He who knows the arts….

Cripes, look at the time, I bellowed.  Sweat was pouring off my brow and my clothes were frankly disgusting.  Rossella Mancini and I were setting up an art exhibit and had been collecting and cataloguing pieces all day.  The show would run for seven days and the opening was gulp – in two days.  We were juggling artigianale items – incredible hand loomed fabrics, straw woven into sculptures, wood carvings – with paintings by contemporary artists.  Our idea was to demonstrate how the traditional crafts of a community had a direct impact on the work of younger artists.

No, I screeched, leave her sitting at a table – wait, I’ll add one of the purses.

A painting, waiting to be placed, had been sitting on a little table and propped up on a column. With a little swatch of red cloth, a handmade purse and an empty chair, the painting of a young women in a bikini by Angelo Palladino became one of the “scenes” in the gallery.  Rossella and I were both racing around madly trying to get it all pulled together.  The program booklet?!  We need to design and write something and get it to the printer tonight.

I looked at my watch again.  We had seconds to run down the street to the book launch produced by a group of young friends.  As we raced down the block, from the opposite direction we could hear the tech crew setting up an outdoor stage.  Tomorrow night an International Folk Dance Festival opened.  

Good, there is a line to get in – No one will know we are late.  Cripes, I hope no one I know is here.

Looking like something the proverbial cat dragged in, I said hi to folks I knew and dropped into a seat.  Wow, I thought, the glitterati is out tonight. Not only was the audience well dressed, they all had come early – that must mean something “hot” is happening tonight. The performance space looked incredible – from the comfortable overstuffed turquise couch and coffee table on the stage, to the display of art photos by the incredible Salvatore Griffini, to the piano and guitarist primed to play – the tone was set for an interesting evening.  Taking a breath and hoping no one sat too close to me, I was hit in the head with the boing boing of an epiphany.  This very second, we could be anywhere the arts flourish – in a swank artsy neighborhood in Brooklyn or Downtown Manhattan or Chicago or Austin – BUT WE WEREN’T.  We were in a tiny little southern Italian village – Pontelandolfo.  A place where the young and the old make art.


The evening was produced by “Liberia Tutti”, a group of young writers, actors, artists and musicians.  They had joined forces to produce the book launch in support of photographer, Salvatore Griffini, whose work was in the book. The evening hummed as Liberi Tutti embraced all art forms from vocals supported by piano or guitar, a Brechtian monologue superbly preformed by Gianmarco Castaldi, to a wonderful reading by the talented author Martina del Negro.  Frankly, the editor of the self-published book being launched spoke and I had to suppress my yawns.  Professor Renato Rinaldi, the driving force of the Pontelandolfo News was one of the highlights for me.  What he said reached into my heart and moved me to tears. I hope it will move you.

Chi sa musica, chi sa arte, che sa danza, chi sa teatro, chi sa letteratura, chi sa poesia, sa Pontelandolfo. He who knows music, he who knows dance, he who knows theatre, he who knows literature, he who knows poetry, knows Pontelandolfo.

The art show opened, dance companies from throughout Europe performed, bands

Here I am moments before the opening.  I cleaned up pretty well.

played and the first week of August – Festival Week – tired us aging second actors out but reinforced the words of Renato.  He who knows the arts understands our little corner of the world.

Ci Vediamo.



Grazie Prof. Renato Rinaldi!

I had been coughing for three days – you know that deep you can’t sleep barely move kind of coughing. The ever wonderful Carmela Fusco insisted I visit the doctor. Last Wednesday morning she pushed me up the stairs to the doctor’s office. After the visit and a trip to the farmacia to pick up antibiotics etc, we sat down at Bar Mix Fantasy for a cappuccino and a cornetto – I needed food in my stomach in order to take the pill. I looked like hell, red nose, dirty hair, don’t touch me I’ll kill you look on my haggard face. OK, you got the back story?

As I sat staring, my head so congested I can barely hear, breaking through the clogged head barrier comes “Sei tu Midge?.” I glance over my right shoulder to spy a tall distinguished gentleman looking down at me. “Si” I reply, “Sono Midge.” Carmella smiled at him and said “Ciao Renato”, so I knew we were OK.  

Prof. Renato Rinaldi had wanted to meet me and recognized me sitting there – I’m not sure how – and introduced himself to me. “Buon Giorno,” I say – delighted to meet the esteemed gentleman but also embarrassed at how I looked and felt.  You see, I had contacted him a while back to let him know about this blog. http://www.nonnasmulberrytree.com and wanted to meet him.   Prof. Rinaldi is the creator and editor of Pontelandolfo’s local on-line news magazine – Pontelandolfo News. He is a Pontelandolfo activist and advocate.  Check out his web-site at http://www.pontelandolfonews.com/

I often read the Pontelandolfo News to find out what is going on locally – from politics to real estate. It contains link to news articles on other sites, info on local businesses, reports on government and well, lots of material on Pontelandolfo.

After chatting for a while, Prof. Rinaldi made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, he said that I had his permission to use content from his website for this blog! Grazie mille! I will absolutely take him up on his generous offer.  But more than that, he said he had a gift for me and popped back to his car to get this –

By Prof Renato Rinaldi
By Prof Renato Rinaldi

I was incredibly flattered and touched to receive this huge book.  It represents years of research and editing.  As the editor, Prof. Rinaldi has created the ultimate compilation of documents that recount the heinous burning and mass murder of Pontelandolfesi on August 14, 1861.  Last year the young theater folks of Pontelandolfo staged a venue specific theater piece and frankly, that was the first time I truly understood the story of Il Brigante.

Poster from last year's show.  The work included more than just the massacre story.
Poster from last year’s show. The work included more than just the massacre story.


Not all parts of Italy welcomed the idea of “risorgimento” – unification as one country.  Frankly, the south wasn’t all that interested and it was only the heavy handed military actions that induced their cooperation.  One such incident occurred on August 14, 1861.  Pontelandolfo and the neighboring Casalduni were attacked – some bad folks had killed a few members of the army and the army took its revenge.  The citizens of Casalduni had a little warning and fled.  The attack on Pontelandolfo occurred in the dead of night.  Gun bursts and fires waking up the town.  It is said that about 3,000 men, women and children were mutilated, raped and murdered.  The entire town was burned to the ground.  We will do a full story on this when I’ve had a chance to read Rinaldi’s thorough collection of essays and historic documents.

Prof. Rinaldi was sharing his insight into this history with me, but I was having a difficult time understanding.  My head still spinning with the bronchitis.  He gave me his card and offered to meet with me again.  He also said he would share some historic photos with me.  I can’t wait to sit down with him.

Prof. Rinaldi took my miserable morning and turned it into a wonderful Pontelandolfo experience.  I thank him for that and his generosity.

IMG_0942                      IMG_0943