Lanzillotto has shared her history for the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College's Documenting Lesbian Lives Oral History Project. She has taught Solo-Theater at The Actor's Theatre of Louisville.
Annie Lanzillotto was born in the Bronx, New York. She is the fourth of four children. She is a third generation Italian American whose grandparents came from the Bari province of Italy; Acquaviva delle Fonti, Cassano delle Murge, and Bitetto. Her father, Joseph Rocco Lanzillotto was an iceman, boiler repairman, and U.S. Marine who fought in World War II in the Battle of Okinawa. Her mother, Rachel Claire Petruzzelli Lanzillotto was a hairdresser and manicurist. Her father suffered from PTSD. After her parents' vicious divorce when she was twelve, Lanzillotto's mother raised her alone on welfare.
Lanzillotto and her mother moved to Yonkers, New York, where Sister Raymond Aloysis trained and coached her into becoming an oratorical champion. She won the National Catholic Forensic League's New York State Championship in 1977. Lanzillotto attended Roosevelt High School in Yonkers where she began to create performance art during her pledges to sorority Sigma Phi Nu. She can be heard on iTunes talking about her early years, through StoryCorps.
Lanzillotto was influenced by punk rock and Joan Jett. She graduated from Brown University with a Bachelor of Arts with honors in Medical Anthropology. As a freshman at Brown University in 1981, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease and in 1982, created the Group Independent Study Project, "Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Cancer But Were Afraid To Ask." This project was funded with "Odyssey Grants" in education for three years. Lanzillotto developed the curriculum with Dr. Stephanie LaFarge and Dr. James Crowley of Rhode Island Hospital.
She studied at The American University in Cairo, Egypt, where she cross-dressed in order to complete her fieldwork of Schistosomiasis unfettered. In 1986, Lanzillotto received the Eva A. Mooar Award for the graduating Brown University female senior who had the most impact on the community. During her university years, Lanzillotto took flying lessons and earned a private pilot's licence.
Lanzillotto studied writing in New York City with her mentor Denya Cascio. She continued her studies at Sarah Lawrence College where Lanzillotto studied fiction writing with Joseph Papaleo, poetry with Joan Larkin and theater with Shirley Kaplan. Lanzillotto taught at Sing Sing, Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women, and Bayview Correctional Facilities through Mercy College Extension Programs, and in Harlem and Brooklyn through The New York City Ballet Education Department. She graduated with a Master's of Fine Arts in Fiction Writing from Sarah Lawrence College in 1990 and delivered the commencement speech, taking on the character of Sarah Lawrence herself.
She moved to New York City in 1987 and was heavily influenced by the downtown performance art scene, particularly by the solo artists Mark Ameen and Penny Arcade. Lanzillotto was a member of AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT-UP). In 1993, she developed a literacy program at Housing Works, where she met theater director Victoria MacElwayne who directed Lanzillotto's first solo show, Confessions of a Bronx Tomboy: My Throwing Arm (This Useless Expertise) which debuted at Manhattan Class Company MCC Theater's Performance Mix and Under One Roof Theater.
She created "Action Writing," a term Lanzillotto coined for her public performances of writing on oversized scrolls of paper, on which Lanzillotto would write to live music and perform recitations of the text. She performed poetry and one-woman shows at downtown art houses: Pyramid Club, Dixon Place, The Kitchen, Performance Space 122 Avant-Garde-Arama, The Knitting Factory, Smalls Jazz Club, Revolution Books, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Worker's United 99th and 100th Triangle Fire Memorial, Remember the Triangle Factory Fire Coalition's 99th memorial at Judson Memorial Church. Lanzillotto's vision of 146 Shirtwaist-Kites became a community art project memorializing the victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.
From November 1995 until November 1997, Annie Lanzillotto created a site-specific community-based performance-art project, "a'Schapett!" at The Arthur Avenue Retail Market Project, in a once thriving Italian neighborhood in the Bronx. This was a site-specific community-based performance project where Lanzillotto brought artists into the market during business hours. She directed live scenarios both scripted and improvised, with local senior citizens, merchants and a variety of visiting opera singers, trapeze artists, musicians, dancers, and performance artists. The project came out of Annie's obsession of the vocality of pushcart peddlers. The project was commissioned by Dancing in the Streets, funded by Rockefeller Foundation Multi Arts Production Grant. Lanzillotto has since written about this work in New Village Press's Works of HeART. was created to bridge the downtown avant-garde performance scene of New York City with the working class labor of butchers and bakers. Her community-based performance work at Arthur Avenue is featured in Molly O'Neill's film New York: A Taste of the City.
Seminal to her political development was the Rockefeller Foundation Next Generation Leadership Program in which she was a fellow in 2000.
In 2008, she wrote and performed in The Flat Earth: "WheredaFFFhuck Did New York Go?"
Lanzillotto performed songs and stories at the first Gay Pride event at Hoboken Public Library.
In 2013, her site-specific "Blue Mailbox Book Crawl" took the audience on a processional walk around the East Village where Lanzillotto sat atop blue corner mailboxes and told stories from her book L is for Lion. This work was supported by Franklin Furnace and City Lore. Later that year Lanzillotto played Grandma Nunzio in Tony n' Tina's Wedding in Times Square, directed by Tony Lauria, and produced by Joe Corcoran. Lanzillotto's approach of performance was described as "She's not acting. She's living.",
Lanzillotto is a lesbian who had a 16-year relationship with choreographer/artist Audrey Kindred, then she became a full-time caregiver to her hairdresser/manicurist mother Rachel Lanzillotto. Annie Lanzillotto survived Hodgkin's Lymphoma and thyroid cancer and has been a patient at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City since she was 18 years old.1986 Eva A. Mooar Award for the graduating Brown University female senior who had the most impact on the community and city of Providence, Rhode Island 1986.
1999 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Multi-Disciplinary Performance
1996 Puffin Foundation Grant
1996 Dancing In The StreetsOn/Site NYC Commission
2004–present, Marquis Who's Who in American Women.
2006 Rockefeller Foundation Next Generation Leadership Program grant administered through New York University Research Center for Leadership in Action.
2012 2nd Place John and Rose Petracca & Family Award in Poetry from Philadelphia Poets.
2012 Franklin Furnace Archive Inc. Performance Commission
2014 26th Lambda Literary Awards Finalist
2014 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Non-Fiction
Eleven Recitations, StreetCry Productions, 2009.
Blue Pill, Annie Lanzillotto Band, StreetCry Productions, recorded at The Loft, Bronxville, NY, 2010.
Carry My Coffee, with Lori Goldston on cello. 2011.