Tony Nardi – Actor/Writer/Producer
Tony Nardi’s acting experience has been diverse and prolific,
in live theater, television and film.
Born Antonio Luigi Nardi, in Calabria, Italy, in 1958, he came
to Canada at the age of six. As an actor he received his training
in Montreal at the Actor's Studio, The Banff School of Fine
Arts, The Stratford Festival, and Italy.
He has appeared in over 50 plays, in English, French and Italian,
ranging from classics such as Uncle Vanya, Julius Caesar,
The Servant of Two Masters, Caesar and Cleopatra, to more
experimental and collective-driven works, Pericles Prince
Of Tyre, By W.S. by Rene'-Daniel Dubois, Les Guerriers,
and La Storia Calvino (Dora Award Nomination
for Artistic Excellence in 1985).
In 1979, in Montreal, he wrote his first play, La Storia
dell'Emigrante (Story of the Emigrant), in collaboration
with Vincent Ierfino, marking the first time, possibly in Canada,
that a play, written by Italian-Canadians, in Italian (Calabrian
dialect), about Italian-Canadians, was produced by a handful
of professional Italian-Canadian actors. A remount in 1980 played
(once again) to sold-out houses and received considerable attention
from (French and English) mainstream press. Scenes from the
play were filmed for television, including the docudrama Caffe’
Italia (dir. Paul Tana). La Storia dell'Emigrante convinced
Nardi that creative fulfillment (if at all possible) occurs
only when the artist is totally engaged (and anchored) in one’s
own experience, one that speaks directly to a ‘specific’
audience. Though the play was inspired by and dedicated to Italian-Canadians,
its theatricality did not exclude other communities. In 1982,
La Storia dell'Emigrante was mounted in Toronto at the Ontario
Multicultural Theatre Festival and received the James
Buller Award for best original Canadian play. The experience,
the overwhelming audience reaction, and Italian-Canadians’
hunger for theatre made clear, in Montreal and Toronto, that
the Italian-Canadian community was not being served by professional
(mainstream/non-mainstream) and community-based theatre in Canada.
From 1978 to 1980 he took part in three seminal theatre projects.
The first was Alexander Hausvater's Solzhenitsyn, depicting
life in the Soviet Gulag. The second was Arthur Kopit’s
Indians at Townstage, directed by David Rimmer. The
third - a David Rimmer adaptation of Orwell’s Nineteen
Eighty-Four. The three projects cemented, in Nardi, the
importance of choosing creative projects consistent with one’s
deep-rooted convictions and ideas, and brought home Orwell’s
words: “The opinion that art should have nothing to
do with politics is itself a political attitude.”
Through the 80's, Tony Nardi leapfrogged from Theatre 2000 in
Ottawa (performing in the world premiere of W.O. Mitchell's
For Those in Peril on the Sea), to the Stratford Festival
(winning a Tyrone Guthrie apprentice award
in 1982), to Halifax’s Neptune Theatre where he played
in Filthy Rich, to a cross-Canada tour of Sandinista
with the Great Canadian Theatre Company in ’83. The production
brought Nardi face to face with many Latin-American political
refugees - including actors who reminded him that art should
never become a slave to politics, and that political theatre
must be theatre first, then politics. He worked with Mike Alfreds
of Shared Experience (England) in Toronto’s Masterclass
Theatre’s False Admissions, in Michael Springate’s
Dog And Crow at Factory Theatre and John Mighton’s
Scientific Americans at Theatre Passe Muraille.
In 1985, Nardi went to Rome (on a Canada Council grant) to work
and study with commedia dell’arte master, Alberto Fortuzzi.
This began a five-year collaboration on both sides of the Atlantic,
culminating in the 1990 production A Modo Suo, A Fable
("Each in his/her own way").
In Italy Nardi took part in Fortuzzi’s play, Repertorio
All’antico, a five and a half hour trilogy. It was
during this time that Nardi rediscovered the importance of improvisation
when working on scripted material, modern or classic.
A Modo Suo, A Fable, which Nardi wrote (in Calabrian), co-directed
and co-produced, is a tragic comedy about an Italo-Québecois
family’s struggle with its past, present and future. It
was presented at Canadian Stage (Berkeley Street Theatre) with
the intent of bringing those Italian-Canadians living north
of the 401 south, to the downtown core, to a mainstream theatre
to witness a non-mainstream play. It garnered a 1990
Dora Nomination for Best New Play. An English translation
by Nardi and Antonino Mazza was published in The Canadian
Theatre Review, 2000 fall issue.
In 2001/2002 Nardi performed in five plays with Soulpepper:
A Flea In Her Ear (for which he receive a Dora
Nomination); La Ronde, Ionesco’s The
Lesson (for which he received a Dora Award);
A Winter’s Tale; and Miss Julie.
Leading roles in film include La Sarrasine (dir. P.
Tana) for which he received a Genie Award for
best performance by an actor in a lead role and La Déroute
(dir. P. Tana) for which he received le Prix Guy L’Écuyer
for best actor (1998) at Les Rendez-Vous Du Cinéma Québécois
and a Genie Award Nomination for best performance
by an actor in a lead role. In both films Nardi served as dramaturg
and, in the latter, as co-screenwriter. Others films include
Angel In A Cage (M.J.Gomes), and My Father’s
Angel (dir. Davor Marjanovic) for which he received his
second Genie Award for best performance by
an actor in a lead role, Mylan Cheylov's Under My Skin,
Atom Egoyan's The Adjuster and Speaking Parts,
Carlo Liconti's Vita Cane, Brownbread Sandwiches,
and Concrete Angels, for which he received a best supporting
actor Genie nomination in ‘88, Andre'
Forcier's Une Histoire Inventee and Kalamazoo,
Johanne Prégent’s Les Amoureuses, Robert
Menard’s Cruising Bar, and La Bruttina Staggionata
(dir. Anna Di Francisca).
His TV appearances include the miniseries Indian Summer:
The Oka Crisis, Il Duce Canadese, for which he received
a 2006 Gemini nomination for best performance
by actor in a lead role, Bonanno: A Godfather’s Story,
and Almost America (dir. the Frazzi bros.).
Other TV credits include Atikka (dir. Euzhan Palcy),
Rossini's Ghost and Galileo: On the Shoulders of
Giants (dir. David Devine) and In The Presence of Mine
Enemies (dir. Joan Micklin Silver).
Rarely mentioned in a CV/BIO are works an actor did not do.
Usually, one automatically thinks of projects one would like
to have done. In Nardi’s case, noteworthy are the projects
Nardi turned down, in theatre and film, because of their racist
nature, overtornes, and undertones. These projects, sadly, are
too numerous to mention. Most did very well, and were even liked
by many Canadians of all ethnic backgrounds. These projects
are a constant reminder to Nardi that the only way to decrease
their number is to create and produce authentic tales that constantly
keep us looking within.
In 1993 Tony Nardi was awarded the Commemorative Medal
for the 125th Anniversary of Canadian Confederation,
given to those who have made a significant contribution to Canada,
to their community, or to their fellow Canadians.