Saturday, June 21st marked our 24th annual Italian Night, celebrating all things Italian with an evening of feasting, theater, a raffle…and more than a few shenanigans!

The evening began with an after-hours tour–one of our largest ever–led by Arcosanti Guest Services Coordinator Danny Fields. 

[photos by Sue Kirsch, text by Kate Bemesderfer]

By the time the tour ended in the cafe, final preparations had been made for Chef Ali Sadiqi’s 5-course dinner, which began with the traditional serving of pasta from wheelbarrows. 

With the afternoon winds we’ve had all spring turning the Vaults into a wind tunnel, we held dinner in the cafe and nearby patios, served dessert (from Cool Gelato Italiano in Scottsdale) in the Colly Garden,

and then gathered in the amphitheater for an eclectic show featuring everything from classical opera to Chaplinesque music-making “machines.”  Verdi, Vivaldi, Puccini, Caccini…all were heard at Arcosanti! 

Woven throughout this year’s show were several stories, including that of a young woman in search of a lost bell; percussionist Owen Davis arranged for more than few Soleri windbells to ring out from across the amphitheater as part of the evening.

Soprano Jayne Cassleman and tenor Michael McCall brought their talent and humor to every song, keeping pianist Stephen Ramsey on toes (and fingers!). 

Arcosanti’s own Jeff Stein narrated the evening with comic gestures; Alix DeWald, Jane Tellini and Sara Tellini brought their recently-honed stilt-walking skills to the stage; and Jonas Fister appeared as a mysterious and silent presence at several key moments. 

Added to this mix were the talented students of Moon Valley High School (who brought such skill and energy to our CONNECT concert at the beginning of the season), bringing the theme of commedia dell’arte to life as they mingled across site throughout the evening, playfully disrupting the tour, dinner, and even some of the main performances…only to come together for several beautiful scenes of their own. 

The show concluded with the selection of the raffle winners, five of whom took home limited-edition lithographic prints signed by Paolo Soleri, and one of whom took home a completely original pen-and-ink drawing by Paolo Soleri, framed, matted & ready to hang.

This year’s date also marked the summer solstice, as well as Paolo Soleri’s birthday (he would have been 95).  Italian Night was the final event of our Spring Event Calendar, and while we’ll be taking a break from major events for the summer, there’s definitely more to come. 

Keep an eye out for our Fall Event Calendar!

Here is Jeff Stein’s introduction at the beginning of the performance:

Buona Serra!
Welcome to Arcosanti
Welcome to Italian Night.
I’m Jeff Stein, I live here at Arcosanti, right over there, in fact.

I will not be speaking much this evening,
The producers of Italian night think it will be better for all of us this way….
But I do want to share one idea from the late Paolo Soleri, ITALIAN,
Founder of Arcosanti, whose 95th birthday would have been today, June 21.
(and whose signed drawings you may win just a little later on.)

Soleri said this:
Our work is to present the artist with an environment clamoring for participation, for emphasis, for counterpoint, for identification. To make the habitat itself an aesthetic expression; the city as media, the neighborhood – this neighborhood – as media. Account for:
The sun and the Structure
The moon and the structure
The light of humanity at its center.

And tonight we say:
The sun and the performance
The moon and the performance
The sound of humanity at its center.

Tonight Commedia del arte transforms into ArcoMedia.
Cell phones off; restrooms right over there; raffle soon.
Andiamo! Lets go! Italian Night. Forte! Forte! Rapidemente…!

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