Some wise guys wanted to beat Lenny up, on account of his glass eye. So, Sally had to beat them off. With six brothers, he got good at fighting. Sally’s working class roots precluded college.  What did he do instead? Listen and find out.

This week, I present to you the first “Act” of my 6 Act play based upon my study of “secret societies,” or Greek letter societies at New Haven High School, now called James Hillhouse High School.

The first act, “Sally” introduces to the audience what the Italian Greek letter fraternities did, how they recruited people into their organization, and a bit about life for a working class student outside of school.  Sally lived in the Italian American ethnic enclave, Wooster Square, tucked in the eastern corner of New Haven. In the 1960s, the area was “redeveloped,” and ultimately “gentrified.” I will cover this topic in a later post.

Act II will open on March 11, 2023.

A bit about my methodology. 

1) I interviewed 18 people in the early 2000’s. Most were in their mid to late 70s. I told them I would keep their identities secret, so I changed the respondent’s names and changed several identifying features.  In a couple of cases, I created a composite character melding two respondents into one.  However, the person you will “meet” today, Sally, is largely based on my father, Salvatore Petonito, who passed away in 2011. His yearbook was my entree into their research.  More about the real Salvatore in a later post.

2) I consciously wanted to foreground the words of the respondents. So, the questions I asked as a researcher are inferred by the answers. I try to keep my part in the research process as silent as possible throughout the 6 acts. 

3) For clarity, I do include a slide at the beginning of the play describing what the researcher does. When I performed this play in classrooms, I did not read the slide. I kept it up long enough for the students to read on their own.  However, I did not want to have several moments of silence on a YouTube video, so I do read the slide at the outset. Afterwards, you will see, the researchers participation is only implied.

4) Obviously I did not travel back to the 1940s to interview people. Claiming that I am a researcher spending a decade studying Greek letter societies at New Haven High School is just a convention for the play.

5) The dialogue in the play is drawn largely from my interview data, supplemented by the archival research.  About 75% of the dialogue is verbatim transcriptions from the inteviews.


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