Dario Fo was an Italian actor-playwright, comedian, singer, theatre director, stage designer, songwriter, painter and political campaigner of the Italian left-wing, recipient of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Literature.
Let’s find out some interesting facts about him!
1. Dario Fo was born 24 March 1926 in Leggiuno Sangiano, in Lombardy’s Province of Varese, near the eastern shore of Lago Maggiore.
2. His younger brother Fulvio would become a theatre administrator, their younger sister Bianca Fo Garambois, a writer.
3. Their mother, Pina Rota Fo, from a peasant background, wrote a book of reminiscences of the area between the wars, Il paese delle rane (Land of Frogs, 1978).
4. Their father, Felice, was a station master for the Italian state railway, and the family frequently moved along the Swiss border when Felice was transferred to new postings.
5. Felice, a socialist, was also an actor, appearing for an amateur theatre company in works by Ibsen among others.
6. Fo learned storytelling from his maternal grandfather and Lombard fishers and glassblowers.
7. Among the places in which Fo lived during his early years was Porto Valtravaglia, a glassblowing colony in which, it has been claimed, resided the highest percentage of insane people in Italy.
8. In 1940, Fo moved to Milan to study at the Brera Academy.
9. However, the Second World War intervened.
10. Fo joined the fascist army of Mussolini’s Repubblica Sociale Italiana. Years later, Fo did not deny this adhesion but supported this moot thesis: he did it to avoid arousing suspicion, because his family was active in the anti-fascist Resistance and Fo helped his father to smuggle refugees and Allied soldiers to Switzerland by disguising them as Lombard peasants.
11. His father is also thought to have helped smuggle Jewish scientists to the safety of Switzerland.
12. As the end of the war approached, Fo joined an anti-aircraft division of the navy, anticipating an immediate discharge due to a shortage of munitions.
13. He was mistaken and was instead dispatched to a camp in Monza at which Benito Mussolini himself arrived.
14. Fo soon deserted with the aid of false documents and wandered for a while before joining a parachute squadron.
15. He then deserted this as well, prompting a further unsuccessful search for the Resistance movement during which he slept rough in the countryside.
16. After the war Fo returned to the Brera Academy, also taking up architectural studies at the Politecnico di Milano.
17. He started a thesis on Roman architecture, but becoming disillusioned by the cheap impersonal work expected of architects after the war, he left his studies before his final examinations.
18. He had a nervous breakdown; a doctor told him to spend time doing that which brought him joy.
19. He began to paint and became involved in the piccoli teatri (small theatres) movement, in which he began to present improvised monologues.
20. He considered his artistic influences to include Beolco, Brecht, Chekhov, De Filippo, Gramsci, Mayakovsky, Molière, Shaw, and Strehler.
21. Although he has been hailed by critics worldwide for his acting abilities and especially for his artful, satirical works that convey his leftist ideology, Italian playwright Dario Fo was an unexpected winner of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Literature.
22. The Nobel committee’s choice was indeed unpopular among many segments of the world population, especially with the Italian government and with the Roman Catholic Church, which have both been favorite targets of Fo’s in such works as A Madhouse for the Sane and Mistero buffo.
23. 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”.
24. His plays have been translated into 30 languages and performed across the world, including in Argentina, Chile, England, Scotland, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka,Sweden, and Yugoslavia.
25. His work of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s is peppered with criticisms of assassinations, corruption, organised 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 have included the banks amid the European sovereign-debt crisis.
26. 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”.
27. Fo’s solo pièce célèbre, titled Mistero Buffo and performed across Europe, Canada and Latin America over a 30-year period, is recognised 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”.
28. 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.
29. He owned and operated a theatre company.
30. Fo was an atheist.
31. Fo met Franca Rame, daughter of a theatrical family, when they were working in the revue Sette giorni a Milano. They became engaged, and he married her on 24 June 1954. They had a son, Jacopo (born 31 March 1955), who would also become a writer.
32. On 13th of October 2016, Dario died due to a serious respiratory disease which had previously forced him to recover for 12 days in Luigi Sacco hospital in Milan.