Some men feel woefully unprepared to be a new father, especially if changing employment circumstances mean they’re going to spend more time in charge of the anticipated offspring. Hoboken-based playwright Joseph Gallo, whose last one-man show ran off-Broadway, has been performing his new show about being a stay-at-home-dad, “Long Gone Daddy,” in people’s homes around town to raise money for Mile Square Theater.
Gallo has a history of theatrical success. The new play is mostly autobiographical and talks about his misadventures raising his first-born daughter in a Hoboken apartment. The 80-minute monologue touches on everything from fires to Bruce Springsteen concerts to trying to find kinship in a “Hoboken Dads” group and realizing the group doesn’t have a web presence, as opposed to the 7,000-member-strong HobokenMoms.
To raise money for Hoboken’s theater group, Mile Square Theater, which is opening its new space in northwest Hoboken, Gallo has performed the show in “salons” in Hoboken condos and apartments. A narrator, New York-based playwright Steven Haworth, occasionally steps in with some stage directions. But mostly it’s Gallo punctuating and gesticulating through a very relatable one-man show.
On a recent Saturday night, Gallo appeared in the large living room of Zabrina and Glenn Stoffel. Guests enjoyed pulled-pork sliders, wine, and various delicacies, before settling in to watch him at the microphone.
“This play came out of the basic anxiety that I felt around being a dad,” said Gallo, whose daughter Olivia is now 6, in an interview afterwards. “I started keeping a notebook around the time my wife got pregnant and the first year of the pregnancy. [The show] sprang out of these notebooks. And then, of course, the actual creative process was much different than the last time I wrote a solo show, ‘My Italy Story’ [which won awards during its off-Broadway stint]. The market changed. I used to believe everybody wanted to write a novel or screenplay. Now everybody wants to write a solo show. I developed the actual stories by attending the Moth in New York City and I became the Moth story slam champion.”
New fathers can relate
Gallo first read the whole show aloud last September. He’s been doing the salons since December.
“I was looking for venues to perform the piece,” Gallo said. “It was something Chris O’Connor [of Mile Square] and I sort of hatched. Elizabeth DiCandilo took on the reins of producer.”
Gallo has been in Hoboken since the late 1980s. He says the play is mostly autobiographical. But it’s not completely autobiographical, as it’s told from the point of view of a man named Thomas DaGato. DaGato and his wife both attend Bruce Springsteen shows at crucial moments in the monologue, and Gallo is a big fan, but he didn’t meet his wife at Maxwell’s like DaGato did in the show. “I met her at a New Year’s Eve party,” he confessed.
Gallo said he’d like to see more salons in Hoboken, as these sort of parties are popular in Europe, centering on a literary theme. And of course, he’d like to see more residents support local theater.
“We got an overwhelmingly positive response,” he said. “If ever a story is geared for a particular place, it’s this one. People have come up to me ecstatically telling me their own stories. Dads are coming up to me and saying, ‘That’s exactly what I’ve been feeling.’ Moms too…the feelings of alienation, ‘Am I doing this right, what is this new role I’ve been cast in.’ It’s well received. I’m very excited to keep doing the piece and get a full production.”
Gallo grew up in a blue-collar house in Linden and his father, like DaGato’s father, was a fireman. Currently he is the theater arts coordinator for Hudson County Community College, a program he helped build.
“I came from a household that didn’t have art,” he said. “I didn’t have a cultural outlet. I had a great teacher, Toni Libro. Years later, I still remember having her for creative writing at Rowan University. She encouraged me.”
He said he’d like to see his show run off Broadway and elsewhere, and thinks any actor could play DaGato. He is also happy to have more local salons, and hopes to perform in the new space in 2016.
Meanwhile, the Mile Square will host another fundraiser, the Hoboken Hoopla Carnival, Saturday, June 20, 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., in Maxwell Park at 1025 Maxwell Lane.
Mile Square Theatre is a professional Equity theatre in Hudson County. Since 2003, it has presented full-scale productions for adults and children. For more information, see the website milesquaretheatre.org.