Bahareh Yaraghi

Self Isolated Artist

Anita Alberto

Joe Szekeres

The first time I had seen Bahareh Yaraghi’s work onstage was during Stratford Festival’s 2018 production of Oscar Wilde’s ‘An Ideal Husband’. Her confident performance as conniving Laura Cheveley certainly made me pay attention to this character and to the story itself since Wilde’s tale of the context of cheating in Victorian England took on a different meaning in our #metoo world today. I then saw Ms. Yaraghi as daughter Emmy in ‘A Doll’s House Part 2’ when central character, Nora, knocks on that same door she slammed years ago. For me, it was interesting to watch from an acting perspective just how Ms. Yaraghi approached the daughter-mother relationship in ‘A Doll’s House Part 2’.

Well, the mother-daughter relationship was taken to an entirely complex level of intrigue in female empowerment when I saw Bahareh’s divine performance (as I called it in my review) in ‘Oil’ at ARC just this past February. The audience viscerally witnesses a mother’s tumultuous relationship with her child (as a baby waiting to be born, a young person and adult) at three extremely different time frames.

For me, Ms. Yaraghi has always captured a natural and convincing vocal delivery which makes me want to listen to the story she is telling and the journey she is about to take me on with her. I am most certainly looking forward to her next performance once the pandemic is lifted.

She received her BA from McGill University and then trained at Humber Theatre School. A six time Dora award nominee, Ms. Yaraghi has performed on numerous stages in Toronto and across the country. She has been an ARC company member since 2012 and has appeared in past ARC productions since then including ‘Bea’ ‘Moment’ and ‘Pomona’.

We conducted our interview via email:

1. How have you been keeping during this crisis? How has your immediate family been keeping during this crisis?

I’m grateful to say that all my family and loved ones are all safe and healthy around the globe. We are so privileged in so many ways to be living in Canada, so my husband and I try to keep our focus on the positives, as opposed to all the uncertainties and sadness out there in the world. I’ve learned that if I literally take it one day at a time, my spirit feels much happier that way.

2. As a performing artist, what has/have been the most challenging and difficult element (s) for you?
I MISS PEOPLE!!!! I miss interacting, hugging, talking, and collaborating with PEOPLE! Ok, I got that out of my system.

As an artist, one of my biggest joys is to be in a room filled with fellow artists, creating work together and ultimately sharing that work with our community. Not being able to do that right now – or for the unforeseeable future – is of course extremely challenging and scary. But all artists around the globe are in the exact same position – so, staying patient and shifting my focus to my TODAY is what is most important right now. The rest will fall back into place when the time is right.

3. Were you in rehearsals, pre-production or performances of any production was the pandemic was declared and a quarantine was imposed? What has or will become of any of those productions in which you involved directly or indirectly?

Yes, I was in the middle of ARC’s production of OIL. We had begun the 2nd week of our run, when we quickly realized we had to make the tough, but necessary, decision to cancel our 3rd week of performances. It was such a beast of a show and I was so proud to be telling it with such a wonderful group of humans. It was heartbreaking to have to close it early, but we considered ourselves very lucky to have had 2 weeks with it and to be able to share it. I was also supposed to start rehearsals for Soulpepper/Necessary Angel’s WINTER SOLSTICE that following week which, of course, was sadly cancelled as well. Fingers crossed you will see both productions programmed in the future.

4. What have you been doing during this time to keep yourself busy?

I’ve kept myself quite active, socially. Zoom, phone, and FaceTime conversations with friends and family that I always feel I don’t have enough time for. Now I do and that’s a great feeling. I’m finding that physical exercise and meditation are vital to me right now, and they help me feel strong, calm and light. Otherwise, lots of cooking!! Which I absolutely love (I read cookbooks like they’re novels), lots of catching up on movies/tv shows with my husband, and lastly, I’ve been keeping busy working on the future of ARC with my fellow collaborators. There’s lots of exciting ARC news in the works, so stay tuned!

5. Do you have any words of wisdom or sage advice to other performing artists/actors who have been hit hard by this pandemic? Any words of advice to new actors out of theatre schools?

The other day a good friend of mine said, “I don’t think I’ve got this covid thing figured out yet.” I understood exactly what he meant: he doesn’t know how he’s ‘supposed’ to feel, how he’s ‘supposed’ to use all this new-found free time, how he’s ‘supposed’ to feel creative when he’s not necessarily inspired, how his perspective ‘should’ be changing because of all this world change. However, I don’t think most of us do.

My only advice to anyone would be to keep yourself strong and healthy – physically and mentally – as best you can. Stay hyper-sensitive to the things that truly bring you joy and peace, that truly enrich your spirit, and perhaps start contemplating on the things you will choose to reintroduce back into my life, or the things you’re ready to part ways with, when life and society picks back up. I think this “covid thing” can be a great opportunity for change. But it will require great thought, great strength, great belief and bravery. OR… Netflix and a bag of chips to ease the soul is also time well spent in my books!

6. Do you see anything positive stemming from COVID 19?

The earth and the animals are much happier. The air quality is much more refreshing. And the rat race has been calmed. There’s so much relief in all of that.

On a simple level, what I love is that we’re being reminded over and over again that we are all connected, that we need one another, and that we need to take care of each other otherwise we all fall.

7. In your opinion, will COVID 19 have some impact on the Canadian performing arts scene?

I have no idea what the future of theatre looks like. Or sport events. Or concerts. Or any event where the energy from a live audience changes everyone’s experience. All I know is that we need immense patience. And the need, desire and hunger to tell and hear stories will come back strong and it will be powerful. I look forward to the re-emergence.

8. Some performing artists have turned to online streaming or You Tube presentations to showcase and/or share their work. In your opinion, is there any value to this presentation format? Will online streaming or You Tube presentations become part of the ‘new normal’ for performing artists?

I haven’t watched any of them. I haven’t had the desire yet. I admire the artists testing the waters and finding new ways of sharing their work. Some artists may need to keep creating; and some artists might need stillness and time to process. Everyone has their own pace and might need different creative outlets (or none at all) during these extraordinary times. There is no right answer. But the search is necessary, and I appreciate that very much.

9. What is it about the performing arts community that you still love even though it has been tremendously affected by this pandemic?

Oh, it’s one of the best communities in the world! I feel so lucky that I’ve devoted my life to it, even with all its challenges. My husband is not in the performing arts community and he always says, “theatre artists are some of the most intelligent, humble, hilarious, compassionate, well-spoken, and worldly people I’ve ever met.” And it’s true. The theatre community is rich in heart. And if your heart is full, it gives you a different kind of energy. And that energy remains strong, even through a pandemic.

As a nod to ‘Inside the Actors’ Studio’ and the late James Lipton, here are ten questions he used to ask his guests usually at the conclusion of the presentation:

1. What is your favourite word?

Love

2. What is your least favourite word?

(It’s two) Shut up

3. What turns you on?

Wisdom

4. What turns you off?

Excuses

5. What sound or noise do you love?

Laughter

6. What sound or noise bothers you?

Someone in pain that I cannot help

7. What is your favourite curse word?

F**K

8. Other than your own at this moment, what other profession would you have liked to do?

I wish my parents had put me in dance when I was a child. I think I’d be good at it.

9. What profession could you not see yourself doing?

A surgeon

10. If Heaven exists, what do you think God will say to you as you approach the Pearly Gates?

“Let’s dance, B”.

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