The locals call it La Piazzetta. This is a little public square, in the center of a practically smallest European town, nestled on a tiny island in the Mediterranean. Capri. In contrast, the views are expansive, aroma pungent, and beauty abounding. No wonder Augustus built his Empire Time Share here.
You arrive by streetcar, bus, taxi, scooter, or (if you are totally mad) on foot. Gardens of lemon trees and roses have guided you here after a probable bellissima boat ride from Napoli or the Amalfi Coast. There was a naval gladiator combat at the Blue Grotto with your tour boat and adversarial dingys filled with delighted-confused-frightened client/victims. A dash through the gauntlet of T-shirts, trinkets and tschochkie (never knew how to spell that one) at the harbor preceded your ascent. Between the two mountains you journeyed. Now, at this plateau, Piazza di Umberto Primo welcomes you. A quick look around and you grasp why they call it La Piazetta.
On one side there is the expected baroque church. On the other stands the logical city hall. In front of you is a panorama of sky and sea around the rocks. But behind you is the serpentine artery of Capri. Little alleys (vicolo) and streets (via) are time capsules of their Middle-Ages origin, still housing the human tenants who serve custodial to present day Capri.
From this artery stream the pulse of this and every piazza. Mamma and her rambunctious raggazzi, a pair of lovers, old man with a cart, old woman with a package, clueless tourist with their heads buried in an app or map instead of looking, smelling, sensing the majesty of it all. It is a symphony played in all piazzas. Yet, like and unlike the others, La Piazetta has its own unique voice, rhythm and style.
The antique bell tower clock maintains a faulty display as it tolls. No matter. No one seems to be checking the time, slugging his or her coffee, pounding the pavement, rushing to anywhere for any reason. Who looks at the town clock? Who cares that the display is flawed? This is Capri. This is Italy. Lavoro la Vita. Not Vita la Lavoro. Work to live. Don’t live to work.
As you sip your vino bianco at your postage stamp table in the shoebox piazza, you can’t help but glance at the waves of hilltops whence came the beverage. Your amber liquid serves as telescope, giving color to your surveying of its natural habitat. The looking glass serving its purpose, you slowly drain the contents and savor the taste.
Capri is a microcosm of urban Piazza life. There is culture, historic origins, strategic geography, everything the Roman Empire tattooed to its holdings. No exception here. From Tiberius to Mussolini, the powerful and influential praised and coveted this small island gem. Not particularly tactical or essential in war and aggression, Capri was mostly spared invasion, rape, pillaging and all that fun male civilized stuff. So it survives and thrives, this city center in miniature. “Urbs”, “The City”, is what Rome called municipalities back in the Latin day. Bingo! Urban. And their prized tiny get-away would characteristically assimilate everything civic and urban from the Empire. All roads led to Rome. But all boats went to Capri (if you had the juice, the coin or the connections). Of course Romans would design, construct and embrace an island city center here. Have to have a place to gather, greet, gossip, gripe, grope, and glean from the great natural nutrients that abound and surround. Vero?
Capri walks a tightrope these days. It is a tourist mecca, but maintains elegance void of plastic, strip malls, outlets, chain stores and pub-crawls. In spite of the flea market appearance of the port, Capri remains a welcoming host, as long as you wipe your feet. Hospitality and tradition, beauty and conservation, enterprise without greed, meals without phony additives, sounds without noise, smells enhanced by dioxide not monoxide…Capri is the petite prototype of everything a city center is or should aspire to be.
High-end fashion and services for the elite share this piazza with laborers of the field. The tour guide, city official, teacher, peddler and musician all belly up to the same bar for a café’ lungo. Attuned visitors assimilate the rhythm. They stroll, bask, sit, ponder, smile and sip away the hours, negligent of our friendly-faulty tower clock guardian. It is like any other piazza in this respect.
Capri is everything a Piazza is or should be. Spectacular location surrounded by indescribably beauty. Clean, cultivated and caressed by it’s proprietor/patrons. Hospitality without hordes. It is arguably the best island outdoor living room in the Mediterranean.
What time is it now? Memory of the Clock tells me to “Forget About It”. Time to save the doc, shut down the laptop, and dream of my next visit to Capri.
September. 2014. Rome. It is the night of the Harvest Moon. This month is exceptionally juiced for creative types like me. Evolved types from the Pacific Rim announced it. Celestial magic unseen for nearly a millennium is spewing music for the muse-needy here in caput mundi. It’s true. I read it online!
Sarcastic silliness aside, I welcomed this glorious vortex of heavenly hype and prepared myself to be inspired and impregnated by the silver rays of a luscious full Luna. Yikes. This sounds like a porn movie promo. Let me try again.
I propped myself in a rocking chair and pointed my now slightly pulsing frame toward the predicted rising point of my mentor for the evening, the Moon. Mozart, da Vinci, Ellington, Robin Williams? Look out! Although I am a mere spec to you genius, I am going to be brilliant tonight. My Leaves of Grass/Unfinished Symphony/Sonnet/Good-Shtick-Stuff will flow as easy as my celestial beacon rises before me. This is where you, dear reader, vomit.
Honestly, I was pumped. The Moon was beautiful, the rays were comforting and my view this evening of the hills to the South of Bella Roma was “panorama”, save a few rooftop analog antennas that serve no purpose these days but will never be removed by the enterprising condominium membership. “Hey Nona, stop hanging your unmentionables on that thing”. Twilight, nature, and the “Light of the Silvery Moon” are mine to embrace. Even the constant blare of sirens and motorcycles that makes up the normal Roman mantra seems to be having a café’. War and Peace, here I come.
My laptop is charged and at the ready. The empty white screen mirrors my Lunar Lamp. And then it happens.
I gaze, daydream (well, night dream), sway in my chair, calmly puff on my stogie (cigar for those not privileged to glorious moron American slang) and serve sentinel to my beacon as it creeps across the Southern Sky.
Nature. Perfect. Brilliant. Why do we, locust Homo sapiens continue to mess with it, hassle it, abuse it, alter it, or just plain attempt to destroy it? We have been given the skills by Nature Herself to be Her tenant, caretaker, protector and acolyte. Yes, SHE is Nature. If it was a HE, He would have stopped his rotation and shot us all off the planet long ago, maybe even using the harvest moon as a target just for the symmetry of it.
This night I was inspired, humbled and amazed. Nature. Hug it, worship it, protect and defend it. What an amazing secular theology this is. Tomorrow I am going to plant a tree, pick up garbage, kiss a moose, or something like that to prove my faith that we, man… um, man and WOMAN-kind, can be the true protectors of our glorious habitat. I am going to embrace Nature this evening, not write about it.
Wait a minute! I think I just did.
When you live overseas and don’t have a “situation” you usually do two things. You teach English and you give tours.
My life in Italy has been filled with these experiences, mostly positive, sometimes frightening, but always interesting. When it comes to language acquisition, however, I had an epiphany that brought me to the herd of COWS (Citizens of the World).
One day I asked my class, “What is the most important language in the world”? They all responded EEEENgleesh. The die was cast for my lesson of the day.
I explained that their native/mother tongue was the most important language. Their customs, ways of communicating (especially with the hands) and overall lifestyle was something to be proud of. I was here to give them a tool so they could communicate with others around the world. Then it hit me.
Why do we call it English? They speak that in the UK (sometimes). Americans have endless versions and perversions of the language from Southern Drawl to Hip Hop Rap (that I personally consider the marvelous Walt Whitman iambic pentameter of the day). Aussies, Aukland, India, Canada, the Philippines…sheesh, the Baltic nations have a higher literacy rate and knowledge of the language then most “native” speakers. So why call it English? The International Language is here, it’s now and it is the future in this global village of cyber schtick.
It’s pompous, arrogant and imperialistic to promote a language as the harbinger of communication, especially when there is little harmony among the proponents. Oxford takes exception to Princeton and the “Teach Test Teach” mavens harp, “THIS IS HOW YOU PRONOUNCE IT” and “THAT’S HOW YOU SPELL IT”. Sez you?! Promote a tool so the Japanese guy can explain where the hotel is to the Brazilian visitor; ok!
Look, the same rules apply to all. Love your mother tongue and cultivate it. From the Bard to Bensonhurst, take pride in how you communicate and polish your skills in the acceptable form. But, accept that there are exceptions. (accept / except) They’re speaking their language different over there. (They’re /There / Their). And write right about the rite of language passage. Ok, enough rage rage rage…
In a world of LOL, BFF and C U Ltr, who has the right to say what is correct and proper outside their own communications camp. If I am proposing something in London, I will put the ME in program and the U in color. And if I am hangin’ with my peeps at a jazz gig in Chicago, well, ”Shut up and get in the tub”.
The point is, we speak, teach and cultivate an International Language (IL). It is a bit more forgiving and may ignore the GH for site, fite, nite and rite. Heck, my word program doesn’t like “nite”. There’s a big red line under it. If you say it and I get it, it’s correct. Spare me the pedantic premise that yours is the true language and you are blessing the rest of us with your prowess of prose.
The time will come when you are publishing, doing business, posting a blog and/or communicating a concept. Here you determine your audience, format, style and context without deferring to spellcheck, auto fix, cyber translator or good ol’ lazyness. I be doin’ this all the time, thank ya kindly.
Meanwhile, be grateful if English is your mother tongue. It gives you a head start in the International Language. But, never consider yourself better, smarter, more loquacious or literate. Those acquiring IL speak multiple languages already. Many of them have different symbols in their native language. They sure as hell are a lot smarter than the mono-lingual English native morons who adventure little, demand much and usually butcher their own lexicon.
www.TomShaker.com / ShakerTom@gmail.com
Member / SAG, AEA, AFTRA, SIAE, UFT, USO
• Create and direct a resident professional theater company
• Build an international multi-media communications network
• Present international creative projects to the global village
• Enhance literacy and self-esteem through "EDUTAINMENT" curricula
• Teach drama, literature, technology, production and video/film/web
• Supervise mentoring, internship and employment for students
• Produce theatrical, film, television, radio and Internet works
• Write and publish books, articles, scripts, songs and scores
• Perform and record selected works
Completed International PAVE Curricula (Performing and Visual Arts Education) Model
Developed Streaming Version of Vino Veritas for Broadcast
Created Cuisine Series Pilot with Local Chefs and Celebrities in Orlando
Author, Complete Screenplay, Queen of the Boiler Room
Collaborated with Nick Pileggi (Casino / Goodfellas)
Director, Author and Host / Rome 360º The Churches
An episodic series looking at the 360 churches located in the Roma Centro
Director, Author and Host / Vino Veritas / Wine from Around the World
Who makes it? Who presents it? Who enjoys it?
Artistic Director, 3 Amici Studios, Rome, Hollywood and Boca Raton Florida
International Full Service Production Studio working in 40 Languages
All mediums, pre to post
Author and Director / Rome, the First 3000 Years www.Rome3000.Blogspot.com
Creator and Host / Italy with Tom Shaker www.ItalyWithTomShaker.com
Guide Wars / Tour Battles International Edu-Tainment Game Show
Fugedaboutdit (Forget About It) / TV-Internet Comedy Show “Set” in NYC, “Shot” in Paris at an “Irish” Pub
The King and The Pope / Feature Film about the Papal Visit of John Paul II to Norway
www.InternationalImaginationInstitute.com USA 501(c) 3 Non Profit
Imagination Institute in Italy www.iiitaly.com Image, Instruction, Itineraries
Web TV Italy www.WebTvItaly.com Everything Italian online and Free for All
• Founding Artistic Director / international non-profit corporation (Partita Iva #08033741003)
• CEO of Studio Colosseo Pre to Post Production Facility, a division of iiitaly.com
• Author and recording artist for audio and video guides
• Author-Performer, Rome, the 1st 3000 years, one-man musical salute to the Eternal City
• Lecture-guide and guide trainer
• Producer and Lead Singer Tom and His “Cats” Jazz, Blues and Standards Band
• Creator and Author Rome-Mania Series of articles and soon to be published book
• Coordinator, International Jazz Workshop with Barry Harris
• Keynote Speaker, E-Factor Leadership Seminar, Paris
2006 HBO ROME - Episode 11 “Spoils” / Character-Court Lictor
2004 Passion of the Christ - Mel Gibson / Character-Eyepatch
• Board Member, USO Rome
• President, AICR, American International Club of Rome, 2003-4
• Short stories and articles: clients include Continental Airlines, Al Italia, Shearman Law Firm
• Author of original lyrics for songs, “Family”, “Falling Down” and “Italiano-Americano”
• Member of SIAE (Union for Authors and Composers in Italy)
• Voice Artist, dubbing, original productions Disney, RAI, Mediaset, King World, HBO…
• Writer, voice artist and producer for “Amazing History”, 65 episodes, RAI 3 International
• Jazz and Blues Singer/Composer / Clients include Ambassadors Mel Sembler and Tony
Hall, St. Regis Grand Hotel, Rose Garden Palace Hotel, Grand Palace Hotel, Palazzo
Borghese, Quirinale Palace, American Women’s Association, Rome, Commune di Frascati
• Marketing Director of Vatican Tours and Beyond - Tour and Transfer Company
• English conversation tutor to Senator Montecone of the Italian Parliament and Professor
Luciano Caglioti, Roma Uno University
1978-2006, The Storybuilders
• CEO and founder of this international production company that has Film, Television,
Industrial, Theatre and Trade Show credits / Past clients include GM, Ford, Chrysler,
AT & T, American Express, Michigan Bell, AAA, Dominos Pizza, Coca Cola…
• Signatory and member of Screens Actors Guild (SAG), American Federation of Television
and Radio Announcers (AFTRA) and Actors Equity Association (AEA)
• Member, The Adcraft Club of Detroit
1979-1990, McDonalds Corporation
• Developed Local Store Marketing campaigns for SEMMOA (South-Eastern Michigan
McDonalds Owner-Operator Association)
• Created POP (Point of Purchase) outreach programs to public schools / Directed the Ronald
McDonald Field Program under the supervision of the RAM (Regional Ad Manager)
• Collaborated with client advertising agencies (Ex. Ross Roy, J. Walter Thompson, Campbell Ewald, Satchi and Satchi)
• Consultant at Hamburger University in Oakbrook, Il.
• Board member of the Ronald McDonald Houses in Ann Arbor and Detroit / Consultant to Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities (RMCC)
• Performed as Ronald McDonald / Trained other actors internationally / Wrote original
Scripts for schools shows, ad spots and marketing campaigns
2005 University of Malta
• Artistic Director, PAVE Program Performing and Visual Arts Education
• Wrote and produced original musical version of Dickens’ Christmas Carol
• Designed summer musical theatre repertory season for international student candidates
Premiere Season June 2006
• London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art - Negotiated Examination Center Status with LAMDA www.lamda.org.uk
• Foundation for International Education - Negotiated Host Campus Status with FIE
• Developed interdisciplinary dept. for film, theatre, dance, art, graphic and web design
• Incorporated professional arts training into instruction techniques for educators
• Founded www.linkacademy.it / European Academy of Dramatic Arts
Director, LINK TV
• Designed, built and operated full-service digital HD production studios on campus
• Wrote and implemented production curricula focused on language acquisition
• Created promotional and educational pieces for broadcast and marketing venues
• Supervised student-produced film and video works
• Built daily live broadcast division on web, satellite and analogue antenna
Director, International Division
• Developed campaign for international student recruitment
• Coordinated Visiting Student Support Services Office
• Proofed and edited all English language web pages, publications and documents
Professor of Advanced English
• Designed, implemented and currently teaching an annual two-semester program where
Students write, produce and market original documentary works
• March, 2004 - created and taught a one-week intensive course following the tenets and goals of the World Food Program (WFP) / Guest lecturer, Tony Hall, US Ambassador to FAO.
• October, 2003 – created and taught a two-week intensive immersion course where students scripted and presented a television news program complete with ad spots, field reports and in-depth reporting / Now an annual program.
• September 2003 and 2004– designed and implemented a two-week intensive immersion course for the Italian Military (Army-SME). Student groups researched, created and presented marketing campaigns for original military products.
2000 Rome Italian Language, Berlitz
1994 University of Massachusetts, Amherst
• Doctoral Candidate (Ed D) in Organizational Development / Fellowship funded by
Bill and Camille Cosby
“Storybuilding / Curriculum Alternative for Multi-Racial Student Populations”
1976-78 University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
• Master of Arts, Directing
• President, Michigan Union
• Thesis, “Brecht and the Concept of Alienation During the Weimar Republic”
• Counselor, Office of Admissions
1970-1974 Kent State University, Ohio
• Bachelor of Fine Arts, Theatre
• Minor in Secondary Education, Teaching Certification, K-12
• Editor, The Chestnut Burr (University Yearbook)
• Founder, All Campus Programming Board
• Founder, May 4 Candlelight Vigil
• Member, Omicron Delta Kappa and Blue Key, Men’s Honorary Associations
• Member, National Residence Hall Honorary
• Recipient, Senior Service Award
• New York State, Education, K-12, Literature, Arts and Technology
• New York City, K-12, Arts, English, Creative Writing
• Ohio, K-12, Liberal Arts
• Michigan, K-12, Literature Science and the Arts
APPOINTMENTS - USA
1999 High School for Global Studies, NYC District 15, Brooklyn Humanities and Video
1999 Roosevelt Island Youth Program, Drama and Video Director 1997 Queens College, Queens
NY / Lecture-Director Duke Ellington course and production
1996 MS158Q, Marie Curie Middle School, NYC District 26, Bayside / Drama and Video
1997 Beacon Program, MS 158 and JHS 216 / Drama and Video After School Programs
1975 Portage County Bd. of Education, Ohio / Educational Consultant and Teacher Trainer
1976 Univ. Of Michigan, Ann Arbor / Admissions Counselor / Selective and Competitive
1974 Kent State University, Ohio / Admissions Counselor / Undergraduate Department
1999 Brooklyn School for Global Studies / Director of Technology, Video and the Arts
• Designed Theatre, Television and Video Programs
• Aided in construction of Student Web Site
• Implemented usage of 120 Mac Computers driven by server throughout the school
• Supervised student-produced Theatre, Video, Print and Web Portfolios
• Designed and implemented curriculum for creative writing, art infusion in humanities and technology usage to aid instruction
1996-1999 Marie Curie Middle School, MS 158, Bayside, Queens
• Appointed Instructor of Drama and Video
• New York City Certification 665B, Performing Arts, Drama / New York State High School Certification, Speech
• Built a complete theatre and video program from neglected, archaic and broken parts
• Staged student written works and supervised the presentation of student video projects
• Transformed closets into editing rooms, coatrooms into costume closets and storage rooms into television studios
• Served as consultant to NTTI (National Teacher Training Institute), MSI (Middle School Initiative) and UFT (United Federation of Teachers)
• The Beacon Program, MS 158 and JHS 216, Bayside, Queens Created an after school drama and video program with neighborhood students from two schools
• Staged "Inherit the Wind", "A Christmas Carol" and various student written works
• Consulted with Beacon sights on how to implement performing arts programs.
Professor of English - Rome
· Senators from the Italian Parliament
· Public Schools of Rome
· Virgilio Superiore
· Visconti Media
· Pantheon Elementare
• Intensive Business English
• Berlitz Kids, Program Development
• Private conversation
PRODUCTION - ROME
Voice dubbing artist, Italian to English Films (various features, cartoons and documentaries)
The Passion of the Christ Mel Gibson Speaking role of “Eyepatch”
Rome HBO Court Lictor Episode “Spoils”
RAI 1 Dominica In Big Band Vocalist
Guide text, scripts and itineraries for sites throughout Italy
THEATRE / Rome /Ford English Theatre
"The Bear" by Anton Chekhov - Male Lead
"Picture This" by Lamdon Coleman- Male Lead
”Ibsen meets Strindberg”-Strindberg
PRODUCTION – USA
1998 BIRDSVILLE / A High Flyin' Rock and Role Musical Wrote, produced and directed an adaptation of Aristophanes Birds Showcased / Kaufman Theatre, 42nd Street
THE HUMBLE THEATRE COMPANY Founding Artistic Director / Multi-cultural performing arts troupe emphasizing non-traditional casting and ethnic inclusion in theatrical production.
1999 SOPHISTICATED STUDENTS Hired by the Queens College Department of Theatre, Dance and Drama to produce the first annual Queens Initiative project (Quip); a program where students throughout the Borough of Queens are invited to prepare a performance piece based on the works of a selected artist. 1999 honored the centennial of Duke Ellington.
AT HOME IN ROME A novel about life in the Eternal City
ROME, THE FIRST 3000 YEARS One-man musical review of the Eternal City
JAZZ, THE Ist 100 YEARS A look at the evolution of this American Art Form
KISSA GRANDPA An Italian-American-Italian Migration Documentary
REX Theme song lyrics for European TV series
YO, WALT! Walt Whitman Cultural Arts Center, Camden, NJ.
Original musical presenting the life and works of Whitman through poetry and modern Rap
START WITH THE HEART Robert Crown Institute for Health, Hinsdale, IL
An original musical teaching the anatomy and functions of the heart
A TIGER TALE Film Short honoring the Detroit Tigers baseball team