Night, Triumph of Love (Theatre at UBC), and Exodus (PULL Festival). She also performed improv with UBC Improv for three years, finishing off her final year as the team’s Co-President. During that year, her and five other team members won 2nd place at the College Improv Tournaments in Chicago, making UBC Improv the second best college improv team across America and Canada in 2013. Along with involving herself in the Vancouver theatre community, in the last year Ghazal has found solace in writing and developing theatre, which she hopes to cultivate more deeply over the next couple years. Ghazal is the recipient of the Joy Coghill Theatre Award and the National Hnatyshyn Foundation Developing Artist Award.
MY TIME AT UBC:
I began my training at UBC in the fall of 2012. I went in ready to be changed, moulded, torn apart and put back together. Except what happened is that I was told, “You Are Enough.” I tried to wrap my brain around the concept; I told myself that those three words are profound and I should listen but it just didn’t make sense. In an industry where you and your work are subject to judgement and critique, how can I believe that what I offer is enough? Not to mention the fact that if we were enough, why would we be here, paying for training to make us better?
However, in the three years I trained there, I came to understand what those three words meant for me and why they were said on our first day of training. It became evident in the way faculty members would address us and work with us. I was given full ownership over my work and was trusted with the authority to make choices alongside my superiors. The parts of myself I was ashamed of became the interesting parts to play with. I was encouraged to give voice to my vulnerabilities and in the words of Tom Scholte, “make friends with the worst sides of me.” I learned how to forgive myself. I learned that to come outside of ourselves opens us up to empathy. I discovered the subtle difference between self-awareness and self-consciousness. UBC laid the tools down but it was up to us to reach out and grab them.
I am excited to see how the concept “I Am Enough” might change for me as I continue to move forward. Today, those three words dare me to live. (Sorry, I nearly puked from how cheesy that sounded). But seriously, it allows me permission to step fully into myself and walk with integrity, passion, and joy.
There is still much to be learned and plenty of room to deepen. I, of course, struggle from time to time and have merely scratched the surface. But I have confidence in my foundation.
It’s been wonderful experiencing all the amazing things classmates and past grads have been doing in the community and beyond. I can’t wait to watch our generation of artists unfold out onto the world. Thank you Gayle, Cathy, Tom, Stephen Malloy, and Stephen Heatley for all of it.