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The Politics of Laughter: A Tribute to Dario Fo and Franca Rame
December 8, 2016 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm EST
Without a question, Fo is one of the greatest comic actors of this century even though his works have gone unnoticed in the United States until just recently. It has only been within the last ten years that Fo’s plays have received notoriety in the United States. Fo has enjoyed the description of himself as a sort of medieval jester or strolling player that satirically mocks institutions of authority such as bureaucracies and churches. Fo explains his method of satire as a way of arousing deep emotions in the audience. Satire makes people conscious because it becomes embedded in the mind and therefore, a person’s intelligence. Fo’s productions, through colorful improvisations and laughter, entertain the audiences while, at the same time, it forces them to face the realities of the culture and circumstances surrounding them. Among his most well known works are Mistero Buffo and Accidental Death of an Anarchist.
Dario Fo (24 March 1926 – 13 October 2016) was an Italian actor–playwright, comedian, singer, theatre director, stage designer, songwriter, painter, political campaigner for the Italian left-wing and the recipient of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Literature. In his time he was “arguably the most widely performed contemporary playwright in world theatre”. Much of his dramatic work depends on improvisation and comprises the recovery of “illegitimate” forms of theatre, such as those performed by giullari (medieval strolling players) and, more famously, the ancient Italian style of commedia dell’arte.
His plays have been translated into 30 languages and performed across the world, including in Argentina, Chile, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka  Sweden, the UK and Yugoslavia. His work of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s is peppered with criticisms of assassinations, corruption, organized crime, racism, Roman Catholic theology and war. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, he took to lampooning Forza Italia and its leader Silvio Berlusconi, while his targets of the 2010s included the banks amid the European sovereign-debt crisis. Also in the 2010s, he became the main ideologue of the Five Star Movement, the anti-establishment party led by Beppe Grillo, often referred by its members as “the Master“.
Fo’s solo pièce célèbre, titled Mistero Buffo and performed across Europe, Canada and Latin America over a 30-year period, is recognized as one of the most controversial and popular spectacles in postwar European theatre and has been denounced by the Vatican as “the most blasphemous show in the history of television”. The title of the original English translation of Non Si Paga! Non Si Paga! (Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay!) has passed into the English language. “The play captures something universal in actions and reactions of the working class.”
His receipt of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Literature marked the “international acknowledgment of Fo as a major figure in twentieth-century world theatre”. The Swedish Academy praised Fo as a writer “who emulates the jesters of the Middle Ages in scourging authority and upholding the dignity of the downtrodden”. He owned and operated a theatre company. Fo was an atheist.