Good night, Mr. Zuccolo — beloved BCC theater professor remembered

By Nancy Oliveri

Binghamton lost a piece of its soul yesterday (May 15 ) when Angelo Zuccolo died suddenly of a heart attack.

Many people remember “Ange” from his long tenure at Broome Community College as theater professor and director of department productions at the Little Theatre there, but he was also a poet and the author of several books celebrating the Italian experience. He continued to teach conversational Italian and a few other subjects for BCC’s community education program, and he facilitated a group on spiritual empowerment that met Sundays at Binghamton’s River Read Books. I promised myself I’d sit in one day, but never did, much to my regret.

Coincidentally, I was at the Little Theatre last night to hear the BCC College Choir in its final performance under retiring director Gerald Grahame. I couldn’t help but be keenly aware of the spirit of Mr. Zuccolo, present there in the intimate space of that theater, and when the choir surprised their outgoing director with Stephen Paulus’ song “The Road Home,” I was hard-pressed not to feel a catch in my throat for Ange.

I have a large gap in my knowledge of what Angelo had been up to since I left BCC in the mid-’70s, but I did run into him from time to time. I knew that he had married a beautiful woman I had known in high school, Lisa, and that he’d had two beautiful daughters with her, Angelique and Marielle, and that he was a cancer survivor.

Last year, I thought it would be fun to be in a show, and I auditioned for a bit part in The Wizard of Oz with a church group. Much to my delight, Angelo came to the show and brought me an envelope containing two black and white stills from the show in which he had cast me in the lead, Passion, Poison and Petrifaction. I learned more about facing my fears, and getting out of my comfort zone when I acted in that show, and it was during that time that I made some of my dearest and longest-lasting friendships. I thank Angelo for that.

This space is dedicated today to your memories of him. Please feel free to post them here and share them.

According to the obituary in the Press & Sun-Bulletin, calling hours will be 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday (May 19)  at the James V. DeMarco & Son Funeral Home, 737 Chenango St., Port Dickinson. Services will be 11 a.m. Monday (May 20) at the  Unitarian Universalist Church, 183 Riverside Drive, Binghamton, with prior viewing beginning at 9:30 a.m. Interment will be at Riverhurst Cemetery in Endicott. Contributions to the Angelo Zuccolo Scholarship for Excellence in Theatre may be made to Broome Community College Foundation. In lieu of flowers, Angelo’s desire was for friends and family to celebrate his life with dinner at a favorite Italian restaurant “in the company of someone special, someone lonely or someone in need.”


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7 Responses to "Good night, Mr. Zuccolo — beloved BCC theater professor remembered"

  1. Anna Maria Trusky

    Beautifully written, Nancy. Angelo was one of a kind, larger than life, and someone I loved very dearly. I am so glad I was in that play with you all those years ago, as well as the man who would later become my husband. Yes, Binghamton has certainly lost a piece of its soul.

  2. Jim Hull

    Thanks for this Nancy. There’s perhaps no way to fully convey the impact Angelo Zuccolo had on my own life, and the lives of countless others. Suffice it to say, meeting Angelo changed me. His no-nonsense approach to acting and directing was tough for a smart-azz class clown coming out of high school ready to bring the world of theater to its knees. But among the many gifts he bestowed upon me was a sense of responsibility for fellow actors and for the play itself, a mandate for professionalism, humility and decorum, theater etiquette, and the real world reality of what it takes to make “make believe” happen on stage. I owe him more than I could ever have told him, but tell him I did and I’m grateful I got the chance, often, to remind him how much he meant to me. Some people just have that gift for making a real substantial difference in the lives with which they intertwine. That was Angelo. Even though I was barely old enough to vote when I first met him, his legacy is such that I cannot even remember a time in my life when there was no Angelo. I hope there’s a heaven, and that they have a big stage there.

  3. Kathy McKenzie

    I never missed a Zuccolo production when I was at BCC and SUNY Binghamton, to see my sister Nancy perform in sophisticated and amazingly staged and acted pieces. But by going I received the bonus of my first understanding of the power of live theatre and the kind of play that one didn’t have exposure to otherwise in a small town.

    It was all due to Ange. One night, after a play’s closing, I went with a friend to Little Venice. There, at the head of a table flanked by two rows of his actors, sat a laughing, engaged Ange. His obvious love for the abundant variety of student actors shining. (The scene, as I now reimagine it, unmistakably a sort of Last Supper, with Ange the Italian Jesus.)

    Last year, Ange was at the final performance of a Conklin production of The Wizard of Oz. He addressed my daughter, who played Dorothy, at the end of the night, encouraging her and filling her with wonder as he did. As he was leaving, he heard her ask me if I had a little money, as the cast was meeting at a restaurant. He turned back to the sound of my “I’m not sure” and unceremoniously handed her a 20 dollar bill. Before I could protest he said, “Can’t we tip the actors?”

    I was not in the actors’ circles that surrounded Ange, but he always remembered I was a relative of one, back then and years later, making me welcome: a singular trait of the larger-than-life spirit Ange was and remains. A spirit that always says “yes.”

  4. Nilsa Mariano

    He was my theatre teacher and my colleague when i returned to BCC as an adjunct. When i suddenly lost my daughter in a car accident, he stepped in to teach my public speaking class. When we organized a benefit to create a scholarship fund in her name, he and his close friend Fran Battisti mc’d the event and masters they were. He donated his pay for covering my classes to the fund. Years later, when his cousin lost her daughters in a horrific accident, he called me to speak with her. When we met, in the midst of grief, we spoke about his loving concern, from the beginning of my rawest grief to years later, seeing Ang never failed to make me smile. Known by many as a grat actor, teacher, director, he was so much more. He was a lover … of life and amore. Ti vogliamo bene

  5. Scott Anderson

    I never had the opportunity to meet Mr. Zuccolo in person. A co-worker that knew Angelo and knew that I liked to write poetry, loved theater and photography as well as music, shared some of my writings and poetry with him. I came to work one day and my co-worker had a book of his poems, Vineyards of Love and Romance, for me. It was a gift from Mr. Zuccolo to me, signed and dated. He asked me to e-mail him, and we communicated through a couple of e-mails about poetry and inspiration. He was very complimentary of my work and encouraged me to keep writing.

    Obituary shock was what greeted me Thursday morning when I read the paper. I regret very much not meeting him in person.
    His poetry, and the few conversations we had, were very inspiring. I have been grateful to meet some of my local inspirations in life such as Bill Gorman; Mr. Zuccolo was a gentleman and class act as well. He will be deeply missed.

  6. Danielle Stilloe

    Most likely unbeknowest to him, Mr. Zuccolo was one of the most pivotal people in my life. I entered college at quite a young age and was railroaded by my best into taking a drama class. I can’t thank her enough. One drama class with Zuccolo turned into two, three… It’s not that I took my acting any further than BCC … it was the confidence he instilled in me. Mr. Zuccolo knew how to find that part of you, that light that the world teaches you to bury and bring it out and nurture it. He had a generosity of spirit that led him to take in waifs and strays, the lonely and the vulnerable and set them back on their feet with the tools to fight for themselves. Just to be with him brought out the best in people. He ran a tight ship. He demanded that people show up and give their best, and he gave his best in return. He nurtured an atmosphere of safety and non-judgment instead of competitiveness. He was genuine and open. Although I didn’t see him as often as I wished in the years to come I was always thrilled when I did run into him … I was at my best when he was my mentor. Binghamton has indeed lost a piece of its soul. I love you Mr. Zuccolo, wherever you are. Thank you. Thank you.

  7. Gordon W. Brown

    I had a teacher, after BCC, who explained that, “acting is not a profession, it’s a lifestyle.” No one demonstrated that more than Ange, who was my first serious acting teacher. No, that’s not accurate, he taught, yes, but he lived it and showed me and gifted to me the rudiments of technique and the sustaining spirit of what a life in the theatre could be, and indeed became. I had the opportunity to thank him and reconnect with him, for which I count myself lucky. After 25 years or so, we embraced like old and dear friends, talked together like student and mentor, and shared stories of our lives like family.

    I was so deeply moved by how amazing the legacy of Angelo’s artistic spirit and glorious humanity has been passed on and preserved in his daughters Angelique and Marielle, whom I never knew until these recent days. The gathering of Angelo’s community to weep and grieve became a heartwarming time of restoration of past friendships, the beginnings of new ones, and the embrace of family. And certainly a time of celebration and appreciation and love of Angelo, who once again influenced every one of us.

    Mio Guardiano Angelo you will live on in your family, your students, your audiences, your friends and in me. From the first day of class in 1976, I have always felt your support, encouragement, reassuring discipline, and respect. No one I have acted with or directed since has ever had any idea how much that experience was influenced by you. Thank you.