The Italian dramatist, actor, and theatrical activist Dario Fo was first invited by the American Repertory Theater to perform in 1986, occasioning his first visit to the United States.
For many years Fo's plays have been performed all over the world, perhaps more than any other contemporary dramatist's, and his influence has been considerable. The A.R.T. produced his We Won't Pay! We Won't Pay! in 1999 and the American premiere of Archangels Don't Play Pinball in 1988. Other works in his extensive oeuvre include Mistero Buffo, Johan Padan and the Discovery of the Americas, Accidental Death of an Anarchist, Trumpets and Raspberries, and most recently The Devil with Boobs, a satiric comedy set in the Renaissance.
Fo's strength is in the creation of texts that simultaneously amuse, engage, and provide perspectives. As in commedia dell'arte, where he often draws inspiration, Fo's plays are open to creative additions and dislocations, encouraging improvisation and influencing the audience in remarkable ways. His works have employed topics taken from current news, such as the rise of the Italian workers' movement, revolt in Chile, and the Palestinian situation, and they often include a discussion between actors and audience. As a bridge between popular culture and radical intellectuals, Fo's collective theater occupies a central place in contemporary Italian culture.
In recent years, working with his actress–wife, Franca Rame, Fo has dealt with women's issues in several plays, and together they have established a worldwide reputation for their biting satire in their writing and performances. Corruption in the Catholic Church and the Italian government, police brutality, abuses in the prison system, violations of human rights, the Mafia, rape, the denial of Italian women's access to divorce and abortion: Fo and Rame have made these dangerous political issues the subject matter of their theater. Drawing on traditions ranging from the commedia dell'arte to puppetry, clowning, and storytelling, they have subjected every institution, political party, power broker, corrupt organization, and controversial law in Italy to their formidable satirical powers. Over the years, they have been censored, banned, rebuked, denied visas—and played to packed houses all over the world.
Dario Fo's many international awards and honors include the 1997 Nobel Prize in Literature, an honorary doctorate from the University of Westminster, and an Obie Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre.