Angelina Fiordellisi and Nikki Nanos recently returned to NMU, where they met as students, to share their respective journeys in the New York and Los Angeles entertainment industries. They participated in an Inside the Actors Studio-style public forum, visited NMU theater experience classes and held individual feedback sessions with students who presented audition monologues.
“I’ve always wanted to return to my alma mater and encourage students to follow their dreams,” said Nanos during her visit. “I shot Angelina an email and asked, ‘How would you like to go to Northern?’ Both of us know from experience that the students are at a point of trying to find themselves and grow as actors. We wanted to share what we’ve learned as a way to help them through that process. The message I’ve emphasized is that they shouldn’t try to be perfect because no one is. They should strive for excellence instead; that allows room for you to expand your vision and continue to grow and evolve as artists.”
Fiordellisi said, “I remember how confused and unsure of ourselves we were at that age, so it’s exciting to have this opportunity to help build the students’ confidence and develop their skills. People helped me by believing in my talent. I’m trying to instill in them that they should make bold choices without fear of failure. If all my years in American theater can somehow enlighten them or shortcut some of the pain, then I’ve fulfilled my new sense of purpose of giving back.”
Fiordellisi attended NMU before completing her degree elsewhere. She is the artistic director of Cherry Lane Theatre, New York's longest continuously running Off-Broadway theatre, and founded its Obie Award-winning Mentor Project. The project engages leading dramatists in one-on-one mentoring relationships with emerging playwrights for a theater season, culminating in a showcase production. Fiordellisi also has numerous acting credits on stage and screen.
Nanos graduated magna cum laude from NMU in 1978 with a bachelor’s degree in speech/drama. She later earned a master of fine arts degree in acting from the California Institute of the Arts. The film industry was her dream career. She worked behind the scenes, primarily as a production coordinator. But Nanos applies her acting skills to her current position with CenterStage Speaking in Dallas, Texas. She is a keynote/motivational speaker and coaches others on public speaking and stage presence.
When Nanos attended CalArts, a number of celebrities stopped by to share their perspectives and advice with students. She said it impacted her greatly and later inspired her to bring an element of that, on a smaller scale, to NMU with Fiordellisi. Northern students appreciated their commitment.
Shane O’Connor, who is starring in the NMU production of The Santaland Diaries on Friday, Dec. 12, was among the students who received constructive feedback on their audition monologues during individual sessions with the duo.
“I found it very helpful,” said O’Connor after his session. “They brought up some good points and I learned some things about the logistics of resumes. It’s important to put the newest information first so a director sees what you’ve done most recently. I didn’t find it intimidating to act in front of them because they have connections to NMU and came here for the purpose of helping students, so it was like getting advice from a friend. It was also refreshing to know that they have experience in the industry, not just on an educational level, but based on their current work and knowledge of what’s happening now in the entertainment business.”
While in Marquette, the women visited the grave of the late NMU professor Jim Rapport and had dinner with his wife, Karlyn. They also went to Presque Isle and other favorite sites and explored the changes that have taken place on campus and in the community.
“It’s great to be back and feel the energy of the place, yet also experience the peace and solace that I associate with Marquette,” said Nanos. “It’s a different universe."