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Archive for August 18th, 2015

willy_wonka

by Sam Juliano

I first met the future Lucille Mancini Juliano in March of 1991, when she volunteered to assist me in directing a third grade play of Roald Dahl’s classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at a time when we both worked at the now razed English Neighborhood School in Fairview, New Jersey.  Now one of the district’s three school principals, the then 28 year-old teacher specialized in the neurologically impaired.  When she heard of my plans to feature students from my third-grade class, she readily came aboard as a stage line prompter, and later doubled as coordinator of scenery and props.  The late veteran instructor Marion D. “Mitzi” Steup made it a three-person creative team, imparting her considerable artistic skills by constructing the sets, with able assistance from ‘gifted and talented’ fifth graders.  It’s been upwards of twenty-five years now, but I am reminded of this adventure to this very day, and have a wonderful video of the production for posterity.  320 people crowded into the two story building’s second floor auditorium on a cool Saturday evening to attend the community event, and some had to squeeze into hallway entrances.  A smoke machine was utilized, an intricate sound system allowed the show’s music to blare, and colored lighting helped set the proper mood.  It was an event wrought with intense enthusiasm and devotion, and even included a contentious episode with the Borough’s Board Secretary, who attempted to cancel the show on the very day it was scheduled. Because of the size of the crowd, and some concern over safety as a consequence of the school’s age (80 years) and a failed state report that concluded with pointed orders to the district to make immediate repairs or face a shut down, the event was seen as chancy.  But after I dispatched Mr. Caufield with an angry eviction notice on the staircase, and advised him to leave or I would “physically” remove him, I was publicly supported by the Board of Education’s then president, Mr. Frank Pizzichillo, who attended the production with bells on.  It was a huge success, and one that is fondly remembered by two now-married young men, Eddie Slodiska and Jason Romano, who played Charlie and Willy Wonka, respectively.  Perhaps most importantly, however, it was the fuel that ignited a romance that led to a July, 1995 wedding and a big family.  And all the credit goes to Roald Dahl.  Or does it? (more…)

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