The Chicago Syndicate: Fuggedaboudit! The Show Must Go On
The Mission Impossible Backpack

Friday, November 17, 2006

Fuggedaboudit! The Show Must Go On

It appears the show will go on after a federal judge Wednesday refused to block this week's opening of a Batavia middle school play branded racially insensitive by an Italian-American coalition.

U.S. District Court Judge John Grady said free speech trumps any alleged harm to the plaintiff, a 12-year-old pupil at Rotolo Middle School. Grady also said he failed to see how the plaintiff was harmed by the play, "Fuggedaboudit: A Little Mobster Comedy," because it was not shown that the boy was of the same social class as those depicted. Grady, however, admitted he had not read the play.

"Does this play communicate to a rational person that all Americans of Italian descent are members of the Mafia or have criminal inclinations?" the judge asked in his Chicago courtroom.

"I have difficulty with the notion that this young plaintiff is, for purposes of today's discussion, in the same class as 12 or so adults depicted in the play," the judge said later.

The plaintiff's mother, Marina Amoroso-Levato, said she was upset by the ruling. "I think the play was a total, from cover to cover, annihilation of Italian-Americans," she said. "If the judge didn't see that, it's unfortunate."

A civil rights suit filed Tuesday by the coalition is pending.

Performances are set for Friday during school hours, and on Friday and Saturday evenings, at Rotolo Middle School, 1501 S. Raddant Rd. Pupils who do not want to attend the play will have the option of participating in another activity, according to a statement released Wednesday by Supt. Jack Barshinger.

The school has also provided support for the cast, crew and faculty working on the play, the statement said, to help everyone understand the complexity of the concerns surrounding this play.

Members of the coalition are considering a non-disruptive response to the performances, said Tony Barratta, president of the Grand Lodge of Illinois, Order Sons of Italy in America.

They also expressed dismay at the judge's ruling, but said they were not surprised. "The banner of free speech does allow people wide latitude, and we're very grateful for that," said Dominic DiFrisco, president emeritus of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans. "But we were hoping that fair speech would be considered in this case.

"Whatever the judge's decision, going to court was necessary to raise the issue of gross injustice that's constantly barraging the Italian-American community," he said.

He urged the school to balance the performance with lessons about the positive contributions of Italian-Americans.

The school statement characterized the play as a spoof of various characters whose good deeds are misconstrued by everyone.

A script released by the Sons of Italy last week indicates the play is the story of two brothers, Joey and Gino Caprese, who are opening an Italian restaurant. Their customers include two mobsters who are inspired to do something good after being on the take for so long.

The material is not offensive to Italian-Americans, argued the school's attorney, Anthony Scariano. "The only two clowns in the play are the American FBI agents who can't get a body recording right," he said.

The uproar over the play began when the plaintiff's mother read the "Fuggedaboudit" script and contacted the Sons of Italy, the nation's oldest and largest Italian heritage organization.

Amoroso-Levato decided she wouldn't let her son see it. "He's upset--he doesn't want his schoolmates to have to view this." But she said the experience is a lesson for her son. "I think it will be good for him to stand up for what he believes in."

Thanks to Jeff Cohen and Kate Hawley

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