Accidental Death of an Anarchist
AGITATION AND PROPAGANDA:
A Season of Anarchists and Folk Heroes at
Strawberry Theatre Workshop
Nobel Prize laureate Dario Fo probes the death of a railway worker in police custody in "Accidental Death of an Anarchist", opening July 5 for a limited run at the Erickson Theatre Off Broadway in Seattle. Rooted in Italian traditions of farce and commedia dell'arte, "Anarchist" is a ballet of clowning, buffoonery, wit, and scathing satire set in a corrupt police headquarters and orchestrated by a heroic madman.
"Anarchist" is the first of a pair of company classics staged this summer at Strawberry Theatre Workshopwith the puppet play "This Land: Woody Guthrie" to follow in September.
Stranger Genius Award winner Gabriel Baron directed "Anarchist" for Strawshop in 2005 and returns from New York City to direct a new cast. Ryan Higgins (who led the ensemble cast in "Live! From the Last Night of my Life" at Theater Schmeater last fall) takes a turn as The Maniac. The corrupt cops are MJ Sieber, Timothy Hyland, Galen Joseph Osier, and Jason Harber, with Rhonda J Soikowski playing the intrepid Reporter.
Recent events including the Occupy Movement and the federal investigation of the Seattle Police Department inspired this theatrical response.
Artistic Director Greg Carter says, "For seven years, activists have asked me why we don't do more plays like 'Anarchist'. It's because there are no other plays like 'Anarchist'. It is a Monty Python sketch interwoven with deep political satire, and a call to action."
Gabriel Baron says, "I feel like there is a large percentage of the American population that needs an awakening slap in the face. Not only do they need--they want a slap in the face. As long as that slap is accompanied by a cheesecake. In the case of Dario Fo's 'Accidental Death of an Anarchist', the slap in the face is a good hard look at a very tragic, very real event perpetrated by the same powers meant to protect us from harm and seek out justice for harm-doers, while the cheesecake is a madcap, roller-coaster of laughs and fun."
Strawshop was founded in 2004 and produced seven plays at Richard Hugo House. The creative core of Carter, Baron, Soikowski, Sieber, and Hyland were in one combination or another connected with all of those productions. Since then, out-of-town opportunities, graduate school, and families have moved these artists in different directions.
"When we decided to revisit our Hugo House roots," says Carter, "we talked about plays. It never occurred to me that our casting process would generate a kind of family reunion. Our audience is going to love seeing this particular group of people working together for the first time."
Dario Fo is one of the world's great living playwrights, and yet remains obscure in the US because he does not write in English and his comic language and timing is challenging to translate. His strength is in the creation of texts that are always open for creative additions and dislocations, continually encouraging the actors to improvise, which means that the audience is activated in a remarkable way.
The Strawshop production of "Anarchist" includes several historical additions and updates, where the author has encouraged them. Fo's springboard for "Accidental Death of an Anarchist" were real events and real characters.
At the story's core is a bombing at the Agricultural Bank in Milan in 1969, which killed seventeen people and wounded more than 100. After the attack, fascists in the Italian Social Movement distributed leaflets denouncing the 'red terror' and police in Milan went into action, sweeping up a number of socialist, communist, and anarchist activists in the city. One of these was Giuseppi Pinelli, a railway worker, who endured four days of police interrogation, then 'fell' out of a fourth floor window in police headquarters and died. It was later revealed that the bombings were not the work of anarchists at all, but of three right-wing fascists, who were convicted of the crime ten years later, and then admitted to being paid police informers. These events and the cover-up that followed sent a shock wave throughout Italy and Italian politics.
One of the first to act was the playwright Fo, who had "Accidental Death of an Anarchist" on its feet less than a year after the bombings, lampooning the police inspector in charge of the investigation, who was eventually exposed and convicted of manslaughter for Pinelli's death. "Anarchist" toured Italy and caused a sensation itself, creating a storm of controversy in the press, and bomb threats to the theatres. It has since been presented on stages around the world as an all-purpose protest play. Fo claims that "Anarchist" has been the most performed play in the world over the last forty years, with productions under very trying circumstances: fascist Chile, Ceausescu's Romania and apartheid South Africa. In Argentina and Greece the cast of early productions were all arrested.
"The reason this play has resonated all over the world is that it isn't just a play that says the police and government are lying to you. That's old news," says Carter.
"It's a play that says it's our fault. In the second act, Fo literally places a citizen's representative onstage and takes pock shots at her as well. 'Accidental Death of an Anarchist' says to its audience, 'I want each one of you to think about what is being said and draw your own conclusions.' I think that's what political art is supposed to do."
"Anarchist" designs are by Ron Erickson, Reed Nakayama, Evan Mosher, and Greg Carter. The play is stage managed by Claire Branch.
Erickson Theatre Off Broadway (View)
1524 Harvard Ave
Seattle, WA 98122
|Minimum Age: 12|
|Kid Friendly: No|
|Dog Friendly: No|
|Wheelchair Accessible: Yes!|