Dario Fo – biography
edited by Eva Marinai
Dario Fo was born on March 24, 1926, in Sangiano, in the province of Varese, near Lake Maggiore. His father Felice, a stationmaster of socialist creed, was fond of theatre and acted in a local amateur company. His mother, Pina Rota, from a farming family, was an imaginative woman, brimming with inventive ideas. In the seventies she published an autobiographical account, Il paese delle rane (Land of Frogs), with Einaudi. She grew up on a meager diet and the popular stories her father Bristìn told her, as he would later tell his grandson. Bristin was the regional name of the pepper seed and connoted a sharp personality. His tales and those of local travelers and craftsmen (later referred to by Dario, in a phrase that captured this melting pot of history and legend, «the storytellers of the lake») offered the budding playwright a corpus of rich and suggestive narratives. He added to these in turn, preserving a connection with the atmosphere if not the substance of this tradition. Dario acknowledged an enormous obligation to his grandfather in shaping his own way of telling stories, even defining him the «first Ruzante» he had ever met. Ruzante was an outstanding theatre figure of the “alternative Renaissance”, that soon was to become Fo’s most inspiring model of theatre.
The socialist Felice, not being an active member of the party, suffered – at least according to his family – the effects of his manifest political ideas, with the want of stabilization. The family was forced to travel around Lombardy, following their father: after Sangiano, they moved to Luino, where Fulvio was born in 1928 and Bianca in 1931, then to Voghera and to Oleggio, finally to Porto Valtravaglia, on the shore of the lake that was considered by Dario his real childhood home.