The spirit of religion, the spirit of creative art

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A collection of flowers decorates the sidewalk. Photo: JH.

Tuesday, April 30, 2024. Well, the Sun came out yesterday morning, and by late morning on this beautiful sunny day the temps rose to the high 70s, and went even higher before the day was out, before dropping back to the high 60s by late evening. The weatherman’s predicting that we’re going to have more of these wonderful temperatures this week. So yippee!

Catching up. Two weeks ago, our friend Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia, adorned in ceremonial Church robes, led the Procession for the American Delegation of Savoy Orders annual Saint Lazarus Dinner and Mass at The Lady Chapel, Cathedral of Saint Patrick in New York City.

Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia.

The Memorial Mass was in remembrance of H.R.H. Prince Victor Emmanuel, Duke of Savoy, Prince of Naples and Grand Master of the Dynastic Orders of the Royal House of Savoy.

Prince Dimitri is a longtime citizen of New York and the many of us who have known him all these years have been well aware of his royal heritage. Although most of us including myself are probably unaware of the depth of his royal position but they extend historically to many members of European royal families — from several European royal families only one or two generations before him.

HIH Prince Ermias Sahle-Selassie Haile-Selassie, and Comm. Anthony G. Viscogliosi.
The Procession.
The service.

Dimitri’s grandfather was Umberto II, the last king of Italy, whose eldest daughter Maria Pia of Savoy married Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia. His ancestral connections include Catherine the Great of Russia, like many who were (and are) directly related to Queen Sofia of Spain and King Charles III of England, as well as other members of the Royal houses of Denmark, Spain, Norway, Greece, Belgium, and of course Yugoslavia.

Dimitri, who also has a twin brother Prince Michael, graduated from the University of Paris with a degree in business law. He moved to New York after college came to New York where he went to work for Sotheby’s jewelry department and eventually rose to senior vice president before going off on his own. Carolina Herrera has said that “all jewels in Dimitri’s hands become precious, flattering and very beautiful.”

Dama Gr. Cr. Vivian Cardia.
Comm. Dott. John Laurent Gelati and Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia.

Ann Van Ness, Carole Bellidora Westfall, Prince Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia, and Chev. David M Hayes.
Gilda Rorro and Dr. Mary Rorro.
Comm. Anthony Viscogliosi, Comm. Dott. John Laurent Gelati, H.I.H. Prince Ermias Sahie Selassie, Dr. Robert La Rocca, and Aide de-Camp Lij.

Following the Memorial Mass for Prince Victor Emmanuel, guests convened for a dinner at Il Gattopardo Restaurant. At the dinner Prince Dimitri noted that: “It is with profound pride that I would like to share the news of my appointment as Delegate to the United States for the order of San Maurizio e Lazzaro.”

He said that the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus has been attached to his family since 1572, when Pope Gregory XIII bestowed the right to confer this order of chivalry to the royal House of Savoy in perpetuity.

Since its origins in 1098, when its members started caring for widows and orphans as well as people afflicted by leprosy, the order has been defined by the daily practice of Christian charity.

Comm. Rev. Michael Lankford-Stokes.

Also at the dinner Prince Dimitri thanked Vivian Cardia for the donation of $100,000 to the Savoy Delegation endowment.

Prince Dimitri stated: “I am appointing Comm. Dot. John Laurent J. Gelati as Vice Delegate, Dama Di Gr. Croce Vivian Cardia as Vice Delegate of Florida and Comm. Daniel J. McClory as Vice Delegate of California, who I know to have the fortitude to conscientiously pursue the moral certitude of our Orders with me.”

The dinner at Il Gattopardo Restaurant was to benefit the Savoy Delegation charitable initiatives, detailed at

Cav. Dott. Stephen Somkuti, Dama Eniko Mara-Somkuti, Mrs. Janice Pecora, Comm. Thomas A. Pecora, Frank Craparo, Dama Kimberley A. Tambascia, and Michael Pecnik.
Roberta Houghton, Marc Rosen, Susan Gutfreund, and Arthur Houghton.
Cav. Gr. Cr. Marco Grassi, Dama Gr. Cr. Vivian Cardia, and Dama Gr. Cr. Cristina Grassi.
Comm. Rev. Michael Lankford-Stokes, Comm. Rev. Richard A Mullin, Dama di Comm. Camille Kelleher, and Comm. Avv. Rory Kelleher.
Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia and H.E. Ambassador Paul Beresford-Hill.
Mrs. Eleanor M. Imperato, Cav. Dott. Pascal J. Imperato, and Alison M. Imperato, Esq.
Comm. Avv. Louis L. Benza and Cav. Gr. Cr. Dott. Robert LaRocca.
Comm. Avv.Frank. J. Desiderio and Mrs. Barbara Desiderio.

Also last month here in New York, The late Zelda Fichandler‘s centennial birthday was celebrated at the new African Grove Theater at NYU. Recognized as the “Mother of American Regional Theater,” Zelda, with her husband Thomas, were the founders of Washington DC’s Arena Stage in 1950. It is the capital’s first integrated theater and has stood as an outstanding example of regional theaters.

Later, Zelda as head of NYU’s graduate acting program for 25 years, shaped the careers of many of today’s leading actors, such as Rainn Wilson, Maggie Siff, and Richard Topol.

Zelda’s two sons, Hal Fichandler and Mark Fichandler.

At the NYU celebration, excerpts were read from two new books chronicling her legacy; The Long Revolution: Sixty Years on the Frontlines of a New American Theater edited by Todd London and To Repair the World: Zelda Fichandler and the Transformation of American Theater by Mary B. Robinson. The evening also included reenactments of Zelda’s productions, including Uncle Vanya, performed by the original cast.

Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation also presented Raymond O. Caldwell with their annual Zelda Fichandler Award for his contributions to theater.

“I hear you’re dating Corey. Big Ego.” Nadia Bowers recalled being told by her mentor, Zelda, about her husband-to-be, Corey Stoll.

Guests spoke about her caring nature — when auditioning for NYU’s graduate acting program 7 months pregnant, Karen Pittman recalled Zelda’s encouragement that led to her acceptance, saying “Go on, get out there. Do it. That was Zelda.”

Director Tazewell Thompson remembered his days at Arena Stage with her, and her determination for inclusivity, saying, “We had this idea that in every department there would be a person of color, there’d be an assistant director for every director, some were working in the scene shop for props, painting, lighting, developing — everywhere.”

Award recipient Raymond O. Caldwell recalled, “It was Zelda’s sense of community, her understanding, and her care of people who make theater, theater, that stays with me today. Happy birthday Zelda. Thank you. I wouldn’t be here without you.”

Nadia Bowers and Corey Stoll.
Tom Hewitt, Charlie Jannis, and Angel Desai.

Participants  in the event included Jane Alexander (Arena Stage company member), Mia Barron (NYU Graduate Acting, ‘99), Vivienne Benesch (GA, ‘93, Artistic Director, Playmakers), Cherise Boothe (GA, ‘04), Nadia Bowers (GA, ‘00), Mary Schmidt Campbell (President emerita, Spelman College), Carl Cofield (Chair, NYU Graduate Acting Program), Melissa Crespo (Allen Lee Hughes FEllow, ‘04), Randy Danson (Arena Stage company member), Angel Desai (GA, ‘97), Adam Green (GA, ‘04), Allyson Green (Dean, Tisch School of the Arts), Deborah Hecht (Graduate Acting faculty), Tom Hewitt (Arena Stage company member), Allen Lee Hughes (Design for Stage and Film faculty), Charles Janasz (Arena Stage company member), Patricia McGregor (Artistic Director, NYTW), Laura Penn (Executive Director, SDC), Bill Rauch (Artistic Director, PAC), Lisa Rothe, (GA, ‘95), Gareth Saxe (GA, ‘99), Hana Sharif (Artistic Director, Arena Stage), Miriam Silverman (actor, Arena Stage), Tazewell Thompson (Artistic Associate, Arena Stage), Willa Taylor (Allen Lee Hughes Fellowship Director), Ron Van Lieu (Graduate Acting faculty), Victor Williams (GA, ‘95), and Janet Zarish (NYU Professor and Stage Director).

In the audience were Zelda’s two sons, Hal and Mark Fichandler. The evening was directed by Associate Chair of the NYU Graduate Acting Program, Laurence Maslon.

Victor Williams, Deb Lapidus, and Kim Jessor.
L. to r.: Reggie Joseph and Maggie Siff; Hana Sharif and Carl Cofield.
Janet Zarish, Vivienne Benesch, and Lisa Rothe.
Hal Fichandler, Jane Alexander, and Mark Fichandler.
L. to r.: Mia Barren and Vivian Benesch; Ben Cameron and Allen Lee Hughes.
Nadia Bowers, Maggie Siff, Adam Green, and Miriam Silverman.
L. to r.: Jane Alexander and Mary Robinson; Laurence Maslon and Carl Cofield.
Todd London, Ellie Renfield, and Melissa Crespo.
Bill Rauch and Susan Fader.
Ashta Houston and Michael Tran.
To Repair the World: Zelda Fichandler and the Transformation of American Theater (Mary B. Robinson) is an oral history which includes interviews with actors such as Dianne West, James Earl Jones, and Jane Alexander, who share their memories of Zelda. To order copies, click here or reach out to
The Long Revolution: Sixty Years on the Frontlines of a New American Theater (Todd London) gathers sixty years of essays, speeches and manifestos by Zelda covering her philosophies on non-profit sustainability, notes from major productions she directed, and intimate portraits of artists whom she frequently worked with. To order copies, click here or reach out to

Photographs by John Sanderson/AnnieWatt

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