Pasta and Pigskin
By Jon Minners
Three Bronxites are coming together and creating a recipe for success with a brand new production slated for the summer.
Country Club residents Chris Raffaele and Michael Aparo have formed the Morris Park based production company, 4/10 of a Mile Productions, Inc., and are working with Pelham Bay writer Joe Mileto on Pasta and Pigskin, a play looking at Italian-Americans and their weekly right to passage of football.
“We tend to work on short and full-length feature films, but we wanted to take a chance and produce this play because we believe in it,” said Raffaele. “I think it is funny. It’s about lifelong friends and their rituals. They have known each other since they were five-years-old and they tell the same war stories; everybody has friends like this. It’s something we think others will be attracted to and relate to; everyone can enjoy this play.”
Pasta and Pigskin focuses on five friends who live in Pelham Bay and always get together every Sunday for their team’s football games and pasta dinner. On one particular Sunday, they get together, cook some pasta sauce, gather for their usual ball-breaking session and escape from the world when one of the characters causes the electricity to go out in the house. The group must get the electricity back in the house or the sauce will go bad and the guys will miss the big playoff battle. However, with their superstitions guiding them, going to a bar to watch the game is out of the question, leaving the group together in the house they have gathered at for years without a game on the screen for them to enjoy.
“Everyone will be able to relate to a character in the play,” said Mileto. “These are real friends; people we know, who we will learn would still get together if there were no football games on television. It is a story guys from the Bronx will relate to. It’s not Miss Saigon or the Phantom of the Opera. It is for Italian-American sports fans; not gangsters, but working class guys who enjoy getting together for a good meal, a great game and great friends.”
Pasta and Pigskin will take place from June 13 to June 19 at the Producers’ Club, at 358 West 44th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenue, but it may not have seen the light of day had certain events not played out the way they did. “We met and wound up talking to one another, realizing we had a lot of friends in common,” said Mileto, who has other scripts he would like to see produced. “I asked them to read a sports book I wrote. It was a collection of poems about baseball and Chris and Mike really enjoyed it, so I told them I wrote a play. The rest is history.”
“We really wanted to get behind this,” added Aparo. “Joe is a really good guy and is very creative. We wanted to get his work out there. People are really going to like the comedy aspect, the witty banter and the development of characters. We think it is going to be a success and people will see that 4/10 of a Mile Production, Inc. puts out quality work everyone can enjoy.”
What’s next for the Morris Park company? Raffaele, who has worked in independent and NYU films as an actor, wrote the short film entitled Sally Boy in 1993 and When I Was a Child, which was screened for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. With two successful projects under his belt, Raffaele has decided to move into full-length films, creating The Grasslands, a dramatic mix of crime and romance.
The Grasslands is a love story that revolves around a murder in the low level streets of the Bronx. The main character, Ciro, struggles with his identity as the go-between for the men who protected him after his father’s murder, twenty years earlier. Little does he know that the same men who are protecting him are the same ones who killed his father. Does he have the courage to let go of the past and leave these lowlifes forever or does he need to settle the score before he packs up and leaves?
“I have been writing this film since 1992 and it has come a long way,” said Raffaele. “I have been trying to get it done since 1999, but there has been a delay. Interested parties did not want me to direct it, cast the people in it or be in the film; they didn’t share the same vision as me. This is my baby and it needs to be made the right way.”
Aparo, an aspiring actor in his own right, has worked with Raffaele as an associate producer for When I Was a Child and decided to partner with his fellow Country Club resident on The Grasslands, along with future productions. “He has the same vision I do,” said Raffaele. “We want to make good quality films again – old Hollywood style motion pictures like Angels with Dirty Faces. The Bronx used to be called the grasslands, a farm land where everything was green, beautiful and pure. We wanted to represent the Bronx in a strong light in a film that will remind people of On the Waterfront and West Side Story.”
The film is expected to be shot in the Bronx this September and will star many aspiring actors from the borough. “We plan to have a big casting call in July or August,” said Aparo. “We want to see some fresh faces. There is a lot of talent in the Bronx and we want to offer them an opportunity to showcase their abilities.”
4/10 of a Mile Productions, Inc. has other scripts in the works that will showcase the talents of Bronx. They are also looking to highlight other people’s work, as they have with Mileto. For more information on how to work with the production company, call (718) 918-0410. For more information on how to purchase tickets to see Pasta and Pigskin, call (212) 352-3101 or go to www.theatermania.com.