Stage Door News
Toronto: ACTRA Toronto names Jani Lauzon as its 2021 Award of Excellence recipient
Friday, December 18, 2020
ACTRA Toronto is proud to announce Jani Lauzon as its 2021 Award of Excellence recipient.
Jani Lauzon (she/her) is a Métis multi-disciplinary artist. She is an award-winning screen actress, a Juno-nominated singer-songwriter, a Gemini Award-winning puppeteer, a multi-award-winning stage actress, a director and filmmaker.
Jani grew up in creative environments; both her biological parents were artists and musicians, and her foster father was the high school drama teacher. She had the pleasure of watching the incredible Brent Carver on stage from the wings, which confirmed her desire to become a performer. Her early training was in visual and physical theatre, clown and mask. She then reignited her passion for Shakespeare, something her foster father Paul Kershaw instilled in her, which opened up the opportunity to play some of the great roles in the canon. Her puppetry résumé includes iconic Canadian children's shows like Mr. Dress-up (Granny), Big Comfy Couch, The Jim Henson Hour, Groundling Marsh (Maggie), and Alligator Pie. She played Seeka in the Gemini-award-winning cast of Wumpa's World.
Jani has a distinguished career as a singer and is equally comfortable singing the blues, jazz and traditional Indigenous music. She was twice nominated for the Juno Aboriginal Recording of the Year awards and once for Best Female Traditional award at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards. She has released three albums, Mixed Blessings, Thirst, and Blue Voice, New Voice.
Jani won Best Actress awards from the American Indian Film Festival Award and Dreamspeakers for her performance as Doris in the film, Windigo Tale. Some of her newest acting projects include Six Ways to Die, Ankle Biters, and The River You Step In. She has appeared in multiple episodes of Saving Hope, Longhouse Tales and Conspiracy of Silence.
Her stage acting has garnered Dora nominations for playing Shylock in Merchant of Venice, Raven in Whale and various roles in The Triple Truth, and for her recent solo show Prophecy Fog.
Her self-created theatre projects, produced by her production company Paper Canoe Projects, include A Side of Dreams, Prophecy Fog and I Call myself Princess. She is in development on a new theatre piece with her daughter, Tara Sky, called Reflection[s}. Paper Canoe also produced her films, Just One Word and "eu·tha·na·sia". She is currently an Associate Director of the Acting Program at National Theatre School and has directed several theatre productions including at Soulpepper and the Shaw Festival.
Jani has been an "ACTRAvist" at ACTRA Toronto for 20 years, assisting Sandi Ross in the early years with ACTRA Toronto's multi-cultural talent book, Into the Mainstream. She continued serving ACTRA members as a member of the Diversity Committee, becoming Chair of the committee, then serving as Diversity Advocate. She forged partnerships with several film festivals such as imagineNATIVE, Reelworld, Reel Asian and others to help introduce filmmakers from different cultural communities to the wide range of diverse ACTRA Toronto talent and to help emerging filmmakers to learn the advantages of 'going ACTRA.' Other initiatives included the creation of ACTRA Toronto's online diverse casting database (diversity.actraonline.ca), several casting go-sees and short advocacy film competitions.
She is a member of Equity, the Toronto Musicians' Association, and was recently awarded a Life Membership in ACTRA.
"I am proud to be part of the work our union has done to support the growth of our sector and the incredible talent of our members," says Jani. "I have also been blessed to have a career that spans multiple disciplines, so to be honored with the Award of Excellence, recognizing the many facets of my career including my work as an actor, a puppeteer and an advocate, is a very humbling experience. I am grateful for all those who have helped me get to where I am today, and for my daughter, Tara Sky, who has taught me the importance of uplifting community."
"It is with great pride and gratitude that we honour one of our own," says President Theresa Tova. "Jani Lauzon is not only an accomplished actor, singer, writer, puppeteer, director and educator, she is also a trusted voice and inspiration to other ACTRA leaders. Many of our continuing initiatives were born out of Jani's efforts as Diversity Chair and Advocate, thoughtful councillor and tireless member of ACTRA Toronto's executive."
The ACTRA Awards in Toronto celebrate outstanding performances by its members on screen. The ACTRA Toronto Award of Excellence honours an ACTRA Toronto performer with a significant body of work and who has demonstrated a commitment to advocacy on behalf of their fellow performers. In addition to the Award of Excellence, four juried awards are presented for outstanding male, female, male voice and female voice, as well as the ACTRA Toronto Stunt Award and the members' choice Series Ensemble Award. The awards are one way the union promotes its outstanding performers to the industry and the public. In 2021, the awards will be held virtually on a date to be announced in the new year.
ACTRA Toronto is the largest organization within ACTRA, representing over 15,000 of Canada's27,000 professional performers working in recorded media in Canada. An advocate for Canadian culture since 1943, ACTRA is a member-driven union that continues to secure rights and respect for the work of professional performers.
Photo: Jani Lauzon. © Denise Grant.