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Queens Chronicle

A traditional folk art brought to life

Bella Italia Mia to present talk on Sicilian marionette craft, history

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Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:26 am, Thu Feb 14, 2013.

Bella Italia Mia, a Queens Italian cultural group, will host a presentation on the art and history of traditional Sicilian marionettes at its meeting on Sunday, Feb. 10.

Guest speaker Tony DeNonno will present “A celebration of the Papa Manteo Sicilian Marionette Tradition,” in which he chronicles the family of Mike and Aida Manteo, whose children and now grandchildren have worked with the Manteo Marionette Theater, which was first established by the family on Manhattan’s Mulberry Street in 1918.

DeNonno, a Brooklyn resident, once created a PBS documentary on the family, which practices an art that goes back with the family’s roots to Sicily and beyond.

He was first introduced to Mike Manteo several years ago when he was working on a film about bakers. The draw was instant.

“I’m a storyteller; I like to work with artists,” DeNonno said. “I really liked what I learned, because he brought me into a world I had never seen before. Once you might have had, right in Maspeth, Queens, shopowners who knew these crafts. They’re not there anymore but here is a local electrician [Manteo] who knows about it, whose father brought it to America.”

He said the simple folk tradition is a glorious art form.

“It’s a story for all ages, because it traces back to the culture of the Egyptians, the Greeks. It helped create literature and it’s still flourishing.”

Diego Lodico, founder of Bella Italia Mia, said bringing DeNonno in for Sunday was an easy call.

“He’s made this presentation to us before, and it’s always been very popular.”

The event is being made possible with the assistance of the New York Council for the Humanities.

The presentation will take place at the group’s regular monthly meeting, starting at noon on Sunday at Christ the King Regional High School, located at 68-02 Metropolitan Ave. in Middle Village.

Admission is $5 for members of Bella Italia Mia and $7 for nonmembers. Refreshments will be served.

Welcome to the discussion.