When the curtain went up in A Bronx Tale: The Musical the first thing I saw were non- Italians playing Italian-Americans. It was subtle but I could see it in just the way they were standing.
I mean, I’m sure it’s hard to find actors but it got me worried: is this play going to be just the same old stereotypes? It kind of was. I mean, it’s a great story don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed it and remembered the catchy tunes afterwards. And how cool was it that ROBERT DENIRO directed it!!! I recommend this musical highly. By all means please go see it!
What bothers me is that there really aren’t stories out there for Italian Americans that don’t involve the same old: mafia, spaghetti, and doo-wop.
Like, it’s so important, like, in culture, for every type of person to have, like, a variety of expressions. Why? Because then people who don’t know that variety of person in real life think they’re nothing more than what they see on stage or screen. I’m a good eavesdropper so I overheard someone in the lobby saying, “This was great, I got to learn about their culture.”
This comment made me feel a little uncomfortable.
Look, I know being Italian American and reveling in leopard print and heavy eye shadow sets me apart from other white people I see walking around when I leave the neighborhood and go into the city [Manhattan]. I think they’re the ones who dress weird and tawk funny, but I get that I might have an accent.
To be honest, I can’t really consider myself part of them. But in my Feminist Self Directed Reading Course I learned that in this country the systems of oppression work to relegate people along racial lines. So I guess I am part of the great white way but I’m still confused about why if we’re part of that group, why must they still look at us like we’re monkeys in cages? They seem eager to watch stories about our experience if we promise to talk about the mafia and other topics that we Italian Americans are secretly proud of.
I will also point a gel-manicured finger at us. We Italian Americans kind of do it to ourselves to get attention. In some ways we can’t help it; we love attention and drama —
we’re Italian!! (And I just used a semi-colon for the first time!) Listen, when I talk to people I meet in the city about where I’m from I’ll bring up the quirks of growing up in an Italian neighborhood — mafia pay offs, dead bodies found in the weeds, and ample cannoli — because I know they’ll find me entertaining if I do. And there’s something in our collective blood I think that wants people to find us charming. We are the charmers of that European continent which I’ve never been to and hope to sometime visit on a Perillo tour!
The other thing that stood out to me about this show, especially from all the unlearning I’m doing in my course, is that, like all other mainstream Italian American films, plays, and musicals, it is a man’s story. It’s Chaz’s narrative so, whatever, I guess that’s fine and when women’s stories are finally told men won’t be the stars… but I’m still waiting for them to be told. During the curtain call the women in the cast waved from the fire escapes in the background while the men took a bow center stage. There we go again — we’re stuck in the house while our men run around! I want women to be front and center already — whatthefuck?!
There’s also this other point that I’d like to bring up but am afraid to because I don’t want to sound disrespectful. I was raised to respect my elders, so, Chaz, please don’t think I’m one of those rude people from Jersey Shore.
But I couldn’t help thinking this (please don’t hate me): aren’t you kinda sick of this shit? Like, you’ve been telling the same story since , like,1988. First your solo show, then the movie, then the solo show again, now a musical. That’s a long time and a lot of things!
Here’s what I really wanna know: what ever happened to you when you left the neighborhood? How did you survive? How did you do it? I wanna know because I want to do the same thing. It’s hard to jump when you don’t know what’s on the other side. How did you get people to take you seriously as an Italian American without letting go of who you are? I’d like to have part two of A Bronx Tale already. I’ve been waiting a long time for it.
Chaz, call me anytime to discuss. I’d of course love to star in Part II if you write one!
XO Queens Marie