Posts Tagged ‘theater’

By Mary Walton

This famous fire will be re-enacted on stage in Ocean Grove on Saturday evening

On March 25, 1911, a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in lower Manhattan took the lives of 146 workers — mostly young, mostly women, almost all Jewish and Italian immigrants. Their deaths ignited a campaign for safer factory working conditions and sparked a unionization drive.

Two years ago, on Triangle’s 99th anniversary, JoAnn Robertozzi, an actress, composer and singer-songwriter from Bayville in Ocean County, staged a 15-minute drama at New York’s Judson Church based on the disaster. Three of the victims — a mother and two daughters — were related to former New York State Senator Serphin R. Maltese, who was in the audience. Maltese commissioned Robertozzi to develop a longer theater piece commemorating the fire.

Robertozzi had already made a name for herself in New York’s Italian-American community. She is founder and artistic director of Ti Piace, an organization dedicated to promoting a positive image of Italian-Americans through art, and also the “architect” of a girl group called “Tre Bella,” which performs popular music with strong harmonies in both Italian and English.

Writer/actress/director JoAnn Robertozzi

At first, Robertozzi told Blogfinger in a telephone interview, she felt obligated to Maltese, a strong supporter of the arts. As her research steeped her in the world of the Triangle workers, however, she became emotionally involved. Mostly from the Italian countryside, “they were horrified to live in tenement housing and work in sweatshops. It was natural for me to feel what my people felt.” The Triangle project became a “labor of love.”

And “Labor of Love” is the title of the staged reading with music that she and eight other performers — “all Italians,” she said — will present Saturday night at the Jersey Shore Arts Center. The play’s action takes place in a single day. “It’s a funny story,” Robertozzi said. “Yes, there’s a tragic ending, but also a lot of profound moments with humor.” The performance will be followed by a Q&A session with members of the cast.

Appearing with Robertozzi are the other members of Tre Bella. Sometimes called “the Italian-American Andrew Sisters,” they were at the Center just last month for a musical performance that benefitted the Culinary Center for the Blind, as will Labor of Love.

The play begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20, $10 for students, and are available at the door.

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