Remembering Dr. Emelise Aleandri

IAWA was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our Distinguished Board Member, Dr. Emelise Aleandri, on January 17, 2016.

Dr. Emelise Aleandri was an actress, singer, author and producer. She is the country’s foremost scholar of Italian American theater, and has been a dynamic and dear friend of our organization.

Dr. Aleandri was the Artistic Director of Frizzi & Lazzi the Olde Time Italian-American Music and Theatre Company. She has produced three documentaries: Teatro, Festa and Circo Rois. Dr. Aleandri also created, co-produced and co-hosted the first regularly scheduled TV program about Italian-Americans, Italics: The Italian-American Magazine for CUNY-TV.

A frequent guest on TV, film and radio as an expert on Italian American culture, and on workplace abuse. Dr. Aleandri served as President of Little Italy’s Lt. Joseph Petrosino Lodge #285 (OSIA). She was also a member of New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT). She was an Elena Cornaro Award Honoree(OSIA), a New York State Woman of Distinction, and an Honoree of Leone de San Marco, a member of the Commission for Social Justice (OSIA), Lt. Joseph Petrosino Lodge (OSIA), Italian-American Educators, and won Awards from the Italian government and Brooklyn Women in Business.

Her crowning achievement as an author and scholar is the 14-volume encyclopedic history, The Italian-American Immigrant Theater of New York City, 1746-1899. Each volume focuses on a different aspect of theater from Early Italian Vaudeville and Opera to Singers and Aerial Swingers and Actors.Arcadia published her three photographic histories, The Italian-American Immigrant Theatre of New York City, La Piccola Italia and Little Italy. Other writings have appeared online and in many anthologies such as The Journey of the Italians in America by Vincenza Scarpaci, to name one.

Born at Riva del Garda, Italy, Dr. Emelise Aleandri emigrated to the U.S. when she was four and was raised in the Bronx. While working toward her M.A. in Theatre from Hunter College and her Ph.D. in Theatre from the City University of New York, she began a lifelong research into Italian-American history and culture. In 1984, after several years of university teaching, she was appointed the Director of the Center for Italian-American Studies at Brooklyn College, where she directed bilingual theatre in Italian and English.

During her career, she appeared in feature films, theatre and television productions. Among her recent credits, she stars in the title roles of Sister Italy (Paisan Films), now in worldwide distribution, and Madame Soraya (Leone Productions). Dr. Aleandri played roles in Spike Lee’s films Summer of Sam, and Crooklyn, and the mother in the film Vito Bonafacci, and she created the lead role of Eleonora Duse in the teleplay Of Penguins and Peacocks.

She had Off-Broadway production roles in Sweatshop (American Theatre of Actors), Festa Primavera (La Mama ETC); and Italian Funerals and Other Festive Occasions (Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Theatre). Hush the Musical, her adaptation of Etta Cascini’s comedy SHHHH!, with music by Charles Mandracchia, in which she starred as Georgia, played several New York venues in 2011 and won the MidWinter Madness Festival Award.

Dr. Aleandri was an Elena Cornaro Award Honoree(OSIA), New York State Woman of Distinction, and an Honoree of Leone de San Marco, Commission for Social Justice (OSIA), Lt. Joseph Petrosino Lodge (OSIA), Italian-American Educators, Awards from the Italian government and Brooklyn Women in Business.

Dr. Aleandri is survived by a sister and her family in California; and a community that will miss her.

SERVICES:

Friday, January 22 from 5:00-9:00 P.M.: a viewing will be held followed by a Special Service at 7:30 P.M. at Vanella Funeral Chapel, 29 Madison Street, NY, NY 10038

Sunday, January 24 at 5:30 P.M.: A “Celebration of Life” gathering will be at the Order of the Sons of Italy’s Lt. Joseph Petrosino Lodge Hall at Most Precious Blood Church, 113 Baxter Street, NY, NY 10013

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