The Bard of Truckee: Steve Coniglio honored by Town Council
England has Shakespeare, Russia has Chekhov and Mississippi has Faulkner .. but Truckee has Steve Coniglio.
Truckee may be the only town in the United States to have an official “Town Bard” as of Truckee’s Town Council meeting last Thursday, when town council member Maia Schneider gave that honor to Steve Coniglio in her last mayoral move of business.
“… Whereas, Coniglio means ‘Rabbit’ in Italian and Steven Michael shall be known as Truckee’s ‘Wylde Hare’ Knight … Now, therefore, be it resolved, that the Town Council of Truckee does proclaim Truckee’s Wylde Hare Steven Michael Coniglio as a Knight of the Grand Dais and Official Town Bard,” states the official town-stamped document that was enacted on Dec. 7.
Coniglio, with his long silvery-gray tresses and animated facial expressions, has delighted various Truckee audiences with his theatrical talents and satires since 1984.
Coniglio began studying acting and theater at Foothills Community College in Los Altos, from which he earned a degree in theatrical arts. Following a 10-year acting career in New York City and upstate New York that included Off-Broadway performances, delivering singing telegrams and several other acting venues, Coniglio was on his way to San Francisco when he stopped to visit his parents in Truckee.
“I came to visit my folks in Truckee 16 years ago and never left,” Coniglio said. “Truckee was just supposed to be a waystation.”
But the extreme lifestyle change from the bustle of Manhattan to a small, quirky mountain town is probably what kept him here, he said. And Truckee has proven to be the tap for much of Coniglio’s creative juices.
“The thing about this town is there is never a shortage of material,” he said.
Soon after his arrival, Coniglio, who works at the Cooking Gallery on Commercial Row, became involved in the Truckee Follies, and developed his most well-known character with the late Mary Herhusky, “Hamlet in Sorrels.”
“Hamlet in Sorrels” is what Coniglio describes as “how not to do Shakespeare.” This character – whose long hair represents freedom of expression, Shakespearean blouse represents a love for culture, ski tights represent an athletic nature and Sorrel snow boots represent local survival – is a buffoonish character and was created to represent Truckee locals.
“It’s a composite of the character of Truckee locals,” Coniglio said. “We are that character.”
This particular Hamlet does not like change, is always complaining, but never leaves.
“That’s how a lot of us locals feel – but we never leave,” he said. “We don’t have to live here, we choose to live here and that’s what’s special about Truckee. We could all make more money living somewhere else.”
He claims his best material for his humorous soliloquies and satires are gathered from sitting in Truckee bars and reading letters to the editor in the Sierra Sun.
“That lets me know what this town is thinking,” he said.
His theatrical talents can now be seen all over town – he helps with the Tahoe-Truckee High School Student Performing Actors Guild and technical mentoring in other TTHS productions, the Truckee Actors Guild and Truckee Alliance for the Musical Arts. He also entertains audiences at numerous community fund-raisers and birthday parties.
“It’s a great honor to know you’re one of the key components in an event that nets money for the community,” Coniglio said.
Although word about Coniglio’s appointment as Town Bard was innocently leaked in last week’s Sierra Sun, friends and fellow conspirers helped keep him away from a newspaper until the presentation at the council meeting.
“I got sideswiped before I went to pick up the paper Thursday morning,” Coniglio said. “This really floored me. I thought it was hilarious that they all kept it a secret … I can’t believe they pulled that one off. But I’ll get back at them.”
Though he’s not exactly sure what his duties as Town Bard are, he looks forward to keeping his image as a satirist and helping locals avoid taking themselves too seriously.
“It’s an honor,” he said. “It also proves the council has too much time on their hands. Hopefully it’s meant in a buffoonish light … And hopefully the job won’t require things like odes to a new sanitation department.”
Schneider said she has been wanting to do this for about a year, but to end her term as mayor on an upbeat and humorous note seemed like a good idea.
“I’ve seen Steve perform a number of times. He’s very generous with his Shakespeare renditions and we’re very lucky to have him here,” said Schneider, who Coniglio fondly calls “Madame Munchkin Mayor.”
“I thought, hey, why not, Truckee needs a Town Bard and what a better candidate than Steve Coniglio. By mayoral proclamation he’s the official Town Bard … It doesn’t give him any town perks or anything like a free parking space downtown or a special license plate.”
Schneider said she isn’t aware of any other town that has an official Town Bard.
“Maybe we’re the first to have a Town Bard and the first to have a Town Portrait,” she said, laughing.
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