The Traveling Saleman & His Magical Suitcase of Desires! (Zanni Arte Productions) 2011 Toronto Fringe Review

The Traveling Saleman & His Magical Suitcase of Desires! by Zanni Arte Productions is a great show. One that works for both children and adults. I think that kids between the ages of 4 – 12 or so would be in their bliss during this piece filled with zany antics. But it’s also great for adults too. I’ve spoken to a number of adults who went and really enjoyed it, and I’ve recommended it to adults without children.

The description of the piece says that it’s told in the style of Commedia dell’arte, which personally, I think is kind of a shame. Not because I don’t like Commedia dell’arte, or think it’s inappropriate for children, but because I think that unless someone is really really really into theatre, they probably haven’t heard of it, and it sounds kind of fancy and intimidating. In truth it’s just kind of over-the-top comedy, kind of somewhere between farce and slapstick, that is just about perfect for a kids show.

And it was true to that over-the-top feel, in a way that just felt right.

Everyone did a great job on stage, but I was particularily in love with Tara Gerami in her roles as the Mayor and the Mayor’s daughter.

My one quibble? I’m pretty uncomfortable with the writer, Vincenzo Aliberti’s, director (Teodoro Dragonieri) and Joanne D’angelo’s use of a stutter as the thing to indicate when her character someone is ‘stupid’ and the lack of it to indicate he has become ‘smart’. Maybe pointing this out is pedantic, but stutters are generally either a neurological disorder, or based in trauma. Seems pretty unfortunate to take a disability and relate it to stupidity. Especially in a kid’s show, because I can picture a kid with a stutter going to this and being embarrassed and heartbroken through the whole thing.

But, that aside, it really was a great piece of entertainment. I highly recommend checking it out.

 

Details:

The Traveling Saleman & His Magical Suitcase of Desires! playing at The Palmerston Library Theatre

$10 for grown-ups, $5 for kids. Each show runs 60 mins.

Thu. July 7, 4:00 PM
Fri. July 8, 6:15 PM
Sat. July 9, 11:00 AM
Sun. July 10, 2:15 PM
Tue. July 12, 11:00 AM
Wed. July 13, 4:30 PM
Fri. July 15, 11:15 AM
Sat. July 16, 7:30 PM

– All individual Fringe tickets are $10 ($5 for FringeKids) at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062, in person at The Fringe Tent at 581 Bloor St. W. (Advance tickets are $11 – $10+$1 convenience fee)

 

Photo of the full cast by Alex Nursall

3 thoughts on “The Traveling Saleman & His Magical Suitcase of Desires! (Zanni Arte Productions) 2011 Toronto Fringe Review”

  1. Hi Megan,

    Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m the author of “The Travelling Salesman & His Magical Suitcase of Desires!”
    I was made aware of your review this morning and although, quite positive, I do believe there is one point you make that does require a response from someone related to this production.
    Even though I normally prefer to blend into the background, I asked the members of my Team if it could be me who responds.

    Thankfully, they said yes.

    The idea of Joanne D’Angelo’s use of a stutter originated in the script, so I want to take responsibility for that immediately.
    What I cannot take responsibility for, is what I consider to be Joanne’s brilliant performance, not to mention Teodoro’s impeccable direction.
    It’s unfortunate to me that you interpreted the stutter in her role the way you did. I won’t fault you for that, because it’s your opinion and I think it’s fair for you to express it.
    What I want to point out though, is that you might be missing the higher message here. Joanne’s character in the end, clearly states, “I was happy with the smarts I had!”

    One of the most important messages about the play, is simple: “Be yourself.”

    As we see in the show, nothing any of the characters buy improves who they are as people. So what we hope adults and children alike take away, other than a dose of hilarious entertainment, is just to be yourself.

    As I mentioned earlier, I prefer to blend into the background, but I felt it necessary to come forward and open up a little here, and talk about myself in a more personable way.
    In the past, I’ve volunteered for Special Olympics.
    I currently co-facilitae a writers’ workshop with clients at a local addictions and mental health hospital.
    And my brother is developmentally disabled. He saw the show with his girlfriend and they both said they loved it. When I asked him what character he loved the most, he told me it was Joanne’s.
    I won’t speak for him, but I think I know why.

    The one thing in your review I think is unprofessional is when you say, “I can picture a kid with a stutter going to this and being embarrassed and heartbroken through the whole thing.”

    You don’t have to picture anything, Megan. Just ask someone. Let them see the show and decide for themselves. Kids, including kids with developmental disabilities are far more resilient than most people give them credit for.
    They don’t usually want to be coddled, or even want our sympathy. What they want is for us to understand them, and to accept them for who they are.
    And I think in the end, that might prove that they are no different from the rest of us.

    Lastly, I want to also point out, with their permission, the following facts:

    When Joanne first received her hearing aids, she never once saw them as an enhancement to a disability. To this day, she remembers showing off in grade 2, being the only one in class with these newfound objects that fit so neatly into her ears. She knew she had something that no other 7 year old had and she was just fine with that.
    And Teodoro, along with his wife Esther, founded Zanni Arte, a production company that’s dedicated to creating multi-disciplinary arts initiatives for many people, including developmentally disabled individuals. They began doing this over 30 years ago, at a time when there was no arts programming available for them.

    Sincerely,

    V.

    Vincenzo Aliberti

  2. Thank you for taking the time to comment on this. It’s always good to have a discussion about these things.

    As a brief caveat, I’m pretty exhausted as you may imagine, so my response may be a bit incoherent, so I apologize in advance for that.

    First, thank you for alerting me to the fact that it was in the script and not an actor / directorial decision. I have made the change above.

    I’d like to speak to a couple points in your comment.

    The first one being: “What I want to point out though, is that you might be missing the higher message here. Joanne’s character in the end, clearly states, “I was happy with the smarts I had!””

    I didn’t miss that at all. But that’s not the point. The point is that the level of ‘smarts’ seemed pretty clearly indicated in large part by a stutter. Whether he (in case anyone hasn’t seen it and is confused by the thread, the character is a he, and the actor a she, so since I’m referring to the character, I’ll be using ‘he’) was happy with his level of ‘smarts’ or not wasn’t what I was reacting to. It was that when he was smarter he had no stutter, when he wasn’t, he did.

    If the piece was something just about removing the stutter, instead of not knowing how to use a shovel vs suddenly being able to explain about the distance it takes light to travel from the sun to earth, then that would be great. It would be an acceptance of the stutter. It would be an empowering item about how it didn’t matter that he stuttered, he was just as smart either way. But that’s not what it was about. At least, that’s certainly not how it read, especially with the reference to his ‘smarts’. It was about his intelligence, not his disability.

    As for my comment “I can picture a kid with a stutter going to this and being embarrassed and heartbroken through the whole thing.”…

    First, I did not say “any kid who has a stutter”, I said “a kid who has a stutter”. I am not trying to speak for all children. Kids are different from each other. There will be some kids for whom it will roll of their back, there will be others who will internalize it but pretend it’s rolled off their back, and there will be other who will be overtly upset. Kids are individuals just like everyone else.

    As for the imagining vs asking, I’ve spent a lot of time with kids in my life, I also remember being a kid. I remember being in situations where I saw issues that I faced on stage, or in movies, being made light of, and it hurting. I also remember pretending to everyone like it didn’t hurt.

    I don’t agree with you that it’s irresponsible for me to say that I can imagine *a* child who has a stutter being upset. I think it would be irresponsible to imagine that all children who face a particular issue would react in the same way, positive or negative.

    As for your brother enjoying the show, Joanne’s embracing her hearing aids, and Teodoro and Esther offering arts initiatives for developmentally disabled individuals, that’s all great. It really is. But it doesn’t really effect my point.

    I wasn’t trying to say that the people in the production were bad. I, as you pointed out, didn’t even say that I thought the production was bad. I pointed out something that made me uncomfortable in the production.

    And, frankly, as a parent, I would want to know that this was in the show so that I could make an educated decision about bringing my child who speaks with a stutter to the show. That way I could discuss it with them first, or, know from previous experiences with that kid how they might react.

    So, I’m sorry that this touched a nerve for you. I’m also sorry that it being in the piece touched a nerve for me. But, c’est la vie.

  3. Hello again Megan,

    I’d like to mention here, that my favourite part about your site, is that you clearly encourage any kind of civil discussion.
    I enjoyed reading your interpretation about Joanne’s character thoroughly.

    And you are most certainly right about Kids being individuals like everyone else.
    That’s the main reason why, after each performance, the cast, Teo (the director) and I, would wait outside, asking both kids and adults alike, what they thought about the show.
    We wanted to take time after every performance to speak with everyone who came out. Spending $10 / $5 bucks per person is something we do not take lightly.
    People work hard for their money, so we need to work hard right back, in order to entertain them.

    I also want to make one last thing very clear. I mentioned my brother’s disability, Joanne being hearing impaired, and Teo’s and my experience with developmentally disabled individuals because I thought it was important to share our sensitivity to these issues. There were no choices in the script, in the acting and in the direction of the play, that were taken lightly.

    Teodoro said to me, a long time ago, “The role of comedy is to laugh at ourselves.”
    I’ve been laughing at myself and all the foolish things I’ve said and done since.

    And you’re right about another thing too: C’est la vie.
    Only, my French isn’t as good. So: Questa e la vita!

    Thank You for this lovely exchange of ideas and opinions!

    SIncerely,

    V.

    Vincenzo Aliberti

Comments are closed.