I don’t know if this is because they are my friends, because they are Italian, or both, but I have some Italian friends who like to prank.  And it is hilarious and fun.

I’ll tell you about two of the most memorable.

#1 - Lorenzo

Lorenzo was an integral member of my team when I was running a performing arts festival for University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music in Italy.  He was the guy who figured out how we were going to get all the crazy shit* we were planning on doing actually done.  He also *loves* to prank people, especially me (probably because I’m really prankable).  One year, for a lot of dumb reasons that I won’t go into, we found ourselves  - at the last minute of course, because, Italy - without proper lighting for the opera orchestra.  We decided that, effit, we’re buying the stand lights and we’ll be done with it.  The problem was that the only place we could find them was hours away, up north.  The morning of the opera, Lorenzo heads out to pick everything up, saying he should be back by around 5 - plenty of time to get things set up before the performance at 9:15.

At around 7 Lorenzo calls me.  I’m in my underwear, having just showered in prep for the big night.  He tells me that he’s still on the autostrada.  There’s been a crash or something, and traffic is at an absolute standstill.  He thinks it will be hours until he’s back with the lights.  He knows I’ll believe this because we once sat with an entire orchestra on the highway to Naples for three hours without moving.

I think “oh shit-shit-shit,” and then immediately start forming a plan of action in my head. First, I’ll call the lead stage manager and tell her what’s going on.  Then, I’ll call the production director to see what we can wrangle up in terms of lights.  After that, I’ll call the conductor…

I hear Lorenzo laughing maniacally.

“What the hell?!  What’s so funny?”

“Ima here.  Every ting is-a set up.”

“You f***ing asshole.  You have it coming to you, you know that?”

#2 - Mattea

Mattea is one of my absolute favorite people on the planet.  She loves to joke and play games, and is a badass to boot.  She and her husband owned a bar that was the central haunt for our festival participants, and we kept our call board there.  It was pretty much an extension of my office and EVERYONE loved her and her hubs Marco.  One morning, I’m standing there having my cappuccino and I see her punch someone.  I asked her what the hell she was doing, and she explained the circle game to me.  If you get someone to look at a circle, you get to punch them.  She then proceeded to get me to look at a circle and punched me really hard in the arm (don’t be mad at her; she knows not her strength).  After that I decided I was gonna get her.  I was gonna get her GOOD.

I sent her a telegram with nothing but zeros.

I had my mom mail her a letter from the US that was just a big circle drawn on stationary.

And the pièce de resistance: I bought a hula hoop, snuck it into the bar, and held it up high.

I’m not really the punching type, and to steal from David Sedaris, my punch to her muscular arm had the effect of lashing her with some yarn.  But it was damn fun thinking up all the ways I could get her.  She has since started telling everyone not to be fooled by my angelic face.  “È una bastarda, lei,” she tells people.

Yes, Mattea, I’m a bastarda - but you love me for it!


I guess the point of all of this is that when life gets a little interesting, don’t freak out - figure it out (as Eva Lewandowski likes to tell me).  And then laugh a little, because it sure beats crying.

What are some of the best pranks you’ve heard of?  Tell me in the comments!

*building giant, elaborate opera sets on a shoestring budget, retrieving our lighting systems from the middle of Florence, finding cellos and basses for the musicians who were too afraid to fly with their instruments, figuring out how to get the semi full or our rental pianos un-stuck from a medieval arch…

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