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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: 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: 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: Laotong Yoga Prison Project
NOTES: Still images can tell just as a vivid  a story as video. This slideshow portrays the non-profit Laotong Yoga Prison Project (www.laotongyoga.org), which brings yoga and meditation to the adult incarcerated populations across  West Virginia. I joined the Laotong Prison Project board in 2016 and produced the video for the group’s 2017 fundraiser, with images drawn from a prior documentary on the project.
SOUNDTRACK: “Grand Final’e” by Lucas the Flow. (I recommend having a son who is an electronic music composer, if you happen to need a lot of varied video soundtracks.)

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: “Boom Boom: The Video”
NOTES: Affrilachian poet and native West Virginian Crystal Good reads her poem “BOOM BOOM,” set to some vivid video imagery in this production by TheWebTheater. The poem reflects on mountains devastated by strip mining and mountaintop removal and imagery of women who strip off their clothes for money. “I see the mountain as a woman,” says Good. “This poem is about strip mining as much as it is about gender. A heavy equipment operator working on an above-ground mine site is doing what he feels he has to do — sometimes life doesn’t give us many options and sometimes the consequences of few employment options are more than we expected. And it’s also hard for a stripper to reclaim her reputation — just as it’s impossible to put back a stream or a mountaintop once it’s gone.”
BLASTING FOOTAGE: Courtesy of Evening Star Productions
ALL OTHER FOOTAGE: Paul Corbit Brown
DANCING: Exotic dancer ‘Boom Boom’
PLEASE NOTE: All footage is copyrighted by its owners and all rights are reserved. Absolutely no reproduction allowed without permission of the owners. CONTACT: info@ legacyofnow.com

Still image video capture from "Boom Boom: The Video."
Still image video capture from “Boom Boom: The Video.” | all right reserved

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