Articles by: Natasha Lardera

  • Facts & Stories

    Mama's Boys of the Bronx: New Reality Show on TLC

    Momma's boy: 

    One who cannot make decisions for himself and has to have his mothers approval no matter right or wrong. 

    One who needs to hear from or see his mother on a daily basis and definitely more then once. 

    One who will die at the same point and time his mother does because he simply cannot live without her and would be lost in his life as he does not have his mother directing him. 

    One who would slice the throat of his wife at his mothers request. 

    One who was born without a doctor present that did not cut the umbilical cord. 

    This is how the term is defined on Urban Dictionary

    Wikipedia gives a more serious definition: “Mother's boy, also mummy's boy or mama's boy, is a term for a man who is excessively attached to his mother at an age when men are expected to be independent (e.g. live on their own, be economically independent). Being mother-bonded is sometimes seen as a sign of weakness, and has a social stigma attached to it in many places, although in other places it may be more acceptable or perceived as normal. A mother-bonded man is seen to give control of his own life to his mother, in exchange for a sense of security. If the mother has more than one son, then she will have, at the most, one mother's boy, usually the eldest or youngest son. The relationship between mother and mother's boy is thought to be ‘symbiotic:’ the mother enjoys controlling her mother's boy. Alternatively, in recent years, some have begun using the term in a milder sense, merely meaning a man who is emotionally attached to his mother. Though this sense of the phrase is still uncommon compared to the original pejorative intent, mothers in particular may state their pride in their ‘mama's boy’ sons.”

    Supposedly all Italian men are mama's boys. The general view of the so called Italian mammoni is that “Men, who are used to being pampered, therefore never grow up. The Mammoni—attractive, employed, successful men in the 30s and 40s—don’t get married anymore. They depend on their moms to take care of them because that’s what they’re used to. They only move out once—and if—they get married,” Tom Matlack writes in the Good Men Project. Many blame the recent economic crisis but the truth is that Italian men have always been that way. An article on the BBC titled Italians slow to leave the nest dated February 1st 2005, for example, explains how “Between 1990 and 2000 the rate of those aged between 30 and 34 still sharing the parental home rose from 14% to 27%, Eurispes says in its annual report,” and that “Sons linger even longer than daughters, the government says, with 36.5% of men aged 30 to 34 remaining at home, compared to just 18.1% of women.”

    The data confirms it, the stereotype definitely is a truth and this stereotype is going to be the brought to life in a new television show. Mama's Boys of the Bronx, premiers April 9, on TLC. “Forget about fresh baked bread, pasta and cannoli - Arthur Avenue is the place where growing up means never having to leave your mama,” the channel writes. 

    The eight-episode series captures the every day life of five proud Italian-American men who grew up together and still live with their mothers. Anthony, Frankie, Giovanni, Peter and Chip are attractive, employed, in their 30's and don't have to clean their rooms or buy gel for their hair. Their mothers take care of everything. “The mothers would love to see their sons married off to ‘good Italian girls,’ but until that day comes, they're perfectly happy having their precious boys at home.”

    Giovanni is one of them. He is 38, and is known as Johnny Margarita (because his father's bar, where all the mobsters hung out, was called Café Margarita). He is an aspiring fashion designer. Frankie is also 38 and he grew up as a street kid. He now is a construction worker and he wants to find a girl just like his Italian mother, Gina, to start a family with. Peter is the youngest, 28, and he is a math teacher who aspires to be an actor. Chip, 36, is a personal trainer and Anthony, 35, is constantly on the prowl.

    The five men are portrayed at work, at home, out on the town and on their street, Arthur Avenue. The show is supposed to be a glimpse into the Italian-American culture in the Bronx, yet, let's not forget it is a show designed to entertain, even if it is called reality-TV it is still TV. How these men decide to live their life is their own decision and not all Italian and Italian-American men do not know how to iron their underwear.

  • Art & Culture

    Home Brewed: One Act Plays by Theatre 68

    Eleven years ago, Italian American actor and Brooklyn native Ronnie Marmo (General Hospital, Deuces Wild ), with nothing but 68 cents in his pocket and a dream of creating a positive, artistic, and supportive environment for actors, founded the 68 Cent Crew Theatre Company in Los Angeles, California. The mission, to create “a community dedicated to assisting actors, writers, directors and producers in the realization of their creative and professional identity.”

    Since its inception, 68 has produced over fifty successful shows and festivals including, Lenny Bruce Is Back, Bill W. and Dr. Bob, The Knights of Mary Phagan, as well as 13 by John Patrick Shanley Collection, as a festival, in its entirety. Lauded as one of the top 99 seat theaters in Los Angeles, Theatre 68 has earned a reputation for first-rate productions and has fostered hundreds of talented artists through the years.

    A native New Yorker raised in New Jersey, Marmo soon felt compelled to bring Theatre 68 back home, and so, in August of 2011, the New York chapter of the 68 Cent Crew Theatre Company was formed. Now the resident company of the Arthur Seelen Theatre at the Tony award winning Drama Book Shop, the New York chapter is committed to the same standard of excellence and heart as their western family.

    It is with great pleasure that this enthusiastic and talented group presents, Home Brewed, the premiere production of 68 NYC; a collection of One Act Plays written, directed and produced solely by members of the company. The plays are a total of six, 4 comedies and 2 dramas (Benson, Old Wife tale).

    Italian American actress, writer, producer and director Lucia Grillo, is the director of Old Wife Tale and she shares with i-Italy a few thoughts on the drama she has worked on. “The play is beautifully written.

    I was impressed by the largeness of the character Betty, a young woman with stage IV cancer, the love and devotion of Howard, Betty's husband, the courage and equally largeness of character of Patricia, who matches Betty's strength with her own yet unique strength and the idea presented in the play of letting go before one's ‘time.’

    I approached it, with my brilliant cast slowly, making sure we were aware of each moment and subtlety in the writing and in this situation the characters face.” Grillo, who auditioned for the company and was immediately asked to join, was contacted by Marmo directly who asked her if she's be interested in directing. She picked a drama, “a story that will have the audience thinking about true love, the unpredictability of life and not owning those we love,” she adds.

    The plays are:


    Written by Josiah Laubenstein, Directed by Natalie Roy. Characters: Benson played by Mark Perrone and Smitty played by George Kolombos.

    A man struggling with suicidal thoughts finds help very close to home, through the unspoken love of his son.

    Get Back

    Written by Alan Braunstein, Directed by Mary Webb. Characters: Jack played by Cameron Moir, Woman played by Dipti Mehta and Assistant/Priest played by Christine Suero.

    Lost in limbo and longing for loved ones, Jack needs to act quickly or lose to a devilish woman.
    Between heaven, hell, repentance, and family, can Jack win back his soul?

    Guess Who's Coming to Breakfast

    Written by Eddie Jackson, Directed by Tygar Hicks. Characters: Father played by Tommy Colavito, Mother played by Mary Webb, Son played by Ed Cara, Girl Scout played by Lauren Ashleigh, Milkman #1 played by Christine Suero and Milkman #2 played by Delaney Smeal.

    A seemingly perfect nuclear family shows their true colors when a visit from an unexpected stranger spins their world around.

    Old Wife Tale

    Written by Suzanne Mernyk, Directed by Lucia Grillo. Characters: Betty played by Tygar Hicks,
    Patricia played by Hadas Nuriel, Howard played by James Sayess and Tyler Rackliffe.

    A dying wife meets the new woman who has captured her husband's heart.

    Family Picnic

    Written By Mary Webb, Directed By Cat Cabral. Characters: Judy played by Suzanne Mernyk, Shelley played by Natalie Roy and Anna played by Chiara Montalto.

    With praises to Jesus, self-help books, and freshly baked pie, Anna learns life with her sister-in-laws is no picnic.

    Rounding Third

    Written By Natalie Roy, Directed By Filipa Rodrigues. Characters: Frankie played by Alan Braunstein, Kimmy played by Leticia Castillo and Receptionist played by Christine Suero.

    A couple struggling with sexual dysfunction seek help at a sex therapy office and find remedy in the most unexpected place.

    Home Brewed runs March 29th thru April 27th, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
    All performances will be held at the Arthur Seelen Theatre at The Drama Book Shop Theatre Space, 250 West 40th Street #1, New York, New York, 10018 (on 40th street between Broadway and 8th). Tickets are $15 online and over the phone, $20 cash only at the door. Running time is 75 minutes with no intermission.

  • Events: Reports

    La Vita è Cinema: the Films of Nanni Moretti at IFC

    New York City's art house movie theater in the West Village, the IFC Center, is presenting a comprehensive retrospective of the acclaimed Italian auteur Nanni Moretti (Mar 28-Apr 5).

    Nanni Moretti is one of Italy's most celebrated award-winning actors, directors, screenwriters and producers who, In January 2012, was announced as the President of the Jury at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. He is knows for his start in the film business: once he finished high school studies, he sold his stamps collection to buy a super8 cinema camera, using which he started shooting home-made short films with his friends in 1973. In 1976 he directed his first full length feature, I am Self Sufficient yet his professional movie-making career starts with Ecce bombo (1978). This was his first nation-wide success, and still a cult-movie for many Italians.

    He is loved in his native Italy, yet he does not like to be in the spotlight life, he refuses to talk to journalists and does not appear on TV. In the past, he has said that he is not a film director, but someone

    who only makes a film when he has something to say.

    Developed in collaboration with Cinecittà Luce, Sacher Films, Warner Bros., Rosaria Folcarelli, Janus Films, Swank; Tamasa Distribution, Marilee Womack and Wild Bunch, the retrospective includes all his feature films and two of his short films.

    I am Self Sufficient
    Wed, Mar 28 at: 7:00 PM, 9:30 PM

    “Nanni Moretti’s 1976 first feature, shot in Super-8 (later blown up to 16- and 35-millimeter) when he was 22, using his friends as cast and crew, shows that his style and personal manner were fully in place from the very beginning. Moretti himself plays the hero, a father whose marriage is coming apart and who is preparing a new production for an experimental theater group in Rome that proves to be a disaster.” – Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

    Ecce Bombo
    Thu, Mar 29 at: 7:00 PM
    Fri, Mar 30 at: 9:30 PM

    “Italian writer-director Nanni Moretti followed up his 1976 underground hit I Am Self Sufficient with this low-budget 1978 comedy, playing a bumbling, neurotic slacker who hangs out with disaffected comrades from the 1968 student movement and dreams of becoming a radical filmmaker… clearly Moretti tapped into the anguish of an alienated generation.” – Chicago Reader

    Sweet Dreams
    Thu, Mar 29 at: 9:15 PM
    Sun, Apr 1 at: 1:10 PM

    “In this early comedy, Moretti casts himself as Michele, a filmmaker living with his mother and trying to complete a screenplay entitled—ominously—’Freud’s Mother.’ With a nod to Fellini’s 8 1/2, fiction and reality intermingle as the hapless cineaste begins to daydream scenes from his opus. The hallucinations culminate in a bizarre game-show scene, in which filmmakers engage in a verbal battle royale. Sweet Dreams, according to its director, ‘is not a film about cinema and it’s not even about the torments of an artist… There’s suffering and pain in my film, but that’s not cinema, that’s life.’” – Harvard Film Archive

    Wed, Apr 4 at: 7:00 PM
    Thu, Apr 5 at: 9:00 PM

    “Often hilarious… Nanni Moretti wrote, directed, and stars in this 1984 Italian comedy set at an alternative high school so liberal minded that it has a psychotherapist on staff to treat the faculty. A neurotic math teacher, Moretti wants the relationships around him to be as harmonious as his numbers (his voyeuristic scrutiny of couples across the terrace in his apartment complex deliberately evokes Rear Window), but when a comely colleague (Laura Morante) returns his love he becomes jealous and mistrustful.” – Chicago Reader

    The Mass is Ended
    Tue, Apr 3 at: 7:00 PM
    Wed, Apr 4 at: 9:15 PM

    “Don Giulio, a young, idealistic priest is assigned to his first parish after ten years of seclusion on a remote island. Arriving in Rome, he finds his new parishioners have defected en masse as a result of his predecessor’s amorous escapades. To make matters worse, his father is moving in with a younger woman, his unmarried sister is pregnant, and his best friend has become a terrorist. In a series of taut and wonderfully executed scenes, Moretti creates a meditation on the various forms love takes. Doubting his ability to solve his own problems, much less those of his flock, Don Giulio ponders life with a bewilderment and fascination that is perhaps not far from the filmmaker’s own distanced vantage point.” – Harvard Film Archive

    Palombella Rossa
    Tue, Apr 3 at: 9:15 PM
    Thu, Apr 5 at: 7:00 PM

    “Perhaps the wildest comedy yet from Italian writer-director-actor Nanni Moretti, a European cult favorite—here starring as a water-polo player and communist politician suffering from amnesia. Interspersing clips from a TV screening of Doctor Zhivago and Moretti’s own Super-8 work from the 70s as well as cameo appearances by Raul Ruiz as a metaphysical priest, Moretti concocts a dreamy satire about the ambiguous status of the Communist Party in late-80s Italy, with water polo serving as a ruling metaphor (the title refers to a goal-scoring technique); journalism and advertising are particularly singled out for comic abuse.” – Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

    The Thing
    Sat, Mar 31 at: 1:10 PM
    Sun, Apr 1 at: 10:00 PM

    The events that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War prompted changes in the Italian Communist Party (PCI), which in 1989 announced a historical svolta (sharp turn). A companion piece to Nanni’s 1989 PALOMBELLA ROSSA, this documentary tackles the future of the PCI and the future, if any, of a socialistic utopia. Nanni Moretti comments: “THE THING isn’t a cinema citation; it’s the term people used for what was coming into being — this ‘thing’ which would replace the old Communist party.” From the confronting debates depicted to the re-evocation of the history of the Italian Left and of its founding principles, Moretti expresses here a nostalgic longing for a style of politics that has disappeared in Italy. - IFC
    Screening with:

    (2003, 23 min., digital projection, in Italian with English subtitles)
    Moretti’s doc portrait of the last day of business for a small, family-owned New York City pharmacy.

    Caro Diario
    Sat, Mar 31 at: 3:15 PM
    Sun, Apr 1 at: 5:45 PM
    Mon, Apr 2 at: 9:15 PM

    “In his eighth feature, European cult figure and comic Italian writer-director-performer Nanni Moretti offers a graceful, charming, funny, and intimate three-part film essay. The first part, ‘On My Vespa,’ follows Moretti as he travels around Rome on his motorbike, visiting various neighborhoods (as well as a couple of movies) and ruminating on what he sees; the second chapter, ‘Islands,’ has him touring a group of islands off the coast of Italy and Sicily with an intellectual friend, searching for a quiet place to do some work; and ‘Doctors,’ the most straightforward and factual section, chronicles Moretti’s visits to a string of doctors about a mysterious itching ailment and their conflicting diagnoses and prescriptions. For all the wayward digressions of this film (including some fascinating and hilarious notations about the role of television in contemporary Italy), the experience of the three parts is mysteriously and hauntingly unified, and one comes away with an indelible sense of having had human contact.” – Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

    The Opening Day of Close-Up
    Mon, Apr 2 at: 7:00 PM

    “At his cinema in Rome, the Nuovo Sacher, Nanni Moretti anxiously oversees preparations for the premiere of the film CLOSE-UP, by Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami. Meanwhile, Disney’s The Lion King is taking Italy by storm.” – Harvard Film Archive
    Followed by:

    (1990, Abbas Kiarostami, 98 min., 35mm, in Farsi with English subtitles)
    “A dense and subtle masterpiece from Iran by Abbas Kiarostami (Taste of Cherry), this documentary—or is it pseudodocumentary?—follows the trial of an unemployed film buff in Tehran who impersonated acclaimed filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf and became intimate with a well-to-do family while pretending to prepare a film that was to feature them. Kiarostami persuades all the major people involved to reenact what happened, finally bringing the real Makhmalbaf together with his impersonator for a highly emotional exchange. Much of the implicit comedy here comes from the way ‘cinema’ changes and inflects the value and nature of everything—the original scam, the trial, the documentary Kiarostami is making. Werner Herzog has called this the greatest of all documentaries about filmmaking, and he may not be far off—if only because no other film does more to interrogate certain aspects of the documentary form itself.” – Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

    Sat, Mar 31 at: 5:30 PM
    Sun, Apr 1 at: 8:00 PM

    “More explicitly political than Caro Diario, this again occupies that intriguing territory between reality and fiction as it celebrates both the birth of Moretti’s son and (with some reservations) the long awaited triumph of the Left in Italy. Once again, too, it’s heartfelt, eccentric and often very funny, as Moretti shares his anxieties and joys, likes and dislikes, incidentally including his own manifest shortcomings (paranoia, hysteria, self-centredness, indecision). Simultaneously sharp and gentle, rambling and to the point, it stealthily leads us into an ever stranger personal world, so that by the finale, extraordinary images of the film crew (with Moretti in cape, motorbike helmet and shades) swaying to the rhythms of a musical sequence about a Trotskyist pastry chef (!) seem perfectly normal.” – Time Out (London)

    The Son's Room
    Sat, Mar 31 at: 11:00 AM, 7:30 PM
    Sun, Apr 1 at: 11:00 AM

    “The first half-hour or so of Moretti’s Palme d’Or winner deftly paints an unsentimental portrait of an ordinary, almost complacently happy family in a small Italian coastal town. Then the unthinkable occurs. The teenage son dies in a diving accident, and his parents and sister find themselves so distracted by guilt, anger and confusion that they start drifting apart. Then an unexpected letter arrives for the boy from a girlfriend they never even knew existed. Subtle, psychologically astute and engagingly unassertive in tone, the film builds gently but surely to an emotionally powerful climax in which the family – especially the psychiatrist father (Moretti) — are forced to reassess everything they ever put their faith in. Wisely, Moretti steers clear of sentimentality, allowing the deceptively simple narrative speak for itself. A gem.” – Time Out (London)

    The Caiman
    Sat, Mar 31 at: 9:45 PM
    Sun, Apr 1 at: 3:25 PM

    “Wittily scripted and lightly played… The film’s interest is fictional delight Bruno Bonomo (Silvio Orlando), a flailing producer of appalling B-movies such as ‘Mocassini Assassini’ who reluctantly agrees to back a cinematic attack on the politician when young writer-director Teresa (Jasmine Trinca) thrusts her script into his hands. It’s only when he begins the soul-destroying process of finding financiers and actors that he warms a little to Teresa’s cause. His mild awakening is superceded by a personal crisis: not only is his career in tatters, but he and his wife (Margherita Buy) are separating. As he struggles to balance family and work, we see some imagined scenes from his Berlusconi film, each reflecting a different stage in its production and each showing Berlusconi played by a different actor, including Moretti himself.” – Time Out (London)

    We Have a Pope
    Fri, Mar 30 at: 7:00 PM

    Nanni Moretti joins forces with the great French actor Michel Piccoli (Contempt, I’m Going Home) to tell the story of Melville, a cardinal who suddenly finds himself elected as the next Pope. Never the front runner and completely caught off guard, he panics as he’s presented to the faithful in St. Peter’s Square. To prevent a world wide crisis, the Vatican’s spokesman calls in an unlikely psychiatrist who is neither religious or all that committed, played by Moretti, to find out what is wrong with the new Pope. As the world nervously waits outside, inside the therapist tries to find a solution. But Cardinal Melville is adamant: he does not want the job, or at least needs time to think it over. What follows is a marvelous insight into the concept of a human being existing behind the title of God’s representative on Earth. WE HAVE A POPE is the latest film by Moretti to make wonderful use of humor while dealing with serious issues and continue to showcase his deep humanism. - IFC

  • Art & Culture

    Corto Maltese is Ready to Seize America

    He is complex, aloof, with sharp cheekbones and a cascade of black hair. A “rogue with a heart of gold,” he is tolerant and sympathetic to the underdog. He is a man who, when he discovered that he had no fate line on his palm, carved his own with a razor, determining that his fate was his to choose and whose favorite book is Utopia by Thomas Moore... but he never finishes it.

    He was born in Valletta, Malta, on July 10, 1887, the son of a British sailor from Cornwall and a gypsy Andalusian witch and prostitute known as “La Niña de Gibraltar.” He is a sailor-adventurer by the name of Corto Maltese, actually born to Italian comic book creator Hugo Eugenio Pratt in 1967, and he is about to conquer the United States where the graphic novel The Ballad of the Salt Sea is now available for the first time in over 20 years. Corto (in Buenos Aires slang, Corto means clever or shrewd) Maltese has enjoyed a colossal amount of popularity in Europe, particularly in France, for over 40 years and although the likes of Tim Burton and Frank Miller have been reported being big fans, he’s not well known in America... not yet! Rizzoli USA's new edition, translated by Hall Powell, Ian Monk's English translation for the mid-90s is currently out of print, appeals to fans of bold action-packed tales and sophisticated readers seeking elegant stories alike.

    John Seven reports in Publishers Weekly “Rizzoli’s edition marks the first direct-from-Italian translation in English in the book’s history. The translator for this version is Hall Powell, a filmmaker and screenwriter for television shows like Law and Order. 'It’s a kind of a Biblical source,' Powell said. 'It was so important to all of my French and Italian friends that it was a serious undertaking.'Powell had lived in Italy when he was younger—he was Roman Polanski’s assistant for a period—and continued to visit throughout his life. One evening, he found himself in the same place as Patrizia Zanotti, Pratt’s longtime assistant and owner of the rights to all his work, when the conversation turned to a release of Corto Maltese for the American market and her quest for a translator.

    'I told her why don’t I take a look at this and see how I feel about translating it,' Powell said. 'I sat with it for a week or so and ended up translating 20 or 25 pages, and about 48 hours later, she and Rizzoli had approved me. I was off and running.' Powell did the translation using Final Draft, which formatted it just like a movie script and allowed him to easily take into account the visuals that would shape the words. 'It probably went through five major pass-throughs thinking about how the language would fit in this country,' he said. 'As I began to see the comic panels and it began to get finalized, the translation changed because I began to look at the way he’d drawn things and it changed the meaning in certain places. It was fascinating, and all organic and all good.'” Patrizia Zanotti was also involved in the project as a colorist, indeed she colored the characters and foreground details.

    Vik Gill, a reviewer on Amazon writes “The story is fantastic. It is set on the eve of, and then during World War I, in the Pacific Ocean. The story opens with Rasputin, a coarse privateer, coming across two shipwreck survivors--Pandora and Cain, members of a rich family--and immediately plotting to hold them for ransom. Corto Maltese is introduced shortly after as a man tied to a raft by his former crew, he is picked up by Rasputin, and the story goes into a more complicated plot of the movements of a group of pirates and thieves operating in the Pacific. The plot is entwined with the politics of the period--with the tensions between Britain and Germany in the months before World War I.

    The politics of the story are never the primary focus, they are elements of the setting that drive the events of Ballad and the motivations of the characters--this is very much a high adventure story.”Pratt, a strong storyteller who crafted his stories with extensive imagination and precise historical research, devised his character when Malta had become independent of Britain. The country thus became the Mediterranean symbol of freedom and Corto Maltese embodies that view. Born in Rimini to Rolando Pratt, a professional Italian soldier, and Evelina Genero, Hugo Pratt himself had a quiet adventurous life.

    He traveled the world, he moved Venice, Ethiopia, Argentina and London, was interned in a prison camp where he would buy comics from guards and later was sent back to Italy by the Red Cross and was at risk of being executed as SS troops had mistaken him for a South African spy. The Ballad of the Salt Sea is the first of a series of novels (29 total) and as the series continues Pratt shifted his attention to areas, like Ethiopia and Kazakhstan, that were barely considered at the time. He always did in-depth research for factual and visual details, and some characters are real historical figures or loosely based on them, like Corto's main opponent, Rasputin. Corto Maltese was ahead of his time indeed the themes of his stories are extremely contemporary.

    “When you look at Occupy Wall Street now, and this general aspiration for real meaningful interaction and change for the disenfranchised, this guy embodied it. Corto lived it, he breathed it,” Powell said in his interview with John Seven.On a less political note, Corto Maltese has also been become a style symbol. Stephen Hayman writes in The New York Times: “Corto’s bravado struck a chord with the designer Joseph Altuzarra, who themed his latest fall-winter collection around the seafaring rake. 'My aunt gave me the comic books as a teenager, and I loved them,' said Altuzarra, who grew up in France, where these books are canonical. 'Corto Maltese was everything I wasn’t as a 13-year-old: elegant, confident, charismatic and mysterious.'

    He says that a double-breasted navy peacoat from his collection — modeled by Joan Smalls during the February runway show in New York — was 'a play on a classic Corto look,' complete with a huge upturned collar. Altuzarra said that Gypsy references elsewhere in the collection were a nod to Corto’s mixed heritage.”

  • Facts & Stories

    Held Hostage: Italians in the Hands of their Captors

    An autopsy on the body of Franco Lamolinara, the Italian hostage killed in Nigeria last week during an unsuccessful British-Nigerian rescue mission, discovered that he was shot at close range in the head. 

    The 47-year-old engineer, who had been working in Nigeria for about ten years for ‘Stabilini Visinoni Limited,’ a leading Engineering, Civil Works and Construction Company in Nigeria, was captured by an Islamist militant group along with British citizen Christopher McManus, on May 12, 2011 and since then the governments of both countries had worked hard in rescuing the two with diplomacy... up to last Thursday when the Brits failed in a raid to rescue the hostages while the Italians had been kept in the dark.

    Italian president Giorgio Napolitano, in comments to reporters, said the British decision to take action “without informing or consulting” Italy was “inexplicable,” while Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said that the “tragic killing” of Lamolinara would be discussed in parliament and that British Foreign Minister William Hague is expected for a meeting in Rome “within the next few days.” The controversy seems to be focused less on the failure of the raid, however, than on the apparent diplomatic slight. 

    A spokesman for Mr. Cameron said Britain and Italy had been in close contact since the men were captured and that Britain had not consulted with the Monti government in planning the raid. “We contacted the Italians as the operation was getting under way, but this was a very fast-moving situation. Our priority was to respond to the situation on the ground and to do everything we could to try and secure the safe release of the two hostages.” He added that indeed Mr. Cameron spoke to Mr. Monti afterward, informing him that the two hostages were dead. 

    This last incident, along with the false announcement of the freeing of another hostage, the humanitarian worker Rossella Urru, a 29 year old Sardinian representative of the Committee for the Development of Peoples (Comitato Internazionale per lo Sviluppo dei Popoli, CISP)  who is missing since October 2011 in Algeria, has brought the current situation of Italian hostages in the world to the attention of the international media. 

    At the moment humanitarians, tourists and sailors, are the Italian citizens that are still held captive and need to be rescued. The so-called “hot area” where the Crisis Unit of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in collaboration with other national institutions, is busy working on the safety and liberation of the current hostages, goes from Western Africa area to Northeast Africa.

    Rossella Urru, Maria Sandra Mariani, Giovanni Lo Porto, and six crew members of the cargo ship Enrico Ievoli are still awaiting liberation. Sadly Franco Lamolinara has been removed from the list of those to be saved.

    Rossella Urru, who comes from Sardinia, and her Spanish colleagues, Ainhoa Fernandez Rincon and Enrico Gonyans, were abducted on October 23, 2011 from the Rabuni refugee camp in southwestern Algeria. She had spent two years working there before being kidnapped. At first, not much was reported about the abduction. The Crisis Unit of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had asked for silence in order not to interfere with the freedom operations. Back in December a video distributed by the press showed that the three hostages were still alive, then silence struck again.  

    Such silence was broken during the past edition of the Sanremo music festival were a Sardinian comedian Geppi Cucciari talked about the young humanitarian. That has resulted in a wide campaign that has involved other people from the entertainment business. Fiorello, one of Italy's top showmen, has publicly spoken about the issue to 400.000 people who follow his daily radio show and asked people on twitter to change their profile picture and put Rossella's photo instead in order to increase awareness and show their solidarity with the family. The family has opened a blog where they post letters and information. Confusion broke last week when the press announced that Rossella had been freed, but everything had to be reiterated shortly after. As of now, for all we know, Rossella is still in the hands of her captors.

    “I am Italian and I was kidnapped on Wednesday, February 2, in Algeria. I am still being held by the al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the Tarek ibn Zyad battalion. I am asking Al-Arabiya to air this statement,” the hostage, identified as Maria Sandra Mariani, said in halting French on February 18, 2011. The 53 year old woman from San Casciano in Val di Pesa, (in the province of Florence), was abducted in Alidena, an area about 80 miles south of Djanet, the main town in southeastern Algeria. Three Algerians - a driver, a security guard and a guide - who accompanied her were freed following the abduction. 

    Giovanni Lo Porto, a 38 year old from Palermo was kidnapped by the terrorist organization Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) this past October with a German colleague, Bernd Johannes, in the Pakistani part of Punjab. He was working on the construction of emergency lodging in southern Punjab. In an interview with Fides Mehdi Hasan, a board member of the NGO Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) explains: “The Taliban kidnap aid workers mainly because they fear the work of awareness that NGOs perform in the country. They feel threatened by social work but above all cultural: their ability to affect the mentality of the people, on the esteem that can be generated towards civil society, towards an idea of rights that NGOs promote, this can affect their extremist ideology. As NGOs we are careful to monitor the situation. We continue to urge the government to increase the standard of human rights and the protection of humanitarian workers.”  

    6 Italian crew members on the cargo ship Enrico Ievoli owned by the Naples-based company Marnavi, that was carrying a cargo of caustic soda from the United Arab Emirates to the Mediterranean, were seized by pirates off the coast of Oman in the Gulf of Aden this past December. The area is known for the frequent attacks of Somali pirates. The crew also included five Ukrainians and seven Indians.

    In 2006, an Enrico Ievoli cargo ship was attacked by pirates but at the first time the captain raised an alarm in time and managed to prevent the hijack. Three other hijacked Italian vessels were freed from Somali pirates in November and December, two of them reportedly following ransom payments (According to the International Maritime Bureau, there were 352 reported hijackings worldwide between January and September 2011).

    “Together with the crisis unit, I am closely following the hijacking of the Ievoli,” Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said in the past, calling for “strict discretion to ensure a positive outcome.”

    Keeping silent is definitely respectful yet silence can often be mistaken as social oblivion, and the destiny of these fellow Italians should never be forgotten but kept fresh in our minds.

  • Art & Culture

    Maria Cassi's Life with Men... and Other Animals

    Italy has long been known for its fine exports in wine, cheese, and olive oil. Now comes one more: Maria Cassi of Fiesole (province of Florence).

    We are stealing this statement from to introduce to New York audiences one of Italy's most cherished theater treasures and her show. “My Life with Men... and Other Animals offers a rollicking crash course in seduction, love, death - and olive oil! Maria Cassi, a versatile and classically-trained actress, stars in this uniquely witty musical experience using finely-honed talents which have led critics to liken her to such legendary clowns as Jerry Lewis, Jacques Tati, and Charlie Chaplin. In this semi - autobiographical show, Cassi provocatively poses the question, ‘By what rules do we live and who decides what they are?’

    In her inimitable way, Cassi is a comic anarchist, reinventing the rules of her conservative upbringing to reflect her maverick romanticism. With a gift for mimicry and a soulful voice, the charismatic performer traces a sensual journey from rebellion to freedom to true liberation. She is catapulted to a hard-earned wisdom by encounters with a repressive mother, a faithless boyfriend, a crazy American, a volatile chef-husband and a close friend who, like her, is a fool for love.

    Cassi spares no one from her satirical tongue, least of all herself, as she holds up a fun house mirror to the conventions of her native Florence and mocks a generation's obsession with American pop culture. Through the brilliantly created refractions, she assesses what can be salvaged from the past to redeem the digital present, how love can be nurtured in a skeptical age, and how to embrace death when everything in culture appears to be a denial of it.”The one woman show was co-written by Cassi herself with Patrick Pacheco, an American journalist, playwright and screenwriter.

    And helping Cassi to sculpt her kaleidoscopic talents into a moving narrative is director Peter Schneider, one of the masterminds behind such Disney classics as Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and both the film and stage versions of The Lion King for which he won Broadway's Tony Award. Having discovered Cassi while traveling in Italy, Schneider has been reported saying, “I am honored to help bring the extraordinarily unique and talented artist Maria Cassi to American audiences for the first time. Her exuberant show reminds us of the provocative magic of the theater and what it means to be gloriously, wittily, and madly human.”

    “When I first met Maria Cassi, I asked her if she worked with directors. She told me, ‘No. The audience is my director.’ So my job has been to be you. The audience. And what a privilege it has been. To sit in rehearsals, day after day, to laugh, to cry, to reflect, to be confused, to ask questions, to encourage new discoveries and to preside over the ‘happy accidents’ that are always part of the creative process,” the director declared in a statement reported on the show' site. “The journey of a director is never a singular one. And so, while I have stood in for you, a whole team has stood with me. Over these many thrilling months, we have together learned ‘to breathe’ with Maria, to follow her unique style and tempi with sound, light, and visuals.”

    The creative team for My Life with Men... and Other Animals includes set design by Gianni Carluccio, costume design by William Ivey Long, and lighting design by A.J. Weissbard, with images by Valeria Palermo and music direction by James Edwards. The production is presented by Madison Theatre at Molloy College in association with Change Performing Arts and Teatro del Sale (the latter was founded in 2003 by Cassi herself together with Fabio Picchi, in Florence. She is its president and artistic director, programming music, dance, and theater performances including her own shows for which the Teatro del Sale is an ideal venue).

    In this one-woman coming-of-age tale, Cassi moves with grace from Italian to English, from high drama to low comedy, and from mime to music. She is a captivating presence, earning by dint of her respect for audiences the standing ovations which have greeted her in Italy and abroad. My Life with Men… and Other Animals, was first staged in January 2010.

    45th STREET THEATER, NEW YORK 15 - 18 March 2012

    Tickets for the New York City engagement are available online at
    Tickets for the Molloy College engagement are available online at

    Tickets for both engagements are available by phone at 866-811-4111 from 9am – 9pm Monday-Friday, and 10am – 6pm on Saturday and Sunday.

  • Facts & Stories

    Raise your Voice: Join Singer Angélique Kidjo Against Brutality

    The Permanent Mission of Italy to the United Nations, in collaboration with the United Nations, UNFPA and UNICEF brings to the United Nations Grammy Award–winning Beninoise singer-songwriter and activist Angélique Kidjoon February 28, 2012, at 7.00 P.M. The concert, produced by Massimo Gallotta productions, to be held in the General Assembly Hall, has an important purpose: raise the voice against female genital mutilation, a plague that affects much of the continent of Africa. This ancient practice strikes both Westerners and many Africans as inhuman, as it coexists side by side with modernity, and shows no sign of imminent abandonment.

    Angélique Kidjo was born in Cotonou, Benin. She grew up listening to Beninese traditional music and great artists such as Mirima Makeba, James Brown, Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder and Santana. “By the time she was six, Kidjo was performing with her mother's theatre troupe, giving her an early appreciation for traditional music and dance. She started singing in her school band Les Sphinx and found success as a teenager with her adaptation of Mirima Makeba's "Les Trois Z" which played on national radio. She recorded the album Pretty with the Cameroonian producer Ekambi Brilliant and her brother Oscar. It featured the songs Ninive, Gbe Agossi and a tribute to the singer Bella Bellow, one of her role models. The success of the album allowed her to tour all over West Africa. Continuing political conflicts in Benin prevented her from being an independent artist in her own country and led her to relocate to Paris in 1983,” wikipedia reports. In Paris she studied music and started out as a backup singer in local bands. She steadily built a musical career, with a series of increasingly successful albums for western labels.

    “Her fame as a musician has given her a platform for advocacy,” David Honigmann wrote in an interview published in the Financial Times, “She has campaigned for Oxfam and for Mo Ibrahim’s governance foundation. She works almost compulsively as a Unicef Goodwill Ambassador, and has established a foundation for women’s rights and education. 'Before I started working for Unicef I’d already written songs about human rights, children’s rights, women’s rights. Those are the things that affect me, that I grew up with as an African person.' She is uncompromisingly feminist. 'There’s no way in the Bible or Koran that women should be covered from head to toe, should be looked at with contempt.'”

    The artist, who is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, was an obvious choice to “raise the voice against FGM.”

    “Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. The practice is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers, who often play other central roles in communities, such as attending childbirths. However, more than 18% of all FGM is performed by health care providers, and this trend is increasing. FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.

    It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person's rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death,” the World Health Organization explains in its website ( FGM has both immediate and long-term harmful consequences to the health of women, including severe bleeding, urination problems, infections, infertility and childbirth complications. “The causes of female genital mutilation include a mix of cultural, religious and social factors within families and communities... FGM is associated with cultural ideals of femininity and modesty, which include the notion that girls are 'clean' and 'beautiful' after removal of body parts that are considered 'male' or 'unclean.' Though no religious scripts prescribe the practice, practitioners often believe the practice has religious support.”

    According to the WHO, 100–140 million women and girls are living with FGM, including 92 million girls over the age of 10 in Africa. The practice persists in 28 African countries, as well as in the Arabian Peninsula, where Types I and II are more common. It is known to exist in northern Saudi Arabia, southern Jordan, northern Iraq, and possibly Syria, western Iran, and southern Turkey. It is also practiced in Indonesia, but largely symbolically. Several African countries have enacted legislation against it, including Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Togo, and Uganda.

    At least 3 million girls are at risk of undergoing the practice every year.

    “Female genital mutilation has nothing to do with culture, tradition or religion. It is torture and a crime. Help us to put an end to this crime." Waris Dirie, Somali model, author, actress and human rights activist is quoted saying on, the site of a campaign that unites associations, companies and private persons in an effort to put an end to this barbarian crime.

    The concert will be streamed live through the official UN Webcast and on Time Warner channel 150 in the New York City area. For the first time ever, the UN is offering 50 pairs of tickets to the general public in the New York area through a contest through the official UN Twitter account. For information go to:

  • Facts & Stories

    Italy Triumphs at Berlinale

    Italy's veteran directors Paolo and Vittorio Taviani won the Golden Bear at the 62nd edition of the Berlin film festival with Cesare deve morire (Caesar Must Die). The last time Italy won this award was back in 1991 with La casa del sorriso by Marco Ferreri.

    Described as “a fully scripted semi-documentary work,” the Taviani brothers’ film documents a staging of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in Rome’s high-security Rebibbia prison, featuring a cast comprised of actual inmates, many of them serving time for Mafia-related crimes. Caesar Must Die was written by the Tavianis with the collaboration of Fabio Cavalli, and it stars Cosimo Rega (as Cassius), Salvatore Striano (as Brutus), Giovanni Arcuri (as Caesar) and Antonio Frasca (as Mark Anthony).

    In accepting the prize, both brothers thought of the prisoners “in the solitude of their cells” who starred in their film. “Among the inmates were a lot who had got life sentences, serious criminals,” Vittorio Taviani said. “This play was a kind of liberation for them.” He then added “I hope that, after seeing the film, people will see inmates, no matter what their crime was, as men first and foremost.

    Produced by Kaos films in collaboration with Rai Cinema and distributed by Sacher, the film seduced the international press from the very beginning. In his review, David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter wrote: “Theater director Fabio Cavalli, encourages the men to perform in their native dialects – Roman, Neapolitan, Calabrian, Apulian, etc. – and with minimal coaxing, he pushes them to seek out common ground between the drama and their own experiences.

    Given that the play deals with the corrupting influence of power and ambition, those parallels are not hard to come by. All the cast seem to respond to its themes – life and death, rivalry and hate, collusion and treachery, loyalty and betrayal, the nature of crime and the codes of honor that shape the world of men. Occasionally, those connections feel forced in the Tavianis’ scripted elaboration, but there are enough powerfully raw moments to keep it gripping.”

    Long Island City based Adopt Films has acquired Caesar Must Die. Adopt’s co-managing executive Tim Grady said of the deal, “As a longtime fan of the Taviani brothers, we couldn't be happier with this acquisition. Caesar Must Die is an incredibly poignant film. It portrays how art can liberate the soul and profoundly change one's view of the world. But it also shows how such a change can reveal an abyss of loss and regret. The film should be an inspiration for many students previously unfamiliar with the accessible work of these masters as well as for longtime admirers of riveting Italian cinema.”

    The film has caught the attention of several territories: Rai Trade has sold rights to the documentary for France to Bellissima Film, for Spain to Golem Distribucion, for Brazil to Mares Film, for Benelux countries to Cinemien, for Australia to Palace and for Israel to Nachshon Film.

 The company is also in negotiations for the U.K., Japan, Skandinavian territories and countries of the former Soviet Union.

    The directors wish the inmates to partake in this victory. They have stated they are planning to go back to Rebibbia to show them the film. “we know it will be tough for them,” they have said “because they won't simply see their performance but they will have to face their crimes and their punishments one more time.”

    In the past year Italy has indeed been struck by a sort of epidemic: inmates all over the country have fallen victims of depression and have committed suicide. Art could be a therapy, something that could help these men live with their burden, wake up in the morning with something inspiring to do.

    But there were more victories for Italy: Daniele Vicari's film Diaz. Non pulire questo sangue (Diaz. Don't clean up this blood) has won the second public prize, the second of the three prizes awarded by a jury of spectators, in the Panorama section.  The film is a co-production between Italy, France and Romania.

    Diaz reconstructs “the G8 in Genoa, from the demonstration on Saturday 21st July 2001 to the police raid on the Diaz school where a hundred or so demonstrators were sheltering, the brutality of the aggression followed by the events in Bolzaneto, where the young people were seized and further brutalized, until the following Tuesday when the magistrate ordered their release,” writes. 

    The film features an ensemble cast with 130 characters and a number of important actors (among which we find Claudio Santamaria and Elio Germano). It is shot documentary-style and in a non-linear way as it reconstructs the events the way the public prosecutors presented them in court.

    “Every one of my movies contains details of reality, even though I have always used different languages,” Vicari has declared. “In this case – the first time I have made a fiction movie based on real events – I tried in every possible way to prevent the news story from overpowering the theatrical language. Also I wasn’t interested in finding sociological reasons for certain behavior. I want viewers to question themselves without any restrictions or prejudices about how, in a civilized country, democratic rights could have been suspended for a few days: this is a fact of such enormity, so unacceptable that it cannot be forgotten (as is happening), but should be remembered and discussed.”

    At the festival, the director dedicated Diaz to Italian cinema, “because it has now found the courage to tell the truth about what is happening in this country.” He also described his great emotion in being in the audience with other 1800 people at the first screening during the festival. “There were people from all over the world, and everyone had something to say. I was mostly struck by the comment of a German girl who was inside Diaz in 2001. She told me she lived through that nightmare and now, finally, someone will believe her.”

    “We were sure that no one would pay for what happened in Genoa,” Fandango producer Domenico Procacci said in an interview with Andreas Wiseman. “In Italy we have a habit of forgetting acts like these. What happened was too important to forget but hopefully this film will remind people.

    The trials surrounding Diaz are ongoing and prosecutors now face the hard challenge to achieve convictions before Italian law can close the case due to a legal expiration loophole. Italy's gravest issues of the Italian system are not issues at all in the film industry, they actually are bringing it back to its former splendor.

    “A tendency toward overwritten dialogue outside the context of the play detracts mildly from the overall effectiveness. For example, returning to confinement after the performance, 20-year inmate Rega grandly declaims, “Since I have known art, this cell has become a prison.” Footage of the principal cast being silently shut back into their cells expresses the same idea more eloquently. And the repetition of Brutus’ suicide scene at the beginning and end of the film contributes to it feeling a little stretched, even at a brief 76 minutes. But flaws notwithstanding, this is a stimulating marriage between theater and harsh reality.”

  • Dining in & out: Articles & Reviews

    Calabria Revisited: Savoring the Food & Culture of the Region

    Calabrian cuisine is a typical southern Italian Mediterranean cuisine with a balance between meat-based dishes (pork, lamb, goat), vegetables (especially eggplant is served in a variety of ways ), fish, which is favored on the coastal towns and pasta.

    “Calabrians have traditionally placed an emphasis on the preservation of their food, in part because of the climate and potential crop failures, as a result, there is a tradition of packing vegetables and meats in olive oil, making sausages and cold cuts (sopressata and the spicy spreadable sausage called 'nduja), and, along the coast, curing fish, especially swordfish, sardines and cod. Local desserts are typically fried, honey-sweetened pastries or baked biscotti-type treats. 

    Inspired from his childhood in Albi, in the province of Catanzaro in the east southeastern portion of the region, and his own unique interpretation of Calabrian cuisine, chef Salvatore Corea of Alloro (307 East 77th Street) has crafted a four course feast dedicated to the rich bounty of his native region for a special dinner, to be held at the restaurant on February 23 at 7.30 PM, created in collaboration with The American Institute of Wine and Food (non-profit educational organization with an emphasis on fostering the understanding, appreciation and accessibility of food and drink to all Americans conceived by Robert Mondavi, Julia Child and Richard Graff) to raise funds for Days of Taste® 

    Developed by the American Institute of Wine and Food in 1995, the national food education program is catered to 4th & 5th grade schoolchildren and serves to increase nutrition and food knowledge . “It inspires children to learn about the food we eat, discover how ingredients taste, and how they weave their way into our daily lives, from farm to table,” explains.  

    The evening's program was made possible with support from D. Coluccio & Sons, Inc., Wine Emporium,, Robinson's Prime Reserve, Caffo Beverages and Jan D'amore Wines. Six-time James Beard Award nominee for Outstanding Wine Service Charles Scicolone will guide guests through the flight of specially selected wines of Calabria that have been paired with each course. The evening will also include a silent auction featuring a Mosefund Farm Tour, a collection of autographed cookbooks by Michele Scicolone, wines donated by Wine Emporium, as well as a “foods of Calabria” gift basket by Louis Coluccio of D. Coluccio and Sons. 

    Louis Coluccio is the event chair and a board member of The American Institute of Wine and Food. “Late last year we had envisioned the creation of regional dinners highlighting traditional cuisine. We decided to start with Calabria because its food is unbelievably good, and, on a personal note,  my family is from Calabria,” Louis Coluccio stated.

    The name of the evening is “Calabria revisited,” and Salvatore explains why. “I call my cuisine revisited because I like to give it a special touch, my so-called signature. I believe that if someone decides to go out for dinner he/she should go somewhere where they serve something that cannot be made at home. Take spaghetti alle vongole, for example, not only it is easy to make at home but there are hundreds of restaurants that make it too. Yes, one can use better ingredients, another can be a bit cheaper but there is nothing that unique about it. I want to be unique. I want people to come here because they can have something special, something that cannot be replicated at home.”

    A clear example of Salvatore's twist in his cuisine can be found in the evening's menu, “ pasta with n'juduia ragù is part of Calabria's traditional cuisine, but I have added citrus to give it a hint of freshness. Peperoncino is a typical product/ingredient and here I present it as a gelatin, which is a totally different way to serve it. Licorice is the Calabrian product that I cherish the most. Every time I go back home I bring one or two kilos of pulverized licorice that I like to use in risottos, in sauces and desserts. In this special occasion I used it to make a delicious ice cream paired with fennel salad and fresh sheep ricotta, the perfect light dessert to end a rich and flavorful dinner.”

    Louis Coluccio had to add, “I am a big fan of Salvatore's cuisine because it is so unique. He gives a modern spin to the classics of regional cuisine.” Cuisine is continually evolving and Salvatore's interpretations succeed because they are respectful of tradition and always feature the freshest seasonal ingredients. He captures the spirit of The American Institute of Wine and Food.

    Have a look at the evening's menu:

    Hors d'oeuvres
    Enjoy Salvatore's selection of Calabrian cured meats and cheeses
    Antipasto - Appetizer
    Burratina, tartare di pomodori e gelatina di peperoncino
    Creamy cow's milk cheese, tomato tartar, spicy red pepper gelatin
    Primo - Pasta
    Candele di gragnano con ragù di n'juduia, pecorino crotonese, scorzette d'agrumi candite
    Candele di gragnano pasta, n'juduia ragù, pecorino crotonese, citrus zest
    Secondo - Entrée
    Filetto di maiale con salsa di miele e peperoncino, verze stufate, crema fritta, pancetta crocante
    Roasted pork loin, honey & spicy red pepper sauce, braised cabbage, fried cream, crispy pancetta
    Dolce - Dessert
    Gelato di liquirizia con ricotta di pecora fresca, insalatina di finocchi
    Licorice ice cream, fresh sheep ricotta, fennel salad

    Tickets are available on Brown Paper Tickets.

  • Art & Culture

    Doing Theater Together: Marco Martinelli & Teatro delle Albe


    Rumore di acque takes place on a phantom islet between Europe and Africa, situated in a strip of sea that has been the scene of devastating tragedy over the past fifteen years. On this volcanic and seething piece of earth, adrift like a raft, there is only one inhabitant, a general with demonic features and flashing eyes. In relations with an equally phantom ‘Minister of the Inferno’ he practices the ‘Policy of welcoming’ (Politica degli accoglimenti): the islet is inhabited by the invisible spirits of the dead and the lost at sea, the rejected, whom the general welcomes and stows on his island-raft. Each of them is a ‘number,’ deaths and lives reduced to statistics. In the general's rambling talk, the voices of those invisible ones speak through him: halfway between a sorcery séance and a bureaucratic catalog.”

    This is the abstract of yet another story of immigration, a tale that touches us all.

    La Scuola d'Italia Guglielmo Marconi in collaboration with Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò celebrated the work of Marco Martinelli, director of Teatro delle Albe, in Ravenna, in two special events (both held on February 8th): a presentation of Martinelli's non-school acting method and a reading of his monologue Rumore di acque, (Noise in the waters, translated by Thomas Simpson, Northwestern University of Chicago).

    Writer and director Marco Martinelli founded the theatrical cooperative Teatro delle Albe in 1983 together with Ermanna Montanari, Luigi Dadina, and Marcella Nonni. Having already used Romagnol dialect as a vehicle to explore the mythic roots of local and marginal cultures from a global perspective, in 1988 the company expanded their principle of meticciato teatrale by working with several Senegalese actors, including Mandiaye N'Diaye, a collaboration that continues to today. In 1991 the company established the producing organization Ravenna Teatro and in the same year initiated their non-school project to train young performers. A notable development of the on-going non-school has been I Polacchi, a re-conception of Ubu Roi. I Polacchi has grown into stagings with young actors in Chicago, Naples, Sarajevo, and Diol Kadd, Senegal. The Senegalese production has subsequently been presented in Limôges, Naples and Modena. Through their producing organization Ravenna Teatro and their work at the annual Santarcangelo Festival, the company has become a major motor and organization point for avant garde theater, linking Eastern and Western Europe, Africa, and the United States.

    The idea of Rumore di acque came to Martinelli back in 2008 when he was working in Mazzara del Vallo, a town in southwestern Sicily that directly “looks” at Africa, at his non-school project.

    “Non-School” means doing theater together, and comes from the idea that acting cannot be taught, but it is a game we all play together, actors and audience, as the theater is a gym of wild and overturned humanity, of excesses and measure, where you become what you are not; schools is the great theater of the hierarchy and of learning early to be a society,” Martinelli explained earlier in the day during his presentation at La Scuola d'Italia.

    As he was working with 60 kids, 50 from Tunisia and 10 from Sicily, he got to speak to many of those people who had crossed the sea and arrived safely on the Italian coast. “What impressed me the most is that they did not tell me their stories of success,” Martinelli recalls, “but they told me the stories of their relatives, friends, acquaintances or total strangers that, for a reason or another, did not make it. It was a real tragedy, a tragedy that we can call a Shoah, as it was a true slaughter of people who were fleeing from war and torture in search of a different life.” Gaddafi was still in power and he was told by the Italian Government that he had to guard, no matter how, these people from arriving to Italy.

    “Fishermen were prohibited to help,” Martinelli explains, “If they found someone in the water they had to go against the law of the sea, a law that wants to help a fellow human in need, and respect the ‘Policy of rejection’ (Politica dei respingimenti) or they would have to face serious repercussions, such as losing their fishing license or their boat, thus being put in a situation of not being able to work and live.”

    “At the beginning I wanted to call the general himself, Gaddafi, but then I thought otherwise as he does not represent a specific person, but he represents all of us, as we all possess this indifference, this lack of brotherhood for all those who deserve to live their life just like we do. We see them on TV and feel nothing. 33 dead today, 15 dead yesterday, they are just numbers... we don't feel for them anymore, we don't even realize they are lives that have been devoured by the sea.”

    So the general stands center stage, in a position of authority. Behind him there are two musicians, who represent the voice of the victims. “He embodies all politicians. Think of their faces when they have to give a speech after something terrible has happened. They need to show grief and compassion. Yet when the TV show, something switches off, the victims are forgotten, they become routine, every day issues to deal with,” Martinelli explains.

    The play is now touring Italy with Alessandro Renda playing the general, and Fratelli Mancuso, the Mancuso Brothers, playing the voices of the victims. Overall the audience's reaction has been extremely positive. “People are stunned,” the director adds, “as they are somehow familiar with these stories, as they have seen them in the evening news but here they are told differently. Nothing is sugar-coated. Yes, theater is small compared to other media, but it has a voice and the great responsibility to shed light on what is going on.”

    The reading was held at Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò, where Martinelli acted excerpts in Italian and actor Jacopo Rampini acted out the English translation. The duo had time to rehearse only once in the morning, yet the final product was a passionate and touching performance that enthralled the audience and left all craving for more. The wish is that Martinelli and his company will return to New York to share their non-school method with the students of La Scuola d'Italia and to perform Rumore di acque in its entirety soon.

    To learn more about Teatro delle Albe click here