Alfred University News

Visits by Broadway actress, film actor-producer wrap up Acting for the Smartphone Camera class

Anika Larsen (left) and Reza Sixo Safai
Anika Larsen (left) and Reza Sixo Safai

Broadway actress Anika Larsen and film actor/writer/producer Reza Sixo Safai were recent guests in the Acting for the Smartphone Camera class offered by Alfred University Visiting Assistant Professor of Theater Eliza Beckwith as part of the Virtual Visiting Artist Series organized by Beckwith and Associate Professor of Performance Design Maureen Weiss.


ALFRED, NY – Broadway actress Anika Larsen and film actor/writer/producer Reza Sixo Safai were recent guests in the Acting for the Smartphone Camera class offered by Alfred University Visiting Assistant Professor of Theater Eliza Beckwith as part of the Virtual Visiting Artist Series organized by Beckwith and Associate Professor of Performance Design Maureen Weiss.

Beckwith and Weiss organized the series in order to give students the unique chance to hear from theatre and film professionals in an informal setting, with an opportunity to ask questions about their artistic journeys and careers. Larsen and Safai were the final two guests in the series.

Larsen spoke to the class on April 30. With Broadway theatres closed due to the COVID-19 crisis, she was isolated at home with her husband when a friend suggested she join a class for a question-and-answer session. As a way to “give back,” Larsen sought to participate in the Actor's Fund "Stars in the House" series to connect with acting students across the country whose academic years had been drastically changed by COVID-19. Beckwith said she learned of this offer and got in touch with Larsen, who happily agreed to "visit" Alfred. 

During her April 30 virtual visit, which was attended by Luanne Crosby, professor of music, and some of her students, Larsen spoke to the students about her journey from being one of a family of seven children who began performing as a way to "stand out.” She related her time as a Theater Studies major at Yale; her years of waiting tables while going to every audition possible; and finally, being cast in her first Broadway show.

Larsen made her Broadway debut in 2000 in the ensemble of “Rent.” In 2002 she originated the role of Roberta in the cult Off-Broadway musical, “Zanna, Don’t!” for which she received a Lucille Lortel Award nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. In 2005 she again appeared on Broadway in the ensemble of All Shook Up and in 2007 performed in the original Broadway ensemble of Xanadu. Larsen is the founder of the Jaradoa Theatre Company, which combines performance with community service. In 2009 an Off –Broadway musical based on her own life— Shafrika: The White Girl, which deals with her experiences of living with a blended adoptive family—was staged at the Vineyard Theatre.

Larsen compared an acting career to the Nasdaq index, with ups and downs, highs and lows.  She was nominated for a Tony award for her portrayal of Cynthia Weilin "Beautiful, the Carole King Musical", but has also been in shows that were not hits, and spent two years not having and acting job after her first Broadway show. She told the students to be tenacious and prepared, and to work with as many people as possible.

Safai visited the class on May 1, and spoke to the students about the various pathways to career in Hollywood. The students asked him about how he decides what films to work on, and the differences between acting on stage and acting for a camera.

He also spoke about his Iranian heritage and how it has influenced his chosen profession. “It was lovely to have the opportunity to discuss the cultural breadth of film with someone who is so active in the field, and for our students to realize that the career of art has many options,” Beckwith commented.

Safai co-starred in the 2011 Sundance Audience Winner, “Circumstance.” His performance earned accolades from the Huffington Post, which declared he “deserves to be a frontrunner for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar." The film went on to win key awards at Outfest, Rome, Madrid and NYC New Fest, in addition to earning a Spirit Award Nomination for Best Film.

Since his short film, “The Mario Valdez Story,” took home Second Prize at Cannes film festival, Safai has been a mainstay in the United States indie film scene as both an actor and producer. His acting and producing credits include “F-Stops,” “Shah Bob,” “Prevertere,” and “First Born.” In the latter, he starred alongside Hollywood veterans Val Kilmer, Tom Berenger and Denise Richards.

His vampire film, “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night,” was a Sundance sensation and considered one of the best horror films of the decade by Rotten Tomatoes. In addition to winning a Gotham Award, the film received Spirit Award Nominations for Best First Film, Best Cinematography and the "Someone to Watch" Award.