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Leisure Profiles

Lookingglass’ DiStasi channels his inner pirate

If you think it’s a long way from the Chicago to the South Pacific, then you haven’t watched Lawrence E. DiStasi making magic on stage. And magic isn’t too strong a word: As a founding member of Lookingglass Theatre, DiStasi helped conjure from thin air a theater company that has become a Chicago gem. And it’s with that troupe that he took to the stage as Long John Silver. To pirate from Shakespeare, it was a question of to argh, or not to argh. Here’s why: For the production, which ran through Jan. 31, DiStasi did his digging to find out whether ...

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People’s poet Cin Salach

  It’s one thing to hone your talent as a professional poet — not easy in a field filled with sticky sentiment — but quite another to take it to a level where people entrust you to turn their most personal details into powerful verse. Yet Cin Salach — the talent behind poemgrown — ranks as a poetess of uncommon ability, poise and sensitivity. Her business is simple to describe, but difficult to do as artistic disciplines go: Salach interviews clients to create custom poems often presented as gifts. Italian on her father’s side via Sicily (Cellaccio was likely the ...

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Mosaic impresario Matteo Randi

This we know: Italians and their ancestors claim crucial contributions in just about every classic art form. But the place of mosaics in Italian history is far lesser known to many art lovers. That’s why the Chicago Mosaic School in the city’s North Center neighborhood plays two vital roles: not just as a place to learn the craft, but also to pass down ancient traditions. “It’s about 25 centuries old as a medium and if we want to be correct, we should give credit to the Greeks for the invention,” says Matteo Randi, educational director at Chicago Mosaic. “But the ...

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Conductor/Pianist Francesco Milioto

As a six year old, Francesco Milioto remembers walking into his bedroom, finding his desk moved, and seeing an upright piano where none had stood before. “It was not something I had asked for. But my father had decided I would take lessons” — and as it turned out, from someone who’d never given lessons before. The gambles of such hopeful parents often end in failure or a child’s disinterest. But in Milioto’s case, it definitely resulted in huge win. Growing up Toronto, he studied his craft extensively at the Royal Conservatory, University of Western Ontario (where hearted a top ...

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Ballet crusader Donna Vittorio

When a 10-year-old girl gets smitten with dance and harbors dreams of becoming a dancer, don’t laugh–it can happen. In fact, that describes how Donna Vittorio, Artistic Director of Chicago’s Ballet Légere, launched a path that landed her in the terpsichorean trade. “Growing up Italian in my family greatly influenced my interest in the arts,” says Vittorio, whose parents were both born in Italy. “My father played and sang Italian songs. My sister Camille was a ballroom dancer, my other sister Lucille was a singer, and my brother Lou is a musician.” As for Donna, “For as long as I ...

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Special Events Maven Patti Lupo

It’s commonly believed that party music should fold into the background. But singer Patti Lupo deserves (an earns) the attention of those who attend upscale celebrations. Whether she’s performing at a wedding or other noteworthy occasion, or singing Christmas songs as part of The Caroling Party, Lupo displays matchless talent. And remarkably, she’s dedicated it not so much to stardom as making special events shine. Lupo, who has an Italian father and a half-Italian mother, grew up with music all around her. “My [maternal] grandparents sang in church choirs in New York, where my mother grew up,” she says. “My ...

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Sitar master Clar Monaco

That an Italian-American musician might master violin, accordion, piano or guitar should never come as a surprise. But the sitar? In the wrong hands, that’s the cultural equivalent of pouring curry sauce over a plate of meatballs. But Clar Monaco tackled the instrument with a diligence and intensity that has made him one of the area’s best sitar players. As for what drew him to Indian music, Monaco, 57, says it began about 20 years ago; he started studying under Mushtaq Hussain Khan of Mumbai, India. “He was giving concerts around the U.S. but Chicago was his base for a ...

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Theater director Dominic Missimi

Dominic Missimi is retired — officially, unquestionably retired — from Northwestern University, where he spent 30-plus years as a theater professor. Beloved by his students (many of whom went on to Broadway), the founder of the honored as Donald Robertson Endowed Chair in Music Theatre, and the skipper of some 80 university productions, Missimi hung up this hat a year ago. But at 69, Missimi is active to the point of putting men a third his age to shame. He spoke to Fra Noi between frantic paces in Brunswick, Maine, where he was directing a production of “Gypsy.” “Lots of ...

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Alternative rocker Phil Angotti

Having just turned 50 in June, Phil Angotti’s at an age where most rockers call it a day. But look at Angotti’s calendar and you’ll see this Southeast Side native is busier than ever. He’s fronting the reunited pop band Material Issue (now dubbed “Material Reissue”), filling in for the late Jim Ellison. His new disc, “People and Places,” showcases his affection for the catchy, melodic rock he loves. And he still plays for enthusiastic audiences when he’s not working at his Wicker Park music store, Avenue N Guitars. “As you get older you get more sentimental, and you’re happy ...

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Flamenco dancer Chiara Mangiameli

Native Italian Chiara Mangiameli has established herself a leader in Chicago’s dance scene, which might not seem surprising given how Italians throw themselves wholeheartedly at anything artistic. But her choice of genre is anything but typical, at least for someone born and raised in Milan: She’s dedicating her life and career to mastering flamenco dance. “Every time I’ve visited Seville, Spain to study, I’ve felt very comfortable and at home,” says Mangiameli, who today runs her own dance studio in the Logan Square neighborhood. “Italians and Spaniards seem to share cultural similarities that make them compatible. I felt an affinity ...

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