Born in 1985 in Shiraz, Boshra is an Iranian poet, writer, actress, and model who was first introduced to Persian literature by her grandfather before starting primary school. She developed a precocious love of poets such as Iradj Mirza and Parvin E’tesami whose work inspired her to write her own poetry from a young age. Boshra later studied Children’s Literature and Theatre at the BIHE University and eventually left Iran for the USA in 2009 where she currently resides.
Boshra’s writing is prolific and covers a wide range of styles from comedy to tragedy in a voice that combines contemporary language with classical rhyming verse. She has also developed her own genre ‘Anime-Sher’ (Animated Poetry) which she performs on stage in her own signature style – a theatrical blend of poetic pathos and cartoon storytelling. She creates her own worlds and characters which she embodies on stage with impassioned multimedia performances that have won her acclaim from such literary greats as Bahram Beyzaie and Iradj Pezeshkzad.
Boshra’s poetry first became widely known in 2014 when an informal recording of her poem ‘Oral B’
went viral and came to the attention of noted film producer Marjaneh Moghimi who cast her in the feature film RADIO DREAMS directed by Babak Jalali. Boshra played the role of Maral alongside legendary Iranian singer-songwriter Mohsen Namjoo and American icon Lars Ulrich of Metallica. The film won the Tiger Award at the 45th Rotterdam International Film Festival and Boshra was singled out by critic Catherine Bray in Variety magazine as ‘a standout among the supporting players, sketching the financially astute daughter of the station owner with Aubrey Plaza levels of deadpan misanthropy’.
Boshra has also appeared on stage with critically acclaimed Iranian performance artist Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam in the play ZOHREH AND MANOUCHEHR where she co-starred in the male role of Prince Manouchehr to great acclaim. She followed this with another production alongside Moshkin Ghalam in an enormously popular sold-out run of KHALE SOOSKE starring in a tour de force leading role as the storyteller who voices eighteen characters for the duration of the show.
ZH: Thank you very much Boshra for this interview! Let’s begin by telling us more about yourself?
My name is Boshra. I was born in Iran to a Bahai family in Shiraz. It has been ten years since I left and came to America. The main reason I left Iran was that I was not permitted to live a life there that would allow me to be true to myself and be the things I wanted to be. I write and act now and then. To describe the style of my writing, I compose illustrated poems in a format that I like to call “Animesher”. When I lived in Iran, like many of my peers I never believed that my dreams had value or that I would be able to realize them one day. Now I believe otherwise.
ZH: From writing to modeling and then acting, seems like you’ve done it all! Looking back what made you show interest in Iranian literature and poetry?
Ever since I was a child I had a very close and friendly relationship with my grandfather who is a poet. Seeing the way he brought Persian literature to life with such enthusiasm introduced me to the joys of wordplay and rhyme and rhythm. This allowed me to open the door to discovering the many philosophical levels that exist in Persian literature.
ZH: What is your favorite book?
The expression of philosophical and psychological concepts in their simplest possible form is of great value in enriching human relationships, and for me, this finds its purest expression in good children’s books. This is why children’s literature has always been so fascinating to me, and I believe they can also have something to teach adults. There is a book called “Che Mibinim Che Hast” (I know something you don’t know) which is a simple book with a series of simple illustrations. Each panel begins with a depiction of a small part of something larger then asks the reader to guess what it might be. The reveal on the next page is often surprising. For example, what might appear to be a flame turns out to be a cockerel’s crest. For me, this book has been a constant reminder that has guided me in my way of thinking throughout my life, from childhood to the present day.
ZH: You went from writing books to acting. When did you discover your passion for an acting career and what were the main factors that made this into reality?
I have always written poems and stories but I have never compiled them into a book. When I was four years old there was a children’s theatre television program that was broadcast regularly called “Zire Gonbade Kabood“. Watching that show always gave me a feeling that to this day is the most ecstatic experience I have ever had: the sheer joy of performing and of watching a performance. Professionally speaking, it was not until 2016 when a home video of me performing went viral and led to me coming to the attention of Marjaneh Moghimi and Babak Jalali who cast me in their feature film. That was how I landed my first key role.
ZH: Tell us more about your experience in Bahram Beizai’s classes.
I have not personally had a chance to participate in one of Mr. Beyzai’s classes. However, I was able to participate in theatre classes for Baha’i teenagers in Shiraz that were led by someone who had studied with Mr. Beyzai. I would go to these classes twice a week and undertake physical and vocal training as an actor. For me, those classes gave me a chance to experience and pursue my passion for acting in some small way, because like most parents in the ’60s and 70s my parents did not believe that acting made sense as a profession.
ZH: What kind of training have you had for acting and stage performing?
I used to practice by watching films of my own performance and repeating the material and re-recording myself with a video camera we had at home when I was eight or so. When I first had the opportunity to work with Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam helped me greatly with my stagecraft because there is a huge difference between performing in front of a camera and performing on stage, although I still have a long way to go because I believe there is no end to learning.
ZH: Why modeling? Who encouraged you to break into it?
My aunt Shabnam Dastournezhad played a big role in encouraging my taste for art and still does. She is a professional painter who lives in Ottawa, Canada. She holds an annual exhibition of her work and that of her students there. What I remember most of all is that when Shabnam first painted me as a child, it was fascinating for me to see myself through the eyes of someone else. I always wanted to be a model for painters and sculptors but these days modeling jobs tend to be photographic. Even sculptors tend to paint from photographs now, as do painters.
ZH: Having grown up in Iran you learned about Iranian literature and poetry, you left that behind to take on modeling in the beautiful country of Turkey. And soon after finding your way to the US as an actress. It all seems like an interesting journey. Which of these skills takes most of your time and interest?
What I enjoy is to experience things. To me, life takes on meaning through the things we experience. As for which of my interests take the most of my attention, it varies over time. I can say that at the moment writing stories and poems is taking up most of my time.
ZH: Your first acting role in the movie ” Radio Dream” was critically acclaimed. How did you take on that project?
A poem that I wrote in Iran at age 19 was shared on Facebook in 2016 and went viral. It came to the attention of the Iranian-American producer Marjaneh Moghimi and the British-Iranian director Babak Jalali. After a screen test for the role of Maral, I was cast.
ZH: Which characters/roles have motivated or inspired you the most and made an impact in your acting career?
The role of the storyteller in “Shahre Ghesseh” because resembles my own style of storytelling, and allows for improvisation and off-the-cuff jokes with the audience. It’s a combination of stand up comedy and classical storytelling that I enjoy so much.
ZH: You appeared as a narrator in a play directed by Sharokh Meshkin Ghalam which was an adaptation of the theater play ” Shahre Gheseh” (The City of Tales). Please tell us a little bit about your experience in this play.
Like millions of Iranians, for me “Shahre Ghasseh” is an astounding masterpiece and since childhood, I have been obsessed by the author Mr. Bijan Moffid and always imagined him to be a character similar to my own grandfather. I imagine that if my grandfather were to see me performing the role of the storyteller in the show his eyes would beam with pride. Ever since I was little I had memorized all four acts of the play, along with the voices of the different characters and their accents. Even without an audience, just performing it for myself was a massive thrill. Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam put on his own production of it with five actors, in which they mouthed the words but I as storyteller provided the voices of all fifteen characters live as they performed on stage. I also added original sections to the piece with more contemporary takes on marriage and weddings and relationships that were very well received and I was told that they matched well with the tone of the original material.
ZH: After the outstanding success of the “Khale Sooske” (Auntie Beetle) play in Los Angeles and San Francisco, do you have any plan to return back to the stage?
Yes, I am currently dealing with the pandemic situation as it develops waiting for theatre venues to reopen.
ZH: Any new projects you are working on at the moment?
I am busy writing a new “Animesher”, about the relationship between our inner relationship with ourselves and the version of ourselves that we show to others. It will be a combination of poetry and theatre and music.
ZH: What’s coming next for Boshra?
I will be starring in a feature film that will begin shooting later this year if the pandemic allows for it. I would like to tell you more about it but there will be announcements about the project closer to that time.
ZH: Thank you for being with us at ZH.
Thank you for giving me this opportunity.
In collaboration with ZH media
Cover Photo by Mani Zonoozi
Special thanks to Sherry Sadati