Franca Rame, theater and life seen from the left

franca Rame loved to sing. «I had a crazy grandmother, who raised stuffed cats, she lived on a terrace and slept in a tub, in a tub by the sea». But she was also a great card and poker player in particular. His matches remain legendary, obviously not for money, in the summer on the beach or in his house in Cesenatico together with his friends. She was also a grandmother who knew how to spoil. “When I wasn’t eating,” he says Mattea Fo, his niece and President of the Dario Fo and Franca Rame Foundation – they always called her.

The anniversary of the death

At midnight he brought me the Coppa del Nonno with coffee, which wasn’t the best for a nine-year-old girl, but I liked it a lot. He knew how to invent and tell stories to put me to sleeplike that of the “White pebble”, of the “Mamma with long long legs, as beautiful as yours”, and then of the “Santo Jullare Françesco”, which was precisely the text of the show».

No one can know what she would have liked to see or hear on the tenth anniversary of her deathwhich falls on May 29. What is certain is that Franca Rame was a much loved woman, and not only by her family but above all by many women. The ones she talks about in the touching Love letter to Dariopublished some time before he died, in which before the conclusion imagine her funeral filled with women dressed in red singing Bella ciao.

Iranian women sing

Franca Rame and Dario Fo, 60 years together


That’s how it was. Her relationship with her husband, which lasted almost sixty years, was not all roses. They shared the successes, the joys, but also the painssuch as that of the terrible rape suffered by Franca on March 9, 1973. At the time, the two actors were very busy not only in the theatrical activity, but also through Red Rescue in favor of prisoners, especially those of the extreme left. That day, in via Nirone in Milan, she was forced into a van, tortured, raped and abandoned in a park.

Shows as a mirror of private life

The perpetrators were never arrested, despite many years later a pentito mentioned their names, when the crime was now statute-barred. But the attackers’ attempt to stop the couple of actors and activists, silence them, especially punish her as a free and emancipated woman, failed. Franca managed to process her pain by transforming it into a very harsh monologue entitled The rapethen inserted into the show Whole house, bed and churchfrom 1981.

There was another show where the couple used acting to uncover private struggles and conflicts, in this case the betrayals of her husband, a stab in the heart even though it was she who answered the letters of the numerous fans, pretending, with the usual great irony, to be him. The text, from 1983, one of the most represented today, is entitled Open pair, almost wide open.

The two separated at least a couple of times, one of these even happened in the course of Sunday Inin 1987, when Franca told Raffaella Carrà live that she would leave her husband, with a beautiful joke: «It’s true that I’m leaving Dario, I’m saying it for the first time. Not everything is fixed for eternity, it changes, when a pope dies, another is created”. In order not to lose her, he overwhelmed her with desperate apology phone calls, drawings, flowers, portraits, words of love. And, finally, they got back together, side by side, until the end.

Also thanks to the people who loved them, both as a couple and as individuals. «The thought of all those people who loved her continues Mattea Fo – she moved her a lot. I remember that, in the early days of Facebook, when she discovered the number of fans who followed her and her affection that surrounded her, she was happy ».

Franca Rame, in the shadow of Dario Fo

Today the story of this couple, one of the most famous of the twentieth century, is also collected in an online archive made up of thousands of images, photos, recordings, scripts, manuscriptsprogressive drafts of the works carried out, paintings, sketches, articles, Italian and foreign publications, awards, and about 600 hours of audio-video (


The large archive is consulted by students preparing degree theses and Italian and foreign scholars, such as some enthusiasts who, in Brazil, intend to reconstruct the repertoire of the two authors. Or the jazz player, academic and theater recorder Filomena Campus, who with her Free Copper he wanted to shed light on Franca’s life. It is the result of a research doctorate carried out at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, which later also became a performance-entertainment. It aims to remind that Franca Rame deserves to be fully recognized and celebrated even individuallyand not just because of the play she created with her husband.

«It is a reflection that we made on the occasion of a recent two days dedicated to her at the Free University of Alcatraz in Gubbio, together with Eugenio Barba and Julia Varley – adds the niece – reflection on an injustice. That of a forgetfulness of the literary world that has neglected the fundamental role of Franca, and sometimes even her signature as an authorin the books and scripts of the works written together with her husband. Dario’s true teacher, as he himself acknowledged, was herit was she who had her own solid roots in the theater, while he was a storyteller who learned the art of theater from her».

The stolen Nobel

In a 1956 film, The screwballby Carlo LizzaniFranca was dubbed because someone thought that her way of acting would have ruined the film, without understanding that it was instead an acting done in a natural way and not artificial or mannered. The fact of having been underestimated also emerged in the attribution of the Nobel: despite Fo himself having repeatedly stated that the merit of the important award belonged to both of them and despite the fact that she too had been nominated in the official reasons, it was not openly co-awarded.

The Museum in the liberated fortress

What the Foundation is trying to do is give the right and deserved place to the figure of Franca Rame, for example by adding her name as an author in theatrical texts. During this year, in addition to conferences, events and shows, there will be a re-edition for Guanda of A sudden lifewhich tells his human and artistic story, and the publication of a book on Pio Ramethe founder of the company of which Franca also belonged.

It can be said that the actress spent her entire life in the theatergiven that he was born on July 18, 1929 in Parabiago almost by chance, because his family acted there, and at eight days old he was already on stage.

In 2024 a museum

But the real tribute to her and to Dario will be in 2024, with the partial opening of the Fo-Rame Museum inside the Rocca Costanza complex in Pesaro (the entire project will see the light in 2026), a city to which the two artists were deeply connected. He will keep the archive, but also stage costumes, personal clothes, sets, puppets and puppets, pictorial works and sketches. The ancient fortress, which dates back to the 13th century, was commissioned by Costanzo Sforza and transformed into a prison in 1864, a function it maintained until 1989.

Surely Franca would be happy in knowing that today his rebellious thought, his creative chemistry is kept in a former prison, but free to circulate. Of a woman who loved playing poker and, above all, always being on the front line on the side of the weakest.