Sunday, May 13, 2012

Accidental Death of an Anarchist by Dario Fo, Palindrome Theatre at Up Collective and various locations, May 12 - June 3

by Dr. David Glen Robinson

Accidental Death of an Anarchist Dario Fo Palindrome Theatre, Austin TX
(image: Palindrome Theatre)
The Up Collective is in one of my favorite places.  It's in East Austin, specifically at 2326 E. Cesar Chavez St.  The name is easy to get—one has to walk upstairs to a second floor gallery where the play is performed.  The art on the walls is really, seriously good and is priced like it, too. Palindrome Theatre's set is simple, designed for mobility.  It has two standing door frames with no doors, a table and two chairs, a filing cabinet and two revolving set pieces representing windows.  On one side of each of the painted windows there is a city dayscape; on the other side, a nightscape.  Palindrome plans to travel The Accidental Death of an Anarchist to several indoor and outdoor locations, and the set by George Marsolek is well adapted to that plan.

The Accidental Death of an Anarchist is a famous farce by Dario Fo.  The play is based on terroristic events and police corruption.  The work is fictional, but it updates itself in every new production with references to contemporary events.  The play premiered in Italy in 1970, found immediate popularity, and toured widely in Italy to play before millions of theatergoers.  International productions kicked off in the 1980's.  The Wikipedia article lists successful major productions in the UK, United States, Sri Lanka, India and China.  As the world moved into the 21st century, the play caught on in Pakistan and Australia and saw more productions in Britain and the United States.  This thing has legs.

Accidental Death of an Anarchist Dario Fo Palindrome Theatre
(image: Palindrome Theatre)
Dario Fo is the ultimate Internationalist gadfly, set on this career early in life when he was drafted by Mussolini’s fascist army late in World War II.  He soon deserted and, with his family, worked for the Resistance helping Allied soldiers escape the fascist forces.  Can there be any doubt that these were his formative experiences, which taught him the language of defiance?  He articulated this defiance and all that goes with it in his play writing and career in theatrical production, still going on today.  The response to his work was near-uniform condemnation, criticism and outright suppression by governments, churches and mosques around the world.  What was the outcome of the hostility of officialdom? In 1997, Fo was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for his body of work.

Fo’s theatrical efforts have always been informed by early Renaissance Commedia dell’ Arte.  The traditional presenters of the commedia performed as costumed characters in the streets, and they quickly discovered that their biggest laughs came from fart jokes (and other bawdiness) told about dukes, bishops, kings and popes.  Hence Fo’s devotion to farce, improvisation, and references to government abuses.  Fo encourages producers of his plays to add local references and to rewrite dialogues as commentary on contemporary issues.  Give Austin’s small but active Commedia dell’ Arte community, Palindrome Theatre’s opening of a Fo play should find an informed and receptive audience.

Click to read more at and for performance times and venues. . . .

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