booksunlimited by Milano52
Book reviews, author's interviews and everything about books...
Dec 07, 2013 | 123436 views | 0 0 comments | 391 391 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

view as list
Being Italian American Is In The DNA Of My Being And Of My Work… An Interview With Playwright And Director Charles Messina
by Milano52
Oct 12, 2018 | 7619 views | 0 0 comments | 243 243 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
 
Being Italian American is in the DNA of my being and of my work… An exclusive interview with playwright and director Charles Messina

Interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena (Courtesy L'Idea Magazine NY)

Charles Messina

Charles Messina is an American playwright, screenwriter, and director. Born in Greenwich Village, of Italian-American descent, he attended Xavier High School and then later, New York University.

Known for his deconstructive take on biographical subjects, Messina’s most notable stage work as director includes the critically acclaimed Off-Broadway plays “Cirque Jacqueline,” about the life of Jackie Kennedy Onassis, and “Mercury: The Afterlife and Times of a Rock God,” a monodrama written by Messina about Queen’s frontman Freddie Mercury.

In 1999, “Actor Found Dead,” a one-act play written and directed by Messina about actor James Hayden debuted at the John Houseman Studio Theatre in New York City.  In 2007 Messina directed “Two-Mur Humor,” which was an official entry in the 2007 Fringe Festival in NYC, and the big-budget musical Be My Love: The Mario Lanza Story, written by Richard Vetere,

Also in 2007, Messina’s play Merging won BEST PLAY in The Players’ Theater’s Shortened Attention Span Theater Festival in Greenwich Village. Messina also directed the film version of Merging, which was released in 2009.

Messina’s play, “Homeland,” which premiered in 2008, starred Sopranos actors Dan Grimaldi, Jason Cerbone, Joe Lisi, as well as Gina Ferranti and Amir Darvish.

Messina’s play “A Room of My Own,” about an Italian-American family living in Greenwich Village in the late 1970s was performed in 2009. In May 2010, Messina directed and co-wrote (along with Vincent Gogliormella) the script “’Twas The Night Before a Brooklyn Christmas,” starring Mario Cantone, Michael Rispoli and Robert Cuccioli.

Messina has directed the off-Broadway shows “Rockaway Boulevard” by Richard Vetere, “The Accidental Pervert” by Andrew Goffman, and Art Metrano’s “Accidental Comedy,” as well as a staged reading of his own script “Younger,” starring Joe Piscopo.

For the big screen, Messina has written “They’re Just My Friends” and “Spy.”

Messina wrote the book “My Father, My Don,” about the life of Genovese Capo James “Jimmy Nap” Napoli and his son Tony Napoli, in collaboration with Tony Napoli.

 

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You wrote and directed many plays. One of them, “A Room of My Own,” is autobiographical and it depicts the story of a young man growing up in an Italian American family in a studio apartment in Greenwich Village. Could you tell us more about the play and the characters? Is the rumor that it may soon become a TV series true? 

Charles Messina:  “A Room of My Own” is a very special project to me.  It is my baby.  Deeply personal and extremely detailed and accurate in its portrayal of my family and my upbringing.  It was a unique family and situation to be raised in, to say the least.  Crazy, funny, energetic, it was constant motion in that small apartment.  Growing up in Greenwich Village at that time was such an experience.  You had the art scene, the gay world exploding, the jazz scene.  And here we were this little Italian enclave, this tribe, that had settled there around the turn of the century, holding on to its old ways, as the outside world moved in.  There were many influences on me growing up there.  But in our house it was so much about survival.  My parents were working class people just trying to stay afloat financially.  And sometimes in those situations, the best way to get through it is by having a sense of humor.

Mario Cantone and Ralph Macchio

There were a lot of laughs in that place, and in this play, too.  But in the show there is also a deep sense of melancholy as the main character, essentially the adult me, played by The Karate Kid himself Ralph Macchio, looks back on his life and as a writer, tries to change the things he didn’t like about it.  Only to realize, through his young self, that you cannot change the past.  Acceptance is healing.  Such a wonderful cast.  I must acknowledge their brilliance.  Mario Cantone, Joli Tribuzio, Johnny Tammaro, Nico Bustamante, Kendra Jain, and Liza Vann.  I bow to them. They brought my childhood back to life so vividly and accurately.  We had a wonderful sold out, limited run-off Bway and have been developing it for television since, it’s true.  We are talking to a major network and are very hopeful that the Morelli family will be coming to the small screen very soon.

a scene from “A Room of My Own”



Tiziano Thomas Dossena: In writing your plays, are you always inspired by true events or people you met or are 
some of them a complete work of fiction?

Charles Messina: Well, there’s true and there’s truth and those two things aren’t always exactly the same.  But I like stories that are based on real people.  The key word being real.  If something is real, you just know it, it cannot be denied.  We know real when we see it.  The way real people talk and walk and behave.  That fascinates me.  I love behavior.   Capturing the specifics of behavior or speech patterns and rhythms, those things excite me.  When I was a kid, and still now, I will watch something and I have this internal barometer that tells me, “Hmmm, that doesn’t seem real, that doesn’t feel right.”  So that’s very important to me.  I enjoy true stories and finding the truth in them and depicting that truth in a way that feels specific and real to me.  I think audiences are smart and can sense when something is false.  It’s vague.  It’s general.  It’s disconnected.  Real is specific.



Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Your play “Merging” won the Best Play Award at the Players’ Theater’s Shortened Attention Span Theater Festival. What is this play about? Is the film version an accurate interpretation of the theatrical one?


Charles Messina:  Merging is a very strange and scary piece about loss and consumption.  About loving something so much that you want to consume it thoroughly for fear of losing it.  I had never written anything with a horror theme, so I wanted to give it a try.  Although I’m not sure it truly is horror, but it’s definitely a psychological thriller.  It examines the lives of a couple whose infant has suddenly and inexplicably gone missing and how things in their life begin to unravel quickly and horribly from there.  It’s tense.  It has a shock ending.  But for me, it was really about this theme of loss.  Humans do not handle loss, abandonment or separation very well and I wanted to explore those issues with Merging.  Audiences seemed to like and respond to it very well.  The film is certainly well done and closely reflects the play, practically word for word.



Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You also wrote numerous movies’ screenplays. In your experience, how different is the process of writing them from the one of writing theatrical plays? Which one do you feel more rewarding? Are your screenplays original or are they based on pre-existing stories, novels or plays?


Charles Messina: There are several differences between writing for screen and writing for stage.  One of the most basic is setting.  Plays tend to take place in one or two locations.  Films can and often do have many varied locations, interior and exterior.  So that usually means discerning which stories will work best in which medium.   Also, there’s a difference in scene length.  That’s a big one.  In a stage play it’s all dialogue driven, so you can have a scene between characters that goes on for 10, 15, 20 pages if you like.  Film is governed by the cut, so scenes are much shorter generally, as you move from moment to moment, place to place.  There’s an economy of words.  Film is also much more the director’s medium.  Theater is the writer’s domain.  They can both be very rewarding creatively but in film as a writer you tend to step back and let the director do his or her thing.  Show up at the screening and say, Oh, they cut that line or they cut that scene, okay.  In theater the writer is usually much more involved day to day and that allows for more creative input and control.  I tend to work on stories based on real-life people or events, so for me the key is in the research and then deciding the best way to tell the story.  Whether it’s stage or screen, I tend toward character-driven pieces.  Connecting myself and then the audience to these characters is my first priority.  I’ve just always had a curiosity about people, what makes them tick, why they do what they do.  I can remember being in 6th grade and we had an anthology of short stories to read and before each story there was a brief passage of description about the writers of each story.  A biography about them.  This fascinated me.  I found the people behind the story just as, if not more, interesting than the stories themselves.  How and where they were raised, where they went to school, what influenced them.  For me, the people behind the story WERE the story!



Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Charles, your experience with directing, both plays and musicals, is quite ample. Do you find directing your works any easier than directing other authors’ work? Are you able to write even in the period in which you direct? It’s obvious that directing is a major activity for you; any new play or musical in the works that you want to talk about?


Charles Messina:  I have directed a lot of my own work.  I think singular vision is very important.  A writer can get inside their own work in a way that another director may not be able to.  Especially if a piece is autobiographical. There’s a shorthand that a writer can bring to their own work that I think can make the piece very specific and unique.  Of course I’ve directed other people’s work and have had some wonderful directors take on my writing.  It’s all about understanding and trust.  I am working on a show now called The Storm.  It’s a musical based on the true story of composer Jeremy Long’s grandparents who were these marvelous show business personalities, who lived an incredibly successful and sometimes turbulent life.  Jeremy asked me to come onto the project because he knows I understand the value or personal storytelling.   I’m co-producing the project and may end up contributing as a writer or director,  we haven’t decided that yet.  But the key is being connected to the material and to your co-creators so that the creative process can be open.  Trust and openness is the key to any collaboration.



Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Your musical “The Wanderer” about the life and music of Dion is having a great success after its 
recent workshop in NYC. Can we expect to see s full production of it any time soon?  Is it Broadway bound? Can you tell us something about it?  What prompted you to write this musical and direct it? 

Charles Messina:  The Wanderer is truly a great show.  I’m very proud of it.  We recently had our workshop presentations at The Baryshnikov Theater in NYC and the response was overwhelming.  We have such a wonderful catalog of music in it.  All Dion’s hits, from Teenager in Love to Runaround Sue to Abraham Martin & John.  And of course the title track.  It’s just great music.  In addition, we tell the compelling story of Dion’s life, including his struggles with heroin addiction and how his life was saved by a renewed faith in God.  It’s very powerful.  It’s going to surprise a lot of people.  We’ll be taking it on the road next year and then,  God willing, to Broadway soon after that.   I was excited to work on the book for this show.  It was a great fit for me as a NY kid who knew Dion’s music.  We were introduced through a mutual friend and we really hit it off.  I think there was a fast connection, two NYC guys, Italian American.  We knew each other’s culture and upbringing because it was the same.  He was from the Bronx, I was from Greenwich Village.  But we shared that Italian thing that you have to be inside of to fully comprehend.  I immediately saw his life as a Broadway musical.   But we both wanted it to be real and authentic.  Not fluffy or glossy.  We want edgy, dark, honest.  This is about addiction. But with all that great music throughout.  I think it’s a very special show and I can’t wait until the world sees it.  People ask if it’s a jukebox musical and we say, no, it’s REAL LIFE musical.



Tiziano Thomas Dossena Freddy Mercury was the icon star for a few generations, even after his death. You wrote “Mercury: The Afterlife and Times of a Rock God.” Is that a play?


Charles Messina:  Mercury was a monodrama I wrote about Freddie’s life.  I’m very proud of what we were able to accomplish with that piece.  To just strip away the rock star glam and glitter and show the man.  That was most important to me.  He hid so much of his true self from the world for fear of exposure – his sexuality, his ethnicity.   And this was long before the upcoming biopic that they’re releasing.  We were light years ahead of the curve on that one.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Although you are known for your deconstructive take on biographical subjects, I found only one book written under these premises. Is this going to be the exception or do you project to write more books like this one? What made you decide to co-write “My Father, My Don” with Tony Napoli? I previously reviewed the book, which I found very well written and emotionally captivating, and at that time I had extended my compliments to you for your ability to retain Tony’s informal, almost intimate language. How difficult was it to abstain from rewriting the story with your voice? Did you enjoy working with Tony? Is the filming of the movie based on the book still going on? Are you involved with it?



Charles Messina
:  Writing a book is a marathon, not a sprint.  It takes time.  Research.  It’s an arduous process.  I found working on My Father, My Don an to be a learning experience.  To tell a story from the first person point of view and capture the rhythm and tonality of another person’s voice, and to keep it genuine and truthful, that was a wonderful challenge.  As a playwright, I’m used to writing dialogue, so staying committed to the first person narrative was comfortable for me.  Sustaining it over 300 pages, that was the harder part.  My Father, My Don should make a fine film.  I’m not currently involved with any adaptation of it.  I have been asked about writing other books.  I think there’s a little Mob fatigue out there.  So Mob subjects don’t particularly interest me at this point.  Maybe if it were the right one.  I have some ideas.  I will write another book one day.  The timing just has to be right for it.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: How much did your being Italian American influence your life choices and your behavior in general?

Charles Messina:  Anyone who knows me knows just how much being a NY Italian American means to me.  That is my world.  Those are my people.  I was raised in it.  It’s in my blood.   It was and will always be a part of me.  I know their ways, their food, their hopes and dreams, their phrases!  To me when I talk about what’s real, I’m talking to a great extent about Italian Americans and their culture.  Their manners and rhythms and the particulars of their language, that’s what real sounds like to me. That’s what real is.  Brash, funny, but always to the point, always alive, connected and energetic, that’s what influences my writing.  That’s what my ear picks up.  That sound is the sound of someone telling it like it is.  I have often said that ethnic authenticity is the most important thing to my work.  It’s hard to teach what being a real Italian American looks and feels like.  You know it when you see it.  It comes out of the pores.  It’s in the DNA of my being and of my work.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: If you had the opportunity to meet and talk with a person from the past, anyone you wished, who would it be and what would your conversation with them be about?

Charles Messina:  My mother.  She passed away in 2009.  She saw some of my work but not all of it, of course.  Although a part of her is in all of it.  The lead in A Room of My Own is based on her.  She will always be my greatest influence.  I owe everything that I am to her.  I owe my active language as a writer to her.  My sense of humor is hers.  She had no filter.  She said it just as she saw it.  Funniest, toughest, boldest person I have ever known.  When I’m stuck for a line as I’m writing I will often ask, What would my mother say here?  She had the funniest and most particular turns of phrase!  She could do with one sentence and a look what it takes writers whole novels to convey.  She was hyper-aware and sharp.  Sometimes biting and cruel.  But a true original.  Her mind was ten steps ahead of everybody else.  Fiercely supportive of me.   Funny thing is, she was stricken with throat cancer and lived the last 14 years of her life without her voice.  Yet, she was more articulate and more expressive than ever!  She really gave me the confidence to believe that I could do anything, that I had as much right to be what I wanted to be as anybody else did.  She was defiant about that.  She worked the counter in a bakery and my father was a truck driver, a teamster.  Worked their asses off.  Put me through Catholic schools and then college.   When I said I wanted to go to NYU to become a writer and a director, they didn’t flinch.  They said, “Become whatever you want to become.”   So if I could meet one person, it would definitely be my mother.   What would I tell her?  I think I would show her something.  I’d roll up my left sleeve and show her the MOM tattoo I have on my forearm.  She never saw it.  I had it done after she passed away.  It’s designed with steel beams to symbolize her strength and when I put my arm down she’s always there, by my side.  I could see her being proud of it, smiling and saying, “My son-my son, you did that for me.”  And I’d say,  are you kiddin’, Ma, after all you gave to me, it’s the least I could do.

comments (0)
view/post comments
no comments yet

How Paper And Color Can Make You Dream. Exclusive Interview With Artist Adele Rahte.
by Milano52
Sep 04, 2018 | 9141 views | 0 0 comments | 609 609 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

 

How paper and color can make you dream. Exclusive interview with artist Adele Rahte.

Interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

I met Adele Rahte at the beautiful Harlem house of a common friend, the soprano Lauren Flanigan. The conversation soon turned from music (we had just the fortune to have witnessed a unique performance of lyrics by Gabriele D’Annunzio put into music by various composers) to art and she promised to give me an interview so that our readers could learn more about her work. The time has come and here is the interview of this marvelous artist who can make you dream with paper and color.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: When did you realize you were going to be an artist?

Adele H Rahte: I was fortunate to have parents who valued my creative core. At the age of eight, I was being tutored in the different art mediums. I think I have always been an artist. For example, as a kid, if I did not have any paper to draw on, I would draw on the wall. I started with my current technique, which I call “painting with paper,” in 2001 using the mylar I had put up temporarily as a window treatment in my New York City apartment after Sept 11th.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: I detect a strong Impressionist influence in some of your work, and in particular in the seascapes and skyscapes. Do you feel your work has been influenced by various artists? Who? Who is (or are) the artist who you admire the most?

Adele H Rahte: Here in Manhattan I can drop into any of the museums, especially when I am having trouble conveying what I wish to depict. I must understand what I see before the viewer can understand it. The great masters in these museums are always available to teach me how to see and how to present. I find it crucial to my process to see as much art as possible.

The Masters who help me see clearly vary with the piece I am working on. For example, Van Gogh guided me in Do You See the Kite?. In Tribeca, Cézanne and Aboard the Uptown 6, it was Modigliani. My favorite art movements are Expressionism, Fauvism, Cubism, Dada, and Suprematism.

At Nauset Beach

Tiziano Thomas DossenaI also detected different stroke usage in various paintings of yours (seascapes/seascapes vs. portraits/flowers/urban landscapes). Could you elaborate on that?

Adele H Rahte: “Stroke usage” translates to direction and movement. It is a conscious manipulation, a trick of the eye. It provides the viewer with an understanding of what they are experiencing when they look at 2D art. Since I use paper and not paint, I achieve the “brush stroke concept” by taking advantage of the direction of the fibers or patterns in the paper. You can see examples of movement in my art in the following pieces: in the towel in At Nauset Beach, and in the people, water and clouds in Do You See the Kite?

Do you see the kite?

Tiziano Thomas DossenaDo you start with the concept of adding paper to a painting or is that something that arises in the creative process? (Some paintings seem to be 100% paint and some, instead, seem to be paint and some paper) Could you tell us what is the reason for using the paper in those paintings?

Adele H Rahte: My work is comprised of paper only, no paint. The fibers in the paper fragments meld together. Then the layering of paper fragments is how I control the subtle color differences or create a clear edge. I see the world comprised of blocks of colorful shapes. Using paper to create these shapes works for me because I can feel the paper and create the shapes by tearing or cutting the paper fragments into the exact shape my art requires – almost like a sculpture. The clear example of this is seen in Saturday at the Beach.

Laundry line

Tiziano Thomas DossenaYou also create complex collages. Could you explain a bit the process involved and the artistic motivation behind this choice?

Adele H Rahte: There are endless moves when creating. Every single addition to the piece is living on the edge of life or death, failure or success. It is an amazing dance which is performed. When I am deep into the piece I am creating, I am removed from making art and the art piece itself takes over to the point where it feels to me that the piece is creating itself and I am simply applying the pre-chosen paper fragment. My hand selects the correct fragment from the growing pile of wonderfully colored and textured papers located on the shelf under the artwork I am working on. This scenario is repeated again and again until the piece feels finished. But when is it truly finished? I make a guess and say to myself “ok, now it is finished… well at least for the time being.” If time allows, I can put the piece away and then revisit it later with fresh eyes.

Saturday at the beach

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Do you feel that is the artist in you who influences your photography or is the photographer in you who influences your artwork?

Adele H Rahte: My art starts with reality. Somewhere in my minds’ eye, I ponder over a concept, getting preoccupied with it. I carry my camera with me and I then photograph what I need to have to reference. Then while creating the work perhaps years later I have the needed details to complete the piece. If the photograph happens to turn out to be special, then I share it. I did study photography in High School and then at University.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: How much and in what ways have your Italian roots influenced your art?

Adele H Rahte: I feel more connected to the Italian in me than the Alsacian. My relatives who came from Salerno taught me never to have idle hands. Instilled in me was the concept “there is always time to create, even if it exists in ten-minute segments.”

Aboard the Uptown 6

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Many writers, especially poets, find necessary to be in a particular mood, such as emotional distress, to create their work in an optimal manner. When you paint, how much does your mood influences the art piece’s outcome and in what emotional condition, if so, do you feel you are more creative?

Adele H Rahte: I know that creating my art wards off the cloud of depression I can fall prey to. I feel productive, artistic, unique and happy when I am creating. It is a special world of color, texture, and beauty. It is a vast and deep world — both solitary and educational.

Tribeca

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Are you planning any new exhibits in the near future? Any special project you working on?

Adele H Rahte: Now I am looking for exposure. My next step is to get the images of my art up onto sites to increase my exposure. My next art project is on Coney Island, Luna Park and the subway. Once completed, I will add them to my website for all to see. adelerahte.com

comments (0)
view/post comments
no comments yet

Poet, Model, Figure Skater And Inspiration For Young People, Elizabeth Pipko Came To The International Book Expo in New York
by Milano52
Jun 02, 2018 | 1104 views | 0 0 comments | 147 147 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Exclusive interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

Elizabeth Pipko, 22, was born and raised in New York City. At ten years old she discovered her love of figure skating and moved with her family to Florida in order to pursue her dream of becoming a competitive athlete. She competed for years in various competitions across the United States before suffering a devastating injury at 15, after which doctors told her that she would never skate again. During her long recovery, Elizabeth finished and published her first collection of poetry, “Sweet Sixteen” in 2013. She also began her modeling career, being featured in DT magazine, Maxim, Esquire and many more.  Elizabeth also starred in the Vizcaya Swimwear “Perfectly Imperfect” campaign, an anti-photoshop campaign promoting positive body image which was covered by major publications such as PEOPLE and Vanity Fair Italia. After years of physical therapy, Elizabeth has made her return to the ice, defying all odds and hoping to inspire those around her. Elizabeth is currently a student at the Harvard extension school, majoring in legal studies and double minoring in religion and math. Her second collection of poetry, “About You,” is due for release in early summer 2018. She will appear at the International Book Expo in New York City.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You are a poet, a model, a figure skater and so much more, even though you are only 22. Which one is the title you feel depicts you more accurately and why?

Elizabeth Pipko: I think I am a figure skater before I am anything else. And I say that certainly not because I am a brilliant skater, but because figure skating is where I found myself. Only after discovering the sport did I discover who I was and who I wanted to be. Everything in my life changed when I fell in love with the sport. Some things got better and some things got worse, but somehow it all felt extremely right. I felt like I was born to be a figure skater when I first fell in love with the ice at ten years old, and I think I’ll forever feel that way.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaDid you always have the poetry bug in you or was it inspired by your life events?

Elizabeth Pipko: I think I’ve always liked writing and felt as if I was better at it than I was in certain other things, but it was never something I did regularly. Only after certain life events caused me to need to find an outlet for my emotions did I realize how much I enjoyed poetry.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaWhat is your poetry about

Elizabeth Pipko: It’s about a lot of things… For me, I used poetry to express the heartbreak I felt as a sixteen-year-old girl trying to deal with a devastating injury (that took skating away from me) as well as the very common heartbreaks that a sixteen year old girl may face. My second book, About You, was written about my injury and losing the ability to skate, but without ever directly mentioning those words. I wanted people to be able to connect with the words and emotions that I was feeling regardless of what or who it was that they were longing for.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaHow important was it to you to return to ice skating and why?

Elizabeth Pipko: It was extremely important to me for many reasons. My parents raised me not to be a quitter. My mom taught me to always follow my dreams, and always prepared me for the many obstacles I would have to overcome in order to do that. And more importantly, showed me how to overcome those obstacles with everything I’ve watched her deal with in her career (she’s possibly the most incredible concert pianist you’ve ever heard). I always knew that this was something I had to do. And whether I make a full recovery and reach the top levels of the sport or just overcome the obstacles that come with trying to skate through pain every day, I’ll always be proud of myself for not giving up.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaIn your bio it says you moved from New York to Florida to ice skate and that may confuse our readers, considering the climate of the two cities. Could you elaborate on that?

Elizabeth Pipko: It does sound quite funny now that I think about it! Competitive figure skaters train in skating rinks indoors, so the climate outside is not really the one that we focus on. I discovered incredible coaches, actually completely on accident and without ever planning on pursuing skating, and they’re the ones that introduced me to skating and believed in me from the start. So, my parents and brother packed up and moved down to Florida in order for me to skate with those coaches and follow my dream. 

Photo by Nayo Martinez

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You participated as a model in the campaign “Perfectly imperfect”. Could you explain what that is about?

Elizabeth Pipko: Yup! So Lisa (the owner of Vizcaya swimwear) and I really bonded over what we had been through with dealing with negative comments and cyber bullying and decided to do something using those experiences. We wanted to do something special and something that would feel natural, and also inspire people not to be ashamed of the skin they were born in. The point of the campaign was to show the swimwear and how good it made you feel to be wearing it, and we decided that we could do that without needing an ounce of retouching! Just like in life.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Would you have a special message for our readers? And maybe a suggestion for our young readers?

Elizabeth Pipko: Always always always follow your dreams! I promise people will stand in your way, sometimes even people who you thought were your biggest fans. But the ONLY person that you needed believing in you, in order to succeed, is YOU.

For more information on Elizabeth Pipko, visit Elizabethpipko.com



Read more: Queens Ledger - Breaking news, classifieds, businesses, events in Queens, New York. 
comments (0)
view/post comments
no comments yet

Poet, International Model, Figure Skater And Inspiration For Young People, Elizabeth Pipko Will Come To The International Book Expo
by Milano52
May 28, 2018 | 1083 views | 0 0 comments | 182 182 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
 
Poet, model, figure skater and inspiration for young people, Elizabeth Pipko will come to the International Book Expo

Exclusive interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

Elizabeth Pipko, 22, was born and raised in New York City. At ten years old she discovered her love of figure skating and moved with her family to Florida in order to pursue her dream of becoming a competitive athlete. She competed for years in various competitions across the United States before suffering a devastating injury at 15, after which doctors told her that she would never skate again. During her long recovery, Elizabeth finished and published her first collection of poetry, “Sweet Sixteen” in 2013. She also began her modeling career, being featured in DT magazine, Maxim, Esquire and many more.  Elizabeth also starred in the Vizcaya Swimwear “Perfectly Imperfect” campaign, an anti-photoshop campaign promoting positive body image which was covered by major publications such as PEOPLE and Vanity Fair Italia. After years of physical therapy, Elizabeth has made her return to the ice, defying all odds and hoping to inspire those around her. Elizabeth is currently a student at the Harvard extension school, majoring in legal studies and double minoring in religion and math. Her second collection of poetry, “About You,” is due for release in early summer 2018. She will appear at the International Book Expo in New York City.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You are a poet, a model, a figure skater and so much more, even though you are only 22. Which one is the title you feel depicts you more accurately and why?

Elizabeth Pipko: I think I am a figure skater before I am anything else. And I say that certainly not because I am a brilliant skater, but because figure skating is where I found myself. Only after discovering the sport did I discover who I was and who I wanted to be. Everything in my life changed when I fell in love with the sport. Some things got better and some things got worse, but somehow it all felt extremely right. I felt like I was born to be a figure skater when I first fell in love with the ice at ten years old, and I think I’ll forever feel that way.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaDid you always have the poetry bug in you or was it inspired by your life events?

Elizabeth Pipko: I think I’ve always liked writing and felt as if I was better at it than I was in certain other things, but it was never something I did regularly. Only after certain life events caused me to need to find an outlet for my emotions did I realize how much I enjoyed poetry.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaWhat is your poetry about

Elizabeth Pipko: It’s about a lot of things… For me, I used poetry to express the heartbreak I felt as a sixteen-year-old girl trying to deal with a devastating injury (that took skating away from me) as well as the very common heartbreaks that a sixteen year old girl may face. My second book, About You, was written about my injury and losing the ability to skate, but without ever directly mentioning those words. I wanted people to be able to connect with the words and emotions that I was feeling regardless of what or who it was that they were longing for.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaHow important was it to you to return to ice skating and why?

Elizabeth Pipko: It was extremely important to me for many reasons. My parents raised me not to be a quitter. My mom taught me to always follow my dreams, and always prepared me for the many obstacles I would have to overcome in order to do that. And more importantly, showed me how to overcome those obstacles with everything I’ve watched her deal with in her career (she’s possibly the most incredible concert pianist you’ve ever heard). I always knew that this was something I had to do. And whether I make a full recovery and reach the top levels of the sport or just overcome the obstacles that come with trying to skate through pain every day, I’ll always be proud of myself for not giving up.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaIn your bio it says you moved from New York to Florida to ice skate and that may confuse our readers, considering the climate of the two cities. Could you elaborate on that?

Elizabeth Pipko: It does sound quite funny now that I think about it! Competitive figure skaters train in skating rinks indoors, so the climate outside is not really the one that we focus on. I discovered incredible coaches, actually completely on accident and without ever planning on pursuing skating, and they’re the ones that introduced me to skating and believed in me from the start. So, my parents and brother packed up and moved down to Florida in order for me to skate with those coaches and follow my dream. 

Photo by Nayo Martinez

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You participated as a model in the campaign “Perfectly imperfect”. Could you explain what that is about?

Elizabeth Pipko: Yup! So Lisa (the owner of Vizcaya swimwear) and I really bonded over what we had been through with dealing with negative comments and cyber bullying and decided to do something using those experiences. We wanted to do something special and something that would feel natural, and also inspire people not to be ashamed of the skin they were born in. The point of the campaign was to show the swimwear and how good it made you feel to be wearing it, and we decided that we could do that without needing an ounce of retouching! Just like in life.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Would you have a special message for our readers? And maybe a suggestion for our young readers?

Elizabeth Pipko: Always always always follow your dreams! I promise people will stand in your way, sometimes even people who you thought were your biggest fans. But the ONLY person that you needed believing in you, in order to succeed, is YOU.

For more information on Elizabeth Pipko, visit Elizabethpipko.com

comments (0)
view/post comments
no comments yet

Adolph Caso, a voice for Italian Americans, decries the attacks on Columbus
by Milano52
May 14, 2018 | 18887 views | 0 0 comments | 903 903 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

I met Adolph Caso the first time at the International Book Show in New York City and he struck me as a person who loves books more than anything in the world. Only later on I discovered his interests were not only in publishing but also in writing, translating, teaching and standing up for the Italian American community. In this period of confusion in which some people attempt to rewrite history to please a few, regardless of the accuracy of the rewriting, having a scholar of the level of Adolph Caso on the right side of the case is optimal and I felt that our readers would be happy to find out more about him. Here follows, then, a brief interview that will introduce Mr. Caso. There are link you can follow to discover more about his many activities.

Link on his author’s page on Amazon

Link to Dante Press




Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You are a respected editor, but also a prolific writer and educator on your own. Which profession do you identify the most with?

Adolph Caso: I am a poet, therefore, of independent mind. In my poetry, I reveal and share the things and ideas that appear within me. {Click here to read his poem Filtering Energy}

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You wrote more than one article regarding the “Columbus statue” issue. Do you confirm your belief that this attempted rewriting of history is actually a not-too-veiled act of discrimination toward Italian Americans in general? What do you think we as a community should do to counteract this offensive on Columbus?

Adolph Caso: Columbus was not a Spaniard, nor Portuguese, and not a Jew. He was from Genoa. Next to Jesus, Columbus did more for mankind than anyone on discovering a route that led to the Americas. Millions and millions of people have derived benefits as a result of Columbus, and not from any other individual, including his ignorant and empty-headed critics.



Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Regarding Columbus, you published TO AMERICA AND AROUND THE WORLD–The Logs of Colum­bus and Magellan. Do you feel people who make wild accusations about Columbus should definitely read this book and why?

Adolph Caso: The rationale behind this publication was to place before the readers the very words of Columbus himself and not the prejudicial opinions of prejudiced critics. Example, Columbus never dealt with nor captured people to turn them into slaves, as evidenced in his writings.



Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Your autobiographical book “Boy Destined to America” was actually written in 1966 and it has just been published. Could you tell us the story behind this book?

Adolph Caso: My writing professor told us to write a book about ourselves rather than about others because we know who we are. So, during the summer of 1966, I wrote my autobiography and placed the manuscript on the shelf. By chance, a couple of years ago, I re-discovered it, and the rest is history.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You also wrote THE KàSO ENGLISH TO ITALIAN DICTIONARY. What is this book about?

Adolph Caso: Yes, the title is, The Kaso English to Italian Phonemic Dictionary. My goal was to show that Italian is based on a phoneme system because it uses the one-to-one principle between symbols and sounds, thus making Italian a system whose phonology is the most scientific, and very adaptable to our computer age.



Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Dante University offers online many free courses taught by you and other professors. What are they and how can you take them?

Adolph Caso: The Irish have their Boston College, etc. The Italian Americans have no similar institution per se. My dream remains unfulfilled. My hope is that that dread will be fulfilled by someone else. {Link to courses}

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Were you the founder of Dante University Press? (Please say when it was born and other info, such as its relationship to Branden, etc…) What was the goal you tried to achieve?

Adolph Caso: The hope was to establish a press that would allow individuals better opportunities to publish their works about the Italian American experience. Except for a few publications, nothing more came out of it. The community never supported it.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: You also published THE KASO VERB CONJUGATION SYSTEM and BILINGUAL TWO LANGUAGE ASSESSMENT BATTERY OF TESTS, showing a strong interest in bilingual education. Were you a teacher or is this interest only tied to your deep knowledge of the Italian language?

Adolph Caso: My goal was to show the greatness of the language’s phonology I invested time and money in writing and in publishing the book that no one bought.

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: Do you have any projects for the near future that you are working on at this time? (If not, skip the question)

Adolph Caso: Typically, I never stop working, my latest being, Amalfi-Re-Visited, which has failed to sell in any significant way.

comments (0)
view/post comments
no comments yet

Dr. Mary Rorro, The “Violin Doc,” An Exclusive Interview
by Milano52
Apr 29, 2018 | 21393 views | 0 0 comments | 1294 1294 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

An interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

She was nicknamed “The Violin Doc” in a book by Lisa Wong entitled “Scales to Scalpels, Doctors Who Practice the Healing Arts of Music and Medicine;”  a talented professional viola player and a respected psychiatrist who uses her music to heal veterans, Dr. Mary Rorro is so much more and we are proud to present an exclusive interview with this bright star of the medical field who is finding many ways to help her patients.



 Tiziano T. Dossena: You are a psychiatrist working with veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and blending music and poetry into your practice. It seems that music has always been a major factor in your life. Could you tell us when did you start to use music as a healing tool? {Talk about your Music major, awards but also about the middle school and following years too, please)

Dr. Mary Rorro: When I was six and a half years old, my mother showed me her little violin that she used to play as a child.  I cherished that violin and toted it around in its diminutive case.  My mother, my talented brother Michael and I used to play together to Suzuki records, and listened to Italian arias and Neapolitan songs with my grandparents. The first time I witnessed the power of music was as my grandfather was dying in his hospital bed.  I played Toselli’s Serenade for him, a favorite song he frequently requested.  His last words were “More music.” As a candy striper in high school, my mother encouraged me to entertain the ill patients under my charge.  She witnessed as I played for a depressed cancer patient who had not spoken for months, who suddenly began to sing along with my violin to Christmas carols, bringing the nurses to tears.  That inspiring moment influenced me to combine my desire to be a physician and blend music into my profession. We recognized the healing power of music to those suffering that day. My mother was so proud. I wanted to make her happy by sharing music with others, who needed it in the most essential way.

I majored in music and minored in biology at Bryn Mawr College and received the first Performing Arts Prize ever awarded at the college.  Bryn Mawr encouraged leadership opportunities for women and service to others.  I organized two benefit concerts for St. Christopher’s Hospital for children with AIDS, as President and first violist of the Bryn Mawr–Haverford College Symphony.  I developed a program in medical school and psychiatry residency called “Musical Rounds: The Next Best Thing to Grand Rounds,” and “From Soup to Notes,” to perform for people in soup kitchens.

Tiziano T. Dossena: Besides your practice, you also created a program of volunteers with a similar goal, “A Few Good Notes.” Could you tell us about it?

Dr. Mary Rorro: Given the enthusiastic response from my previous musical experiences, I wanted to introduce music into the lives of the veterans at my clinic and the New Jersey VA Healthcare System. I started a program called “A Few Good Notes,” in which I play viola for the patients in the group therapy sessions and individually in my office.  Some of my patients used to play instruments, and hearing me encouraged them to resume their musical instruments and join me in the program.  One of my patients brought his Dixieland band in to entertain nursing home patients with me in the Lyons VA.  The quiet room was instantly transformed with the sound of patients singing along to the upbeat rhythms.  Another patient, after hearing me play Amazing Grace in the office, was inspired to pick up his guitar again and also start reading the Bible, after he contemplated the words in the song.

I initiated a program at the VA that provides free guitar lessons for veterans, which enables them to experience the joy of music first hand.  We have volunteer guitar instructors who give generously of their time and it allows for engagement with other veterans in the Guitar Instruction Group (GIG.)  The clinic is now filled with the strumming sounds of vets on their instruments, and the waiting list for lessons is a long one.

Every year, we carol in Lyons and East Orange hospitals and recruit other employees to share their time and talents with veterans.  The program has been expanded nationally in the VA.  Some patients and employees who are part of our Healing Arts committee bring their guitars and other instruments, and sing along to my viola.

Music draws out stories from the patients, including one Vietnam vet who remembered his platoon sang Silent Night on a hill in Vietnam, causing a cease fire for that time on Christmas Eve.  Music evokes powerful emotions and enables the therapists and me to process them with the patients in group therapy settings.

The program has been featured on WQXR, the former classical music station of the New York Times, WNYC radio, the Dr. Oz website, the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies and AOL’s Homepage for Heroes.  I was featured as “The Violin Doc,” in the book “Scales for Scalpels: Doctors Who Practice the Healing Arts of Music and Medicine,” by Lisa Wong, M.D.

Princeton Memorial ceremony at Monument Hall (Click on the picture to view a video on YouTube of Dr. Mary Rorro’s program for the veterans)

 Tiziano T. Dossena: You clearly had a call for music and became a professional violist. When and how did the call for medicine, and in particular psychiatry, come about? 

Dr. Mary Rorro: When I was 4 years old, I was riding in the car with my mother, and she asked what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I quickly responded, “A doctor, because I want to help people.”  My parents always encouraged me in my dream, from which I never wavered.  I was influenced by many members of my family, who were role models. I spent time in my father’s busy primary care practice, and observed grateful patients leaving his office.  He went on house calls early in the morning for people who he knew couldn’t afford to pay, but was dedicated to helping them.  My Aunt, Mary A. Rorro, M.D. was one of the trailblazing women physicians of her area.  Her “Uncle Doc” graduated from Hahnemann Medical School and encouraged her to go there from a young age.  Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s father, Samuel Alito Sr., was her teacher in high school and he awarded her with the science medal.  He knew she wanted to be a doctor and told her, “Never be discouraged from your dream.” She still has the report card envelope where he wrote other encouraging words about her future, since she valued them so much.  She graduated from Hahnemann in 1958, and married my Uncle Al.  He and my Uncle John also served the community as physicians. My Aunt Celeste received her Doctorate in Education and was Director of Teacher Certification and Academic Credentials in New Jersey.

I became interested in psychiatry after a rotation at UMDNJ-SOM medical school at a New Jersey state hospital.  Psychiatry seemed like a perfect way to blend narratives, creativity, and the arts into the medical profession.  I entered a Harvard Medical School program for psychiatry residency and began working with veterans in the VA system as well as other mental health institutes in Boston, including McLean Hospital, Cambridge Hospital.  Following residency, I completed a psychiatry Fellowship in Addiction Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.  The years of tests and training, long nights on call, sleeping on scratchy sheets, were all worth it when someone says, “You changed my life.”  I consider that to be a complement to my parents, because without their constant love and support, I would not be able to help my patients and hear those words.

 Tiziano T. Dossena: Your poetry is very poignant and inspirational, bringing images of war and tortured souls. Do you write only about veterans’ experiences?

Dr. Mary Rorro: Veterans’ stories of trauma, grief, and loss inspired me to write poetry meant to help patients, and to honor them.  Some poems reflect themes of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including intrusive memories, nightmares and flashbacks.  Others relate to more specific trauma incidents and themes of moral injury and survivor guilt.  The patients’ often poignant, sometimes frightening narratives were compelling.  Poetry became a venue in which I could attempt to first process and then articulate the overwhelming emotions they experience.  I began to share my poetry, in hopes of helping them connect and progress in treatment.  The poems opened a new dialogue on aspects of their stories which they might not have touched upon during the standard medication management visit.

I also write other poetry and haiku based on nature and spiritual themes, and compose songs and song lyrics.

Click here to read one of her poems, Tunnel Rats

 Tiziano T. Dossena: You have received innumerable awards both for your charitable and your professional work. Notwithstanding that they are all relevant and well deserved, is there one in particular that has meant more to you and why?

Dr. Mary Rorro: There are a few that are especially meaningful.  An award that had special meaning was from the American Foundation of Savoy Orders, a royal order in Italy.  They bestowed the Saints Maurice and Lazarus Bronze medal for charitable works at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.  It was incredibly exciting to walk up the steps of the main altar to receive the beautiful bronze medal and proclamation of Vittorio Emanuele.  Performing at the Centennial Celebration mass of the Holy Rosary church in Washington D.C. with Supreme Court Justices Samuel A. Alito, Jr. and Antonin Scalia, and Nancy Pelosi, in attendance, was also a peak experience. It was an honor to be inducted into the Italian American National Hall of Fame, in the same year with Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr.

The Planetree organization’s Patient-Centered Excellence and Innovation Award (received by one of 10 individuals or programs internationally) for my “A Few Good Notes” program in Chicago, was significant for recognizing the importance of helping veterans through the arts.

Tiziano T. Dossena: Your father was a doctor and your mother is an icon of the Italian American community in New Jersey. How did this influence you in your personal life and your professional choices?

Dr. Mary Rorro: My late father, Dr. Louis Rorro, was a physician who was committed to helping patients in the community.  My mother, Dr. Gilda Rorro, was an educator and administrator in the Department of Education, and worked in civil rights.  She traveled to Haiti on numerous occasions to establish school exchange program with schools in Haiti and New Jersey.  In the past 20 years, she worked tirelessly to serve Italian Americans in the community as Honorary Vice Consul work and as Chair of the New Jersey Italian Heritage Commission. She was knighted by the President of Italy for development of her curriculum to put Italian heritage into all schools in New Jersey.  My parents instilled an appreciation of Italian language and culture, and we feel fortunate to have cherished family and friends in Italy. My wonderful husband Joseph also shares my love of Italian culture and music; we met at an Italian social club when I was a psychiatric resident in Boston.

My parents’ productivity and engagement in their careers motivated me toward my profession and I was proud of what they accomplished.  I was raised without limitations of what a girl or woman could achieve.  No matter how busy my patients were, they were always actively engaged in my development, taking me to music lessons, concerts, and trips to Europe, to broaden my education.  They were tremendous mentors, who influenced my life and left a legacy of serving others, which I strive to continue.  Their high school graduation gift was my viola, and one that truly keeps on giving.  I am forever indebted to my parents for guiding me in my goal to becoming a doctor and grateful they helped make my dream a reality.  They gave of themselves with genuine commitment to community, and to me.  My parents’ love and devotion enabled me to be fulfilled as a physician and musician, and aspire to help some many others, to live by their example.

Dr. Mary Rorro plays the viola for the mother Gilda in the occasion of her memoir’s presentation to the public

Tiziano T. Dossena: Are there any new projects in the near future?

Dr. Mary Rorro: I consider serving our veterans a patriotic mission. They have taught me so much about sacrifice and resilience. Blending music and poetry into my practice is a privilege and serves as a rewarding and creative means of deepening the doctor–patient bond. I have witnessed the powerful effects the arts can hold for patients and hope to distribute my collection of vignettes and poems to more veterans.  I plan to continue expanding the “A Few Good Notes” program so more patients become involved in music and the arts, as an invaluable tool to employ in their journey toward healing.

Veterans listening to Dr. Mary Rorro’s music (Click on the picture to view a video on YouTube)

comments (0)
view/post comments
no comments yet

A Renaissance Woman In New York City. Interview With LindaAnn LoSchiavo
by Milano52
Mar 18, 2018 | 24903 views | 0 0 comments | 315 315 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
 
A Renaissance woman in New York City. Interview with LindaAnn LoSchiavo

An interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

She is the optimal example of a Renaissance woman and a New Yorker combined: humble but determined, soft spoken but direct, with a genial attitude not usually associated with a virtuoso of the pen, and most of all a realist who is aware of the elusiveness of fame in the literary world. This, to me, is the portrait of LindaAnn LoSchiavo. Although I know her for over 20 years, I never knew she had a Ph.D. in Early Modern British Literature and that’s because she never talks about herself, although she will have a heart-to-heart discussion of her work, her characters, and the plays she reviews without any hesitation.

Having appeared with her wonderful poetry and her captivating short stories in over 20 periodicals in the last six months, and that’s not counting the numerous nonfiction articles published by our very own magazine and other periodicals, with her plays recently enriching the theater scene of Gotham, and two documentaries to her credit, LindaAnn has definitely proven her worth. To confirm that once more, she just won the 2nd place for her poem “Mother on Morphine” from Wax Poetry & Art, adding it to her many awards.

I thought it was the perfect timing for interviewing her and letting our readers discover not only the extent of her achievements and the path she took to attain them, but also her thoughts about life and literature.

(Please click on the bold words in the interview to link to videos and blogs)

Tiziano Thomas Dossena: When did you start writing?

LindAnn LoSchiavo: I started putting words together before my fourth birthday. My family used to receive a lot of greetings cards, which contained “light verse.” I thought the sentiments and poems could be improved. My Aunt Fay would draw illustrations on light cardboard and I would write a poem, metrical and rhymed, underneath.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaWhat was the first thing you wrote?

LindAnn LoSchiavo: When I was nine years old, I wrote my first one-act play for five actresses. It was produced in NYC when I was ten.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaWhat was the first thing that gave you some public attention?

LindAnn LoSchiavo: Irwin Maiman, a high school English teacher, was the supervisor of the literary magazine and he recruited a number of us. I liked to write but I was also interested in how to become an editor. Being on this staff taught me how to proofread, evaluate fiction, and put a publication together on a deadline. My style changed a lot with the short story I wrote in my senior year about a drug addict. It was accepted for publication and earned me the school’s gold medal for Literary Achievement, which I accepted onstage at Commencement. That academic award was a sign that I was meant for this.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaYou’ve had eight short stories accepted and/ or published in the past 18 months, each for a different publication.  How do your other literary endeavors – poetry, stage plays, reviews – factor in when you are writing a new short story?

LindAnn LoSchiavo: Reviews, as with all journalism, require a writer to be specific. Formal verse tunes your ear and hones your skill with rhetoric. Stage dialogue must be economical, conveying both emotion and information. All these elements get channeled into the creation of a short story and fuel it.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaDoes any of your work ever cross a genre?  Did a poem ever turn into a short story, for instance, or vice versa?

LindAnn LoSchiavo: Since I don’t work on only one manuscript at a time, my pen is often traveling in a few directions. An experience with answering poignant “Dear Santa Claus” letters from poor or abused New York City children became a poem. Since it was rather long for a poem, I turned it into a story. It was published in February 2018 by Flatbush Review.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaYou mentioned writing your first one-act play at 9 years old. What brought about your transition to writing short fiction, three years later at 12 years old?

LindAnn LoSchiavo: My family started taking me to Broadway shows when I was four years old. I loved playwrighting but, even as a child, I realized that producing a play involved considerable cost and collaboration. My instincts told me I’d better explore other formats and find something else to do with paper and a typewriter.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaI’ve noticed New York City is sometimes your setting. In what way does the New York location add to the story?

LindAnn LoSchiavo: I’m a native New Yorker so I enjoy bringing the city into the narrative. My poignant story “Sifting on the Santa Shift” takes place in the basement of the main post office on 34th Street, those unprepossessing cheerless rooms where Good Samaritans gather to read letters from needy children and grant wishes. There couldn’t be an uglier room in all New York where so many beautiful acts of generosity take place.

In contrast, “The Gospel According to Saint Marks Place” was inspired by the street itself. It’s the block where brainy Cooper Union students meet maniac drug dealers and Hell’s Angels along with immigrants born in Poland, Russia, and the Ukraine. A clash of cultures is waiting to happen.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaSeveral of your most recent stories have had a supernatural theme. What accounts for that change?

LindAnn LoSchiavo: I was always intrigued by the speculative elements in the literary novels of certain Latin American writers but felt that, if you have supernatural creatures in the earliest work that is published, you can be dismissed as a genre author. Now that I’ve seen my plays staged, had my articles in prestigious magazines, won prizes for poems, it’s not so easy to categorize me.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaWhat other fiction projects are you working on?

LindAnn LoSchiavo: Ten years ago, I wrote a play “The Djinni and the Pianist.” The protagonist is a 13-year-old girl. Since young teens are hard to cast, and an adult who is short and slight would have to play her, I felt it would be imprudent to give her a friend or classmates. It gathered dust; I never sent it out. Last year I decided to revise the narrative as a novella. I completed my first draft of Part 1, which is over 10,000 words, and now I’ve started Part 2.

LindaAnn LoSchiavo poses with Italian American Museum founder and President Dr. Joseph V. Scelsa after her multimedia presentation “Meet Mae West’s secret Italian husband”, which topped all attendance records at the museum. Photo credit: Brian Gonzales

Tiziano Thomas DossenaYou are an expert on Mae West, with two plays about her to your credit, special Mae tours in the City and a blog dedicated to her. How did this interest about Mae West came about and where is it bringing you?

LindAnn LoSchiavo: Whenever I passed the former Jefferson Market Court (now a public library) at 425 Sixth Avenue, one element about this unique nineteenth century structure would annoy me — — the plaque that merely credits two male architects and never refers to its women’s history. It riled me up that numerous women were unfairly arrested and tried here yet most people had no clue. I decided to write a play, three one acts with one commonality: how each defendant was treated unjustly in Jefferson Market Court. The idea was that the library itself might host it.

I selected three potential candidates: (a.) labor organizer Clara Lemlich Shavelson (1887—1982), who demonstrated against the sweatshops with a huge gathering of ladies’ garment workers on Nov. 26, 1909, which led to multiple arrests and a trial at Night Court; (b.) dramatist and actress Mae West (1893—1982), who was arrested and held at Jefferson Jail on Feb. 9, 1927 for writing a play about homosexuals and drag queens; and (c.) sex educator and birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger (1879—1966), whose medical records were seized on April 15, 1929, and who was thrown into a police wagon with her staff, and faced off with Jefferson Market’s Magistrate Rosenbluth.

At a performance of “Courting Mae West,” in 2008, from left, Yvonne Sayers as Mae West, with the late TV talk-show legend Joe Franklin and the work’s author, LindaAnn LoSchiavo.

That was the concept — but with back-stories and three trials, there was too much material for a trio of one acts. Therefore, I focused on one “criminal” and wrote “Courting Mae West.” I began my Mae West Blog in 2004 during auditions when it became obvious that the cast did not know Mae West, Beverly West, James Timony, Texas Guinan, and other characters they were playing were real people. At the time (14 years ago), there was only one Mae West fan site online; it praised her Hollywood films and offered nothing about the police raids and legal skirmishes. Additionally, I began a Texas Guinan Blog, a Jefferson Market Court Blog, and I put other details online to give the actors reliable source material that would familiarize them with the 1926—1932 events and personalities in this Prohibition Era play.

Any time there was a reading or a staging, certain remarks astounded me. For instance, “Was Mae West really a man?” and “Wasn’t Mae West from Los Angeles?” and “Did Mae West write two plays about homosexuals because she was gay?” In addition to helping fans get correct information about all things Mae, The Mae West Blog was a conduit.



Thanks to my blog, for example, in 2013 I met actress Darlene Violette, who had a strong interest in playing the Brooklyn bombshell, and who was reading my posts in order to develop a cabaret act. It was decided that I would write “Diamond Lil, Queen of the Bowery” and she would star and co-produce it. We archived a full performance at Don’t Tell Mama’s and I have the Estate’s permission to go forward with another production. I’d love to find the right team again.

Meanwhile, the Mae West Blog is now in its thirteenth year.

The cast of Diamond Lil’ in 2013

Tiziano Thomas DossenaDo your plays have roots in real life facts or are they fantasy?

LindAnn LoSchiavo: “Courting Mae West” is based on true events. “Diamond Lil, Queen of the Bowery” is a trimmer, tighter 90-minute version of Mae West’s sprawling 1932 novel. “A Worthie Woman Al Hir Live is based on Chaucer’s Wife of Bath Tale. But most of my plays are fiction, spun out of thin air.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaDo you believe your writing of short stories is paving the way to write a novel?

LindAnn LoSchiavo: Yes. When you write every day, creative muscles get stronger, the reach somehow gets longer. When my novella is completed, my focus will be back on the screenplay I’ve started. Most of the story is set in 1990 on a dilapidated British estate, where a portraitist has been invited to meet an art collector uncle she barely knows — — except the genial host who greets her is an impostor and an art thief.

Tiziano Thomas DossenaHow much do you believe being an Italian American influenced your writing and your writing style?

LindAnn LoSchiavo: All four grandparents were born in the meridione, so I’ve embraced the Neapolitan and Aeolian Island culture, whose oral poetry I have translated. When it comes to writing about it, I limit myself to articles, personal essays, and poems.

The reason for that is the stubborn lack of support for Italian-American authors by the major Italian-American organizations. I wrote a chapter on this topic for the book “Anti-Italianism — —Essays on a Prejudice,” co-edited by W. Connell and F. Gardaphé, Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

L-R: Professor Fred Gardaphé, Dr. Elizabeth G. Messina, Dr. Joseph V. Scelsa, LindaAnn LoSchiavo and Professor William J. Connell

Maybe one day that will change. Meanwhile, the characters in my screenplay are British, Pakistani, and Polish. The characters in my novella are Scottish and French. However, the poems in my chapbook “Conflicted Excitement” (forthcoming from Red Wolf Editions) are Italian-American.

And so, to the nice people who are reading this interview, if you have an audience for Italian American literature or are interesting in hosting a reading, please get in touch with L’IDEA.

comments (0)
view/post comments
no comments yet

Jamie Lynn Macchia, From Miss New York To The Campaign For #MoreThan4: A Young Woman On The Path Of Success.
by Milano52
Feb 10, 2018 | 26331 views | 0 0 comments | 417 417 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
 
Jamie Lynn Macchia, from Miss New York to the campaign for #MoreThan4: a young woman on the path of success.

Interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

Jamie Lynn Macchia is a 26-year-old Magna Cum Laude graduate of Wagner College with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Arts Administration and Marketing. While in attendance, she was a Competitive Dance Team member, Alpha Omicron Pi sorority sister, and part of the Omicron Delta Kappa National Leadership Honor Society.

When she was 17 years old, Jamie Lynn began competing in the Miss America Organization to obtain scholarships for college. She is the only woman to achieve the Miss Staten Island title twice, in both 2012 & 2014, and is also the former Miss Greater NY 2013 & 2015. In 2014, Jamie Lynn was invited to represent New York in the National Sweetheart Pageant in 2014, a long-standing tradition created in 1941, which is open to runner-ups from the Miss America state pageants. Out of the 43 contestants from across the country, she was named first runner-up – the highest placement ever for New York. In June of 2015, Jamie Lynn won the prestigious title of Miss New York and went on to compete at Miss America in Atlantic City.

Jamie Lynn works with many different organizations, but after loosing her best friend, Dominic, when they were 15 to leukemia, she dedicated her volunteer efforts to her personal platform: Inspiring Action Against Pediatric Cancer.  Alongside the Pediatric Cancer FoundationGianna Nicole’s Heart of Hope and The Truth 365, she is a force in making a change to bridge the funding gap, raise money for the necessary research and give our kids a fighting chance.  She campaigns for #MoreThan4 percent, which is the only amount of federal funding for cancer research that is allocated to all childhood cancers.

Over the years, Macchia has raised over hundreds of thousands of dollars for various charitable organizations, served as co-chair of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night Walk and created and received numerous prestigious awards for her work including: Miss America Organization Community Service Award, Miss America Organization Academic Award, Children’s Miracle Network’s “Miracle Maker”, SIEDC’s “20 Under 40” Award, Star Network’s “Stars Under 40” Award, and the Rotary Club of Verrazano’s “Women & Children’s Award.”

Jamie Lynn now works as the full-time Development Officer for Staten Island University Hospital, Northwell Health and is a consultant for Rodan Fields. In her free time, she likes to do yoga, travel, go out to eat, and spend time with friends, family, and her cats – Jynx & Meeko. Jamie Lynn loves The Wizard of Oz, is a shoe fanatic, and is an expert on all things Disney. She has always believed, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible” & looks forward to making the “impossible” a possibility. (From http://jamielynnmacchia.weebly.com)

Meeting Jamie Lynn was both an incredible honor and a pleasant surprise. Her savoir faire and radiant beauty polarized the room where she was speaking to a group of women participants of the Floral Park Lions Just 4 Women Expo. Her speech was impeccable and delivered professionally. As an observer I was shocked to find out the young lady speaking so assertively that day was only 25 years old. Since then, I learned a lot more about her and I am very proud to offer our readers the opportunity to learn more about her too. She is a delightful and altruistic girl who spend a lot of her time to help others and she might inspire others to do so. Here goes then the interview that I had today with her. (TTD)

Tiziano DossenaYou campaign to let people know about #MoreThan4. Could you tell us what this campaign is about?

Jamie Lynn Macchia: Cancer is the #1 disease killer of children and each year about 10,380 children in the United States under the age of 15 will be diagnosed. Treatments have not changed significantly in more than a decade. In fact, most medications used to fight cancer in children are designed to combat adult cancers and three out of five survivors develop side effects from receiving treatments that are too strong for their small bodies to handle. Yet, insufficient efforts are being made to help those who are fighting the hardest battle of their young lives.

I always take the opportunity to spread a message many people are shocked by: Of the already small amount of federal funding for cancer research (both adult and pediatric), only 4% is allocated for all childhood cancers combined. This is where the #MoreThan4 movement comes in: to raise awareness of the horrific statistics, and to emphasize the gross inequity of cancer research funding, the #MoreThan4 (percent) movement was born.

Our children deserve More Than 4 percent of the federal funding for cancer research. Only then will they stand a fighting chance with new treatments and a healthier future – free from side effects. “More Than 4” has become the rally cry for the pediatric cancer community and #MoreThan4 is used on social media sides to show the desperate need for more funding.

In order for effective change to occur, childhood cancer needs to become its own entity in the eyes of the government. It can no longer be lumped in with adult cancers. However, until the government increases financial support, and provides the amount necessary to find treatments and cures, it is up to us to bridge the funding gap.

Tiziano Dossena You are a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Wagner College, you were Miss New York 2015 and you are only 26 years old… So young and successful, what made you volunteer to help raise money for pediatric cancer research?

Jamie Lynn Macchia: Thank you for the compliment! My passion for my pediatric cancer work unfortunately came from a deep, personal connection. My best friend Dominic was diagnosed with leukemia when we were 10 years old. I witnessed the trials he had to endure: the side effects of medication, the struggle to find a bone marrow match, and the lack of updated and effective treatments. After a valiant battle with this disease, Dominic passed away shortly after his 15th birthday. I was heartbroken. I was frustrated. But, most of all, I was determined to inspire change through action. I am proud of what I have accomplished thus far, but there is still so much to be done.

Tiziano DossenaYou are the development officer for Staten Island University Hospital, Northwell Health. What does this position entail?

Jamie Lynn Macchia: As a Development Officer I take part in all fund raising related activities for Staten Island University Hospital. This includes event planning/assistance and securing donations with a focus on building, maintaining and enhancing donor relationships. It is wonderful for me that, after my year as Miss New York, I still have the ability to continue raising funds for a worthy institution as my full-time job.

What’s even better? Staten Island University Hospital is currently working to building a brand new Comprehensive Cancer Center, to include a Pediatric Oncology Unit! It has all come full-circle.

Tiziano DossenaYou have won many prestigious awards, including Miss America Organization Community Service Award, Miss America Organization Academic Award, Children’s Miracle Network’s “Miracle Maker”, SIEDC’s “20 under 40” Award and Star Network’s “Stars Under 40” Award. Is there one that is the most significant for you and why?

Jamie Lynn Macchia: I am honored to have received a number of awards for my charity work, academic achievements, and contributions to the community. It is difficult to pick one that is most significant to me, but I was particularly shocked to have been chosen to receive a “20 Under 40” Award from the SIEDC. This award, given to 20 people under the age of 40, recognizes rising stars in Staten Island who are making a difference in their respective fields. For me, it was humbling to have been considered ‘accomplished in my field’ for my dedication to philanthropy thru pediatric cancer at the young age of 25. It definitely puts more pressure on me to keep achieving and reaching for new heights in the future, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Tiziano DossenaHow positive was your experience, first with participating at and winning Miss New York contest and then participating at Miss America contest?

Jamie Lynn Macchia: I competed for 7 years in the Miss America Organization, holding 4 local titles (Miss Staten Island 2012 & 2014, Miss Greater NY 2013 & 2015) before I finally achieved my goal of becoming Miss New York on my last shot. I could not be more grateful to this organization for all of the experiences I have had and for the scholarship money I obtained which has allowed me to be debt-free after 4 years of college. The Miss America Organization has empowered me, given me lifelong friends, and offered me unique opportunities and experiences.

My time as Miss New York included fashion shows, school visits, galas, fundraisers, mentoring, television appearances – I experienced it all. But I have to say, of all my events, the hospital visits were some of the most memorable. Through Miss America’s partnership with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, I had this wonderful opportunity to connect my own platform – Inspiring Action Against Pediatric Cancer – with the organization I loved representing. Walking into a hospital room to visit a child and seeing their face light up because “a princess came to visit” brings a feeling that’s difficult to put into words. For one moment, they get to be a kid again, and I gave that to them. I will never forget those faces.



In total I traveled over 17,000 miles for more than 230 events, bringing attention to a multitude of causes and meeting hundreds of people from Paula Abdul to Nick Jonas. Just one of those incredible experiences was competing at Miss America, representing New York. It was surreal to be in an iconic theater (Boardwalk Hall) in Atlantic City, performing on the biggest stage of my life! I will never forget those moments because it is something I never thought I would get the chance to do. After all, you’re more likely to have a son compete in Super Bowl than a daughter compete at Miss America! How cool is that!?

Tiziano DossenaYou were a member of the competitive dance team in college. Do you still dance at that level?(talk about you being a dance instructor, if you want)

Jamie Lynn Macchia: At Wagner College I was a member of the competition dance team. In addition to dancing at both the football & basketball games, we competed in Disney World every year! It really was an incredible experience. Unfortunately, after I completed my time in the Miss America Organization I didn’t find many more opportunities to dance at that level. As a certified dance teacher, I was teaching part-time, but I took this year off to focus on other interests. I would love to return to the studio and share my love of dance with students!

Tiziano DossenaWhat are your plans for your immediate future and your long range goals?

Jamie Lynn Macchia: I am so proud of the life I’ve created and where I am right now at 26 years old. In my immediate future, I hope to continue evolving in my current position at Staten Island University Hospital, assisting in the current goal to build a new Women & Newborn Center, Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Hybrid Operating Room. I’m also excited to be running my own business for the first time in my life as a Rodan Fields Consultant! Looking further into the future, I plan to continue my work with pediatric cancer advocacy and hope to become more involved with Miss New York Organization – helping other young women achieve the personal growth that I did while paying for their college educations.

Oh, and as a recently engaged woman, I’m planning a wedding for October of 2019 with my high school sweetheart. The future looks bright!

Tiziano DossenaCongratulations on your future wedding! Any suggestions for our young readers?

Jamie Lynn Macchia: I always have two pieces of advice for young people today. First: Perseverance is key. Though it may be easy to look at another’s success and feel discouraged, you have to remember that everyone’s path in life is different. A perfect example for me was becoming Miss New York – it certainly wasn’t something that happened overnight! It would have been easy to get discouraged and give up, but when you truly have a goal, you have to go for it with everything you have. Second: Use your voice to make a difference. All too often I hear, “Well, what can I do about it?” or “I can’t change that.” But, you can! You have to the power to make a change where you see a need. Go out there and make a difference in this world because the world needs more dreamers.

comments (0)
view/post comments
no comments yet

Interview with James Ferraro, author of BLINDSIDED.
by Milano52
Nov 14, 2017 | 2031 views | 0 0 comments | 246 246 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Written By: Tiziano Thomas Dossena

 
Exclusive interview with James Ferraro, author of BLINDSIDED

JimFerrarroJames (Jim) L. Ferraro is a practicing litigation attorney, and the founding shareholder of The Ferraro Law Firm in Miami, Florida, and one of two founding partners of Kelley & Ferraro LLP in Cleveland, Ohio. His firms currently represent nearly 50,000 asbestos claimants. The Ferraro Law Firm also has an office in Washington, D.C. that specializes in corporate tax fraud and tax whistleblower cases.

A native of Greenwich, Connecticut, Mr. Ferraro graduated from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Business Administration in 1978 and a Master of Science in Accounting in 1979. He became a Certified Public Accountant in 1980, and taught accounting at the University of Miami in 1982 while in law school. He received his law degree from the University of Miami School of Law in 1983. He is a member of the Ohio, New York, Florida, District of Columbia, and Massachusetts Bars; the Fellows of the American Bar Foundation; the American Bar Association; the Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants; the American Association for Justice; the Florida Justice Association; The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 Trial Lawyers; and the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum. He is a Florida State Coordinator for The Public Justice Foundation.

Mr. Ferraro has fashioned his law practice in the areas of mass torts, product liability, wrongful death, medical malpractice, environmental and family law. He has specialized in asbestos and mass tort litigation for almost thirty years, and has successfully tried many cases that resulted in multi-million dollar jury verdicts. In 1995, he received the largest compensatory award in the state of Florida for a mesothelioma case; and in 1997, Mr. Ferraro also had the highest compensatory jury verdict ever in the nation for a non-malignant asbestos case. Most recently, in August 2015, Jim tried an asbestos case against Georgia-Pacific with his oldest son, James, resulting in a $17,175,000 verdict. Based on that verdict, CVN Florida voted Jim 2015 Plaintiff’s Attorney of the Year.

He was one of ten national finalists for Trial Lawyer of the Year in 1997 for trying the first case successfully prosecuted against a chemical company for causing a birth defect. Mr. Ferraro proved that a pregnant woman’s exposure to the fungicide, Benlate, caused her child to be born without eyes and held the chemical company, DuPont, accountable in Castillo vs. E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company and Pine Island Farms. The trial was covered in its entirety on Court TV and received worldwide attention. Seven years after trial, the Supreme Court of Florida affirmed the trial court verdict. The trial has also been documented in a book, Blindsided, just recently published. 

Christian Slater said of the book: “Blindsided is a compelling and important story that holds as much social relevance today as it did when the trial against DuPont took place.”

Here is the exclusive interview he gave to Tiziano Thomas Dossena:

Screen shot 2017-03-17 at 12.02.38 PMTiziano T. Dossena: How did you meet the Castillo family, plaintiffs for the now-famous Castillo vs. DuPont case? What made you decide to take the case, unique and challenging as it was, both legally and financially?

James Ferraro: I received a call from an old college friend of mine, telling me about the Castillos’ story and asking me to meet with them. I was reluctant because I knew how tough these cases were to win, but I agreed to have Donna Castillo come to my office and meet with me.

Donna was very emotional and suffered a grave injustice.  However, I was not going to take the case due to the extreme level of difficulty.  After some limited research we found a study where the chemical was tested on pregnant rats and 43% of the rat offspring were born with no eyes or other ocular abnormalities.  Even though the deck was stacked against us, we decided we would take a shot.

Tiziano T. Dossena: Are you still in contact with the Castillo family? How has little Johnny fared since then? 

James Ferraro: I have had limited contact with the plaintiffs over the years as a form of respect to their privacy and to allow them to move on with their lives.  I know the family is doing well and I am very happy that we were able to make a difference in their lives. Because of the outcome of the case, Johnny was able to afford to attend the Perkins School for the Blind.

Tiziano T. Dossena: This celebrated litigation being the milestone and reference for many other cases, do you feel large corporation have changed somewhat their behavior since then because of it? Do you believe the average person has now a better chance to fight these Goliaths because of the outcome of that historical lawsuit?

James Ferraro: The case set a precedent as the first of its kind, because it was the first time a chemical giant was successfully prosecuted for causing a birth defect. It also allowed the chemical Benlate to be removed from the market. However, it’s still a very difficult case, and we have a long way to go. I believe a true change will be when a law is passed at the Federal level that holds corporations accountable to the information (science/data) that is submitted to a governmental agency for licensing purposes, making that information admissible in court.

Tiziano T. Dossena: Do you feel that, notwithstanding the enormous success of your firm with scores of legal actions and your highly respected reputation with Mass Tort and Federal Tax Whistleblower practices, the Castillo vs. DuPont case is the one you are going to be remembered for? Is that what you would like or do you feel there are other actions and instances for which you should be celebrated or remembered for? 

James Ferraro: I think I am best known for this case due to it being the first successful prosecution of its kind and also the heart wrenching story behind it. But I’ve also successfully tried many cases that resulted in multi-million dollar jury verdicts, specializing in asbestos and mass tort litigation. In 1995, I received the largest compensatory award in the state of Florida for a mesothelioma case; and in 1997, I also had the highest compensatory jury verdict ever in the nation for a non-malignant asbestos case.

Most recently, in August 2015, I tried an asbestos case against Georgia-Pacific with my son, James, resulting in a $17,175,000 verdict. Based on that verdict, I was voted the 2015 Plaintiff’s Attorney of the Year.

Tiziano T. Dossena: Large corporations have used experiments funded by them to get approval by the government to use a particular chemical and then called the same experiment ‘junk science’ when a lawyer from the plaintiff side wants to use the same experiment in court against them, often getting away with their action (junk-science defense.) You were the promoter of a law to allow an experiment, which was previously used to obtain a license to sell a chemical, to be used as evidence in court. Has that initial movement gained any strength and support since then and what can people do to help with this issue?

James Ferraro: Currently, defendants like DuPont seek to exclude science under the guise of junk science.  In this particular case, DuPont was seeking to exclude some of the science that they submitted to the EPA to get their product licensed.  I believe a law should be written whereby a corporation or individual who submits scientific data to a governmental agency for licensing purposes is admissible in a court of law.

Unfortunately, It’s not going to happen right now with the current administration. They’re anti-climate change, so this is not the right time. After the mid-term elections, if the balance of power shifts, that might be the right time to do it. The book will be out for about a year and a half, and the movie should be pretty close to being finished at that point in time.

Tiziano T. Dossena: Reading the book, one can perceive the persistence and determination that drove you to achieve this enormously important win over this powerful industrial giant and will feel in awe of it. Have you at any point almost lost that determination? Was there anything that almost drove you to let go of it? 

James Ferraro: It was a monster undertaking. I originally wasn’t going to take the case. Once I saw the rat studios, I said, you know what, we can make a “state of the art” case, meaning you don’t have to have actual knowledge of the dangers of the product to be liable. When we went through Dupont’s document depository in Delaware, where they buried documents, we found studies that they did on their own that showed they had bad results from the rat studies too. I knew it was going to be pretty big when I got into it, but I didn’t know how big. I personally took every deposition: 63 depositions in four countries. I was sleeping four hours a night. I became like a marine.

It definitely took a toll on my personal life, and I wouldn’t recommend it to any young lawyer starting out. But I never lost determination. The more I knew Dupont was guilty, the more I was motivated to keep going and bring justice to the Castillos.webFerraro

Tiziano T. Dossena: What exactly is Project Blindsided and how can people get involved with it?

James Ferraro: ProjectBlindsided.com  is my website, which not only has information on myself and the book, but allows the public to stand with me and fight for a stronger EPA. The EPA is the police force for the environment, and the environmental policies that keep our food, water, and air safe from poisons. Many in Washington are trying to strip the EPA of regulatory muscle. A weakened EPA puts each one of us in danger and will lead to widespread disaster in the lives of Americans, resulting in devastating maladies from birth defects to cancer.

There’s a page where readers can add their name to show their support for a strong EPA or any government agency (state or local) that will commit resources and tools needed to protect us and the environment from corporate polluters.


This great book may also be purchased at Amazon.com!

comments (0)
view/post comments
no comments yet

Trying To Walk Like A Man; The Chris Wiehl Playbook.
by Milano52
Oct 29, 2017 | 27601 views | 0 0 comments | 886 886 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Interviews with the two authors.
 
 
Trying To Walk Like A Man; The Chris Wiehl Playbook

Interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena

chrisbook

Christopher Wiehl is an American-born actor and filmmaker.  A native of Yakima, Washington, Chris graduated from the University of Washington in 1993 with a major in Dramatic Arts; he migrated to Los Angeles in the summer of ’94, and quickly booked several major ad campaigns, for Old Spice, Coors, Ford, and Coca-Cola, among others. He soon appeared as a Guest Star on numerous popular television series, and by 1997 he became a series regular on shows like Bull, First Monday, Playmakers, and CSI: Las Vegas.

In 1998, Chris added writer, producer, director to his bio when he formed Yakima Productions. The company has released three films and currently houses over a dozen scripts.

In 2009, Chris’ life took a real turn when he received a brain tumor diagnosis. With his baby boy only a month old and a marriage already on the rocks, Christopher’s life was in peril. He had a successful surgery to remove the tumor, but had major complications during recovery. It’s been a long climb back to relevance in the entertainment world and redemption in his personal world. 

Today Chris is healthy and happy again, working in Hollywood and living at the beach, and living a life he thought was out of reach just a few years before.

Trying To Walk Like A Man, The Chris Wiehl Playbook is a wonderful autobiography by the actor/ filmmaker Chris Wiehl, written with ex-actor/writer John Turner; it has sensitivity, honesty and a true account of overcoming apparently insurmountable difficulties that will grab the heart of the reader and will keep it prisoner until the end. In it, the author gets a brain tumor removed, leaving him partially deaf. It’s not only a story of a man prevailing over the aftereffects of a brain tumor, though, but it’s in reality two stories, one of them unwritten in this book: John Turner was also an actor when he was brutally assaulted and left with traumatic brain injury. After that incident, John no longer had the capabilities to perform, so he established a career as a writer.

Their book is therefore more meaningful because of the experience that Mr. Turner had, which allows him to capture Christopher Wiehl’s true feelings and passed them to the reader fully unaltered.

INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS WIEHL

Tiziano Dossena: Do you feel you are a better person because of this unfortunate event of your life? That is, in what ways has ‘being a survivor’ changed you psychologically?

CHRIS WIEHLI definitely have more empathy. Physically, I’m really not “better”—I’m deaf in my right ear, I have balance issues—but psychologically, you bet. I think I’m more patient, more empathetic, and being near death can really change your perspective. I definitely value the little things more. I don’t take nearly as much for granted as I used to. Being able to stay healthy and fit—a lot of those “little things” are more important to me now.

Tiziano Dossena: From every page of your book transpires your view that nothing really positive can be achieved without hard work and perseverance. Do you feel mental stamina is hereditary? Is it part of one’s personality? Can it be built upon? 

CHRIS WIEHLI don’t know if that kind of stamina is hereditary, as much as it’s passed down through generations. You kind of learn it by example. I was really fortunate to have parents that worked very hard, and they showed me the benefits of long-term perseverance. Unfortunately, in the acting business nobody showed me how to keep going when times got tough—not directly, anyway. I did have lots of support from my friends and family, but I kind of had to rely on myself. One thing that I’m glad I did early on—and still do, to an extent—is to make sure and do something positive every single day. So when I’d put my head on my pillow each night, I could say I did something to help myself. And when my breaks finally came, I had a positive attitude about things, and that helped me keep moving forward. So perseverance is a learned skill. It’s like a muscle—the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets.

Tiziano Dossena: Your book tells about your having to survive an unexpected ailment and its consequences and how you came out of it, but if you had only a paragraph to express your feelings, what would you tell someone who has to confront a similar situation as the one you lived through?

CHRIS WIEHLSeveral things: first, that it’s okay to be sad. There’s a great line in Hamlet where his mother says that they need to get up and get going, and Hamlet says, “First, I must bleed.” In other words, take the time you need to work through it, and you’ll be better off in the long run. And depending on the problem you’re facing, try to live day by day—or even minute by minute. Don’t concern yourself with tomorrow, or next week, or even next month. Try to live in the moment. Before you know it, those moments add up to days, weeks, and months. And finally: don’t be ashamed to ask for help! Having your loved ones on your side will go a long way.

Chris Wiiehl

Chris Wiehl

 

Tiziano Dossena: When you returned to your acting occupation, after the operation, was deafness or lack of equilibrium the hardest to deal with, in that context? 

CHRIS WIEHLI think the toughest thing was that I suddenly had to strain to listen a lot more. Doing that would tense my body up, and by the end of a 12-hour day of shooting I would just be exhausted. Luckily the first couple of roles I had weren’t too physically challenging, so I made it through all right. And the good thing was that I’ve become a much better listener when I act–and listening is just as important as speaking. So in that sense, being deaf in one ear has been an improvement.

Tiziano Dossena: Living in New York City just out of college was, as you mentioned in your book, “one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made—but it was also one of the best.” Do you feel that if you would have gone to NYC at a different time of your life, with already enough experience for example, the results would have been different? 

CHRIS WIEHLI think the timing was perfect my first time there. I was a small-town boy from Yakima, Washington, and dealing with all the adversity I did really helped me as I moved forward in my career. I love New York; I think it’s one of the few cities in the world that genuinely has a heartbeat. I’ve been back since and worked on shows like Bronx County and Love Monkey, and really enjoyed my time there. But when I lived in NYC the first time was exactly what needed to happen for me—I learned so much!

Chris Wiehl in one of his TV series

Chris Wiehl in one of his TV series

Tiziano Dossena: You refer to the “Hollywood grapevine” being “just vicious” and that if “words get out that you have (or even had) a medical issue, then you’re marked as damaged goods, and you’re essentially done for…”? How have you overcome this problem and kept afloat and successful in Hollywood?

CHRIS WIEHL: I compare it to being a player on a sports team. If you’re injured and can’t play as well, you’re written off. And it’s the same in Hollywood. Competition is fierce, and you need every advantage possible. I just basically worked really, really hard to rehab myself so that now, I’m not physically handicapped and my health isn’t in question.

Tiziano Dossena: Which one was the acting part that gave you the most satisfaction?

CHRIS WIEHL: Wow. It’s tough to just name one. I honestly go back to when I played John Merrick in The Elephant Man in college, because that part really opened up the whole world of acting for me. But also the first pilot I got called Bronx County was great, and my first series to go to air, a show called Bull, was great too. As an athlete, I loved being on the ESPN show Playmakers, when I got to play an NFL quarterback. So it’s hard to break it down to just one favorite.

One of the movies scripted, produced and directed by Chris Wiehl

One of the movies scripted, produced and directed by Chris Wiehl

Tiziano Dossena: What is your next project as movie producer and/or director? 

CHRIS WIEHLWe have several scripts under our veil right now, but the one I’m most excited about is a film that’s still untitled that my writing partner Danny Kolker and I are working on. It’s about Ironman triathlons, and is sort of a coming-of-age story about two guys competing in Ironman.

Tiziano Dossena: Are we going to see you in any TV series or movie in the next future?

CHRIS WIEHLI’m actually reading for several TV parts and a couple of film parts. I don’t really want to say what they are—I’m superstitious about that!

Tiziano Dossena: By meeting you and John together at the New York Book Show, I had the immediate sensation that yours was a deep friendship and not only work collaboration. How did you meet John Turner and decide he was the right person to help you with your book?

CHRIS WIEHL: I met John through Barbara Terry at Waldorf Publishing. Barbara gave me a list of names of people to interview to be my co-author; John and I had lunch, and we hit it off right away. We had many things in common: John was an actor, he’d had some brain trauma too, and we’re the same age. Plus, I really enjoy John’s “Southern sensibility,” him being from Mississippi; I recently shot a movie there, so we have that connection as well. I think John is very kind and is a great listener, so I thought he was perfect for the project. And we’d like to work together in the future adapting or writing an original screenplay.


 

JOHN TURNER

John Turner is a native Mississippian currently residing in Los Angeles. A 1997 graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi (BFA, Acting/Music), John relocated to New York in 1999 to begin his acting career; in 2002, he was the victim of a brutal mugging and assault, and suffered a traumatic brain injury in the attack. After that incident John no longer had the physical capabilities to perform, so he established a career as a writer. John recollects the terrible mugging (along with other life lessons) in his first book, a collection of humorous short stories called “Confessions of a Gimp” (2014). Since then, John has released two more non-fiction books and has had numerous stories published in national magazines. Learn more about John by visiting his official Facebook author page at facebook.com/johnturnerwriter. In 2014 John relocated to Los Angeles to be with the love of his life, his girlfriend (now his wife) Kari.

INTERVIEW WITH JOHN TURNER

John Turner's book published in 2014

John Turner’s book published in 2014

Tiziano Dossena: Did you somewhat re-live your experience with trauma by helping Chris writing his story?

JOHN TURNER: Oh, sure. One thing I liked to do with Chris while we were doing interviews was to talk about my own experiences with my brain injury, and see if he related to them. That way, when I would transcribe the interview, it would be more organic and honest for me as a writer, and it would help me tell Chris’s story in ways I understood and could relate to.

Tiziano Dossena: Did you ever think, when you started as an actor, that you could have become a writer? Was this something that would have happened anyway, with time? 

JOHN TURNER: Well, I read a whole lot as a kid, and had entered some writing competitions in junior high and high school. So I kind of already knew I had the skill. After I suffered my brain injury and could no longer act, turning to writing was just a natural progression. And if I’m being honest, I think I’m a better writer than I was an actor. So where my professional life is concerned, my brain injury turned out to be a good thing.

John Turner

John Turner

Tiziano Dossena: What is your next book project?

JOHN TURNER:  I’m planning to start a fiction novel early next year. Thus far my books have been non-fiction, but I think I have a pretty good sense of story, so I think I’m ready. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’ll be a bit autobiographical, about a guy who suffers brain trauma—but a side effect of his injury is that he gets a sort of “moral super-power.” Stay tuned for details!



Read more: Queens Ledger - Breaking news, classifieds, businesses, events in Queens, New York. 
comments (0)
view/post comments
Walterrruiz
|
November 01, 2017
I was seeking this specific info for quite a while. Continue posting the great work. Some are really helpful information in there. It is extremely decent to see your site. I get a kick out of the chance to share these sorts of articles to my friends who like to read the websites for increasing great contemplations and information. For more writing information you can refer this best essay writing service from the online writing services.

page
2 3 4 .. 5