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Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo - Broadway

Robin Williams stars in Rajiv Joseph's darkly comic tale.

Bengal Tiger's Arian Moayed on Taking Epic Risks in His Broadway Debut

Bengal Tiger's Arian Moayed on Taking Epic Risks in His Broadway Debut
Arian Moayed photographed by Jenny Anderson for
Broadway should have shows that take epic risks like this.

Age and Hometown: 31; Glenview, IL

Current Role: A Broadway debut as Musa, an Iraqi gardener who takes a job as a U.S. translator after his world falls apart, in Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo.

Mastering Musa: Born in Iran, Moayed moved with his family to the Chicago suburbs at age five. “My parents are Iranian with a big I,” he says with a laugh. “I couldn’t even speak English in the house until I was 13 years old.” Moayad's roots helped him identify with his Bengal Tiger character. “He’s so complex,” the actor says of Musa. “My dad was a banker, and when we came to the States we had to adjust to the surroundings; that’s what Musa is doing.” Moayed is also grateful for the opportunity to play a multi-layered Middle-Eastern character on Broadway. “I get many scripts that fit under two shades: overly sympathetic victim or terrorist. I have two kids. In 17 years, if they look back and see me be a mean terrorist in a mask, they’re going to hate me.”

Pulling from the Well: After graduating from Indiana University in 2002, Moayed headed to New York determined to create a new kind of theater company. The result: Waterwell, founded with fellow actor Tom Ridgely, in which members write their own material and adapt classic pieces in unpredictable ways. “We say yes to ideas even if they sound insane,” Moayed says, citing the company’s latest show, Goodbar, which he describes as “a loud, fun, abrasive, live concert concept album” of the film Looking for Mr. Goodbar, featuring the glam-punk band Bambi. Waterwell’s unique methods attracted the attention of New York’s Professional Performing Arts School, and the company will take over its drama department next year.

Life's a Zoo: These days, Moayed is juggling his theater company, new parenthood (his girlfriend gave birth to their second daughter, Ivy, two months ago), development of a movie based on his first screenplay and eight Broadway shows a week. “It’s not easy,” he admits, but leaning on friends and family—and relaxing with his Tiger castmates—helps. “[Director Moises Kaufman] always says, ‘I’ve never met a group of drinking buddies in a play like you guys,’” Moayed says with a laugh. Debuting on Broadway in a challening play is particularly satisfying. “Many people didn’t think this show should be on Broadway,” he admits. “It’s dark, gory and has all these big ideas people don’t want to delve into, but Broadway should have shows that take epic risks like this.”

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