Feature > Interview > IBSEN'S NEW NORA: NAKISA ASHTIANI BY SHABNAM REZAEI
Born in Berlin, Germany, Nakisa Tschangiesi Aschtiani is another shining star in the Iranian community that is tackling her art one play at a time. Currently in the role of the great Nora Helmer, in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, Nakisa has had many different chances to stay true to her passion. Here, we talk to the young actress about her dreams and future plans.
PersianMirror: Tell us a little about your background and where you grew up?
Nakisa Aschtiani: I was born in what used to be known as West Berlin, West Germany in 1980. My parents and I immigrated to California before the age of three. I have spent most of my life in Southern Orange County. I began acting in high school my junior year.
PM: You were just playing the fantastic role of Nora Helmer in Ibsen’s classic play A Doll’s House. What is it like being Nora?
NA: Wow! Nora is such a great character. She’s a classic. Ibsen wrote this as a tribute to a real life woman he knew, but to honor her, he gave her her happy ending, not society’s. Playing Nora is an actor’s dream: she has every emotion and characteristic you can think of. I think she really begins to find herself at the end. It took a lot of energy to bring her to life, but if I was given the opportunity, I would definitely be her again.
PM: What attracted you to the Arts and how did your family influence your decision to make acting your profession?
NA: My father was actually the one that saw the potential in me. I thought that I would get embarrassed if I had to get up in front of people and do something. One day, I realized that I could really love it, and I went in to audition for a play and I got in. I was about 15. My parents are my #1 fans. They have always supported me in everything I did and continue to do.
PM: Tell us about your first great role and how it felt to do it?
NA: My first great role was actually my first play: Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. I spent every night in a wool dress and a bonnet screaming at imaginary things in 17th Century Salem. I LOVED it! You get this feeling when you enter – like you can feel the energy in the room. It’s like fuel. That’s when I knew that I couldn’t see myself being anything but an actor.
PM: You have had so many different roles and various training. Do you prefer a certain medium (theatre vs television) and why?
NA: Theatre and film are so different. In theatre, they always tell you: “you can’t be too big” and “project to the last row.” In film, you have to have all that energy contained in your eyes. It’s so subtle. I don’t know if I can pick. It’s like having to answer “which child do you love more?”
PM: Where do you find inspiration?
NA: The play, definitely, that goes without saying. Aside from that, inspiration is everywhere: real life people, books, movies, television. I’ll study different aspects of those things to piece together my version of the character – whether it’s the way she moves her hands when she’s lying or how she brushes aside her bangs when she’s nervous. It’s like a collage.
PM: What is your next project and what other things are you working on?
NA: Currently, I am preparing for KCACTF (Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival). I was nominated for the Irene Ryan Scholarship Award for my performance in A Doll’s House, so my partner (Darren Nash) and I will be in Cedar City, Utah the 2nd week of February to compete. There will be a lot of theatre bigwigs there, so hopefully, through that, my next project will find me.
PM: What is your favorite part about Iran and its rich culture?
NA: The people. I have yet to visit, but the generosity and compassion of the people I have met from Iran are one of the greatest things I have encountered in my life. I love that everything we do revolves around the family and the food – especially the food! I come from a large family (my friends joke that I am related to 1/8 of California) who knows how to cook, so on holidays the house is packed with people and the kitchen smells like…heaven! Oh and there’s dancing too – lots of dancing!
PM: Desert Island. Three things. What will you take?
NA: The complete works of Arthur Miller, my closest friend, and a puppy (I love dogs)
Full Name: Nakisa Tschangiesi Aschtiani
Born In: the city formerly known as West Berlin, West Germany
Favorite Color: Blue
Favorite City: San Francisco
Favorite Dish: It’s a tie between: ghormeh sabzi made with chicken and vegetable soup with lemon
Languages: Farsi and English
Currently Reading: a play called Proof by David Auburn
A Doll's House Photo Credits:
Photographer: Ken Kinder
Back Row (L to R): William Geoff, Sarah Oberholtzer, Rebecca Hyrkus, Nakisa
Aschtiani, Alletta Cooper, Jim Harris, Max Orbita
Front Row (L to R): Nicole Khaladj, Troy Cox, Mariam Carr