History of the ITALIAN AMERICAN CULTURAL CLUB of Steubenville
by Alfonso Ruggieri
In this, our ninetieth year, times seems to have past so quickly and yet, it seems like only yesterday, when a handful of men got together to form the Steubenville Dramatic Club. The year was 1925. These men approached this new undertaking with great enthusiasm. It was obvious that a bright future existed for this group. However, female participation was necessary and this was the turning point, when two young women in our city, who originally came from Italy, joined the organization.
In November of 1926 the club gave the first performance at Well’s High School, Romeo & Juliet. The auditorium was packed. The same performance was repeated in May of 1927 in Weirton High School. This also was a success and encouraged the group to continue.
Shortly after that performance, we were approached by a committee from St. Anthony of Padua Church to present a play for the benefit of their church. Imagine how much courage and enthusiasm this small group had to pick one of the most difficult and tragic operas La Forza del Destino. This opera was presented in December 1927 with great success. The club made a profit of $600.00 (a lot of money in those days) after expenses were paid. The proceeds were given to St. Anthony Church.
In the spring of 1928 we gave the opera titled Otello for the benefit of the Dante Alighieri Club. In the fall of 1928, again the club presented Una Notte a Firenze, a drama with five acts. After this play the enthusiasm among the Italians was so great that some of the young girls of Italian decent joined the club to participate in the plays. The Italian language was again being studied and learned. And, at this point the Dramatic Club had more ladies than men.
The following year, 1929, this club presented another play The Tosca in Steubenville and in Columbus, Ohio. Many more plays followed including La Lancondiera which is a comedy, Mia Mogile e Fidanzata, another beautiful comedy and I Seguaci di Gesu which was presented to benefit the Italian Red Cross. These performances were given between 1930 and 1932; they were presented in Steubenville and Bradock, Pa. for the benefit of the Sons of Italy of Bradock. In 1933 the club decided to give an Operetta, Cherry Blossom, sung in English and again for the benefit of the American Red cross. In the fall of 1934 we presented the opera Il Trovatore for the benefit of St. Anthony Church of Steubenville and the drama Papa Sisto Quinto at Grant School.
In the spring of 1936 several plays and operas were given for the purpose of raising funds to help Italy. Plays such as La Carmen, La Forza del Destino raised enough funds to enable the club to send $2,000.00 back to Italy during the Great Depression.
During the years of 1937 and 1941 many performances were presented but after Italy declared war with America in 1941 the club remained inactive, having meetings only. In 1946 the club merged with the Columbus Club and became the Columbus Dramatic Club. Money was raised to support the Columbus Club at its start by presenting Il Fornaretto di Venezia.
Money was raised in 1948 by presenting the play La Figlia Maledetta. These funds were used to make homemade wine for the members of the Columbus Club. In 1950 the play La Cieca de Sorrento benefited the Convent of Saint Francesco di Paola in Cosenza, Italy through Father Scalzo.
In 1952 the club became independent again and re-organized under the present name of The Italian American Cultural Club. From 1952 to 1963 the club sponsored many concerts & dinners. Over many more years, plays and operas were sponsored for the benefit of many charitable organizations including Sacred Heart Villa, St. John Villa Orphanage in Carrollton, Ohio, The Urban Mission Ministry, Catholic Community Center and CCHS scholarship fund. The club’s 50th anniversary was marked with a presentation of the film Guiseppe Verdi .
Such plays asTosca, La Serva Padrona, Aida, La Traviata, Carmen by Bizet, Otello by Giuseppe Verdi, La Boheme by Giacomo Puccini and Don Fiovanni by W.A. Mozart were presented through the years and enjoyed by sold out houses. In 1995, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the IACC, a dinner-dance was held at the Williams Country Club. Judge Patrick Tamilia, the National President of the ISDA (the Italian Sons & Daughters of American) was our main speaker. Judge Tamilia was a Superior Court Judge of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
2005 marked the 80th anniversary which was celebrated at St. Florian Hall. The Honorable Judge Dominick Olivito served as Toastmaster and Emanuela Agresta as guest speaker. Awards were presented to Mrs. Catherine Lancia, a member of the club since its’ inception and to Alphonse Ruggieri, who dedicated 13 years serving as President promoting ideals of the club and our Italian culture.
Today the club’s membership is approximately 350. Our immediate past president is Carmella Gentile. President Gentile always strived to carry on the Italian culture, keeping children interested and gaining new members by her willingness to work hard, as did another former president, Mariella Pittera, who served 4 years. There are many Italian Americans who have contributed to the longevity of the Italian American Cultural Club in this, our 90th year, several have passed on but we wish to extend our thanks to all. Now, we are all responsible to continue keeping the culture alive while sharing and enjoying our traditions.
Monthly meetings fall on the second Monday of the month except December when we do not hold a meeting. December has been chosen to celebrate Christmas with our annual party. Meetings are held at St. Florian Hall beginning with dinner at 6:30 PM followed by the regular meeting.
Yearly, the club presents several events to celebrate our heritage. Our first event of the year is the presentation of the story of La Befana. As legend goes, Befana is an old woman who was too busy cleaning and sweeping to go with the Three Wise Men searching for the Christ Child. Living with regret and still searching for the New Born King, Befana flys on her broom on the Feast of the Epiphany looking for Baby Jesus and filling all children’s stockings with sweets. By the volunteering of our membership, children are presented this story yearly with the celebration of the Epiphany. Storytelling, crafts, food & drinks are all a part of this event.
Saturday, April 18, 2015 the IACC will hold the annual “Ballo di Primavera” at St. Florian Hall. This is the spring dinner dance with entertainment by Ray Massa & the EuroRthyms from Columbus, Ohio. The EuroRthyms are an eight piece nationally known band playing Italian & American songs for dancing and enjoyment. To support this event, full page ads are sold and will be included in the program for the evening. New sponsors are needed. Everyone is welcome to attend. Ticket availability and cost will be announced.
Another yearly event the club held was “Una Serata – La Feste delle Regione Italiane”. This was held August 1, 2014 and highlighted 4 regions of Italy with foods and traditions from each region. With “Una Serata” we joined with the children from campo to celebrate Italy. Entertainment this year included our own Rick Pastre, Ben Provenzano and Al Prozenzano, the Allegro Dance Company, our Campo Italiano children and two talented performers from Philadelphia, PA, Fulvio Ranni and Sal Elvuo. This evening was jam- packed with music and fun. Reasonable ads are sold prior to support this event to continue the growth of our club and to keep the Italian heritage alive. New sponsors are always needed and welcome.
2015 will be our fifth year to hold “Festa del Vino” and our nineth year awarding scholarships and this wine tasting is the major fund raiser for them. In 2014 the IACC awarded five $1,000.00 scholarships to high school graduates. With support from all of you for the wine tasting, we hope to give five $1,000.00 scholarships to graduates of the class of 2014. Donated items are collected and used in a silent auction and in an Italian (Chinese) auction. Monetary donations are also accepted to support this fund raiser.
Our children experience Italian heritage as well with “Campo Italiano”. Each year the club holds a week long day camp for children. Daily at camp, the more than one hundred children learn Italian culture and language while playing, singing, making crafts and listening to stories. Members of the IACC and our community volunteer their time to support this camp. Young adults are able to acquire service hours and they receive training to become Youth Camp Counselors by volunteering in this summer event. A family member volunteering as a youth counselor earns points toward an IACC scholarship.
Due to the growth of the club and the need to stay connected with members, a quarterly newsletter is sent; if you supplied an email address you will receive it online. Members are encouraged to submit information to be added. Upcoming events, meeting dates, family news and interesting facts or stories may be included.
People of Italian descent or those who are IBM (Italian by Marriage) are eligible for membership. New membership application fee cost $20.00 per person, a onetime fee that must be received by the membership committee by November 1st. Dues to renew memberships are $35.00 yearly and must be received by January 31st. New members are welcome into the club at the February meeting. Events we want to remain free to members during the year are the annual picnic, usually held in September, and the Christmas Party in December. Guests are always welcome; their ticket cost will be announced.
Officers for 2015 include Jane Antonucci- President, Lewis (Doby) Piergallini – Vice President, Michele Fabbro –Secretary, Mike Zinno- Treasurer, Tami Cashioli – Financial Secretary, Richard Antonucci – Sergeant at Arms, Carol Almonte – Chaplin.
Feel free to speak with any of the officers and members when you have a question or concern.