Tag Archives: Art Bernal

The Purgatory Trial of Vito Marcantonio

On January 27, 2019 The Vito Marcantonio Forum & Word Of Art Productions presented The Purgatory Trial of Vito Marcantonio, which was written and performed by Roberto Ragone, Directed by Art Bernal with an introduction by Gerald Meyer.

Roberto Ragone during the open discussion following the performance of The Purgatory Trial of Vito Marcantonio

The following review written by Gabe Falsetta and Gary Bono, originally appeared in The People’s World and later in The Indypendent:

On a recent Sunday afternoon in New York City an audience of more than 50 people was treated to a unique one-man show, The Purgatory Trail of Vito Marcantonio, written and performed by Roberto Ragone and directed by Art Bernal with introductory remarks by Professor Gerald Meyer. Professor Meyer is the author of the definitive biography of the progressive congressman and the co-chair, along with co-chair Ragone, of the Vito Marcantonio Forum.

The play opens on Aug. 9th, 1954, the day of Marcantonio’s death. Though a Catholic, Marcantonio was denied a Catholic burial by New York’s extreme right-wing cardinal, and thus the action of the play centers around an imagined plea by Marcantonio to be released from purgatory — the repository of souls that God assigned neither to Heaven nor Hell  — and be allowed to ascend into heaven.

By way of a defense, Ragone, as Marcantonio, presents excerpts from his speeches in Congress and dramatized reenactments of incidents from his life. Ragone carries these texts (explaining each of these key moments in his life) in a portfolio each of which illustrate his record of selfless service to his constituents and his loyalty to his East Harlem community.

Reenacted are such things as Marcantonio’s impassioned pleas for the establishment of a “second front” in Europe during WWII to assist the beleaguered Soviet Union against Nazi Germany, his defense of jailed Puerto Rican Nationalist, Pedro Albizu Campos, and his lonely stance in opposition to the Korean War.

The play illustrates how Marcantonio never compromised his progressive principals; always serving as a champion of equality, a fighter against injustice and a defender of the common folk.

Also documented: the relentless hostility of the powers-that-be toward Marcantonio. They continually plotted and schemed against him, changing the boundaries of his district until it extended as far south as Sutton Place. They even changed the election laws to his detriment.

Initially, these attempts at sabotage were in vain, he was reelected six times. Contributing greatly to Marcantonio’s success was the fact that during his time in Congress he had an unparalleled record of direct service to his constituents.

In his introductory remarks, Professor Meyer read extracts from letters sent to Marcantonio from people in his district thanking him or asking for help. With that kind of grassroots support, he proved hard to beat and the only way his opponents could succeed removing him from office was through the immense effort of getting all the other political parties to unite against him.

There are many memorable highlights’, e.g., the eulogy given at Marcantonio’s wake by the great Paul Robeson; a back and forth with a friend of questionable reputation, the gangster Tommy Lucchese, who Marcantonio showed respect while rejecting his offer of a personal bodyguard; and Marcantonio’s successful defense of black leader and communist W.E.B. DuBois, who aptly said the main hurdle of the 21st century would be overcoming racism.

Although this New York performance was a limited engagement Ragone and Bernal have already been approached about possible performances in other cities and it may, in part, even be available for viewing on YouTube, so many others may get a chance to see this play in the future.

TodayMarcantonio, perhaps the most progressive representative to ever hold a congressional seat, has largely been written out of history. The Vito Marcantonio Forum’s goal is to reverse this wrong.

Photo (from left to right): Paul Robeson, W.E.B. Dubois, Vito Marcantonio. Photographer unknown.

Note: This article has appeared in the following fine publications:
People’s World, La Voce, WetheItalians.com, Primo, Indypendent, L’Idea, Portside, ItaliansRUs.com

VMF events December 1st

You are invited to join The Vito Marcantonio Forum (VMF) continues with the latest installment of Oliver Stone’s multi-part documentary:

The Untold History of the United States: Chapter 5: The 50s – Eisenhower, the Bomb & The Third World

WHAT: Screening of The Untold History of  the United States. Chaired by Gerald Meyer, VMF co-chair of the Vito Marcantonio Forum, the film will be followed by an open discussion.
WHEN: Saturday, December 1st, 2018 from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM
WHERE: Community Room at the Mulberry Street Public Library:
10 Jersey St. (btw. Lafayette and Mulberry Sts.) New York, NY 10012
PLEASE NOTE: Chapter 6 screening will be on January 5, 2019
Light Refreshments / Free Admission 

The Untold History of the United States: Chapter 5: The 50s - Eisenhower, the Bomb & The Third World

Martyrs of McCarthyism: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, 1953.

From 2018 to 2019, the Vito Marcantonio Forum showed the first three of Stone’s ten, one-hour long, episodes that comprise his masterful documentary, “The Untold History of the United States,” each of which was followed by an Open Discussion. These events attracted large, engaged audiences. This series will resume with the screening of “The 50’s – Eisenhower, the Bomb & The Third World.”

Almost eerily, Stone’s interpretation of this period of U. S. history mirrors the positions Vito Marcantonio presented from the floor of the House of Representatives, on radio, in Madison Square Garden/Yankee Stadium, and at countless street-corner rallies throughout New York City.

The screening on Dec. 1st 2018, will be followed by “JFK to the Brink,” on Jan, 5th 2019. All parts of this series take place on the first Saturdays of the month in the Community Room of the MSPL, 2:00PM-4:00PM; all are free and serve light refreshments.

We encourage you to go on-line and purchase “The Untold History of the U.S.,” an extraordinary volume, authored by Stone and Peter Kusnick, that accompanies the documentary.

PS: There is interest in forming a four-session reading circle for Leonard Covello’s, The Heart Is the Teacher. If you are interested, please send an email to GeraldJMeyer@aol.com, who will facilitate this endeavor. Please include which evening(s), from Monday to Thursday, you are available.

untold history of the united statesAbout the film: Documentary by Oliver Stone. E.5: Eisenhower and the CIA played a great part in the shaping of the world in the 1950’s; the development of the Cold war and the nerve-wrecking battle against communism, driven on by the U.S. Government hysteria’s reaction to the Red Scare spearheaded by McCarthyism leads to the incarceration, black listing, and execution of those who are a perceived threat.
About Oliver Stone: This prolific and ingenious screenwriter and director has authored numerous award-winning feature  films, including SalvadorThe Fourth of JulyJFK — that have reached millions of viewers with dramatic depictions of historic events that challenge conventional interpretations of critical events of our time. Stone’s official website is oliverstone.com and his official Twitter handle is: @TheOliverStone