Sydney Elizabeth Cheek O'Donnell. "An exaggerated life: Franca Rame on the political stage." Diss. U of Washington, 2004.
This dissertation is a critical biography of Franca Rame (b. 1929), the left-wing Italian actor, playwright, and activist, who, alongside her husband and creative partner Dario Fo, is the most produced Italian playwright in the world. Taking seriously the feminist axiom "the personal is political," I analyze Rame's personal history in relation to the trajectory of her work, political consciousness, and historical context to demonstrate how she has been influenced by and has influenced Italian politics and society. By examining her performance aesthetic, which is heavily influenced by the popular theater traditions of Italy, Brecht's epic theater, and feminist praxis, I illustrate how Rame has used performance and celebrity as a political activist within the larger historical context. In addition, I argue that Rame's work has been as important as Fo's in producing the body of work now known primarily as the "Theater of Dario Fo."
Chapter One (1929-1954) discusses the theatrical and political traditions in which Rame was raised, her upbringing through the Second World War, and her move to Milan to pursue a career in commercial theater. Chapter Two (1954-1964) covers a period in which Rame juggled work as an actor and company manager with the formidable duties of being a wife and a mother in the Italy of the 1950s. Chapter Three (1965-1975) traces and evaluates Rame's increasing political militancy, the founding of her prisoner's rights organization Soccorso Rosso Militante, and her creation of political performances that exceeded the theater's confines and which employed all forms of media as part of a massive theatrical apparatus. Chapter Four (1975-1989) closely examines the impact of the Italian feminism on Rame's work and personal life, her use of consciousness raising as a mode of community building, and her role in the feminist movement. It also extends the discussion of Rame's techniques of political performance as she begins to utilize her own celebrity and notoriety as part of the apparatus of her "meta" epic theater. Chapter Five (1990-2004) demonstrates how Rame has addressed the breakdown of Italian civil society by bridging the patriarchal divide between the "political" and the "personal."