Nora Armani: “Optimism is the biggest aspect of my personality”

Nora Armani is a well-known, U.S.-based Egyptian-Armenian actress. Hayern Aysor presents the life story of an Armenian woman who is deeply connected to her homeland, spreads love all around her and smiles at her hardships in life no matter what.

Hayern Aysor: Do you visit Armenia often, Mrs. Armani?

Nora Armani: Quite often. However, to tell you the truth, I don’t visit Armenia as much as I would like to. Like last year, what brought me to Armenia this year was the Aurora Prize for Awakening Humanity once again.

After the velvet revolution, I discovered totally new colors in Armenia. I saw people who were prouder, more honest and with smiling eyes. I would constantly follow the process of the revolution in the U.S. and was waiting for the just victory of the Armenian people with faith.

Hayern Aysor: What sense of longing do you have for Armenia in the U.S.?

Nora Armani: My sense of longing has changed over the years. If I were asked to draw a symbolic graph, I first had a sense of longing for Armenia due to the desire to go sightseeing in Armenia. Over time, I established closer ties with Armenia through the State Committee on Cultural Relations with the Diaspora. Later, I would come to Armenia for shootings for a film. Over time, I paid visits to Armenia more often. Now I long for my relatives living in Armenia. Although I live far away, I think about their future.

Hayern Aysor: What was the greatest word of advice that your parents have given you?

Nora Armani: I have received very important and priceless words of advice from my parents. My late father would say that I should always look forward and never regret what I haven’t done. I take his advice to this day.

Hayern Aysor: When did you realize that theater was your destiny?

Nora Armani: I had realized that theater was for me and that I had a love for acting a long time ago. However, there were no favorable conditions for me to improve and grow as an actress in Egypt. In the beginning, I studied at the local medical university for a year, after which I got accepted to the American University in Cairo where I studied sociology and performing arts. Afterwards, I studied at the London School of Economics. I also received my education in the performing arts at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts of London and the University of California (UCLA). I participated in various performing arts programs in Paris and London along with Irina Brook and her father’s student, Yoshi Oida and Arian Mnushkin at the Theatre du Soleil.

Since 1974, I have been performing with actor and stage director Zhirayr Babazyan and have starred in plays performed by the art lovers union in Egypt.

Hayern Aysor: Is there any role that you haven’t played and are considering playing?

Nora Armani: I don’t think about a role that I would like to play or which role is close to my heart. My only concern is that the role that I play and my character impact the audience.

Even if one person sees progress in his life after seeing me play a particular role on stage, I will consider myself one of the luckiest actors.

One time, a young girl approached me after a performance and told me that she was impressed so much by my acting during a performance at her school years ago that she chose to become an actress after graduating from school. I got so emotional and felt so happy when I heard her words of admiration that I remained speechless. There are many similar stories.

Hayern Aysor: Can the audience recognize Nora Armani the actress, the woman and the Armenian with her acting at the same time? To what extent do you stay the same on stage and off stage?

Nora Armani: In any case, I am one of those actors who continue to live their life even after the curtain comes down or the camera is switched off. As it is accepted, I don’t stay “under” the character. However, I do identify myself with the character on stage.

Hayern Aysor: What is the biggest aspect of your personality?

Nora Armani: Optimism is the biggest aspect of my personality. Even if something bad happens to me, I always try to look on the bright side of things.

My father’s advice lies at the core of that optimism.

Hayern Aysor: Among other issues, the issue of the protection of women’s rights is also raised in your works. Tell us about that.

Nora Armani: The violent murder of my cousin, Vania Ekserjian and my nephew, Hagop Ekserjian in Egypt became one of the reasons why I established the SR Socially Relevant Film Festival. I wanted to advocate the protection of women’s rights and put an end to the violence against women.

Later, I expanded the festival and included other topics. However, during the festival, we grant a prize named after my cousin to a woman film director or to the film that reflects on issues related to women’s rights.

Hayern Aysor: How would you describe an Armenian woman?

Nora Armani: Armenian women are very strong. I have noticed that women in Armenia hold high positions in various sectors, and I think this is commendable. Armenian mothers are the bedrocks of an Armenian family. They deserve respect and appraisal, especially mothers of multi-member families who manage to do everything on time, that is, do house chores, take care of the children, clean the house, etc.

Hayern Aysor: Alongside your busy schedule, do you manage to spend time cooking?

Nora Armani: Of course, I find time to be in the kitchen and make tasty dishes. I really love to make Armenian dishes, especially dolma.

Hayern Aysor: Yerevan is described as a city of red tuff. What is the color of Yerevan for you?

Nora Armani: First, I must say that I would like to see the few remaining old buildings of Yerevan preserved. They are considered our wealth. Of course, it is also nice to see the buildings, cafes and other entertainment centers built in a new style.

Strolling on the streets of Yerevan is one of the things I do in Yerevan. I especially like Baghramyan, Abovyan and Vazgen Sargsyan Streets.

Interview by Gevorg Chichyan

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