By Iman Sadri
July 3, 2019
Ava Lalezarzadeh is a name that will soon fill up a marquee near you. Not just because of the length of letters in the surname, but of the merit of talent behind the name. At the tender age of 20, Ava Lalezarzadeh is already holding her own among seasoned actors. She is currently portraying Anne Frank in a dramatic play at the Museum of Tolerance. A student at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film, and Television (UCLA TFT ‘ 20), Ava already has a vast body of work. Including the theatrical production of Anne : A New Play now playing (Tix @ MuseumOfTolerance.com) and she has starred in the short films : Pool Man, Unseen, and Who Will Remember. Ava is well on her way to stardom in Tinseltown. We caught up recently with Ava Lalezarzadeh in Los Angeles for a Q+A to gain further insight into the career of this Rising Star.
“Ava Lalezarzadeh is a name that will fill up the screen not just in the number of syllables in the surname, but of the merit of talent.”
Iman Sadri : Please describe your early life and education prior to college.
Ava Lalezarzadeh : I grew up in a small town called Redlands, California. My family and I were the only Persian Jews for miles. Growing up in a community where there weren’t any Persian Jews gave me a unique sense of self-identity and pride in my heritage. I was born to hardworking, kind, and ambitious parents, both of whom escaped the Iranian revolution when they were teenagers. Throughout my education I was involved in choir, theater, and speech and debate. It was through these programs where I began to cultivate my craft.
IS : What inspired you to pursue acting / drama ?
Ava Lalezarzadeh : There was never a particular moment where I thought, oh this is what I want to do. But I always knew. Ever since I was little I’ve had a desire and curiosity to connect with people. My parents told me a story about how when I was two years old, when we’d go out to restaurants, I’d greet strangers at their table and make conversatio
“Ever since I was little I’ve had a desire and curiosity to connect with people.”
IS : Was there an actress or actor that inspired you to follow drama / acting ?
Ava Lalezarzadeh : There never was a particular actress that I grew up watching where I went, ‘Oh I want to do what she does.’ But I think as a storyteller, I’ve grown up always wanting to share the lives of people and to be a vessel for those stories. However, some of my favorite artists that I am moved by are Daveed Diggs, Rafael Casal, Meryl Streep, Rachel Brosnahan, Viola Davis, and David Harbour.
IS : Can you elaborate on some of your drama / acting experiences at UCLA ?
Ava Lalezarzadeh : During my time at UCLA, I’ve been really lucky to explore and discover various forms of storytelling. After a directing class, I became interested in creating my own stories. So last year, I directed, wrote, and produced my own short film called Pool Man. I’ve participated in Virtual Reality Storytelling, as well as acted in plays that my peers have written and directed.
IS : Where do see yourself / what are some of your career goals after college ?
Ava Lalezarzadeh : I’m really interested in telling stories–whether it be through the medium of film or theater–of individuals or groups of people who feel unheard, ostracized, or oppressed. Especially right now, I feel that I have an obligation to use my art to highlight the suffering of people of the past, such as Anne Frank, to serve as a commentary on the current injustices of human violation taking place in America and around the world. We have a responsibility to take care of one another, and I think one of the ways we can do that is by empathizing with each other. We have a great capacity for empathy. I think people sometimes just need a reminder of how similar we all are.
” I feel that I have an obligation to use my art to highlight the suffering of people of the past.”
IS : What is the key / tips to memorizing lines ?
Repetition! Repetition! Repetition! And connecting lines based on the thoughts. Understanding why I’m saying what I’m saying and what motivation is leading me to say my next line. Everything the playwright writes is intentional, so discovering my necessity to say those words really helps me remember.
IS : Can you describe your experience of working on Anne : A New Play ?
Ava Lalezarzadeh : As my first professional play, I didn’t really have any previous notions or expectations. But what I can say is that I couldn’t be more lucky to have this production be my first. They’ve embraced me and really shown me what it means to be a true artist. Our cast and crew has turned into a family. I feel incredible joy and honor performing with them every night. We all feel a deep sense of compassion for all the victims of the Holocaust. Performing at the Museum of Tolerance has been an experience in of itself. We directly see the impact we are making. The staff have been so kind to us and also feel a great obligation to share the story of the 8 individuals hiding in the Annex.
IS : Can you describe your experience of working on Who Will Remember ?
Ava Lalezarzadeh : Who Will Remember was also a very special short film. It is based on the writer’s grandmother, Alice, who escaped the Armenian Genocide when she was 15 years old. This was a real girl. It happened. And her granddaughter, Barbara, a college math professor, is here today sharing her story. Similar to Anne, playing a real life human being who actually faced these atrocities, it suddenly doesn’t become difficult to connect with my representation of them. My desire to do right by them becomes so great that any anxiety or worry I had is gone. Because it isn’t about me. It’s about them. Knowing that this was Barbara’s grandmother, I really wanted to honor her grandma and do right by her. It was incredibly helpful to have Barbara deeply involved in the filmmaking process as she served as a personal lens to guide us.
“Everything the playwright writes is intentional, so discovering my necessity to say those words really helps me remember.”
IS : Imagine you’re 100 years old and reading your Wikipedia profile. Describe some career / personal highlights you would like to see on there
Ava Lalezarzadeh : If I can look back on my work 80 years from now – a few Broadway plays and films under my belt, of course ;)– I want to look back on my life and know I did something monumental that effected people positively, provoked thought and discourse, challenged those that need to be challenged, and comforted those that need to be considered comforted. My greatest wish is that I create art that serves as a mirror to reflect on our own actions, and as a main force to connect our individual experiences into a universal feeling that leaves audiences feeling seen, heard, challenged, or at the least, thought-provoked.
Follow Ava Lalezarzadeh @Ava_Lalezar on Social Media
Watch Ave Lalezarzadeh in Anne Frank as the titular role at the Museum of Tolerance. The show runs every Sunday at 3 pm and 7 pm and Monday at 8 pm until July 22 – Tickets at museumoftolerance.com
Iman Sadri is the founder of @LASmileMagazine + @ThePersianObserver