5 Tips from a Chef to Cook Like a Pro

Chef Alex Blifford

The cast of The Most Beautiful Room in New York are talented actors, singers, and dancers, but a few of them have to show some culinary talent on stage too. To help the actors out director Gordon Edelstein asked the talented Alex Blifford to come visit rehearsal.

Alex Blifford and actor Matt Bogart

Alex instructing actor Matt Bogart

Alex is the Chef de Cuisine at Zinc, one of our restaurant partners. He was happy to give a hands-on tutorial on knife skills and share some other important pointers on how the actors can convince the audience they’re naturals in a professional kitchen. Edelstein and actor Matt Bogart who plays chef David Kaplan were especially appreciative of the expert guidance on such things as chopping onions and applying rosemary to roast lamb.

After his visit we asked Alex for some tips for all you aspiring chefs at home and this is what he shared:

#1 Mise en place
 It’s French for in its place. The most common mistake people will make is not reading the recipe through and organizing the ingredients before they start a recipe. Read the recipe a couple times so you’re familiar with it and have your ingredients ready to go and in order.

#2 Right tool for the right job
Some recipes call for a food processor. Others may require to clean and trim a very delicate ingredient. If you don’t have the right equipment odds are the recipe won’t come out right either. If you care about the quality of the end product then take the time to get the right tools.

#3 A good sharp knife makes all the difference
One of the biggest mistakes cooks can make is using a cheap dull knife. They can be bulky and cumbersome. It’s harder to cut through dense things with a dull blade and will ultimately take you much longer to prepare the recipe than it should. Find a good cutlery or kitchen store and go handle a few, see what feels good in your hand. Then you can always go buy it for less online if you have sticker shock. I guarantee you’ll notice immediate results.

#4 Read, read, read
All chefs need inspiration from time to time. The average person is not surrounded by amazing chefs on a daily basis. You need to search out sources to expand your knowledge. Culinary text books are great for learning the science. Cook books are great for expanding your depth of cuisine. Blogs and magazines can keep you up on trends and give you quick, unique ideas you can try.

#5 Don’t be afraid to make mistakes
Not everything you make is going to come out perfect. Every recipe you try isn’t going to be a winner. It happens to the most tried and true professionals. Don’t shy away from recipes because they look to difficult. Make a dish a couple times if it’s not perfect at first. Use a recipe you’re comfortable with and switch up a few ingredients. You won’t be able to learn from errors if you are too scared to make a few.

You can learn more about Alex on Zinc’s blog and be sure to make reservations at Zinc to enjoy the result of all those killer skills: his delicious food.

-Kimberly Shepherd

 

Posted in In Rehearsal | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Joining the ‘Beautiful Room’ Family

The Most Beautiful Room in New York meet and greet
“This is a show about family,” explained Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein as he kicked off the meet and greet for The Most Beautiful Room in New York. Of course, he was referencing the story in the new musical, but if you didn’t know that you’d think he was talking about the dozens of people surrounding him in that rehearsal hall.

You may have heard how a new work is often called a playwright’s ‘baby’. It makes sense when you think of the amount of time (usually years) and nurturing they put in to creating it. But just like raising a child requires the help of an extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, neighbors, teachers, etc., developing a show for the stage requires the support of a slightly different, nonetheless necessary, family for it to be successful. From the director and actors to designers, production crew, and administrators, standing at a meet and greet for any show at Long Wharf makes it easily apparent how many individuals, all with specific skills to fulfill specific needs, it takes to make theatre happen. Being at a meet and greet for a new musical like The Most Beautiful Room in New York blows that out of the water.

The first production of any show usually has the writer in the room throughout the rehearsal process continuously providing guidance and rewrites. Add to that a musical’s need for a composer, music director, orchestra, etc. and you end up with a meet and greet room like that for Beautiful Room where 70 or so people crowd shoulder to shoulder to introduce themselves to each other. Some had joined this family years before when this musical was just a rough draft from the minds of its creators, others had been welcomed in along the way at a staged reading here or production meeting there, and still for others this day was their initiation into the family.

Those of us in theatre commonly refer to our co-workers as our ‘theatre family’ mostly because throughout the course of a show you can easily end up spending more time with these people than your actual family. But there’s also something familial feeling about being surrounded by a bunch of people who are all focused on one common mission. At first glance, that mission simply appears to be about making a show happen successfully, but there’s another element to it that’s of particular importance to the first production of a work. Standing with all the other members of The Most Beautiful Room in New York family at meet and greet the realization was that the family wasn’t complete. Starting at that moment our collective job was to be ready in six weeks to welcome the last member of the family: you, the audience.

-Kimberly Shepherd

Posted in Long Wharf Theatre insider | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

DRAMA NOTES: An Interview with Adam Gopnik

Adam Gopnik, The Most Beautiful Room in New York
Adam Gopnik, the writer of book and lyrics for The Most Beautiful Room in New York, is perhaps best known as a staff writer for The New Yorker, where he’s contributed fiction, non-fiction, criticism, satire, and memoir since 1986. He’s written numerous books during his tenure there, including Paris to the Moon, inspired by the five years he spent as the magazine’s Paris correspondent, Through the Children’s Gate: A Home in New York, which he wrote upon returning to and raising children in a post-9/11 New York City, and more recently, The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food, which examines the true meaning of food in our lives. It is the latter two that Gopnik drew from thematically in writing The Most Beautiful Room in New York, which he’s developed in collaboration with composer David Shire (Starting Here, Starting Now; Baby). Long Wharf Theatre’s Literary Manager Christine Scarfuto sat down with Gopnik to ask him about musical theatre writing and the play itself.

Q: Beautiful Room is one of the first musical theatre projects you’ve taken on. What observations have you made about the process of writing a musical and how it differs from the other types of writing you’ve done over the course of your career?

A: Well, I have previously written a lengthy oratorio, on the life of Alan Turing, with Nico Muhly. But what was interesting in that effort for the concert hall, against this effort for the stage, was that Nico accepted in the text a certain amount of poetic ambiguity, of indirect narration, even laconic compression, all of which are verboten – or at least highly dubious – in the musical theatre. I used to joke that the difference between art (the oratorio) and entertainment (which Beautiful Room aspires to be) is that in art you expect the audience to do all the work for you, and in entertainment you are expected to do all the work for the audience. The ‘pop’ form, in other words, is much harder. More broadly, the difference is that in prose writing the effect of the whole, or at least of my kind of whole, depends almost entirely on the shape of the sentences and how they sit together. Forward movement and linear acceleration matter, of course, but a certain amount of beautiful meander is acceptable, even useful. You can dip into any of my books without the whole entirely eluding you. With a stage play, particularly a musical play, forward movement and propulsive story telling are nearly the whole of the enterprise. The great risk in a new musical is having songs that, however charming, comment on the action rather than advancing it. (One of the best actors in the show kept sweetly warning me to be sure that “the song’s not in the scene”, i.e. that the ‘book scene’ preceding each song doesn’t already contain the emotional information the song is about to deliver.) All Gordon and David and I have done – sometimes contentiously, not to say hysterically – is to monitor the linear inevitability of the storytelling in the show. Is this the next necessary thing? In prose, a certain amount of bagginess at the knee is not deadly, and can even be likable, more human, a kind of prose equivalent of Chaplin’s pants. On stage, I’ve learned, all bagginess at the joints, whether knee or elbow or intermission, is fatal.

Q: Did you have favorite musicals growing up? And, what particular musicals have you thought of while creating Beautiful Room?

A: The musical theatre has been a passion of mine since I was a little kid – but the funny, and predictably human thing, is that both my parents were (and still are) allergic to Broadway, associating it with the taste of their own parents. It was my grandparents who kept the collection of original cast recordings in their basement, and I would listen over and over to My Fair Lady and Camelot and The Music Man there, with the joy of the music having the added thrill of the illicit. Then, when I was in my teens, I became obsessed with the earlier generations of the musical theatre, particularly with Rodgers & Hart who seemed to me then – still seem to me now – much the greatest of all musical theatre teams. I would scour Montreal for scratched and barely listenable copies of old recordings of revivals of The Boys from Syracuse and Pal Joey, and would painfully pick out the melody lines and piano intended harmony of “My Romance” and “I Wish I Were in Love Again” on my folk guitar. But with a certain kind of cosmic kismet, the ur-text of Beautiful Room remains that of the first show I ever saw live, thanks to those grandparents: Fiddler on the Roof. For our show, like Fiddler, at however much lower a level, is about a hero who is trying to keep a world that he’s made (or, with Tevye, inherited) from the ravages of destruction, rather than trying to make a new world of his own, as so many musical heroes and heroines do. David Kaplan, our hero, like Tevye has a dream to keep, and he must adjust his vision to changing reality. “Sometimes you have to give up the things you love in order to keep the things you live for,” he concludes at the musical’s end, in a revelation not unlike Tevye’s as Tevye leaves his own little village. David, too, learns that he can keep what really matters to him intact even if he has to, so to speak, emigrate to do it. (Ironically, both Tevye, if a typical Jewish immigrant of his time, and our David probably end up in exactly the same place: the outer boroughs of New York City!).

Q: In the play, the central character, David Kaplan, is fighting for both his restaurant and for his family—and the two feel so intimately tied to each other, almost as if each is intrinsic to the other’s survival. In a broader sense, what is it about food that joins families together?

A: Food is family. That was the rule in my house growing up – where my six brothers and sisters and I would dine invariably every night with my cooking and talking mother and talking (and wine drinking) father – so much that the rhythm of setting eight places is almost attuned into my hand. I try to continue that tradition with my own two children. Certainly, the idea that tables are the places where everything essential in family life takes place is central both to my writing and to this play – but then it seems to me an obvious truth. “In every home I’ve ever known, the living room’s a tomb/ In every home I’ve ever known/ the dining room’s the room,” ran a lyric now discarded from the show, but still true. The kitchen table’s the place where big news (“I’m gay”; “I’m getting married”; “I’m leaving school”) is far more likely to land than it is on any sofa. And where does the real transmission of meaning in modern life take place save in recipes and remembered meals? The ambivalent role of the restaurant in this transmission – as a place at once commercial, out to make a profit, and in its way communal, there to provide a chapel – is also vital, and very much the subject of our show.

Q: New York itself is almost a character in the play, and the city’s raising rents make it nearly impossible for family-run restaurants (and really, middle-class families in general) to survive. As New York continues to evolve economically, what is gained? What is lost?

A: I have written a series of agonized essays over the past decade, and maybe even longer, about the ambivalence we all feel about the transformation of New York. On the one hand, we recognize a city safer and saner than the one many of us grew up in – when I first arrived in New York, the subway at 3 a.m. was out of Dante; now my teenage kids take it as unexcitedly as if it were a school bus – and on the other we see something duller and more monocultural than we can quitebear, or recognize as New York. “The middle is dropping out of the city,” our antagonist, Sergio, says at one point – he says it as a taunt to our hero, but it’s true. We need to recognize that changing is what cities do, and at the same time want to save our city from the wrong kind of change. This agonized and never-ending struggle is also a key subject of our play.

-Christine Scarfuto

Posted in Creative team profiles, Dramaturgy | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why SMART PEOPLE?

Tiffany Nichole Greene, Ka-ling Cheung, and Sullivan Jones in SMART PEOPLE at Long Wharf Theatre

Tiffany Nichole Greene, Ka-ling Cheung, and Sullivan Jones in SMART PEOPLE at Long Wharf Theatre

Let me introduce all you smart people to Lydia Diamond’s provocative new play Smart People. Lydia is one of the most gifted writers of her generation.  Smart People is an intellectual, emotional and erotic wrestling match among four souls in an Ivy League college town very much like New Haven.  Race has been the most significantly constant theme in American history. It would be difficult to claim that the present moment is the most divisive in our history having survived a civil war and the race riots of the 1960s. However, certainly, our conflicts over race remain painfully in the forefront of our national conversation. And gender perception, rendered often somewhat more subtlety in our national and personal dialogue, remains in the front of the battle lines of our national and personal conflicts.

Where the personal and the political meet is where Smart People lives. Sticks and stones can break my bones but names can never harm me goes the school yard retort.  Never has a well-known epigram been so patently false. Bones that break will heal in time. But verbal cruelty can break hearts for a lifetime. And everyone reading this has known many times that they have been hurt accidentally by another’s careless words and concomitantly every one reading this remembers times that they themselves have injured others inadvertently by something they said.

When it comes to race and gender and politics, the land is covered with mines, and the mines are exploding all the time. Our national and college politics are battlegrounds of misunderstanding, offense, and rage over the words we choose and the iconography we love. The semiotics of our every gesture and sentence can explode with shrapnel injuring all concerned. The name of a residential college at Yale, rules of engagement on a date, nativity scenes, the Confederate flag, and so many more have been calls to arms in our volatile times.

Smart People is a look at our new world from the perspective of four intelligent and educated people in conflict and in close personal relations. Listen as closely as you can. Test your own intellectual and emotional responses to our quartet of smart people.

- Gordon Edelstein 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Letter from the Managing Director on Arts Funding

SP_FB_josh

Long Wharf Theatre has many funders which enable our success: foundations both in New Haven and from around the country, corporations both large and small, and thousands of individual donors, including many of you.  I would like to focus on two particular important supporters of our work – the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the State of Connecticut’s Office of the Arts (COA).

The NEA has been an important source of funding for Long Wharf since its beginnings in the 1960’s, and it has been critical in building regional theatres, as well as many other kinds of arts organizations, for decades.  Over the last ten years, the NEA has been a key supporter of new work, especially those projects which may be a commercial risk, yet have much artistic merit and could help us invest in an exciting playwright.  Some recent projects which have used NEA funding included development workshops of The Most Beautiful Room in New York, the final show of this season; our annual Contemporary American Voices Festival (which you might have seen this past September); and new plays by Dael Orlandersmith and Samuel D. Hunter.

In addition to financial support, NEA funding also serves as a “good housekeeping seal of approval” to other funders.  Our receipt of NEA funds is a signal about the artistic integrity and ambition of our work.  As a result, we are able to leverage our grant award with both local and national funders.

The COA, which is part of the Department of Economic and Community Development, is also a major funder of Long Wharf Theatre. It is one of the few sources of general operating support left for arts organizations like Long Wharf, allowing us to apply those resources to our greatest needs.

In particular, we apply our state funding to support the various production jobs at the theatre (you may have even seen some of the positions in December’s “Chairman Challenge” video).  State funding is a critical source of revenue for arts organizations all over the country, and Long Wharf is certainly no different.

I should also note that these two funding sources are related to each other.  While the NEA does give direct grants to organizations such as Long Wharf, it also provides substantial “block grants” to states which they include in their awards to their organizations.  Connecticut receives hundreds of thousands of dollars from the NEA to regrant to arts organizations statewide.

Needless to say, Long Wharf and our peers would be diminished without these revenues.

All my best,
Joshua Borenstein

Managing Director
Long Wharf Theatre

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Haven joins August Wilson Monologue Competition

Photo by Brandon Bush

Photo by Brandon Brush

It wasn’t nothing to you but it was something to me. To have you just up and walk out like that. What you think happened to me? Did you ever stop to ask yourself, “I wonder how Vera doing–I wonder how she feel?” I lay here every night in an empty bed. In an empty room. Where? Someplace special? Someplace where you had been? The same room you walked out of? The same bed you turned your back on? You give it up and you want it? What kind of sense does that make?

These are just some of the words you can hear bouncing off the walls of CO-OP High School’s black box theater on a typical Thursday afternoon. It is here that students are working with teaching artists from Long Wharf Theatre in preparation for the National August Wilson Monologue Competition.

The AWMC founded in 2007 by Kenny Leon and Todd Kreidler at Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company in Atlanta.Through a series of partnerships between schools and regional theaters, students from across the country get to immerse themselves in all aspects of Wilson’s work. They then perform monologues from his plays at regional competitions in their hometowns. A select few are chosen from each participating city, and these finalists are then flown to New York for a final competition at the August Wilson Theater on Broadway. The program is now in ten cities nationwide, including Atlanta, Boston, and Pittsburgh among others. New Haven is currently in its shadow year of participation and will officially join the competition next year.

Photo by Brandon Bush

Photo by Brandon Brush

During the shadow year, Long Wharf Theatre and Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School have partnered to offer an after-school program focusing on August Wilson’s work. Once a week, CO-OP students work with Long Wharf teaching artists to learn about the plays, how to embody Wilson’s characters through acting exercises, and get to work intensely on performing one of his many monologues. “Students are able to receive insight on a playwright who not only looks like them but reflects their everyday lives or the lives of their parents.” says Treneé McGee, one of Long Wharf’s teaching artists. “It is more important now than ever that we spread artistic work and knowledge, educating individuals on how to become more productive in the lives of others. Wilson’s work will always be relevant to us, especially if we as a country want to grow.”

Photo by Brandon Bush

Photo by Brandon Brush

August Wilson was a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright. His literary legacy is a series of ten plays, The American Century Cycle. Each is set in a different decade and chronicles the African-American experience. August Wilson’s plays have a particular home in New Haven. The late Lloyd Richards, former Artistic Director of Yale Repertory Theatre, directed many of Wilson’s plays from their first reading all the way through production. This year, Yale Rep produced Wilson’s Seven Guitars, which represents the 1940s entry of the Century Cycle. In 2013 Long Wharf Theatre produced Fences, which is set in the 1950s. “Wilson’s plays are told with rich poetic beauty and lyricism of language. Through his extraordinary gift of storytelling, we understand the history and the identity of black culture in America,” says Barbara Hentschel, another Long Wharf teaching artist. “I look forward to seeing the students every week. It is a privilege to witness their exploration of the complex issues of race, oppression and identity in the world we live in. They are teaching me more than they will ever know!”

In May, there will be a mock competition for the students that have participated in the program this year. The hope is to build excitement amongst the students as well as other New Haven-area schools for next year, when New Haven will officially join as a participating city.

-Eliza Orleans

Posted in LWT Education | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Most Beautiful Room In New York | A Note On The New Title

MBRINY_FB

LEARN ABOUT THE SHOW

Titles are magical things made by mundane means. Authors work hard at titles, compiling lists and sharing them anxiously with friends, but when a title works it just works – though whether it works because the title brought grace to the project or because the project gave the title a grace it didn’t deserve is a permanent unknown. Scott Fitzgerald worried his titles perhaps more than any other American writer, seriously considering, for his crucial third novel, either “Trimalchio in West Egg or “Under The Red, White And Blue”, both of which he favored over his editor’s plain, preferred “The Great Gatsby”— a title that let itself be filled by the book’s poetry, rather than, well, over-egging it in advance. At my own more Lilliputian level, “Paris To The Moon”, a title which has now loaned itself to fashion spreads and California boutiques, was a close-run thing right up to publication with the more wistful “The Winter Circus”.  Sometimes, titles rise to meet their objects. David Shire, the composer of our new musical, which will open at the Long Wharf in May, recalls as a student at Yale being offered two tickets to a new show opening that night in New Haven. He rejected them; on the sane grounds that the show’s title was too pedestrian to be enticing. The show? (Or, rather, the title?) “My Fair Lady”.  And he was right – it is a terrible, or at least a fatuous title, raised in memory by the great show it graced.

Like giving a name to a baby, one can either do titles decisively in advance or wait to see what the baby looks like, and do it then.  Our show was, for a very long time in its gestation called “Table”, as much from monosyllabic habit  – David’s previous shows include “Baby,” “Big,” “Waterfall” as well as his newly launched “Sousatzka” – as from long deliberation.” “Table” did do some work that titles ought to do, stating evocatively, if a little obliquely, what the show is about, while referencing my book about the philosophy of eating, “The Table Comes First”. (Whose name derives from a British chef who wondered why a young couple would ever buy a sofa or bed to begin life; didn’t they know that the table comes first?)

“While our show is about tables and the communion they bring, it is even more about a family’s fight to keep intact their home, which they believe is the most beautiful room in New York.”

But “The Most Beautiful Room In New York” had long been the name of the most purely thematic song in our show – a song intended to be not so much what’s called in musical theater the show’s “I Want!” as its “Look At What I’ve Got …” For ours, we realized as we worked on it, is a musical about someone – like Curly with his Oklahoma morning and his fringed surrey, or Tevye with his town and his traditions, to cite the highest parallels – who is fighting to keep what he loves but, before the evening is over, will have  to learn to love it in a new way. While our show is about tables and the communion they bring, it is even more about a family’s fight to keep intact their home, which they believe is the most beautiful room in New York – and it is also about a man who has to learn a broader idea of beauty than the one he’s been fighting for for most of his life. David Kaplan, our hero, learns to change and adjust and see past his one restaurant- room to the beautiful growth of his wife and children into their maturity.

And then our show, more than anything needed “New York” in its title. It’s a musical about New York, and New York’s magical, endangered, enticing and frustrating marriage of opportunity, plurality and constant change. Almost every New York love story is a love story about real estate, and so is this one. (My own new book, cheap advertisement coming, “At The Stranger’s Gate” is the tale of a young couple becoming citizens, but their homes – an insanely small Yorkville basement room and then a lovely but rodent-infested Soho loft – are characters as much as the couple is.) Every room in New York is a character, the best of them are beautiful, and beauty, there more than anywhere, is not so much made in the eye of the beholder as something the beholder has to train his eye to see where no one else does.  The question of beauty, the necessity of New York, the desire to break the one-word title spell – all of these considerations together make us glad that our musical has, at last, the title it’s been asking us, querulously, to give it all along: The Most Beautiful Room In New York.

- Adam Gopnik

Posted in Creative team profiles, Long Wharf Theatre insider, Show Announcement | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Luda’s Famous Italian Meatball Recipe

napoli meatball blog

Luda Muscolino has a way with food. “I am the best. He knows and I know it,” she delightfully says as she points at the heavens in Napoli, Brooklyn. So too do her family, their friends, the local butcher, and pretty much the whole borough of Brooklyn know of her culinary reputation. While no one can quite stuff a sausage or season a sauce the way Luda does, we thought we’d offer you a little help. Start preheating that oven and invite la famiglia over for dinner as you try your hand at Luda’s meatball recipe.

Ingredients
1 pound ground chuck
4 ounces dried bread crumbs
4 large eggs
4 ounces whole milk
6 ounces grated Romano
3 ounces grated Spanish onion
2 ounces finely diced fresh garlic
2 ounces finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
2 ounces finely chopped fresh basil leaves

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray.

2. Mix all ingredients thoroughly in large bowl. If mixture seems a little loose add more bread crumbs.

3. Roll meatballs loosely about the size of a golf ball and place on baking sheet. Place into preheated oven for about 35 to 40 minutes.

4. Enjoy!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Costuming Napoli, Brooklyn

LWT costume designers and costume shop work notoriously hard to dress each character in each show we do just right. Despite the production the process always starts the same: RESEARCH. For some shows, such as more contemporary pieces, it’s fairly simple to figure out what the characters should wear. However, for period pieces like Napoli, Brooklyn it can take a little more time and a bit of digging. Knowing that playwright Meghan Kennedy had been inspired to write Napoli, Brooklyn from stories about her own family, Costume Designer Jane Greenwood really wanted to emphasize the authenticity of the characters in the play. When Greenwood presented her research at the first rehearsal of the show she explained that she scoured the internet, books in libraries, and people’s personal photos to figure out just what real people, like the Muscolinos and their neighbors, would have been wearing in Brooklyn in 1960. Likewise she encouraged the actors to look at the research and start thinking about what their characters wear and how those fashion choices might help inform their performances. Now we invite you to take a look at her visual research and get to know the world of Napoli, Brooklyn.

costume design blog1950s-teens-daddle-loafer-shoes-pants1-361x500 copy (1)2015_0102_webimages_20_italianamericans - Copy - Copy

 

 

 

21147-C201101-Vivian-Maier-07-464e8285Nun & Friends In SurfNunziatoQfamilyITALY. Naples. 1961. Flirt on the Street M-IT-NAP-056Scan 1Scan 2Scan 4Scan 5Screen Shot 2016-10-22 at 8.02.47 PMTeenage Gangs of NYC in 1959 (9) copy (1)christmas-dinner-1959 - Copy - Copy (1)cc5572fa2d8d4fa1be9718879e02e9bb copyrivetc14d664e7a28107a3342f3162ca3e2f5 - Copy - Copy07c2e872861763b57873eef7a2d451d5

416e8a6fdde480623974427d6eb161c1women 1960

Posted in Creative team profiles, Dramaturgy | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Muscolino Family and My Immigrant Family

DiFabbio blog
In the above photo, my grandmother Caroline (wearing a white blouse) sits at a tiny kitchen table surrounded (tightly!) by her immediate and extended family. “Grandma was sick, so we all got together,” my grandmother said. The Proto family regularly squeezed themselves around a table on Friday nights to share in an exorbitant feast.

These sensory memories: the smell of fish and pasta, packing ourselves around a small yet decorative table, hearing my stomach grumble as I waited for what seemed like eternity for dinner to come out of the oven; this is how I remember meals at my grandparents’ house in East Haven, CT. And these memories are the foundation of what I know as my Italian ancestry. It starts and ends at the dinner table, I’d say.

After reading Napoli, Brooklyn, Meghan Kennedy’s stunning new play about an Italian immigrant family making a life in America, I experienced feelings of elation and sadness. The elation came from an immediate sense of connection with the characters and rituals in the play. The Muscolino women are torn between their loyalty to family and their own private aspirations. They oscillate between gracing and cursing God. There is the constant encouragement to just eat already. I understand and connect with that part of my Italian heritage.

The sadness came from the fact that I know very little about my Italian family, for one reason or another. I had heard bits and pieces of history over the years, but never thought to ask further.

Perhaps because I’ve gotten older, or because this play touched me deeply, or because we’re living in a time where some people think immigrants should be banned from this country; perhaps because of all that, I am inspired to start asking. So far, I’ve come up with a short list of answers and a much longer list of questions. I know that my grandmother, Caroline Anastasio, was born and raised in New Haven. Her father, Andrew, worked at the Sargents factory making lock parts, until he was asked to leave because he had a “big mouth.” He moved into construction shortly after. Her mother, Rose, worked at a garment factory making cuffs for men’s shirts. Her parents and grandparents spoke Italian, but refused to teach her and her siblings. I want to know why the Italian language was erased from generation to generation. I want to know what of their dreams were lost or realized in the gap between working to survive and pursuing their passions. I want to know and perfect my grandmother’s elusive meatball recipe.

Because of all this, I am happy to preach the power of theatre and how it can change hearts. The Muscolino family represents all families who uprooted themselves for the chance of a better life. In them, anyone can see glimpses of their parents and grandparents who worked hard to settle in and settle down. It sparked action in me, and I think it could do the same for anyone who has ever wanted to take a closer look at their roots.

Kennedy’s play puts front and center an immigrant family, along with all its passions, longings, and dysfunction. It finds beauty in the mess of emigration and assimilation. At this moment in our nation’s history, I encounter a story like this and I feel grateful that the story even exists to be told. Our immigrant families’ lives were far from perfect, but they lived fully, with a lot hardship and a lot of love. With this play, we celebrate full hearts, full bellies, and the fundamental belief that they deserved the chance to make all of this possible.

 -Maria DiFabbio

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment