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Dario Fo

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Dan Johnson

on 22 October 2012

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Transcript of Dario Fo

PLAYWRIGHT
POLITICAL ACTIVIST
REVOLUTIONARY DARIO FO WITH COMEDY, I CAN SEARCH FOR THE PROFOUND THE STORY OF BORN 1926 SAN GIANO Towards the end of the 2nd World War, Dario is conscripted into the army of the Salo republic. He manages to escape, and spends the last months of the war hidden in an attic store room. His parents are active in the Italian resistance, his father organizing the smuggling of Jewish scientists and escaped British prisoners of war into Switzerland by train. 1944 WITH COMEDY, I CAN SEARCH FOR THE PROFOUND KNOW HOW TO LIVE THE TIME THAT IS GIVEN TO YOU During his childhood, Fo would visit his grandfather. During Dario's visits, his grandfather would travel around the countryside selling his produce from a big, horse-drawn wagon. To attract customers he would tell the most amazing stories, and in these stories he would insert news and anecdotes about local events. His satirical and timely chronicles earned him the nickname Bristìn (pepper seed). It was from his grandfather, sitting beside him on the big wagon, that Dario began to learn the rudiments of narrative rhythm. 1930's 1940 He moves to Milan to study at the Brera Art Academy 1945-51 He turns his attention to stage design and theatre design. More importantly, he begins to improvise monologues. 1951-52 During the Milan theatre season Dario Fo meets Franca Rame by chance: they are both working on the same production. Dario's courting technique is drastic: he pretends not to see Franca. After a couple of weeks of this, she grabs him backstage, pushes him up against a wall and gives him a passionate kiss. They get engaged there and then! These two moments gave birth to one of the most influential movements in Theatre. 1958 The Fo-Rame company is established Works Mistero Buffo Accidental Death of an Anarchist Trumpets and Raspberries Can't pay, Won't pay Throughout hi career Fo developed a one-man lecture-demonstration clown show entitled Mistero Buffo, featuring his own political versions of Passion stories, combining storytelling, monologues, dialogues and even crowd scenes, in which he would play all the parts.

In most of these stories, Christ's miracles, tribulations and agonies take place just off stage (or above the characters' head while He's on the cross), and we see the events through the eyes of the common people: workers, passersby, witnesses and random onlookers. This play is set in a 'modest working class flat' to where the character Antonia returns from the local supermarket after indulging in some "autoreduzione" (self-service) with her housewife comrades.
The play is Fo's first feminist comedy insofar as it focuses on the problems in the economy in Italy during the late 60's from the viewpoint of the housewife struggling to afford the ever rising prices in the shops. 'Trumpets and Raspberries' is a farce with the traditional ingredients of mistaken identity and its hilarious consequences, but it also has a strong political message.

The fictional plot of this satire revolves around a real political figure, Gianni Agnelli, head of the Fiat corporation from 1966 to 2003. When wealthy Agnelli is disfigured in a failed kidnap attempt, he is rescued by humble Antonio, one of his Fiat employees. Antonio flees the scene when people start shooting at him, leaving his jacket on Agnelli's body. The rich and influential Agnelli is taken to hospital in Antonio's jacket, where he mistakenly has his face reconstructed in the poor Antonio's likeness. Chaotic confusion ensues as Agnelli finds himself chief suspect in a kidnap plot against himself. He survives the ordeal but must live out his life as a blue collared worker. In its first two years of production in Italy, Dario Fo's notorious Accidental Death of an Anarchist was seen by over half a million people. It has since been performed all over the world, and become a classic of twentieth-century drama. A sharp and hilarious satire on police corruption, it concerns the case of an anarchist railway worker who, in 1969, 'fell' to his death from a police headquarters window. Throughout his long career he has earnt his nickname 'The People's Court Jester' poking fun at and exposing the flaws of the ruling classes, just as jesters, jokers and clowns have done for hundreds of years... 1962 The Fo-Rame company is invited to write, direct and present 'Canzonissima' on the RAI (Italian BBC) It is a hugely popular show, built around the national lottery, with a different host each year. Fo's and Rame's sketches become an issue for the entire nation, provoking wild controversy. For the first time, television is used to portray the lives and difficulties of common people The show is very successful; during broadcasts even taxi drivers stop working, and bars with televisions are smack full of people. RAI's management starts to get nervous. Cuts are demanded in texts that have already been approved. All hell breaks loose over a sketch with a Mafia theme that tells the story of a murdered journalist. Fo and Rame also receive death threats, written with blood and delivered with the typical miniature, wooden coffin. The Fo family (including Franca's and Dario's seven-year old son) is placed under police protection. A fight begins with RAI about censorship. Just a few hours before the scheduled broadcast of the eighth programme in the series, RAI's management declares that further cuts must be made. Dario and Franca refuse and threaten to leave the programme. As "Canzonissima" is about to be aired it is still unclear what is going to happen. At the last minute RAI confirms the cuts. Dario and Franca walk off the show as a sign of protest. The support they receive for their act is overwhelming, including thousands of letters and telegrams. Fo and Rame face five law suits as a consequence and are ordered to pay several billion lire in damages. For 15 years they are banned by RAI from participating in either programmes or commercials on national radio or television (at that time, both radio and television were state monopolies). 1967 Following the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, Dario Fo withdraws his permission for his plays to be staged in Czech theatres. 1970 Fo writes and stages Accidental Death of an Anarchist. It tours Italy and is seen by over 1 million people. 1973 The Fo-Rame company rent the Rossini Cinema on the outskirts of Milan, where they stage "Pum pum, chi è? La Polizia!" ["Bang bang, who's there? Police!"] with Dario Fo and other actors, which is further condemnation of the Fascist Carabinieri police force.

The company is subjected to various acts of repression by the police as well as to efforts at censorship. 8th March 1973 A group of Fascists, working on orders of high ranking Carabinieri officers, kidnap, torture and rape Franca Rame. Through this act, they hope to punish Franca and Dario for their political activism. There is national public outcry and indignation of the violent act. Two months later Franca returns to the stage with a performance entitled "Basta con i fascisti", a slide presentation with monologues by Fo-Rame. The performance is dedicated to young people and addresses the cultural and political presence of Fascism within the Italian state, retelling the birth, history and violence of Fascism. It is in these years that Fo becomes Italy's most translated author. He is published in more than 50 countries and in more than 30 languages. 1977-78 9 October 1997 Dario Fo receives the Nobel Prize in literature
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