TONY N’ TINA’S WEDDING
An interactive audience experience with improvisational elements
SCOTT D. PAFUMI
HERNDON HS THEATRE
As Thornton Wilder so aptly wrote in Act 2 of his iconic American tribute in Our Town, “There are a lot of things to be said about a wedding. There are a lot of thoughts that go on during a wedding. We can’t get them all into one wedding, naturally.”
I am a descendant of Sicilian-Italian grandparents, and was born in Queens (Astoria) in the early 70’s. I am someone who adores his family and friends, loving them with my whole heart and arms. I’m not a big fan of the industrial wedding complex, and all that it does to pick the pockets of middle-class America, but I get why everyone wants to spend the money to feel like royalty for a day. I have been to all kinds of weddings: church weddings, beach weddings, destination weddings, southern weddings, northern weddings, gay weddings, and I have even been the groom of two of my own! As a theatre director, I have staged my fair share of weddings with my students over the last two decades. I have been asked to sing at weddings, I have given plenty of speeches and toasts, and have even earned the coveted role as the “best man”. All this past is prologue which I shall call upon as we embark on the journey to create the joy that is Tony & Tina’s Wedding.
In the mid 1980’s a small, professional theatre group in New York was formed: The Artificial Theatre Company. The play was conceived by Nancy Cassaro, this group of actors who endeavored to bring life to what they knew best – Italian American stories, specifically, growing up in the borough of Queens, New York. Coming out of college, Cassaro and her friends realized there were not enough plays and stories on this group of people, people from “the neighborhood”. Tony & Tina answers that call. They created a wonderful journey through the typical formula of a big Italian Catholic wedding, where two families become one. Sometimes the families get along, and sometimes they are rivals ala a Montague/Capulet allusion. In this story, the Vitales’ and the Nunzios’ work out their differences as they celebrate their favorite son and daughter. The hilarity of this play, which ran for over ten years Off-Broadway, comes from the rich character backstories, the high-jinx of the wedding party, the interactions with the live audience as attendees, and the improvisational moments that are unique to every performance. Although there is a formula and a schedule for the wedding proceedings, just like in real life, there is no accounting for what can and will happen when these two families collide on the big day.
My vision and concept for producing this play includes the following: the setting will be all in one place, at a reception hall that can accommodate both a ceremony and the party that follows. The audience will be seated at tables with their close friends and family, all hoping to get a sight line of the main events of the vows, the bridegroom tables, and the dance floor. Food will be served from local Italian restaurants, wherein even the waiters are actors in the play. Audience members will be served (non-alcoholic) drinks to be used for the toasts and to sustain them after they have been asked to dance with the celebrants. This play will be presented without an intermission and will be under “two hours traffic of our stage”. The opening moments of the show will introduce all the guests to the individual stories and backgrounds of each rich character and who they are to the bride and groom. I’m choosing to set this play in June of 1991, a 30-year homage from my high school graduation. Also, the play was originally written and set in the 1980’s, so we can continue to enjoy a soundtrack of pop dance music from this era. Complete the set with disco colored lighting and a raised dance floor, and we will have all the makings of a neighborhood wedding stuck in the proverbial old school Queens, New York – you know, my people – fuhgeddaboudit!