There are two words that truly define the essence of Italian Carnevale : the first is maschera , or mask; the second is — of course — Venezia. While...
Eating Pasta Off the Floor is such an intriguing title for a play that it demanded L’Italo-Americano interview the play’s creator and solo performer, Maria Grazia Affinito.
Affinito had the idea to create this solo theater piece when she joined a writing circle. “My writing was dominated by vivid characters and their conflicts. Fellow writers commented that they could easily see the material come to life on stage and I was urged to tell my story with my acting skills.”
She describes the play as “a story of growing up in a poor immigrant family, plagued by violence and trauma, while facing the generational conflicts unique to mothers and their daughters, conflicts between an old fashioned Italian mother and an Americanized daughter. The audience is introduced to what at first glance appears to be the stereotypical image of an Italian mother; loud, boisterous and quick to break out in song. The daughter is often embarrassed and tries to manage the mother’s behavior. This all appears to be good fun, but what lies underneath is a sadder truth to what motivates our behaviors, and how each character, the mother and daughter, have dealt with traumatic struggles.”
And when asked what inspired the creative title, Eating Pasta Off the Floor, Affinito said, “It refers to a scene that occurs in the play. When work-shopping segments of the play, I was considering several titles. While returning from a rehearsal break, just before a particular scene, I commented that I needed to pick up rehearsal from the eating pasta off the floor scene. Just as
I made that reference, I knew that the play revealed its title to me.”
Affinito explains that the message goes beyond cultural boundaries. “The title makes references to the Italian staple-pasta- but in a skewed setting-the floor. After all, why would anyone be eating anything off the floor? Just as in our families, there is identification to what is similar and familiar and yet there are intrinsic differences. Immigrant families will understand the displaced and or awkward feeling, where they are the odd person out, or the weird one for eating something different, or sounding different. The show brings forth what we can relate to as having some sense of familiarity with, and yet still not really belonging anywhere, country of origin or the adopted country.”
Affinito describes how a performance of Madame Butterfly inspired her work. “My mother and godmother took me to see a performance of Madame Butterfly when I was eight years old. When she sang her last aria, ‘Un Bel di, vedremo,’ and then kills herself, I got up, and ran to the stage screaming ‘No!’ I was inconsolable. After, I was taken back stage to see that she was not really dead. I said that I knew she was alive, but that the ‘pain, the pain, it hurt so much.’ From then on, my way to deal with pain and suffering was alleviated by singing.”
When asked why she chose to create the play as a solo performance, Affinito replied, “Friends and colleagues in the theater community urged me to tell stories about growing up with my mother. The stories were eccentric yet touching, and dominated by dialogue. I found myself acting out moments to my friends, in efforts to explain what had occurred the day before while visiting with my mother.”
Maria Grazia Affinito is a member of Actors’ Equity Association from the San Francisco Bay Area. She has performed with various companies in the Bay Area and in several independent films. Her stage credits include Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (San Francisco Shakespeare Festival), Ana in Displaced (Marin Theater Company), and Nancy in Gaslight (California Conservatory Theater). Eating Pasta Off the Floor was developed with David Ford at The Marsh theater in San Francisco.
Her future projects include bringing Eating Pasta Off the Floor to as many audiences as possible. In the fall of 2016 she will be playing Queen Margaret in Margaret of Anjou with ThoseWomenProductions in Berkeley and plans to return to writing another installment of the story between mother and daughter, which may focus on her mother’s poetry and her battle with cancer.
Eating Pasta Off the Floor
At The Marsh through May 15
1062 Valencia Street, San Francisco
For tickets and detailed information visit, http://themarsh.org /uncategorized/maria-affinito.
Maria Grazia Affinito’s website is at http://mariagraziaactress.com.