Arsalan Akhavan, 16
Atlanta International School, sophomore
Buckhead resident Arsalan Akhavan was a shy kid when he first sought a stage role at the Atlanta International School in sixth grade. He landed a part as an extra in “James and the Giant Peach,” and like the title character, the show helped him emerge from his shell.
“One thing that definitely helped turn me into the nut I am now is the theater,” said Arsalan, the younger son of Bahman Akhavan and Zahra Faridany. Arsalan is in his 12th year at Atlanta International, following in the footsteps of brother Alexander, who went on to Tufts University.
That first role launched his stage career at the school, leading last month to a Shuler Hensley Award as the best supporting actor of the year among high school performers. Arsalan won for playing Cinderella’s Prince in “Into the Woods.”
“I’m still somewhere up in the clouds,” he said of the award. “There aren’t many bad feelings you can have after that.”
Arsalan doesn’t consider himself a competitive person, but it meant a lot to win the award in his first complex musical role because he loves singing as much as acting. Reflecting his offbeat personality, his dream musical roles include Thenardier, the innkeeper in “Les Miserables,” and Roger De Bris, the director in “The Producers.”
The chance to be someone completely different is one of the draws of the stage, Arsalan said. That’s why one of his favorite shows was “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” in which he had five roles. “I’m one of those people who just go completely nuts. In the theater, I find a reason to just go for it. I have no inhibitions or fears.”
He also overcomes inhibitions in the area of politics. This school year he launched a forum that meets for 30 minutes every Tuesday to debate a current event. Issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and same-sex marriage have been hot topics of late.
He also enjoys ultimate Frisbee, soccer and bowling. “I just like the fact there are friends there and we can do something.”
With two years left in high school, Arsalan is far from making a college decision, but he knows he wants to go somewhere with a lot of options, such as Brown University.
He has his doubts about a career in the theater, but “I’ll definitely do something with it in the future.”