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1 - The Puppeteers

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 February 2024

Jo Ann Cavallo
Affiliation:
Columbia University, New York
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Summary

Agrippino's Early Years in the Province of Catania

Agrippino Manteo was born to Michele Manteo and Agata Tornello in the town of Grammichele, in the province of Catania, on April 1, 1884. The dramatic and distant events of his childhood and early youth invite legendizing. He was orphaned at a very early age (possibly at four years old or even younger). According to Agrippino's daughter Ida, “a stray bullet” killed her grandfather and a month later her grandmother died of “a broken heart” (Mandell). Agrippino and his older sister Teresa were subsequently relocated to their maternal grandmother's farm and put to work under very difficult conditions. Treated more like a child laborer than a grandchild, Agrippino often ran away due to his grandmother's harsh measures and the incessant farm chores.

Agrippino's passion for puppet theater, dating back to his early youth, is remembered by family members as an instance of love at first sight. When the puppeteer Giuseppe (Peppino, Peppe) Crimi (1854–1937) performed in Grammichele, the young Agrippino was so enthralled that he went backstage afterward. Finding out that the boy's last name was Manteo and that his father's first name had been Michele, Crimi informed him that his father had also been a puppeteer. Agrippino immediately asked Crimi to teach him the art as well. Since at the time traveling puppeteers remained for prolonged periods in the towns they visited in order to play out the cycle of the Paladins of France, Crimi took the boy under his wing and gave him a pair of puppets to practice on his own. According to another version of the story, Agrippino set out for Catania at the age of seventeen “to find his father's partners” and to learn the art of puppetry (Mandell, citing Ida Manteo). Regardless of how the encounter came about, Agrippino's foundational experience with Giuseppe Crimi set the stage for a life devoted to Sicilian puppet theater across three continents.

Agrippino's Apprenticeship in Catanese Puppet Theater and Dramatic Theater

The province of Catania was at the cutting edge of puppet theater during this period thanks primarily to Giuseppe Crimi's own father, Gaetano Crimi (1808–1873). The elder Crimi, in fact, is considered to be the primary founder and foremost early practitioner of puppet theater in eastern Sicily.

Type
Chapter
Information
The Sicilian Puppet Theater of Agrippino Manteo (1884-1947)
The Paladins of France in America
, pp. 3 - 38
Publisher: Anthem Press
Print publication year: 2023

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  • The Puppeteers
  • Jo Ann Cavallo, Columbia University, New York
  • Book: The Sicilian Puppet Theater of Agrippino Manteo (1884-1947)
  • Online publication: 28 February 2024
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  • The Puppeteers
  • Jo Ann Cavallo, Columbia University, New York
  • Book: The Sicilian Puppet Theater of Agrippino Manteo (1884-1947)
  • Online publication: 28 February 2024
Available formats
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  • The Puppeteers
  • Jo Ann Cavallo, Columbia University, New York
  • Book: The Sicilian Puppet Theater of Agrippino Manteo (1884-1947)
  • Online publication: 28 February 2024
Available formats
×