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Canada 150


      Raffaella Diana’s social storytelling experiment

      Aug. 24, 2012

      On a sunny summer Saturday afternoon a few dozen people gather outside Café Vito in Montreal’s Villeray district. While sipping on a coffee or biting into a cannoli, the folks listen to comedian Raffaella Diana’s tales of growing up Italian in Montreal. She tells of how she started working at her parents’ bakery before she could even reach the cash register, and how it would take her years to realize that her playtime figurines were actually cake toppers.

      The laughs are in abundance and there’s even a documentary film crew filming the proceedings.

      The setting seems odd and out of place; a small gathering on a suburban Montreal corner listening to someone story tell. And that is the point.

      “It feels like this is missing in our community today. People don’t come together anymore to share stories, to share experiences,” Diana explains.

      Diana hopes to turn today’s gathering into a regular series, where the community can come together to share stories about being of Italian origin. And not just the young; Diana wants all generations to come together to share.

      And as she wraps up her own storytelling, Diana encourages people in the crowd to share their own stories. It’s a timid crowd this time ‘round. A few short tales are told, but for the most part people shy away from the opportunity. It’s something they are just not used to doing.

      Montrealer Anthony Imperioli is in attendance with his ever-popular puppet, Nonna Maria. She engages people to talk, and shares a few laughs with young and old.

      These days Diana is commuting between Montreal and Toronto. She continues to work on her stand up comedy and is working on revamping her Fringe comedy play, A Girl Named Ralph. The play is based on Diana’s own upbringing in Montreal’s Saint-Michel neighborhood. It was part of the 2008 Toronto Fringe Festival and the 2009 Montreal Fringe Festival.

      Diana is perhaps best known for her YouTube video, “How to order Snuggies blanket Montreal Italian Style,” in which she tries to order a Snuggie blanket speaking “frangliasano.” The video prank has had over 27,000 views to date.

      Only time will tell if today’s social experiment can turn into a regular thing. Today’s crowd reactions suggest that it can and should be.

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