Shadan Rahbari

Table of Contents

Shadan Rahbari is an actor-artist of mixed-Persian ethnicity, hailing from Toronto. She recently graduated during the pandemic from Stella Adler Studio of Acting in New York City, as part of their Professional Conservatory. She also studied in New York City at the Neighbourhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, where she learned Meisner technique. Along with being an actor, she plays the banjo and guitar, of which she sings alongside, and writes her own songs. At the age of seventeen, her spiritual curiosity brought her to India, where she trained to become a certified yoga teacher. She taught meditation and yoga in Manhattan, in between hours of attending theatre school. She is a highly experienced long-distance hiker and mountaineer, having trekked over 3000+ miles on the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs from Mexico to Canada, and on the Appalachian Trail, which runs from Georgia to Maine. She also trekked through the Himalaya mountains in Nepal. She maintains that her need for wilderness adventure comes from the same desire to explore facets of humanity in her work as an actor. She is proud to have trained at Stella Adler Studio, for their motto that “growth as an actor and growth as a human being are synonymous,” is one of the main tenants she lives by in her life and in her artistry.

Education

Shadan Rahbari studied at Stella Adler Studio’s prolific Professional Conservatory, and at The Neighbourhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, both in New York City. She also trained to be a yoga teacher at the wee age of seventeen, in Rishikesh, India. In high school she spent some time doing a french language exchange program in France, therefore she has fluency in French.

 


Past Theatre Experience

Shadan Rahbari has been, by nature, involved in theatre since she was a child- directing the neighbourhood kids around her in imagined productions, and acting alongside them. She was thrilled to discover this could be a profession, and after attending acting classes in her teens, knew there could be no other path for her. She studied at many acting studios in Toronto, finding solace in the works of Shanley, Shepard, and Shakespeare. During her time in Manhattan at Stella Adler Studio, she performed the lead in Kenneth Lonergan’s play Lobby Hero, and dove into many of Shakespeare’s finest leading ladies. Having graduated during the covid pandemic, she became well acquainted with the concept of Zoom theatre, and how theatre’s connective power can travel through any space.

Summer Ensemble

Shadan Rahbari was part of the fourth annual Summer Ensemble. She is a member of Crane Creations Theatre Company’s 2022 Summer Ensemble.

The Summer Ensemble is an 8 week training program for theatre artists. In this paid working opportunity artists learn skills required to be a professional artist in Canada, and gain valuable insights into the theatre industry in Canada and abroad. To apply, artists must be between 18 and 30 years of age. 

Shadan Rahbari as an Actor.

Why did you decide to become an actor?

I decided to become an actor because have always felt outlandishly curious and sensitive towards humanity. I have always longed to understand people, and personally, acting is my clearest way into connecting and empathizing with others; as well as with myself. I thought about studying psychology to satisfy this need, but instead realized acting, when learned right, can be a sort of ‘interactive psychology.’ We begin with the framework of analyzing these characters (people), and then we get to step into their shoes and embody them, understanding others on a level which transcends speculation and hypotheses. We simply get to be and experience another life. It’s extremely powerful and rewarding work.

In your opinion what does being an actor mean?

Being an actor, traditionally for me, means being a shepherd or griot of society. Actors have, at the very least since ancient Greece, been the voices of our communities- passing along knowledge and inspiring human connection. I still see this as a vital part of the tradition, and a part of this is being a fully empathetic being to all of humanity. You cannot play a character in which you are judging ; therefore an actors heart must be compassionate to all walks of life. This is our inherent and invaluable power.

How do you prepare for a role?

Preparing for a role firstly begins with the bigger picture; story. We start with a larger understanding of the story and its themes, and then we see how the writer is trying to communicate these themes through our role. When one understands this, they can delve into the world the character exists in within that story. Why are they the way they are? What did they miss out on in their life, which drives their needs in story and scene? And when all else fails- breathe, and make sure to memorize the lines so perfectly that they’re a part of you, and you can therefore be free to make interesting choices outside of trying to recall text.

Imagine you are speaking to someone who knows nothing about your field. How do you become an actor?

I have always found it funny how underestimated actors are by the largess of society, as I believe it is one of the most delightfully challenging fields out there. Not only do you have to master the craft itself, but an actor must, in many ways, master themselves. Because in this career we work within our own framework of the body and mind, one has to be connected to themselves in order to begin attempting to connecting to the voice of another character. It begins with going inwards, as well as studying the external craftsmanship of this work with a knowledge of text work, and the more technical aspects of this career. Curiosity and classes are great places to start.

What is the difference between acting for film and acting for theatre?

The artistry and preparation of text work and character work are much the same, but the scale where you present this work is where the craft diverges. It becomes quite a physical and technical difference, having to do with the space you have to play in. Film acting is all about stillness, while theatre is an athletic endeavour, involving ones whole body and voice. In theatre and film, we also have secondary scene partners- that being the audience or the camera, each feeding us in wildly different ways as artists.

An Interview With Shadan Rahbari.

What is your favourite part of the Summer Ensemble?

My favourite part of the Summer Ensemble so far has been its focus on humanism. I never knew a theatre company could be so invested in lifting up its community, and it has been extremely valuable learning how important that is.

How can you describe Summer Ensemble in one sentence?

Summer Ensemble is multifaceted, exploratory, and fun!

Where are you from?

I am from Toronto.

What is your favourite thing about your hometown?

My favourite thing about Toronto is it’s multiculturalism. Even having lived in New York City, I never encountered the same charm there that Toronto has; where you might meet an Eritrean woman one minute, and a Nicaraguan man the next! Being a person of mixed ethnicity, and the daughter of a refugee; I feel at home and safe in a city where I know a majority of people have similarly diverse backgrounds as I do. I enjoy telling people while abroad that, according the United Nations- my hometown is the most multicultural city on earth.

What are your favourite plays and why?

It’s challenging to come to an easy consensus on my favourite play, but some of the most influential on my life as a human and an artist are as follows: -“Savage in Limbo” by John Patrick Shanley, because though the setting is simple, the characters are profound, and while performing its lead character Denise Savage; I felt for the first time my heart connected to the pulse of a character. -“A Streetcar Named Desire” by Tennessee Williams (along with its film counterpart), because at thirteen years old, I discovered the play (perhaps too young for its content), and fell in love with the poetry and complexity of the world Williams had created. It has since been a longstanding dream of mine to play the role of Blanche DuBois. -“God Said This” by Leah Nanako Winkler; which I discovered while ushering at the historic Cherry Lane Theatre in Manhattan. Perhaps the most raw, funny, and gut-wrenching piece of theatre I have yet witnessed. At curtain call, the audience sobbed in unison, which was rare and touching to witness.

What are your hobbies?

I have been lucky to discover many things I love, and am never at a lack for something to do- or practice. I have been playing guitar and writing songs for ten years, for my own catharsis. At the start of the pandemic I started learning the banjo, which reinvigorated my love of music, and of music history. I would love to one day join a folk/bluegrass band, or to put out my own album of simple folk songs, which I also love singing along to, with my banjo. I am an avid cinephile, and love chronologically viewing and going through the films of my favourite filmmakers (currently working through Scorsese’s filmography), while analyzing them for my own pleasure. I am also a certified yoga teacher, and deepening this practice is a life-long journey that I know I will never stop learning from, echoing the same sentiment I have about my acting career. I would also like to hike as many of the Earth’s long-distance trails as possible before I die, as I’ve already spent many months hiking in the wilderness- and hope to earn many more thousands of miles beneath my feet.

What is your favourite food?

Vegetarian Pho, or home-cooked Persian food.

What is your favourite food to make?

My favourite food to make is a recipe I learned while living in India, for a very nourishing food called Kitchari. If I’m ever feeling unwell, Kitchari makes everything right.

Where is your favourite place to eat?

My favorite place to eat is at an Ethiopian restaurant in Toronto called Nazareth. I have been eating there since I was a child.

What languages do you speak?

I speak French, English, and during the pandemic I began learning Farsi; my father’s native tongue.

What is a new skill you want to learn?

I have always wanted to be able to run an ultramarathon of 100+ miles. Having hiked 3000+ miles of wilderness myself, the notion of performing an ultramarathon distance in such a short amount of time is very appealing to a part of me, the part which likes to feel strong and powerful in my mind and body.

Where would you travel if you could?

If I could travel anywhere in the world, I would return to the alpine mountains of the High Sierra wilderness in California. Mother Earth flaunts her beauty in overdrive in those mountains, and it was there that I saw more stars than I ever have in my life. When you reach above 10,000 ft. high in mountaineering, it feels as though you’ve landed on another planet entirely.

What is a fun fact about you?

One fun fact about myself is that nothing brings me more comfort than playing and singing 100+ year old folk tunes on my banjo.

Why do you love theatre?

I love theatre because I believe it blurs the lines that need to be blurred in our society. Connection- true connection, can be challenging in our day to day lives, but I find the theatre to be a sacred space where we can feel safe to express and witness unsafe things in a safe environment. Cracking the spine of a favourite play, or stepping into a theatre to perform or witness a show, both make me feel instantly in harmony with the connection that is so missing in our usual interactions. I also firmly believe that magic is real, and it exists on the stage.

How did your journey in theatre begin?

My journey in theatre began with my first memories of being fascinated with story, and the performance of story. I was lucky to have a culturally-inclined mother, and to have grown up in Toronto where she would bring me to many different theatre performances growing up. It was in these spaces that I felt a sense of rightness, and it was natural for me to make a career out of this feeling of rightness. Growing up doing theatre, choir, and briefly musical theatre, I’ve been lucky to perform in great spaces such as Massey Hall, where you can feel the history of all the past performances inspiring you in yours.

Why is theatre important?

While I am a huge cinephile, I believe theatre stands out on its own as an invaluable and unique art form, absolutely necessary to the healthy functioning of our societies. There is something irreplaceable and inimitable about a live performance, which makes the experience of witnessing theatre different from film entirely. I am not a particularly religious person; but I feel something sacred and holy brought to life when I sit down to watch a play.

What is one project you were proud of?

I have been fortunate to have many theatre moments where I felt profoundly rewarded for my hard work. The most inspiring was when I performed the lead of Dawn Wilson, in Kenneth Lonergan’s Lobby Hero, at my time in the Professional Conservatory at Stella Adler Studio. It was my first time performing a full-length play in adulthood, and after my training; so I could feel how much theatre gives back to you what you put into it, as well as giving to you what you give to others. We had an insightful, hard-working cast and director duo, who reminded me of the power a collective can accomplish in this art form. We are only as good as our scene partners, and I had very good ones.

Do you have any advice for aspiring theatre artists?

I believe a good piece of advice for theatre artists is to start with developing your own sense of taste for what you think is ‘good’ theatre. Read plays, see plays, analyze theatre. The only way you can pave a way for yourself in the theatre arts is to know very specifically what it is you want to pave. While there are both mystical and technical aspects to the theatre arts, it is also quite the intellectual pursuit, so it helps to fill your mind with the proper knowledge theatre requires and deserves. Some of my favourite plays I saw performed live changed the way I saw myself as a theatre artist, (Ed Harris in Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird”!!!), so exploring and exposing yourself to as much theatre as possible is invaluable.

 

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