Mena Massoud accepting the award. PHOTO: SEAN WETSELAAR

“He was the soul and spirit of the theatre school”

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By Sean Wetselaar

It’s been almost eight months since the death of theatre school student Sarmad Iskandar, but his classmates are still grieving as the first annual Sarmad Iskandar Memorial Award was awarded Tuesday to Iskandar’s long-time classmate Mena Massoud, his best friend throughout high school.

“He was the soul and spirit of the theatre school,” Massoud said. “He just brought so much light.”

Early in the morning on March 16, Iskandar, then a third-year acting student, drowned near Queen’s Quay. Iskandar would later be pronounced dead in the hospital. He was 21.

The tightly knit community at the Ryerson Theatre School rallied immediately around Iskandar’s friends and classmates, and the decision to create a memorial scholarship came at the prompting of parents of the students.

“It was incredible,” Massoud said. “[Sarmad] did have so much life and pride in everything that he did, and he just had a wonderful heart.”

Lynn Davis, a parent instrumental in the award’s creation, and the presenter of the award said the decision to pursue an award came after the final show Iskandar’s classmates put on last year, shortly after his death, which was highly emotional. Davis said the process to create the award was quite short.

“It’s remarkable,” Davis said. “Working with the school has been wonderful. There were no barriers [to create the award].” Presentation of the award to Massoud followed an emotional video featuring Iskandar’s classmates.

The video tribute highlighted fond memories of Iskandar, including his laugh, his music (he played the trum  pet and sung), and the friendship and spirit he brought to the school.

“The pain of losing him is still so raw,” Davis said. “For a parent, for a family, there is no greater grief. Sarmad’s classmates understand that grief because in their time at Ryerson they have become family.”

The award will be presented to an acting student every year who embodies Iskandar’s qualities, including  his joy, energy, comedic timing and love of music.

Jordan Campbell, one of Iskandar’s classmates, summed up the group’s feelings in a video produced by Cassie Mitchele.

“If talent is measured by the amount of joy and happiness that you bring other people, then Sarmad was and remains to this day one of the most talented people.”

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