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Actor Tony Lo Bianco speaks to members of the University Forum during a luncheon at the Binghamton Club on Oct. 21.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
Award-winning actor speaks at University Forum
October 24, 2014Tweet
Tony Lo Bianco has been performing his one-man play, “The Little Flower,” since 1984, but he still makes changes to the script. People often ask him how he could play the same role for so many years, and he has a response for them:
“Because I haven’t got it right. Because I’m fixing it,” said Lo Bianco, a Tony Award-winning actor.
Lo Bianco talked about his inspiration for writing, producing and staging “The Little Flower” during a Binghamton University Forum luncheon program on Oct. 21, at the Binghamton Club. He staged a community performance of the play that night at the Helen Foley Theater at Binghamton High School.
Lo Bianco has appeared in numerous films, television programs and stage performances as an actor and has also written, directed and produced numerous shows. He is best known for his performance as Ray Fernandez in the cult classic “The Honeymoon Killers” and as Sal Boca in the Academy Award-winning film “The French Connection.”
In “The Little Flower,” Lo Bianco portrays former New York City Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia — “a man of and for the people” — during his last days in office in 1945. The play parallels what is going on in terms of politics and the world today, said Lo Bianco said.
“The way the world is changing…there is all this new stuff that relates back to LaGuardia’s time and what is going on now,” he said.
“It parallels what’s going on in our country. And we do not seem to learn from history. History is our teacher. Why do we keep ignoring it and make making the same mistakes?”
Lo Bianco, who just celebrated his 78th birthday, is committed to spreading the word about LaGuardia to a younger generation, a generation he believes has grown up with poor role models.
“I have a tremendous amount of energy, because it has to do with what I believe in and what I want to accomplish,” Lo Bianco said.
After winning a declamation contest in vocational school for his performance of a Cyrano de Bergerac poem, Lo Bianco was determined to be an actor. He’s forever grateful to his parents, who didn’t have much money — his dad was a cab driver and his mother was a homemaker — but sacrificed so he could go to acting school.
“My drive, that I still, thank God, possess, was the understanding that these this first moneyies was was coming from my mother and my father, all $300 of it.”
Once Lo Bianco entered acting school, he made it his mission to know everything that went into putting on a show: the lights, the costumes, the directing, even how to sweep the floors. All of this experience helped him develop a better understanding of how to move an audience. Acting, he explained, is about having an awareness and sensitivity to what’s going on around you.
“It gives you a sense of sensitivity. You get in touch with all of your senses,” he said. “You’ve got to smell the grass, you’ve got to taste the food. … When you became aware of all of your senses, it helps as a person.”
Lo Bianco is still hyper-aware. Despite having to direct himself on stage for over an hour, he doesn’t stray from the script.
“If you think I’m making it up, it’s all written in,” he said. “Every word that you will see tonight, that you think is improvisation, is written in the script.”
Putting on a one-man show can be challenging, noted Lo Bianco. He’s just happy he’s on the same page as the rest of his “crew.”
“Thank god, I have a conversation with the writer, the director, the producer and the actor. I have these meetings together.”