By Mary Thurwachter
Charles Carlino met Joseph Gianni as neighbors in East Hampton in the mid-1990s. The former Marines shared a passion for surfing and got to know each other well over the next two decades.
Carlino, who lives in Gulf Stream, was a weapons trainer in Camp Lejeune, N.C., during the Vietnam War and never served overseas.
Gianni’s military journey was much more harrowing.
“He is a decorated war hero,” Carlino said of his friend, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his tour of duty in Vietnam.
“He’s such an extraordinary, peaceful human being to have seen what he saw, the amount of deaths,” Carlino said of Gianni, a former defense attorney.
Gianni’s story became the subject of Carlino’s book Camp Hero and is told through the main character in his play Sole Surfer, which will be staged Nov. 11, Veterans Day, at the Kravis Center’s Rinker Playhouse.
“Vietnam veterans are very humble,” Carlino said. “They are peace-oriented, not war-oriented. That’s the kind of character Joseph A. Gianni is.”
Carlino said he captured his friend’s stories in his mind and in his soul.
“There wasn’t a pad or a laptop,” he explained. “It was just his soul merging with mine, how he processed all of this and how gentle he is considering all he has been through. He lives with PTSD.”
With the play, Carlino said, he’s accomplished in a light, comical delivery a way of engaging audience members that gives them an emotional experience relatable to all people who have suffered any kind of abuse. The one-hour play received high praise from the audience when it debuted in 2014 at the Stonzek Theatre at the Lake Worth Playhouse.
“You’re engaged in laughter and, all of a sudden, you’re off on a ride that takes the story in a very unique direction,” Carlino said. “You’re onboard with it because you’re him.
“Most people feel for the veterans and love them but want to do it from a distance,” said Carlino, 70. “They don’t want to get near these people because it’s really dark. With this play, it’s almost like a boot camp story where as you enter the theater you’re engaged. The play starts very gentle. I think I’ve created an emotional experience that only special stories can engage.”
Carlino advanced his career in computer technology and built a boutique systems firm but always had an interest in writing and the theater.
“Having lived in New York City for over 55 years, I viewed an abundant amount of theater,” he said. “The Broadway scene was great for taking clients, but I lived for off-Broadway, black box theater.”
Today, he has his own theater company, Roadshow Productions (www.roadshow productions.net), dedicated to the presentation of original works for the stage.
“As a producer/playwright, with my talented, professional staff, we self-produce and promote plays and musicals where originality, experimentation and traditional theater coexist,” Carlino said.
“We welcome all who wish to play in our sandbox and live by the simple credo: Art matters.”
— Mary Thurwachter
Q. Where did you grow up and go to school? How do you think that has influenced you?
A. Rosedale in Queens, N.Y. I spent my childhood stuck in that medieval place, cut off from civilization. I felt I was a worthless young individual — a disappointment to my family, my teachers, my church and assured by all I was destined to fail. Raised on a steady diet of ridicule and limitation, I learned at a young age how to nourish myself. I was bullied. My right to life was the fight to exist.
Q. What professions have you worked in? What professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
A. I had to give up my first meaningful job at Dean Witter brokerage house in New York as a trainee in the data processing department, to join the United States Marines in 1967 at the height of the Vietnam War. When I returned home, I was able to secure a job in the computer technology field, moving my way up to systems manager at the age of 25.
During the summer of 1975, I was in a bad motorcycle accident which almost took my life. Instead, it changed my life for the better. I left the computer field and went on a life’s journey, experiencing personal and artistic growth, creating my future. I was able to develop natural talents in areas such as interior and space design, restaurant and cabaret, black box theater, brownstone renovation and author of the Guide for Safe Surgery. I wrote it with two other associates, one an orthopedic surgeon, to assist patients to be proactive about their surgery.
There were times when I drove a taxi and bartended to make ends meet. Ultimately, I returned to the computer technology field where I made my ultimate success, building a small boutique systems firm, Lorin Technology.
After 50 years in New York City, I settled in Florida.
I am most proud of the production of my play, Sole Surfer.
Q. What advice do you have for a young person selecting a career today?
A. Never place money before excellence of performance. Find your passion, then search out a career that can teach you and lead you to that passion. Perseverance is the true master to success. Never give up. Stay the path. Let no one tell you you can’t succeed. Create realistic goals and approach them in a superhuman manner. Remember, the tougher things become, the closer you are to your success. Competition is not the enemy, it’s God testing your will to rise above. Celebrate each success and failure, as they are all part of your ultimate destiny.
Q. How did you choose to make your home in Gulf Stream?
A. Having lived in West Palm Beach previously, I became acquainted with the small town of Gulf Stream. This tiny enclave captured my eye from the first instant. With its small, private streets and mix of cozy-styled homes, I was drawn in by its beauty.
Q. What is your favorite part about living in Gulf Stream?
A. The residents are made up of many different backgrounds, yet all share a neighborly quest for good clean living. It’s a relaxed, safe and natural style of living, rich in the quality of contemporary neighborhood life. People here are friendly, helpful and most of all respectful of one another.
Q. What music do you listen to when you need inspiration? When you want to relax?
A. My father being a true jazz musician, I was brought up on the sounds of all the jazz greats. I guess you might call me a jazz buff and I even owned a speakeasy back in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
My wife, Anna, and I share a passion in Latin music, and have danced our way through the many fine venues of our community. However, if you visit our home, you will be embraced by the soothing sounds of Zen and other inspirational music. This same music is background to my play.
Q. Do you have a favorite quote that inspires your decisions?
A. “Behind every successful man is a great woman.” I am married to a great woman, rich in heart and soul. I believe that two is better than one — if it is a healthy two. Anna has brought a balance to my life, supporting and even applauding my work.
Q. Have you had mentors in your life?
A. I have been blessed with many great mentors, people that possess a healthy balance to life and have made great impact on my successes and taught me how to grow and embrace my failures. A name that stands out is the pastor Joel Osteen. Others, such as Joyce Meyer, Don Miguel Ruiz and Deepak Chopra, stand out as beacons to spiritual enlightenment.
Q. If your life story were made into a movie, whom would you want to play you?
A. One of my favorite actors, Gerard Butler, who starred in the movie Chasing Mavericks. I admire the real-life manner he brings to his roles.
Q. Who/what makes you laugh?
A. Jackie Gleason. I can still recall many lines from The Honeymooners. It just feels like home, the way we grew up, our parents, the times. I find myself writing pieces today that sound just as those from over 50 years ago, with that special delivery that only Gleason can deliver, totally relatable and a bit ridiculous, but so funny.
If You Go
What: Sole Surfer, written by Charles Carlino. The one-act, two-actor drama with narration is directed by Selma Hazouri. The lead character is played by Bryan Wohlust and the narrator is Richard Forbes.
Where: Rinker Playhouse at the Kravis Center, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach
When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 11
Info: 832-7469; www.kravis.org