Friday, May 31, 2013

Last Chance for Food Improv

Friends of Oddfellows and Fellow Foodies!   

Our very special FOOD IMPROV event is just days away and why are we excited?
For the same reasons you should be excited! 
  • 12 chefs and vendors will be there, offering everything from specialty cocktails to savory nosh to awesome desserts.
  • Five participants were named by the Hartford Advocate as the Best of 2013!
  • WNPR Connecticut Public Radio Host and Correspondent Lucy Nalpathanchil will serve as our Master of Ceremonies She's really lovely and we look forward to her taking the podium!
  • unique auction offering folks an opportunity to become involved by supporting our programming!
  • special incentive offered during the auction:  two tickets to Broadway's "THE BOOK OF MORMON" - impossible to get -
       AND post-show backstage tour!
And hey, we've created a bit of a buzz! LeeAnne Griffin, "A La Carte" blogger and food writer for the Hartford Courant, and Emily Cahill, Marketing Director for, are "following" us and have been graciously posting and Tweeting about our event.
Join us! If you won't know till the last minute, walk-ins are welcome!

All the best,
Mary Murphy and Liz Cipollina
Call OP today for tickets! 860-347-6143 or email 

6pm - 9pm
The Wadsworth Mansion at Long Hill Estate
Middletown, CT

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Oddfellows Can Get You on Stage on Broadway's Book of Mormon

If you like to munch, mingle, and make donations that support the best youth theater in Connecticut, we’ve got the event for you! If you missed it last year—Oddfellows is willing to forgive you for that— or came and hoped we would do it again, you are in luck. On Thursday, June 6 from 6-9 pm, Oddfellows Playhouse will be hosting Food Improv: Where the Performing Arts Meets the Culinary Arts- Take 2!, at the Wadsworth Mansion in Middletown, CT.

 Let WNPR Connecticut Public Radio Host and Correspondent Lucy Nalpathanchil guide you through the evening and talk to you about the everyday difference Oddfellows Playhouse is making with the 1,200 children served each year. Oddfellows Playhouse uses the performing arts to make meaningful impacts and build life-long skills in children. The event highlights the similarities between the performing arts and culinary arts: learning how to work as a team, dedication, poise under pressure, responsibility, and especially how to improvise. 

 Attending Food Improv raises money for Oddfellows’ scholarships and programming while simultaneously solving the mystery of “what’s for dinner?”. Ten of the best chefs, four of which were just voted Best in Hartford by The Advocate, use previous Oddfellows productions as inspiration for their tasting-style dishes. Attendees will be able to try food from: Riverhouse at Goodspeed, Eli Cannon’s Tap Room, The Lace Factory, Cold Stone Creamery of Middletown, Lan Chi, Mattabesset Canoe Club, Lucky Taco, New England Emporium, NoRA Cupcake Company and Tschudin’s Chocolates & Confections. When you are feeling a little parched, or want to cleanse the palate, you can try RIPE Craft Bar Juice and Onyx Moonshine’s signature cocktail, The Actor’s Nightmare. 

 “The event is more than just eating.” says event Co-chair Mary Murphy, “We are there to raise money to support the programs. Support the kids. This organization has been helping kids for 38 years and we want to show just how big a difference Oddfellows can make. With that in mind, I am very excited to announce that at the auction we have a very special item up for bid, 2 tickets to see the sold out Book of Mormon on Broadway in New York City. These are not just any pair of tickets. The winners will be given a private backstage tour of the theater and stage prior to the show by Oddfellows alum Michael Zaleski, w
ho is the Assistant Stage Manager of the show! We think this is a really neat opportunity to experience first-hand how Oddfellows made a difference.” 

 “These opportunities, this event, owes a great deal of thanks from our sponsors, Citizen’s Bank, Connecticut Rental Center, the law offices of Farrell, Geenty, Sheeley, Boccalatte & Guarino, PC”, and the law offices of Updike, Kelly & Spellacy P.C.. ”says Elizabeth Cipollina, who also Co-Chairs the event. She goes on to say that “Each of these organizations has generously donated to Food Improv and we can’t thank them enough for all they have done. 

 Tickets for the event are $75 for individuals and $125 for couples. All proceeds from your ticket will go directly to benefiting Oddfellows Playhouse. The event runs from 6 p.m.- 9pm. There will also be a live auction. If you have any questions about the event, or want to purchase tickets, you can contact Director of Development Courtney Antonioli at 860-347-6143 or email her at Tickets can also be purchased online at

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Spotlight on Steven Scionti

 Contributed by Ed Wierzbicki, All Things Connecticut, CPTV

For a Middletown kid who was kicked out of Jerry’s Pizza over twenty-five times, Steve Scionti
the adult is doing just fine. The actor-writer, who recently re-rooted himself in Connecticut after
a career in LA and elsewhere, has taken the memories of his youth and the colorful characters
of his Sicilian family to create a high-energy, one-man play: Hear What’s In The Heart—A
Shoemaker’s Tale. Scionti will perform every Thursday night this spring, May 16-June 20, at the
Oddfellow’s Playhouse; just a stone’s throw from his grandfather’s shoe shop, St. Sebastian’s,
and the Middletown neighborhoods that shaped him.

Co-written and directed by Tony Award-winner Anthony Crivello, the production captures much
more than a nostalgic look at the days of youth. Hear/Heart is a living tribute to the “immigrant
generation who gave,” and a coming of age comedy with plenty of Sicilian high-jinks and
insights. Scionti’s committed performance takes us inside that secret, contemplative place in one
boy’s life that often clashes with the testosterone-driven culture and teen realities of a working
class town. Over the course of 85 minutes, he transforms himself into numerous larger than life
characters, while also navigating across the footlights to connect with the audience—all in an
effort to make vital self-discoveries about his life, family, and future.

I recently spoke with Steve about the development of his play and multiple characters; about the challenges of acting solo; about his family; and how he and director Anthony Crivello

Your one-person play is centered around growing up in Middletown and the relationship
with your Sicilian-born grandfather. How did he influence you as a person and performer?

He always supported the arts. He used to love when I would dance around as a kid.
(When) I was ten years old, that’s when the movie The Sting was big, and Rag Time and Scott
Joplin-- and my grandfather used to come over on Saturdays for dinner. One night I’d just
happen to grab his hat and start dancing around. He was always intrigued and he looked at my
mother and he said—this is what he’s going to be doing the rest of his life.

So when did you start to get serious about dance and about performing?

My grandfather was always encouraging it; because I loved Fred Asatire and Gene Kelly--loved
to sit and watch Singin’ In The Rain. It came to the point where he said to my mother:
“Why doesn’t he start tap dancing?” So I stared taking tap lessons when I was 13 years old at
Miss Beth’s School of Dance. I got a lot of ribbing needless to say, because in a blue collar town
like Middletown, it wasn’t cool to dance.

What else do you most remember about your grandfather?

The way he lived his life, is the way most people should live their lives. He helped people. He
had a heart of gold. He was a beautiful man. He was respected. And he also paid for my first
dance lessons! How many Sicilian grandfathers do you know that pay for their grandson’s first
dance lessons?!

Why a play? What inspired you to begin the project?

I was in an Acting Company in Los Angeles; 1993-94 when I moved out there. And the Artistic
Director, Mel Shapiro—a wonderful human being and very inspirational to me—and we used
to have our coffee breaks outside of class and I would tell him stories about Middletown—and
characters. And he said—“Start coming in next week, and your assignment is to come in with a
tape recorder and start improving.” And I said, “No--C’mon.” He said, “No-no, you’ve got some
material.” He was a very hard man to make laugh, and I used to crack this guy up all the time. I
never thought this was going to go anywhere. That’s a scary thing.

Then what? What was the next step? Did you do what he advised?

So about a year went by, and he said: “Present something to the class” and I kind of fell on my
face and got discouraged. A friend of mine who’d got me into the company—and we’d done the
30th anniversary production of West Side Story with Jerome Robbins—he said “Steve—let me
kind of help you with this.” We worked on it another year, and next thing you know, we did it
for Mel, and Mel said “OK—now you’re ready to perform this.” We ended up doing a six-week
run at the Zephyr Theatre in Los Angeles in 1997.

Wait, wait—I’m going to go back to something you said earlier. You said “And that’s a
scary thing.” Why? What do you mean?

The actor’s worse enemy is…. (he points to his head—emphatically-- several times): “Oh my God,
what are they going to think of me? Do I stink? Am I a phony?” You get embarrassed. You get
scared. When you are talking about personal things. When you are breaking the fourth wall, and
you are talking about something very personal, you know, it’s scary. It’s intimidating. The first
time I went out and did the performance, I had such severe cotton mouth (he laughs). I couldn’t
even speak because I was so scared.

Did you have other inspirations to help you get through—to help realize your project?

John Leguizamo—he was an inspiration to me. I saw Mambo Mouth in like 1988-89 and I was
floored. Absolutely blown away. His experience growing up in New York was mesmerizing. Here
it was, eight-nine years later—doing that.

Had you ever thought about turning it into a more traditional script, or did you always
want this to be one-person play? I do recall an explosion of solo plays in the theatre
happening at that time.

At the time, there were a lot of successful one-man shows. Especially, A Bronx Tale. But to be
honest with you, I think it was a combination of both the fact that it came from my assignment
(for Mel), and it was cool—hip. And because I’d brought a combination of characters in for Mel,
it made sense—it was logical that it would turn into a one-person play. And it just happened

Out of all your characters, which one do you enjoy the most? I am making you pick a

My Uncle Manny. (He laughs) He’s actually my father’s youngest brother’s wife’s oldest
brothers. (a big grin…) He was a hair dresser. A very intelligent, wonderful man. He had a hair
salon in Lantana Beach, Florida. My parents had sold their house in Middletown and moved

down to Florida. And I would go in there and have espresso, and he’d have his glasses down to
here (indicates the edge of his nose)—“Stefano, baby, listen…getting an espresso I love it.” And
he loved women. And all these older Jewish women from Palm Beach loved him! “So Manny,
what are you going to do with my hair today?” And he’d say, “What I get done with you baby,
I’m gonna make you look better than Sofia Lauren—I love it! Give me an espresso baby!!”

Share with me a difficult moment or challenge In Hear/Heart—something that doesn’t
come easily in your creative or performance process?

I love my family dearly. But there is a segment within the piece where I struggle because of (the
relationship between) my grandfather and my uncle who was the black sheep of the family—
and chose to go another route. And I love him dearly. And this is where it’s tough. It’s easy
to hide (as an actor) behind someone else’s writing, or some body else’s play, but when it’s
personal to you, because you don’t want to paint that person in a bad light. I love my uncle with
all my heart but he was an influence to me—not in the greatest way when I was younger—and
my grandfather didn’t like that.

There’s music running through your production, and you sing also. How does it help shape
this “family” story? Was it challenging to add the opera and the music to the project?

It came easy for me because of the different influences of music in my life. Between opera with
my grandfather and father, and then you had my Uncle Carl who influenced us with Jerry Vale
and Dean Martin; and my Uncle Amadeo with Frank Sinatra; and Uncle Phil who introduced us
to Simon and Garfinkle and Bob Dylan…to Jimmy Hendricks—which my baby brother Antonio
and I were both a big fan of. It just came easy. It all has to do with the characters.

Anthony Crivello has teamed with you to work the script and direct this recent version of
the play. How has your partnership with him been?

The collaboration with Anthony Crivello has been the icing on the cake. I have learned so much.
He is such a professional; such a patient human being. I have made some mistakes along the
way—we all do. But I’ve learned an incredible amount from Anthony, including the business side
of it.

When I spoke with Anthony, I asked him to describe your play in one sentence. He said:
“It’s about the generation that gave.” Can you elaborate on that theme for me?

I think as a society we’ve lost that. I think we don’t know what the word sacrifice means. People
from my grandfather’s generation had sacrificed. My grandfather had to give up a dream.
And here he is, nurturing mine. I don’t think there is enough support out there for families,
unfortunately, because there are so many fractured families today. And we’ve become a self-
centered society. And that’s why I take pride in having complete strangers come up to you and
say, you’ve made me think about my family. You made me think about my grandfather. As an
artist that’s a very powerful thing-- to touch people’s lives.

Hear What’s In The Heart: A Shoemaker’s Tale

Performed by Steve Scionti

Written by Steve Scionti & Anthony Crivello
Directed by Anthony Crivello
Thursday nights @ 7:30pm

May 16-June 20th  Oddfellows Playhouse • Middletown, CT   Tickets: $20

Friday, May 3, 2013

Comedy and Drama - All in One Evening!

Oddfellows Playhouse Youth Theater's 
Teen Repertory Company presents

Nightmares & Streetscapes:

An Evening of One-Act Student Directed Plays
The Actor's Nightmare by Christopher Durang

Friday May 3
Saturday May 4
Thursday May 9
Friday May 10
Saturday May 11

All performances at 7:30pm

Call 860-347-6143 for tickets or purchase online.
Pillow Talk by Peter Tolan
Luis Serazo in The Zoo Story by Edward Albee