|Fo, Dario (1926-)|
addition to playwright, Dario Fo is also director, stage and costume designer,
and on occasion he even composes the music for his plays.
The Rame family's ties to the theatre are very old. Since the late 17th century, they have been actors, and puppet masters, as the occasion required.
With the arrival
of the cinema they shifted from puppet theatre to real theatre, enriched
with all the "special effects" of the puppet theatre. They travelled from
town to town, and were well received wherever they went.
They often opened in a new town - following a poll among the townspeople - with an enactment of the life of the local patron saint.
The family's repertoire
ranged from the biblical texts over
from Niccodemi to the great l9th century historical novels - especially
those with a socialist or anticlerical bent. Often their performances
included enactments of the lives of men such as
Giordano Bruno, Arnaldo
da Brescia and Galileo Galilei.
As a young school teacher, Emilia fell in love with Domenico - twenty years her senior - who was passing through Bobbio with his marionettes and puppets. She married him, against the strong wishes of her family, and together they continued to tour all of Lombardy. Emilia soon learned the trades of acting and costume designer. It was she who taught their four children to act and to move on the stage. She was an outstanding woman, meticulous in all her work and an excellent organizer. In the end it was she who carried the troupe on her shoulders.
It was in this environment
that Franca earned her apprenticeship. She has always felt at home on
the stage because - as she says - "I was born there: I was only eight
days old when I made my debut in my mother's arms [she played the new-born
son of Geneviève of Brabant] ... I didn't say much that evening! "
Dario spent his childhood moving from one town to another, as his father's postings were changed at the whim of the railway authorities. But even though the geography remained in a flux, the cultural setting was always the same. As the boy grew, he became schooled in the local narrative tradition. With growing passion, he would sit in the taverns or the piazze and listen tirelessly to the master glass-blowers and fishermen, who - in the oral tradition of the fabulatore - would swap tall tales, steeped in pungent political satire.
In 1940 he moved
to Milan (commuting from Luino) to study at the Brera Art Academy. After
the war, he begins to study architecture at the Polytechnic, but interrupts
his studies with only a few exams left to complete his degree.
At the end of the war, Dario returns to his studies at the Academy of Brera in Milan while attending courses in architecture at the Polytechnic, commuting each day from his home on Lago Maggiore.
1945-41 he turns his attention to stage design and theatre décor. He begins to improvise monologues.
He moves with his family to Milan. Mamma Fo, in order to help her husband put the three children through college, does her best as a shirt-maker.
For the younger Fos, this is a period of ravenous reading. Gramsci and Marx are devoured along with American novelists and the first translations of Brecht, Mayakovsky and Lorca.
In the immediate postwar years, Italian theatre undergoes a veritable revolution, pushed along mainly by the new phenomenon of piccoli teatri ["small theatres"] that play a key role in developing the idea of a "popular stage".
Fo is captured by this effervescent movement and proves to be an insatiable theatregoer - even though he usually can't afford to buy a seat and has to stand through the performances. Mamma Fo keeps an open mind and an open house for her children's new acquaintances, among them Emilio Tadini, Alik Cavalieri, Piccoli, Vittorini, Morlotti, Treccani, Crepax, some of them already famous.
During his architecture studies, while working as decorator and assistant architect, Dario begins to entertain his friends with tales as tall as those he heard in the lakeside taverns of his childhood.
In the summer of
1950, Dario seeks out Franco Parenti who is enthralled by the young man's
comical rendering of the parable of Cain and Abel, a satire in which Cain,
poer nano ["poor little thing"], a miserable fool, is anything but evil.
It's just that every time he tries, poer nano,to mimic the splendid, blond
and blue-eyed Abel, he gets into trouble. After suffering one disaster
after another, he finally goes crazy and kills the splendid Abel. Franco
Parenti enthusiastically invites Fo to join his theatre company.