Category Archives: cd

How I Saved Hundreds of Dollars On Editing

Great article.

Jens Thoughts

More moneyEveryone loves saving money, but sometimes I don’t want to go the extra effort to do so. This time, however, I did take the extra steps and I saved hundreds of dollars. I was thrilled!

If you’re following my posts on Facebook (facebook you know my upcoming novel was sent to my editor January 15th. I sent her 75 pages of my manuscript in order for her to present a scope of work and price. This is what she wrote back:

“I’ve spent some time with chapters of Tears in the Sun, and overall your development and plot are strong. You’re a good writer, and the story is intriguing. You only need light developmental editing.”


I was so excited I didn’t sleep that night! The next day I finally got over myself and looked back at what I did that saved me money, and I laughed. The one thing…

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Mark Twain in Damascus

Interesting post by Barb Drummond.


Some more from Charles Glass, in his ‘Tribes with Flags’. I knew Train travelled to Britain, but I had no idea he had done the Grand Tour to the Middle East as well:

This is Twain on Damascus in 1867:

“She measures time not by days and months and years, but by the empires she has seen rise and prosper and crumble into ruin. she is a type of immortality. She saw the foundations of Baalbek and Thebes and Ephesus laid; she saw these villages grow into mighty cities and amaze the world with their grandeur – and she has lived to see them desolate, deserted, and given over to the owls and the bats. She saw the Israelitish empire exalted, and she saw it annihilated. She saw Greece rise and flourish two thousand years and die. In her old age she saw Rome built; she saw it overshadow the…

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VINO 2016: Highlighting an Award Winning Wine of Cantina Sampietrana


VINO 2016 at the Hilton Midtown Hotel (2/7-2/9) This is the grand ballroom with over 125 exhibitors of Italian wines from the 20 regions of Italy.

Italy, like no other place on earth for its food, is also like no other place on earth for its wines. In the US we are just beginning to understand how the wine making history, terroirs and microclimates of the various wine regions of Italy, have contributed to an abundance of so many wonderful wines. It is almost impossible to wrap one’s head around all the amazing wine possibilities that Italians have lived with all of their lives and for centuries.



At VINO 2016 I tasted Cantina Sampietrana’s wonderful Puglian wines. One featured here is an award winning wine.

Indeed, the entire country of Italy from one corner to the other is layered in the ancient history of winemaking and the appreciation of the beauties of living and enjoying good food paired with wonderful wine. To give you an idea of how much Italians know and understand the ancient wine making business, there are 500 grape varietals in Italy that can be made into a multitude of wines as varied as Proseccos, to dessert wines, to rich full bodied reds and creamy, soothing, light whites. In France, there are only 15 grape varietals that compose French wines. So for every Italian wine tasting I go to like VINO 2016’s tasting that featured over 125 wine exhibitors in the Hilton Midtown grand ballroom on February 8th-9th, I enjoy sampling wines from Italy’s different regions. Slowly, but surely I am learning about the multitude of grapes, their terroirs and microclimates which have produced some of the most incredible Italians wines that pair wonderfully with lip-smacking, delicious, quality Italian food.


This Cantina Sampietrana 52 Brindisi D.O.P Riserva won a Silver Award from Decanter (2015)

VINO 2016 is preparing me for visiting Italy again to visit relatives and to visit some of my most favored wineries whose wines I’ve tasted recently. Some are featured on this blog; others are featured in my Blogcritics posts: the exemplary Slow Wines like Cantina Della Volta and Badia A Coltibuono  and Slow Wines from the Piedmont like those from The Fiorenzo Nada winery, Carussin winery and the  Cà ed Balos winery, and the storied, amazing Tuscan wines of Pietro Beconcini, These represented regions in the North. I also sampled wines from Abruzzo (see the post on this blog of the story of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and winery Valpeligna Vini) and Puglia in my first post about the Negroamaro and Primitivo wines from Cantina Sampietrana produced from their wonderful organic Alberello bush vines.

After attending workshops on wines from other regions at VINO 2016, I went to the grand tasting in the ballroom and spent some time learning about Puglian wines from Stefano Civino who represents Cantina Sampietrana. One wine I didn’t discuss in my previous post about Cantina Sampietrana is their amazing 52 Brindisi D.O.P. Riserva 2012 (see photo). It  is an award winner, a beautiful red statuesque wine, with moderate fruit and earthy palate, barely noticeable tannins and sumptuous, lasting finish. Paired with spicy meats and full flavored cheeses and salumi it is a knockout. I figured it would be best to let Stefano Civino discuss for himself Cantina Sampietrana and an exemplary vintage  of this marvelous blend of Montepulciano (20%) and Negroamaro (80%) via Wine TV with host Jessica Alteri.




VINO 2016: Cantina Sampietrana, the Wonderful Wines of Puglia

IMG_2992VINO 2016, Italian Wine Week, is an unforgettable event that occurs once a year around the first part of February. This year VINO 2016 took place at the Hilton Midtown, NYC (February 7-9). It is a festival of Italian wines where producers, importers, retailers, journalists and wine educators gather to learn about Italian wines and sample some of the marvelous vintages that are being produced throughout the 20 regions of Italy. This year there were approximately 125 producers represented and since I cannot get to all of them though I would have liked to, I had “a little help from my friends” who made recommendations.

My friend, wine connoisseur Chris Black, who hails from Hungary, suggested I stop at a exhibitor he enjoyed, Cantina Sampietrana, a cooperative which produces wines from Puglia. The region of Puglia is Italy’s heel and Southwestern most province. Its coastline fronts the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. I have never been to Puglia, but I have tasted delicious Puglian wines and knew I would not be disappointed by the wines from Cantina Sampietrana. Chris was right to send me there as the wines I tasted were superb.




Stefano Civino, the face and heart of Cantina Sampietrana.

Co-op representative, Stefano Civino who joked that he is “the face of Cantina Sampietrana,” told me that his father is a wine producer and member of the cooperative which was established in 1952. Stefano himself has extensive experience in the wine making business, not only from an international sales and marketing standpoint, but he actually goes into the vineyards. He told me he joins his father in various aspects of vine development; for example, he recently helped to prune the vines. Not only does this exemplify the expert’s desire to remain in touch with the land and vines, it manifests the passion to understand and experience all aspects of expert cultivation which helps to produce top quality wines.

Catina Sampietrana  (whose location is the historic centre of San Pietro Vernotico, a little village in between Brindisi and Lecce in Puglia), produces both reds and whites from mostly indigenous varietals. What makes these wines wonderful? The type of cultivation that requires working with the vines by hand as they grow in bushes, and the bio-dynamic growing techniques; the vines are certified organic using NO Monsanto pesticides, fertilizers or herbicides. I talked to Stefano at length; he knows a great deal about wellness and eating organic, clean food to promote a strong immune system. Of course drinking clean, delicious wines paired with clean food is an important part of good health.


Tacco Barocco Primitivo 2014


Tacco Barocco Negroamaro 2013

I tried the Tacco Barocco Negroamaro 2013, which is 100% Negroamaro grapes made from 50-year-old Alberello bush vines. It is deep red with the fragrance of wild berries. Its oak aging from 9-12 months adds a note of spices to the velvet smooth elegance on the palate. The 2013 Salento IGT has a lasting finish; the tannins are mildly present but flavorful. As a red I would drink it with appetizers of Prosciutto di Parma and mild to sharp cheeses. It would go well with pasta and meat sauces, steaks, and grilled meats and vegetables.

Next was the Tacco Barocco Primitivo (meaning early) 2014 which is 100% Primitivo grapes. The 2014 Salento IGT is ruby red. Refined in oak for 9-12 months, it has a deep, rich, spicy nose and is layered and mellow with a hint of deeper texture on the palate. The tannins are not overpowering and give this wine an expressive finish. It would go great with slow cooked roasts, braised, savory meats, quail, wild boar and moderately sharp cheeses.


The Vigna Delle Monache Salice Salentino DOC Riserva 2011, a fuller bodied wine and quite delicious is made from 100% selected Negroamaro grapes. It has a darker ruby red color. Aging in French oak barrels for 12 months and in bottles for two years adds to the stature of the wine. Its bouquet is of black cherry with a scent of pleasant vanilla. The palate is velvety and profound with a lasting finish.This would go great with well-seasoned earthy dishes, roasts, savory game, poultry, pork and spicy salumi or Grana Padano cheese.

When I go to Puglia, I do plan to stop at Cantina Sampietrana and sample the next sequence of these wines vintages and try some of their other wines. They have tastings and if you call before hand (see the website information or contact your tour guide and arrange a visit), you will have a fun time and be assured that all the vineyards you are looking at are cultivated with passion, assiduous care and astute attention to sustainability and zero negative environmental impact.


VINO 2016: The Story of Montepulciano D’Abruzzo


Producer at VINO 2016. Photo, Carole Di Tosti

The last day of VINO 2016, Italian Wine Week at the Hilton Midtown, NYC (February 7-9) I ran into Chris, a friend and wine connoiseur. This was in the grand ballroom where over 125 Italian wineries and their representatives were exhibiting their wonderful wines. During such amazing tastings, I try to feature one or two regions of Italy and concentrate on their wines. But I always know I am giving the other wineries short shrift. So many wines, so little time! It helps when a friend covers one area and I another and we swap notes.

Chris recommended I stop at Valpeligna Vini and try the 2010 Montepulciano which he really favored along with meeting the two brothers Marco and Giuseppe Iacobucci who were representing the wine cooperative that produced the wines. When I stopped by to see if I agreed with Chris, I spoke to Roberto Polidoro who told me an interesting story and cleared up a few facts about the wines we associate with Montepulciano that for me, Frances Mayes made famous in her book Under the Tuscan Sun.


Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Don Peppe 2010, Photo Carole Di Tosti

Did you know that Montepulciano D’Abruzzo is a particular grape that evolved in Abruzzo (the province running from the Appinnines, East of Rome to the Adriatic coast), and it is not to be confused with the wine referred to as Montepulciano, actually Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, a Tuscan wine which is a meld of Sangiovese and other grapes? I did not. Italy has over 500 indigenous varietals that are found in the twenty regions of Italy. To give you some perspective, France has only 15 varietal grapes. So when one begins to learn about the great wines of Italy, you will learn amazing stories about the evolution of their many, many grapes and you will want to continue learning about them once you begin to get your “feet wet,” and try another grape varietal or blend which is at the heart of another superb Italian wine.

This is the interesting story about the Montepulciano grape varietal, which did NOT originate in Tuscany, even though it takes the name of the town of Montepulciano in the province of Siena. The grape that grew in Tuscany in the area of Montepulciano was the Prugnolo grape varietal. Prugnolo was cultivated around Montepulciano, Siena since the Renaissance. All the European Renaissance courts from Venice to Paris adored Prugnolo. However, it was around the XVIII century before the French Revolution in 1789 that the Mazzara Nobility had the Prugnolo grape transplanted in the Peligna Valley because of the appropriate climate, soil and other features. The farmers and vintners in the Peligna Valley liked the wines produced by the Prugnolo, but didn’t use that appellation; they used a short-cut to name it, like saying “that Montepulciano grape.”


Don Peppe 2010, Valpeligna Vini Carole Di Tosti

It has been documented by travelers at the time (Michele Torcia) of 1792 that the grape referred to as “Montepulciano” was being grown everywhere in the Peligna Valley. The irony is that the nature of the micro-climate, the soil, the suns and winds and the cultivation techniques impacted the Prugnolo and actually changed the life blood of the grape’s morphology and thus evolved a completely different grape varietal which those of the then Abruzzo-Moliese (now Abruzzo because the two provinces split in 1963) region were growing. They referred to it as “Montepulciano.”

Thus, who would think that from the Prugnolo, a different grapevine evolved and it was the familiar named grape varietal, Montepulciano. After the split of the provinces in 1963, it became Montepulciano D’Abruzzo because the Peligna Valley and other areas in Abruzzo are where the Montepulciano grapes are grown.


Giuseppe and Marco of Valpeligna Vini with the Don Peppe 2010. Photo Carole Di Tosti

The full-bodied, bold character of the “that Montepulciano grape” is best realized in the Peligna Valley where Marco and Giuseppe Iacobbuci and other vintners combine their efforts in their cooperative, Valpeligna Vini. And I must say the wine of the Montepulciano D’Abruzzo D.O.C. is sensational and very different from the Tuscan Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, a blend.

I tried the Don Peppe 2010. Its color is dark, deep ruby red. There were lovely notes of black cherry melded with vanilla. It was complex and layered and had a long, strong finish. The tannins were not overwhelming but balanced. Such a wine is great with Grana Padano and other sharp cheeses, salumi, and of course, red meats, roasts and pasta.

Italian wines like the Italian people themselves have within them an amazing story to tell. If we remember that all of Italy’s peninsula is a phenomenal food and wine region (I like to say you can’t get a bad meal in Italy), with the evolution of grape growing morphed by nobles and peasants alike, by monks and clergy who were diligent vintners. The wine tradition goes even further back to the ancestors of today’s Italians, for example, Etruscans, Samnites, Greeks, Romans because often the wine which was fermented, was SAFER and more delicious to drink than water. Indeed, there are similarities to today and upon doing a bit of research, it is amazing what one discovers: the more recent Montepulciano D’Abruzzo grape varietal is a welcome, wonderful addition to Italy’s indigenous varietals.

For me the story of this grape represents the ingenuity of vintners and how they are constantly developing and enhancing their vineyards with improved techniques to tease out the finest most luscious quality wines. As an added note, this does not involve use chemicals (pesticides, herbicides) over a thousand of which are banned in the European Union. The Montepulciano D’Abruzzo is strictly the morphology of the terroir, the microclimate of the Peligna Valley, the sun, wind and rains of the region as it develops from year to year and enjoys its enriched life. These wines of Valpeligna Vini are all bio-dynamic. They are grown with the passion and tender care of the vintners whose vineyards are on the Maiella hillside in Abruzzo. For further information check: Valpeligna Vini.

The Top 50 Sites for Indie and Self-Published Authors

Jens Thoughts

I stumbled across this fantastic resource and wanted to share with you. I’d love to hear any feedback.

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Commedia dell ‘Artichoke: A Pizza/Theater Combo You’ll Love

Carter Gill, Pulcinella, Commedia dell 'Artichoke, Gene Frankel Theatre,

Carter Gill  in Commedia dell ‘Artichoke at the Gene Frankel Theatre. Photo courtesy Jacob J. Goldberg.

One of the best kept secrets in Manhattan for enjoying a night of rollicking, hysterical fun, lip-smacking sumptuous pizza and a bit of wine to restore one’s nerves during a hectic work week is Commedia dell’Artichoke at the Gene Frankel Theatre. Presented by Frances Black Projects in association with CAP21, the production is a hyper blast party of stupendous fun which runs until February 6.

Commedia dell’Artichoke is a ripping comedy like no other you will see in the city for its inventiveness, extemporaneous joyride, audience participation and prescient, trending humor.  It’s conceived by the ingenious team of Frances Black, Carter Gill and Tommy Russell, who have honed their artistic statement into a whimsical whirlwind, a compendium of ancient and modern social satire about how the wealthy stick it to the classes beneath them and how the working classes push back with resilience, humor and verve. The show boasts Devin Brain at the director’s helm who skillfully guides the unique performance art of Carter Gill, Alexandra Henrikson, Tommy Russell and Shannon Marie Sullivan. All of these actors are scintillating.

Over the course of the evening, Gill, Henrikson, Russell and Sullivan broadly portray 10 characters in the Commedia dell’arte style, with grotesque masks, antic characterizations and hyper-mannered behaviors. Not only are the actors superb comedians with expert timing, they sing and dance with sheer abandon. The show has an extemporaneous feel, added to by the audience participation: anything can happen. Surprising moments are completely appropriate to the winding, picaresque storyline.

Shannon Marie Sullivan, Commedia dell 'Artichoke, Gene Frankel Theatre

Shannon Marie Sullivan in Commedia dell ‘Artichoke. Photo by Jacob J. Goldberg.

The beauty of the production is that the silly absurdity of some scenes allows the actors’ musical breakouts, which prompt our unexpected laughter. And that ebbs into somber thoughtfulness about the wisdom of what we have experienced; this is expert, clever, comic pacing. We appreciate the pithy jokes about “The American Dream-nightmare,” trending political slogans, social media topics, gender loops and much more. The humor is sardonic, darkly funny, socially meaningful. All makes complete sense, and you have the time of your life romping in the intellectual brilliance and ridiculousness of these characters who “know the score.”

The original musical numbers are beautifully integrated, with appropriate accompaniment by band leader and multi-instrumentalist Robert Cowie. The music helps shape the plot dynamics and organically evokes the scenes. The actors/characters bring Cowie into their ensemble as their dutiful “conductor” of fun. He good-naturedly accompanies/instigates the songs, fanciful tunes and dances.

This “gypsy” music echoes the ideas of love and empathy. In a deus ex machina rescue, the villain, Adam Smith’s “Vile Maxim” incarnate, La Capitana (portrayed with audacious, Trump-like ferocity by the operatic Alexandra Henrikson), is deflected from enacting dire financial doom upon our hero, Carter Gill’s brash, endearing everyman and pizza “entrepreneur” Pulcinella. As the production concludes, hope and a stay of financial execution are achieved for another day. All ends well in the perfect unity of comedy.

If I had to explain to you specifically how we arrived at this superb finale, I couldn’t. The journey is labyrinthine, fraught with diversions and robust antic scenes from Pulcinella’s conflicted life, leading back to the beginnings when Pulcinella, whose pizza we have enjoyed, explains his New York City dreams to become a “self-made man.” With gyrating plot arcs which double back on themselves, vignettes which make sense in their nonsense, and brilliant jokes that kill as they are tossed off like salad leaves for you to either graze on or disallow, this is as close to Commedia dell’arte style as you will see in our savvy, super-cool city.


Carter Gill, Alexandra Henrikson, Tommy Russell and Shannon Marie Sullivan in Commedia dell ‘Artichoke at the Gene Frankel Theatre. Photo by Jacob J. Goldberg.

Scenes spiral out from protagonist Pulcinella and his retinue. The conflict pounces on our poor hero in the form of villain Capitana and her sycophant lackey Tartaglia. Capitana, a crazy caricature of the stereotypical mannish woman boss, signifies the American nightmare of the business class that will stop at nothing to make American business “great,” “big” and “hard” again in order to blow away China (the sexual allusions are funny).

In keeping with these undemocratic notions, Capitana must wipe out Pulcinella and develop the area (her projected store possibilities are riotous) into “greatness.” It is a displacing event all too familiar to real-estate-pressured New Yorkers. Along the way, we meet other Commedia-style “stock” characters in Pulcinella’s life, modernized but with their Commedia flavor (thanks to Commedia consultant Christopher Bayes) present. The comic scenario has been ramped up to satirize urban life, mega-developers vs. the little guy, crazy cultural tropes, corporate business models, etc.

The hijinks are nonstop. And as you enjoy the entertainment, you also swallow the characters’ irony about our city’s social infirmities: its hyper-development, its classism, its intransigence against democratic wellbeing for all. We laugh as Pulcinella comments about having to work and work and work some more and work your butt off and do more work, ostensibly to make it to the first rung up the ladder of success.

And as for climbing up into the clouds where the Bloombergs and Trumps abide, there’s always a Capitana to toll the financial death knell or pour acid into one’s bleeding bank wounds. These types manifest the cryptic financial screed of being “bigger and better” (as Capitana does to Pulcinella) by raising the rent to “one dollar more than you can afford.” Though it isn’t stated, the message is clear and we have come to know it as brutal irony: “It’s nothing personal, just business.”

The actors’ high energy spins out other rapid-fire scenes about the ridiculousness of who we choose to love, the zany relationships we become involved in, and a guy’s proper etiquette toward a gal. Such pointed jokes ground us in ourselves. The sharp humor brings us to the remembrance that in the theater as in life, we are in this together. As we laugh, we encourage each other to enjoy the journey. We can control some things, but other events just unfold. We dare not stand in the shadows nor miss the passing parade or the fun will dissolve. Just dive in and don’t consider how it will turn out because what you prepare for won’t necessarily happen in the ways you expect.

Pulcinella’s artichoke pizza is one of the better pizzas in the city. You certainly do not want to miss his hard work and the effort it took to concoct his super recipe of deliciousness and fun. The production is comic genius. The show should be extended or brought back again in another venue. See it while you still can.  Commedia dell’Artichoke will be at the Gene Frankel Theatre until February 6.

A Conversation With Dan Lauria About The Inspiration For His Play ‘Dinner With The Boys’

Dan Lauria, Ray Abruzzo, Richard Zavaglia, 'Dinner With The Boys,' Acorn Theatre

(L to R) Dan Lauria, Ray Abruzzo, Richard Zavaglia in ‘Dinner With The Boys,’ at the Acorn Theatre until July. Photo courtesy of the website.

Before Dinner With The Boys opened Off Broadway at the Acorn Theatre, I went to a press event for the production where the producer and director introduced the show, its cast and playwright Dan Lauria (Lombardi, Christmas Story, The Musical), who also stars as Charlie. The play is about two wise guys with issues that only Big Anthony Jr. (Ray Abruzzo-“The Sopranos”), can solve after he shows up for a delicious home cooked, mouth watering dinner by Dom (Richard Zavaglia-Donnie Brasco) who is Charlie’s chef roommate. The press event and following conversation with Dan Lauria took place before I saw and reviewed the production. Turns out what I had intuited about the performances was spot on. The show is smashing and I enjoyed the rollicking night of joy and farce that has a number of sardonic twists. You can read my review here on Blogcritics.

Introductory Remarks by the Producer, Director and Playwright

Pat Addiss, 'Dinner With The Boys,' Acorn Theatre

Pat Addiss, producer of ‘Dinner With The Boys,’ at the Acorn Theatre. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Pat Addiss (Producer): I knew Dan Lauria when he played the lead, Jean Shepherd, in A Christmas Story, The Musical for us. And he told me about this wonderful show that he’d written for Dom DeLuise and Charles Durning and Jack Klugman and he told me how they were all dead. And I asked him if he isn’t getting a message. And he got the message. And he loved Gabe Barabas and SuzAnne Barabas at The New Jersey Repertory. He knew them before I was on the board. And he wanted them to produce this even though we were just a little black box theater. It all happened thanks to Dan and Suzanne and Gabe. Here I am; I’m so lucky that last night I had my own dinner with the boys. We are also going to have a dinner at Tony DiNapoli’s every Tuesday where people can buy tickets and can also buy dinner at Tony DiNapoli’s and have dinner with the boys. I’m very excited about the production, but before I go any further, I’d like to introduce our wonderful director Frank Megna and he can tell us a bit about the play.

Frank Megna, 'Dinner With The Boys,' Acorn Theatre

Frank Megna, director of ‘Dinner With The Boys,’ at the Acorn Theatre. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Frank Megna (Director): Hello everybody. I was lucky enough to direct the play in Jersey. Dan and I go back to when we first played mafiosos together thirty plus years ago. You played Al Capone and I played a character named Joey Adonis and I walked around without my shirt a lot which back in those days meant something. (laughter) The play is unusual. It’s a surprise. It’s not a typical Sopranos kind of a deal. It’s interesting in exposing some of the links that need to surface and that go on in this world that we’re investigating. I think you’ll have a lot of fun. Now, I’ll introduce Mr. Lauria who wrote it.

Dan Lauria, 'Dinner With The Boys,' Acorn Theatre

Dan Lauria in ‘Dinner With The Boys,’ at the Acorn Theatre. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Dan Lauria (Playwright): Thanks to all here for their work on the production in New Jersey. This is a very twisted play. (crowd laughs) Like Pat said, it was originally written for my mentor Charlie Durning and for Jack Klugman, Peter Falk and Dom DeLuise. It was actually Dom DeLuise’s idea. To this day the funniest lines are Dom DeLuise’s ad libs, which I take full credit for. (we laugh) I still remember the night we read it and the reaction of Peter Falk who never cracks up. He was saying the lines I wrote. Dom just got up and did this ad lib. Peter just lost it. He looked at the audience and said, (Dan does a perfect Peter Falk imitation), “It doesn’t say that!” I said, “It does now.” So we’re keeping their names alive. It’s really a play about all the violence that we’re consuming. We had a lot of fun and loads of laughs, but the purpose of the play is there’s too much of this gratuitous violence. They’re not even in the genre of horror movies any more. They’re mutilation films. So this spoofs all that. I’m very lucky to have Richard Zavaglia who’s been with us from the beginning. He actually read the narration the first time Charlie and Dom read it. Ray Abruzzo, Little Carmine from “The Sopranos”…he is a chameleon. For him to do what Jack Klugman and Peter Falk did? What a testament for an actor. So that alone is worth the price of the ticket. (we laugh)

After the introductory remarks, I spoke to Dan Lauria about the show.

I’m very happy to see you again. I enjoyed your performances in A Christmas Story, The Musical which was a lot of fun and Lombardi was wonderful.

Dan Lauria, 'Dinner With The Boys,' Acorn Theatre

Dan Lauria in ‘Dinner With The Boys,’ at the Acorn Theatre until July. Photo by Carole Di Tosti.

Dan Lauria: This is totally different than either of those two.

Tell us how it’s different.

Well, for Italians who come to see the show, they either get very offended, or they realize, oh, you’re spoofing the stereotype of kill, eat, curse. Yet, there’s no cursing in the play. People always tell me, “Oh, the language.” And I ask, “What curse?” And they say, “Well…???” There isn’t any. We spoof shows like “The Sopranos,” etc., and usually by the end, all the Italians are like, “Yeah, there should be more plays like this.” So it takes a little while for them to catch on. But like I said initially, it’s really about all the violence we’re consuming. I wanted to write a serious play about that subject. But Dom DeLuise said, “Ah, it will sound preachy. Now, if you make that funny…” So that’s what we did.

You mentioned before, all of these horror flicks that have violence…

Well, not even the horror flicks so much as the mutilation films.

Well, people devouring other people…

Ah, zombies and vampires? Well, this spoofs them. I have an 8-year-old godson and I can’t stand the violence in the video games, like blowing up heads and exploding body parts. So we talk about that in a funny way, but you don’t see any of that. As a matter of fact, the only blood you see in our show is that Ray takes a ketchup bottle and sprays it on the window. And we don’t care if the audience sees it’s ketchup. It’s a joke and it’s a spoof of the blood.

'Dinner With The Boys,' Frank Megna, Dan Lauria, Ray Abruzzo, Richard Zavaglia

(L to R) Frank Megna (director), Dan Lauria, Ray Abruzzo, Richard Zavaglia in ‘Dinner With The Boys,’ at the Acorn Theatre. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

OK, now, what’s the food?

Well, I don’t want to give it away. (we laugh) But there are excellent recipes

It’s homemade.

Oh, it’s all homemade. Dom, who is played by Richie Zavaglia cooks delicious dinners. The role was supposed to be played by Dom DeLuise. Dom DeLuise was a great chef and he actually gave us some of the ideas for the recipes. As a matter of fact there’s a line about a cacciatore that’s spoken and it’s strictly Dom DeLuise. That was one of his ad libs.

You were close to Dom and Peter Falk?

I was closest to Charles Durning. He was like my Dad and I was close to Jack Klugman. I gave the eulogies at both their funerals. But Peter and Dom I knew very well. It’s a shame when I meet young people who don’t know them.

Richard Zavaglia, 'Dinner With The Boys,' Acorn Theatre

Richard Zavaglia (Dom) was with Dan Lauria from the beginning of the play’s development narrating at readings. ‘Dinner With The Boys,’ at the Acorn Theatre. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

They may see the TV reruns. But Dom DeLuise was absolutely hysterical. I forget what I saw him in but I was belly laughing. (I remembered later: Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood Men in Tights, 1993)

The first night we read the play…Peter couldn’t read because he was working. So I read the part. But I’m sitting in the wings with Jack Klugman and Jack said, (Dan Lauria does a gravely voiced Jack Klugman imitation here), “Dom DeLuise will say something tonight that will bring down the house that no other actor can say.” And during the reading, Dom literally while he’s hearing this grotesque story, said, “Woof.” And the audience went on the floor. And Jack Klugman said, “No actor you know could say ‘Woof,’ and get a reaction like that.” (Lauria laughs) He was right. And when I wrote it into the script and I sent it to somebody to read, they sent it back to me with notes saying, “What does ‘Woof’ mean?’” (Lauria laughs) I said, “Forget it. We’ll never get it.” (we laugh) That’s how creative he was.

Absolutely adored him. Peter Falk as well.

One of the hardest working actors.

I saw him as a kid in Pocket Full of Miracles. He stole the scenes he was in from the other actors.

That was the Frank Capra movie. Falk was the only one to get nominated for an Academy Award as a supporting actor in that film. Peter told us a story about him and Edward Everett Horton who played the butler. They were shooting the scene where Peter was being helped to put on his coat by the very proper butler played by Horton. It was funny and there were no cuts, so they finished it with the crew laughing. As a matter of fact the first take was ruined because Frank Capra laughed out loud so hard, sound picked it up. Capra said, “I’m sorry boys, let’s do it again.” So they did it again, and it was even funnier. Frank Capra said, “Great, great, but let’s do it again.” And then the third or fourth take, Frank Capra actually put a knot in the sleeve. That’s the one that’s in the movie. And it was hysterical and his own people were rolling in the aisles. Frank Capra said, “Great, great, let’s do it again!” And Peter went up to him and said, (Lauria in a great imitation of Peter Falk), “Frank is there something wrong? I mean why are we doing it again?” And Capra said, “Oh, Peter, I’m going to use the one with the knot in the sleeve, but the crew is enjoying it so much.” Peter said to me, “Frank Capra was the best audience I ever played to.”

Richard Zavaglia, Ray Abruzzo, Dan Lauria, 'Dinner With The Boys,' Acorn Theatre

(L to R) Richard Zavaglia, Ray Abruzzo, Dan Lauria in ‘Dinner With The Boys,’ at the Acorn Theatre. Photo courtesy of the site.

Ah, inspired by Capra, he gave a great performance in Pocketful of Miracles. Now, when you were writing Dinner With the Boys, what was the specific conceptualization? You thought, I’m writing something serious…then changed it?

Yes. I was driving Dom DeLuise down to Palm Springs for the Frank Sinatra Golf Tournament. I always play in it every year. And on Friday night Dom was going to do his “stand-up” but we called it the “sit-down,” because he never stood up. He was very funny and he was a good friend of Frank’s. As we’re driving down…previously, I had written something else that he liked. So he asked, What are you working on now?” And I told him I wanted to write about the violence with the kids. This was years ago because you could see it getting worse and worse with the video games. And he said, “Well, it’s going to be too preachy. Now, if you can make fun of consuming violence.” I said, “How would you do that?” He said, “Well, they’ve got to eat violence.” So that triggered the idea, and then as I wrote it with him and Charlie in mind, it just developed.

I’d like to think they’re watching.

We put it in the program that every performance is dedicated to them.

Ray Abruzzo, 'Dinner With The Boys,' Acorn Theatre

Ray Abruzzo (Big Anthony Jr.) in ‘Dinner With The Boys’ written by Dan Lauria, at the Acorn Theatre. Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Now, from what part of Italy is your heritage?

Well, I don’t think Lauria is my real last name. I think it’s Signorelli. But my father’s family was from the heel, the town of Lauria. So it’s the Corleone thing. (Dan is referring to how immigrants were given the names of the towns where they came from since the officials couldn’t pronounce or spell Italian names that looked too complicated, like in the film The Godfather II) But my mother was from Naples. She would say, “We’re the cooks.”

I assumed you might be Neapolitan.

When my mother met Joe Mantegna, she said, “Where are your people from?” Joe said, “Well, my mother’s from Calabria.” And my mother knocked on her head. (the Calabrians are reputed to be hard headed). And he said, “Well, my father’s from Sicily.” And my mother said, “Oh, you’re half Italian.” (we laugh) Joe and I still get a laugh out of remembering that when he comes to my apartment.

Do you keep the traditions going or not? Well, with the food, I imagine. Have you gone to Italy?

No, I’ve never taken a vacation like that. I’ve never been to Europe. I haven’t taken a day off.

Do you want to go?

Yeah, I will if I get the chance or get a job over there. I don’t really vacation, I just work. Charlie Durning did that. This is my approximately 60th-something play.

(PR is signaling me to wrap up the interview) A feat in itself. Hopefully you’ll be able to travel to Europe at some point.

Of course. Well, maybe we can get an English speaking company over there because this play would do very, very well.

They would adore it.

They would catch it right away that we’re spoofing that stereotype.

Do you speak Italian?

Very little. My mom did. I can understand it more than I can speak it.

Well, good luck with the play I’m sure the New Jerseyites are following you over here and continuing the fun from New Jersey Rep.

Yeah, we had some really fun nights there.

Dinner With The Boys is at Theatre Row, the Acorn Theater, 410 42nd Street. The production is continuing there for another month including VIP Tuesdays and Nonna Wednesdays. The show is in a limited run and will end on Sunday, July 5th. It’s a feast of fun. Enjoy it before the run concludes.

‘Goodbye to All That Director’ Angus MacLachlan: Interview

Award winning (Tribeca Film Festival, Best actor in a narrative feature), has the lead ball drop on him in this scene with

Award winning (Tribeca Film Festival, Best actor in a narrative feature), has the lead ball drop on him in this scene with

Goodbye to All That screened at the IFC Center in New York City on Wednesday, December 17th. I had the opportunity to sit down with the film’s writer/director Angus MacLachlan to discuss how he felt about his directorial debut.

About the film

Goodbye to All That is a multi-genre work that is beautifully unique and impossible to pin down. Like life it is composed of wonderful comedic moments, drama, poignancy and surprises that smash you over the head. It is an adult coming-of-age film about a late-30-something male, Otto Wall, played by Paul Schneider. Otto’s wife leaves him and he is upended, having to deal with loneliness and learn about dating, sex and relationships in the Social Media age, while raising his 11-year-old daughter.

About Angus MacLachlan

MacLachlan is an award-winning playwright. As a screenwriter he is best known for Junebug which earned him a nomination for an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay, and which garnered a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for Amy Adams. Junebug also won a Special Jury Citation at Sundance Film Festival in 2005, and was nominated for Best Screenplay by the Washington Area Film Critics. It appears that the screenwriter/director is moving in the same vein with this, his latest film. Goodbye to All That received noted acclaim in its world premiere at 2014 Tribeca Film Festival where it was a festival winner in the Best Actor category for a narrative feature. MacLachlan was also nominated in the Best Narrative Feature category.

Angus MacLachlan, director of 'Goodbye to All That.' Photo by Carole Di Tosti

Director Angus MacLachlan (‘Junebug’ screenwriter and screenwriter/director ‘Goodbye to All That’). Photo by Carole Di Tosti

You’ve morphed from screenwriting and added directing to your skill set. How do you feel about this?

The most satisfying thing about directing this film is that I got to complete the process. I was a playwright for a number of years and an actor for a number of years. When you write for theater or film you don’t write for it to be written. You write for it to be experienced in time and space in some manner. And a lot of times, especially if you’re a screenwriter, things aren’t made. So it feels frustrating. It feels like you haven’t finished the process. Or if you’re just a screenwriter, sometimes you don’t see the full execution of your work. For example I loved Junebug and I loved what Phil Morrison did. But sometimes I’ve had the experience where they’ve taken what I’ve done, and not done what I thought or what my intentions were, and it didn’t turn out well or turn out how I thought it should be. With this one I got to finish the process and follow my imagination. I was able to say, look! This is the way I think it should be acted. This is the way I think it should be cut. That was great. I got to make the movie I wanted to make which was great and rare.

So as the director, you had the opportunity to pretty much stick to the screenplay
as it was written.

Well, with Junebug, Phil Morrison really, really respected the text in a way that is unusual. But some people think of screenplays as just being jumping off points. I really am a text person, so the text was set and we did the text. Yes, the actors will throw in a line or a suggestion. But it was really what I imagined. What I had written was what the final film is.

I particularly like the incorporation of social media and how you developed your main character Otto who is blindsided by his wife who wants a divorce. Can you talk about how you worked on his characterization and what inspired you to create Otto Wall?

Well, the film came about because of a number of friends who had gone through similar circumstances as Otto [had]. I am married myself and have a daughter, but I’m not divorced. Today, I’m not divorced. But I had a number of close friends who went through very similar things. They would tell me stories that were harrowing and sad and scary and funny and erotic and sexy and I would take notes about them. Finally, I thought: I’m going to have to write something.

One of the inspirations for the film was this movie from the 1970s, An Unmarried Woman with Jill Clayburgh, which was about a woman who was married and had a daughter and suddenly, her husband says I don’t want to be married. She goes out on dates and has to balance that with being a mother, and eventually she meets this great guy played by Allen Bates, but doesn’t leave with him. That was in 1979, and really about the women’s movement and feminism and how a woman can stand on her own.

I wanted to see if could you tell that story from a man’s perspective. Otto is not immature, he’s just unconscious. He’s not aware and he’s got to become conscious. He needs to have his consciousness raised. Can one tell that story? So that’s really where the film came about.

Your idea of the social media piece was a real theme about how he discovers what his wife was doing because he spies on Facebook, and how an old girlfriend finds him because of Facebook, and how through a site like OKCupid you can pick up people. Things are so different than they were maybe 15 years ago before he was married. That was a real intention in the film.

I thought it was very organic as well, when he goes to Facebook with her password and follows her posts and makes a discovery. I must have laughed for a full minute because I know someone that happened to.

I know [laughs]. When I wrote that, I did a little poll with married couples. I asked them, “Do you know your mate’s password? When would you ever use it?” The first thing everyone would say was, “If I thought they were cheating, I would use it.” Some people were like, “Well, I don’t know.” But a lot of them would.

Paul Schneider and Melanie Lynskey in 'Goodbye to All That.' Photo take from the trailer of the film.

Paul Schneider and Melanie Lynskey in ‘Goodbye to All That.’ Photo from the film.

The element of trust comes into it. You have to trust one another not to go on Facebook. You don’t want to be stalking your own mate.


I thought his age and Facebook which is for an older crowd was great. My grandniece (she’s 13) uses Instagram. It would have been a different film. Could you talk about that?

You know, we were a little bit delayed in being released. I kept telling the team, “We’ve got to get released because you know something else may take its place.” [we both laugh] “They’re going to change Facebook, or something is going to change or something new will come along.” The tech moves so, so fast. But the thing I think is so common now is connecting to old friends and connecting to people you find on Facebook that you knew in high school. That happens I think to a lot of people in their 30s, 40s.

Absolutely. It was appropriate and added such a human quality to the film which was great. How did you cast Paul Schneider? What a find.

I know. Well, he is an actor I knew of. We actually both went to the same school, though I never met him before. A number of actors came up in discussion. We had a great casting guy, Mark Bennett. Otto Wall was a delicate role to cast. We needed someone who was attractive enough that all these women would want to go to bed with him, but he couldn’t be too attractive or he would be like a player. You had to believe he was a father, had to believe he was a runner and be able to do the physical piece. Also, I really wanted to cast an actor who you could believe liked women and wanted to go to bed with them and them with him.

Paul Schneider fit the part. He was from North Carolina which was great. I can’t imagine anyone else playing the character. He, Paul, is not like Otto. Paul is really smart, really sharp and Otto is not so smart. So he creates a complete character and he’s wonderful. And also we needed someone we could believe really was a father. Paul’s not a father, yet he really does a great job.

He was phenomenal. Well, Tribeca Film Festival awarded him Best Actor in a Narrative Feature, which is a validation of his acting and your directing. I thought your work with the editing was wonderful, including his reactions when he was on Facebook. Did you rehearse any of this beforehand?

We did very little rehearsal. No. I had a great editor, Jen Lilly, and we worked together every day side by side. I think my experience helped. I was an actor for a long time and had been on stage and in a few films and also directed in the theater. You get a feeling of rhythm and play. That was really important. You try to get the comedy and create moments that perhaps weren’t there in the performances. That comic rhythm was something that was very important.

Paul Schneider and Amy Sideris in 'Goodbye to All That,' directed by Angus MacLaghlan. Photo from the trailer.

Paul Schneider and Amy Sideris in ‘Goodbye to All That.’ Photo from the trailer.

Well, you certainly got it. What is your favorite moment?

I don’t know if I have any favorite moments in the film.

Or a moment that surprised you – anything like that.

I don’t know if it’s a favorite moment, but when Otto and Lara (Heather Lawless) first meet at the reunion, they’re standing in the doorway and they’re talking, talking, talking. Then she stops and says, “Oh, you have a daughter.” And he says, “Yes.” And she says, “Does she have your eyelashes?” And there’s a moment where they look at each other. They did not do this in reality. I had to create that moment. I just wanted to see her look, and remember, and think, you have a child, and I loved your eyelashes when we were 15 years old. I loved that. That’s movie making because it was the collaboration of what they did and didn’t do, and what the editing did and how it was shot. We created this moment. I just liked that humanness. You know it would be something that your old girlfriend would say. “When we were 15 we all talked about your great eyelashes. Now you have a daughter. Does she have them too?” I just thought that’s a very human thing.

When moments like that work and form a wholeness, that’s exciting. So where do you go from here?

You’re telling me. [we laugh]

The doors are opening. I saw it at Tribeca. Paul won and the film was nominated.

From your mouth to God’s ears! Unfortunately we have a very, very tiny release. The situation with films is it is very hard to get them in theaters. We’ll be in VOD. But because the genre is not out-and-out comedy nor out-and-out drama and because our actors are not Matthew McConaughey, it’s very hard to sell it. It’s been a real challenge to get it out there. It still is.

It would do well in my local indie movie theater..

Where’s your theater?

In the city, Queens.

See, it’s only playing at the IFC Center, starting on Wednesday.

So the word needs to get out.

It sure does. I have been contacting everyone. I’m not even on Facebook and I’m doing a Facebook page and contacting everybody I know to go see it. [we laugh] It’s only going to open in five theaters. In New York and Pittsburgh and Santa Fe and Monterey and Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I’m like, if it’s not in your theater, tell folks to get it on VOD.

Paul Schneider and Ashley Granger in 'Goodbye to All That,' by Angus MacLachlan. Photo from the trailer.

Paul Schneider and Ashley Granger, ‘Goodbye to all That.’ Photo from the trailer.

I know so many people who would adore this film. It’s that age group (married, getting divorced). It’s not a chick flick, and guys will see the females and really appreciate them.

That’s my thought. [we laugh] Too bad you’re not running a studio.

How did you get the funding?

It was cobbled together through private financing. And it wasn’t Kickstarter. Just me going and begging.

What did you learn?

Enormous things, enormous things. I learned a lot about how to write. I understand why screenwriters are treated badly in films because the director really has to make the film his own. I learned a lot about how vulnerable actors are and how a director really can create a performance and make it even better or make it much worse than what the actor does. I learned a lot about the business and how really dire independent film making is. I learned that it’s tough.

That hurts because I have friends who are trying.

I know. There are so many films out there and so few ways to make money at it or make money back.

What about Netflix?

Well, it will be on iTunes and VOD and Amazon and then they negotiate later for Netflix. But you know Netflix is going to produce their own stuff, so who knows what they’re going to do.

But it will get legs and as it gets out there, people will find it.

Yeah, they have to discover it.

Could you talk a little bit about the women you cast in the film?

They were great. Thanks goes to a great casting director. I really needed strong women who could make an impression in like two minutes. Amy Sedaris is on the screen for two minutes and you don’t know who she is. And Celia Weston who plays the therapist. All of them were so fantastic. And the women who did the sex scenes? It is very difficult to do that. Everyone was so professional. The women liked Paul and Paul liked them. I had a lot of luck. I love our cast. I love watching the film because I like to see their performances.

Amy Camp was hysterical. (Amy Camp plays Debbie Spangler who yells out her name at the oddest times, asserting her identity.)

Yeah, Amy Camp was great.

What about the idea of the women’s identity? It’s interesting that you were inspired by the Jill Clayburgh film but on the other hand this is equal time for women plus men. I thought that was amazing.

Well, one of the things I really, really wanted in all of the sex scenes was that everyone was an adult and working out of their own volition. Nobody was taking advantage of anybody else. All of the women were not being taken advantage of. It was very important to show that these people are adults. These are people who are old enough to do what they want to do and take responsibility for it. Even with Debbie Spangler who I think has a little bi-polar quality to her, when she says, “It was horrible and we shouldn’t have done that.” He says, “No. I never would have forced you to do anything. But we didn’t do anything wrong.” And she says, “Yes we did…”

But then she comes back.

She comes back and says that she’s crazy and she says, “You know you’re very sweet, actually, a very good man.”

The idea of church was perfect, and of course, the daughter brings it up. Could you explain how that idea evolved?

Well I think particularly for children at that age they start to think about God or hear about Him. If they are not going to a church they wonder about it. She’s worried about her father. He hurts himself all the time, and why does God do that? And in those church scenes she immediately goes to the minister and talks to him about her father. And the thing with Debbie Spangler is I didn’t want to make church the butt of the joke. I don’t think her problem is she’s religious. I think the problem is she needs some medication. She could be a strong Christian woman and still have some fun.

But you identified one of the issues with certain churches because every person raised in the church has to decide if sex out of marriage is OK or not. Her reaction was so organic, so real.

Good. Thank you.

How do you put on the page these real people?

I think it’s from observation and really wanting to portray real people. The film in its essence is kind of a sitcom idea. You know, divorced Dad dates again. It’s The Courtship of Eddie’s Father but I wanted, I guess because it was inspired by friends of mine, I wanted to portray it in a realistic manner.

I wish you all luck with the film, and I hope it gets the audience it deserves in its release in New York City at the IFC Center on Wednesday, December 17 and its release in Winston-Salem, NC, Monterey, CA., Santa Fe, NM and Pittsburgh, PA.

This interview first appeared on Blogcritics.


Camille Claudel by Jeanne Fayard: Book Review

Jeanne Fayard is a French writer who is an expert on sculptors August Rodin and Camille Claudel. She has made an invaluable contribution to what we know and understand about Claudel’s early years in her book Camille Claudel.

When I was in Paris, I had the occasion to speak with Jeanne Fayard at length about Auguste Rodin’s one time mistress, who was a magnificent sculptress in her own right. Indeed, Camille Claudel who met Rodin when she was around 19 inspired some of Rodin’s finest work. Claudel has been the subject of two films (Camille Claudel, Camille Claudel 1915), because of her extraordinary life as a maverick artist and because of the dramatic response of her family to her individuality, autonomy and sheer genius all of which caused her mother great distress. Camille Claudel lived in a time when women were pawns; Catholicism crucified women who stood against the grain in how a woman was supposed to comport herself; morality for a woman was supposed to be above reproach.

'The Wave' by Camille Claudel. Photo by Carole Di Tosti.

Camille Claudel’s La Vague (1897), The Wave at The Rodin Museum. Photo by Carole Di Tosti.

Camille’s father shielded and supported her throughout the first part of her career, despite her mother’s profound disapproval of her daughter. After her father died, Camille’s mother and brother, diplomat Paul Claudel, had Camille committed to an asylum in 1915 because of Camille’s alleged mental illness and outrageous behavior. Despite the implorement of doctors and others of renown who clinically deemed her eccentric but not insane, her mother and brother made sure Camille remained committed. It is certainly a tragedy for us and the art world that she spent the last thirty years of her life in confinement unable to work on any sculpture or art, an act which the family had forbidden.

Jeanne Fayard who initially intended to write a book about Rodin forty years ago and who had been researching and studying Rodin, ended up writing a book about Camille Claudel first because of an unusual series of events that happened. Jasques Cassar was an art lover who shared an interest with Fayard about Claudel and Rodin. After Cassar discovered Camille Claudel’s work (four sculptures), which Paul Claudel donated to the Musée Rodin in 1951, he became impassioned about Camille Claudel. He gained access to family files and continued his work in earnest, but was unable to finish his biography on Claudel before he died. Jeanne Fayard who had worked on a play about Camille Claudel was a friend of Jacques Cassar. She was privy to Cassar’s work and made sure the files were published posthumously, stating the work was authored by Jacques Cassar. Fayard wrote the Preface for what is known as Dossier Camille Claudel by Jacques Cassar.

Camille Claudel's The Age of Maturity (1899), a controversial and extraordinary work at The Rodin Museum. Photo by Carole Di Tosti.

Camille Claudel’s The Age of Maturity (1899), a controversial and extraordinary work at The Rodin Museum. Photo by Carole Di Tosti.

Fascinated by her subject and inspired by Jacques Cassar’s work and her love of Rodin, Jeanne Fayard continued her investigation of Camille Claudel. Through a process of viewing Camille Claudel’s amazing sculptures and comparing them with Rodin’s, Fayard realized that Claudel had launched out on her own led by a brilliance that could not be learned, that could not be instructed. Fayard understood that Claudel had a light, a divine provenance within her soul that fostered such incredible work. It was this light that struck Camille’s father to support his daughter. It was the same animating light that motivated teacher/sculptor Alfred Boucher to mentor Claudel for three years and then encourage Rodin to work with her. It was this same vitality that entranced Rodin into a tempestuous affair with her. And it was this stirring force of Camille’s vibrance that influenced Rodin’s work to new heights.

The realizations prompted Jeanne Fayard to search back into Camille Claudel’s early childhood. There she understood Claudel’s motivations, her early talents in drawing and art. In her investigation she discovered her personality, her determination, her influences, her inspirations. Fayard’s explorations revealed how Claudel’s early life shaped her psyche to develop what would become an incredible artist in her own right apart from Rodin. Indeed, these early beginnings molded Claudel like the clay she shaped into the figures that would eventually be cast into bronze or other materials and that are now housed at the Musée Rodin in Paris.

Camille Claudel's An Old Woman at The Rodin Museum. Photo by Carole Di Tosti.

Camille Claudel’s Clotho (1893) at The Rodin Museum. Photo by Carole Di Tosti.

Fayard’s work is essential to understanding how Camille Claudel’s elements as a child, melted under the heat and pressure of her life with family — her mother, brother, father and sister. The early years, revealing her own innate artistic talent and acumen were the crucible which formed the woman who was a maverick for her time and one of the most striking and originally skillful women sculptors of all time. Certainly, she was a feminist if that word may be loosely applied to Camille Claudel’s bravery and mental fortitude to leave Rodin, destroy the work some of which she created during the period she was with him and move into the dark, uncharted waters of her own soul’s genius.

Jeanne Fayard’s work is in French, and if one has an average knowledge of the language it is easily understood. Certainly, for what it contributes to our knowledge of Camille Claudel, it should be translated in English to inspire those who adore Claudel’s work in this country and those future female artists who would gain inspiration from reading about Claudel’s early beginnings. For women Claudel’s entire life is a crucial read; it provides a revelation of the extent to which women are capable of coming into their own, and the extent that that remains a dangerous threat to other women who have the power to destroy them.

This Book Review first appeared on Blogcritics.

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