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Narrative

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“THE KEY TO MY GRANDFATHER’S HOUSE,” written and photographed by David Imbrogno and video produced  by Douglas Imbrogno is a powerful, moving photo-poem-essay on the immigrant tale of one Italian family. But it could be the kindred tale of millions of families across innumerable cultures through time.

This particular story began on a steep Calabrian hillside in the early 20th century  in the southern Italian Province of Cosenza., moving through Ellis Island to the small town of Lorain, Ohio. It circles back upon themes of family, loss and heritage through text, photographs and sound effects.

IT IS A BIG ASK IN THIS SHORT-ATTENTION-SPAN ERA— 16 minutes of your undivided attention for this brotherly collaboration which reaches across two continents and two centuries. But after it is through,  we feel you will come to understand the rewards of settling into a quiet space with your computer or phone and experiencing this journey with undivided attention. Your feedback is welcome and any other reactions it stirs in you from your own immigrant roots. In one way or another, we are all descendants of immigrants from somewhere and someplace. As my elder brother David puts it:

“The Key To My Grandfather’s House” story is not mine, not brother Doug’s, it is our family’s story … Normally I would say that I wrote it. Actually I feel as if I “channelled” it from our ancestors. I am usually a visual communicator but here the words came to the forefront and my photographs reverted to snapshots… Our Aunts Teresa and Loretta who accompanied us might have been the mediums through which our ancestors channelled the story.”

David adds: “Please, find a quiet place to enjoy the sixteen minute show. Turn on the sound and watch it full screen.”

A rose bush flanked in the back by an olive grove at the top of the Calabrian hillside where our father was born. | Photograph by DAVID IMBROGNO

THIS IS AN EXCERPT OF A MUCH LARGER written photo-essay (a prose-poem, really)  by David. If interested in reading and viewing the longer piece, visit CowGarage.com or EvidenceofmylLife.com. This video can be viewed as a separate stand-alone work of art, but it is also a companion piece to a spoken word live performance.

FOR MORE ON THE VIDEO, to read the longer photo-essay or to schedule a live performance of “The Key,” subscribe to the websites above and to this website, TheWebTheater.com by clicking on the “subscribe” option in the right-hand top of the home page. You can reach either of us through those sites. Grazie mille!

THIS VIDEO IS A CO-PRODUCTION by David and Douglas Imbrogno. | Current version as of AUG 11, 2018

VIDEO: Surprising Miss Francis
NOTES: Sometimes, the most mundane stories are the ones that resonate with a public hungry for a little—just a little!—respite from the drumbeat of awful, disheartening news in the world that day. So, it was that we got word a local elementary school in Belle, W.Va., was going to spring a surprise on a beloved custodian named Frances Buzzard, a k a ‘Miss Francis.’ The odd thing was, Miss Francis had never in her life had a birthday party. Could this be? And what would her reaction be to her first surprise party and a big one at that? To quote the credit card commercial: Priceless.
NUMBERS: You’ll notice I do not list social media view counts for most videos on TheWebTheater, except for when they are unusual. This is because sometimes a video may have only a couple hundred views, but that’s just fine as the business or persons or organization that needed to see the video saw it. But the ‘Miss Francis’ video went  modestly viral on Facebook, wracking up more than 91,500 at last count, with about 1,000 shares and more than 200 comments, with an additional 89,000-plus views on YouTube (which is unusual since the Gazette-Mail’s channel is hardly promoted and we are happy to get 200 views for a video there). More significant still— last I looked, not a single comment was negative or snarky from among those 200 comments. Now, that’s news.
RELATED: Here is the companion Charleston Gazette-Mail story to the above video.

VIDEO: The Curious Case of the Nicholas County, W.Va., Mystery Paintings
NOTES: I was going to phone this story in—literally. It was a freezing December day and I was just going to do a phone interview to check up on a Facebook tip on some supposedly intriguing paintings in a 19th century farmhouse in the West Virginia outback. Am dearly glad I went out on this one, as encountering these amazing works made the story. Plus, the iPhone video I shot to go with the story went modestly viral on the newspaper’s Facebook page, with  nearly 45,000 views as of January 2017, more than 500 shares and hundreds of comments. A fascinating backstory that resonated with readers and viewers. Did a Dalton Gang brother on the run paint these remarkable works and then flee? And if not,  who did? And who will preserve them now?
SOUNDTRACK: “I Can Feel It Coming” by Kevin MacLeod
RELATED STORY: Read it here.
PS: Here’s a family video shot years ago about the mysterious paintings, uploaded because interest in this story was so intense.
PSS: The cinema verite handshake of the iPhone B-roll is not the greatest. Time for one of these!

VIDEO:  A start-to-finish look at a chocolate-covered cherry cottage industry.
NOTES: In a tiny quilt shop in Barboursville, W.Va., a woman has perfected the chocolate covered cherry. No, you can’t have the recipe, even for $100,000. Co-produced by Maria Young and Douglas Imbrogno
SOUNDTRACK: “Brightly Fancy” by Kevin Macleod
LENGTH: 2 min 23 sec

VIDEO: Crowdsourcing Appalachian imagery
NOTES: ‘Looking at Appalachia’ is a crowd-sourced project that aims to depict life in the 420-county Appalachian region through user-submitted photographs, in an attempt to counter the “visual narrative” imposed on the region by the War on Poverty and other sources.
LENGTH: 2 min 30 sec
SOUNDTRACK: “Against All Odds (ft. Zack Markham)” by Lucas the Flow

VIDEO: The Great Gitmo Cat Rescue
NOTES: When the Meades decided to retire from life as government contractors at the Guantanamo Naval Air Base — better known as ‘Gitmo’ — they had a problem. Well, 25 problems. What to do with their cats? A curious airlift ensued.
RELATED: Read the Gazette-Mal story that went with this video. The story won 2nd place in Feature Writing  in the 2017 West Virginia Press Association awards.
SOUNDTRACK: “Expressive PHNK VP” by Lucas the Flow
LENGTH: 2 min 58 sec

VIDEO: City and rural kids write themselves a song.
NOTES: This mini-doc tracks from start to finish how city kids and rural kids came together at a summer music camp at Big Ugly Community Center in Big Ugly, W.Va., (yes, that’s what it’s called),  to craft an original song. With help from singer-songwriters Chuck Costa and Mira Stanley, of the award-winning group The Sea The Sea and other teachers, the summer campers wrote the music and lyrics to the songs then performed it with a little help from their friends.
LENGTH: 4 min 25 sec

VIDEO: The Making of an Elephant, Part 2
NOTES: It is not just that often that elephants wander about West Virginia. But where do you get one and how do you get it here? The people behind the parade that concluded the 2011 All Together Arts Week in Mercer County, West Virginia on April 3, 2011, had always dearly desired an elephant for the event. Then, they manifested one. Not without a whole lot of work. Elephants, it must be remembered, are rather on the chunky side. It was a very special elephant – and this is her story, the concluding video in a special two-part WestVirginiaVille.com video report from our Large Animal Bureau. Part 2 of a two-part series. View Part 1 here.
LENGTH: 3 min 21 sec

VIDEO: How do you make an elephant — and why?
NOTES: They had dreamed of an elephant for the parade that capped off All Together Arts Week in Mercer County, West Virginia. But where do you get an elephant? A group of artists and elephant enablers decided they must do what they had to do: manifest an elephant all by themselves. This special two-part video takes to the street and the elephant works of The Room Upstairs in Princeton, West Virginia, to investigate how an elephant came to walk a street in WestVirginiaVille one fine sunny Spring day in 2011. Part 1 of a two-part series. View Part 2 here.
LENGTH: 3 min 5 sec

VIDEO: An historic overview of how West Virginia’s population went from lean to not-so-lean, with a corresponding rise in chronic health issues.
NOTES: “The Shape We’re In” was a powerful year-long series of articles in the Charleston Gazette by Kate Long, that delved deep into the chronic health problems in West Virginia and the many people and programs focusing on improving the shape of the state’s population. I was the video feature producer for the series.  The series  won the 2013 top award for public service reporting from the National Association of Health Care Journalists.

VIDEO: “Elizabeth & George: Two Sides of One Life”
NOTES: A companion video to a three-part Charleston Gazette series (June 2, 3 and 4, 2013) about a street person named ‘Elizabeth,’ who was often seen in downtown Charleston, W.Va. Her past turned out be a surprise. She had grown up in the Bible belt and was such a promising singer, Ric Ocasek of The Cars sought out George through mentions in Rolling Stone magazine. But George had since become Elizabeth, and showed up on the streets of the West Virginia’s capital city. Read the tale of how George became Elizabeth, losing touch with some beloved sisters and a mother and the reunion that eventually ensued. Read the award-winning three part series, “Elizabeth & George” here.
SOUNDTRACK: “Marathon Man” by George Bartlett
LENGTH: 5 min 31 sec