Heritage Woods grad makes Bard on the Beach debut as star

Ghazal Azarbad is cast as Viola in Shakespeare in Love, and plays small ensemble parts in Taming of the Shrew.

Ghazal Azarbad is trying hard not to think about or watch Shakespeare in Love, the Oscar-winning film of which the Bard on the Beach play she’s starring in is based on.

The Heritage Woods secondary graduate clinched the role of Viola — Gwyneth Paltrow’s character in the movie version and the love interest of a young playwright named Will Shakespeare — after she auditioned for the company last summer.

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“It the biggest show I’ve ever done,” Azarbad gushed today (Friday) during rehearsal. “I feel great and that all the training I’ve had through my life has prepared me for this.”

Azarbad caught the acting bug when she moved from North Vancouver to the Tri-Cities at the age of 12, enrolling at Summit middle school in Coquitlam. At Heritage, she studied theatre under Robert Wisden and Shanda Walters, who cast her as Mr. Mushnik in the Little Shop of Horrors in her final year at the Port Moody high school.

After graduation, Azarbad gained her BFA from UBC before moving east, to Toronto.

She’ll be making her Bard debut playing ensemble roles — a servant, barmaid, dancer and widow — in The Taming of the Shrew, which opens the company’s 30th season June 5, and the other BMO Mainstage show, Shakespeare in Love, opening June 11.

Juggling two concurrent productions is a new concept for Azarbad. “I’m figuring this out as I go,” she laughed, noting she only has handful of lines in Taming of the Shrew.

Still, both plays are likely to be sell-outs as the company is loosely remounting its 2007 spaghetti-western version of Shrew while Shakespeare in Love is directed by Daryl Cloran, the mastermind behind last year’s Beatles-inspired smash As You Like It.

Meanwhile, Port Moody native Jennifer Stewart is the assistant stage manager for All’s Well That Ends Well, which opens on June 26 on Bard’s Howard Family Stage.

• Taming of the Shrew runs June 5 to Sept. 21 while Shakespeare in Love is from June 11 to Sept. 19. For tickets, call 604-739-0559 or visit bardonthebeach.org.

Ghazal Azarbad


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