Actor/writer/director Mark Nassar ’81, who may be best known for saying “I Do” hundreds of times in the late 1980s as the original “Tony” in Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding, has more recently received acclaim for his screenplay and acting work in the independent film A Line in the Sand.
A Line in the Sand, a hard-hitting drama with moments of dark comedy, tells the gripping story of one man’s fall from grace on the hard streets of New York City, and how he ultimately finds redemption. This homeless man, known only as Banzai, has a dark secret that is finally brought to light after he is jailed for an altercation with police. His past stuns the detectives and leads them to question whether Banzai’s personal torment may be punishment enough.
A Line in the Sand is based on Nassar’s 2002 play The Mayor’s Limo. “When I was in my early 20s,” says Nassar, “a friend of mine lost his entire family in a fire. He became homeless afterward. And when I saw him years later he said that he had been doing drugs.” This friend’s story prompted Nassar to think about how many other homeless people have lived through tragic events leading them to their current circumstances. “I came up with a scenario and put my own spin on it. I worked with a detective who advised me on what could or couldn’t happen. I tried to make the story as realistic as possible.”
After several stage productions of The Mayor’s Limo in Los Angeles and New York, the film rights were optioned by Jeffrey Chernov, executive producer of the 2009 and 2013 Star Trek movies and Mission Impossible-Ghost Protocol. Chernov not only produced but directed A Line in the Sand and closely collaborated with Nassar, who also plays a detective in the film. Nassar played Banzai in the stage productions, but aged out of the part by the time the film was made. Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead, The Wolf of Wall Street) tackles that emotionally riveting role in the movie.
Though Nassar spent much of his time on the stage as a Hofstra student, his major was in psychology, not drama. “Studying psychology has helped me in every way,” he says. “It has helped in my work as a writer, director and as an actor. You learn so much about behavior.”
It was while he was still a Hofstra student that Nassar and Nancy Cassaro ’81 began improvising they were a young Italian couple form Queens, bringing the Tony n’ Tina concept to life. After graduation, they came up with the idea of presenting an interactive wedding where the audience would play the part of the guests. Fellow alum Joe Corcoran ’82 saw the entertainment value of this venture and left a lucrative job on Wall Street to produce, license and authorize performances of Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding. The early years of the show featured many Hofstra alumni, including Elizabeth Dennehy ’82, Monica Horan ’84, Tom Karlya ’82, Phil Rosenthal ’81, Judy Sheehan ’82, Susan Varon ’75 and Moira Wilson ’81.
Happily, audiences may not have seen the last of Tony n’ Tina. “We may be getting back together,” says Nassar, “for Tony n’ Tina – 25 Years to Life. It’s Tony and Tina’s anniversary party, and now they have kids – there will be the original characters and younger ones, and all sorts of things happen.” While Nassar collaborates with his Hofstra friends on that project, he has also found success with other participatory theater ventures, including Johnny Boy’s Graduation and The Bobby Dallas After Party.
Nassar’s success is a testament to his versatility, talent and skills – he has a strong record of creating the projects he wants to work on. Audiences can now see A Line in the Sand on iTunes, Roku, and xBox.
Top image: Mark Nassar (left) with Jon Bernthal.