Dario Fo was born in a small Italian town near Lake Maggiore, near the Swiss border. His father, a railway worker, found time to act in an amateur theater company. His mother authored a book of regional reminiscences. The eldest of three children, Dario had a brother who became a theater administrator and a sister who wrote books about the family’s wartime experiences.
The northern region where Fo lived had a strong tradition of popular antiauthoritarian narrative, maintained by traveling storytellers who told stories about fantastic adventures to local fishermen and to peasant farmers. Fo listened to these stories and picked up a substantial repertoire for his own use.
Following an abortive army stint, Fo studied architecture in Milan but dropped out to become a performer. His career began in revues, escapist entertainment of postwar Italy. He proved to be a gifted comic, mime, and stage designer. Fo had built a reputation with his monologues over Italian national radio as Poer Nano, a poor simpleton who confuses biblical and secular stories so that, for example, Cain is the victim of a priggish Abel. Fo also performed Poer Nano on stage, fleshing out his satirical gifts and championing the underdog. In 1954, he married Franca Rame, a talented Milanese actress from a popular touring theater family. Together they embarked on a successful series of productions.
Without being a Communist Party member, Fo held leftist political perspectives and attacked concepts he felt were inspired by fascism and preserved by the Christian Democrats, the ruling right-wing party. Despite frequent police visits to his satirical performances, Fo grew in stature as a performer and skillful storyteller. In the 1950’s, Fo had a three-year film career designing and acting, but he returned to the stage in Milan. He and his wife together founded Compagnia Dario Fo-Franca Rame, producing farces and boulevard comedies, with...
(The entire section is 791 words.)