Teachers' Blog

In trouble with your Italian? Speak Grammelot!

Today I’d like to celebrate Dario Fo, in my opinion Italy’s greatest actor, play-writer, theatre director, comedian, singer, painter and political campaigner. Fo was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1997.

Today, he celebrates his 90th birthday.

I can’t stop laughing if I think about all his performances I have seen, both in theatres and on television.

As a student of Italian, you MUST see him performing in Grammelot, a kind of odd, fake, funny language that anybody, speaking any language, could understand. Grammelot is a style of language used by the Commedia dell'Arte, with onomatopoeic  elements used in association with mime and mimicry.  This theatrical style reflects centuries of European culture (and not only).

As a modern jester, Fo re-introduced Grammelot in the theatre as a universal language. There is an American version too!

His shows are a masterpiece of storytelling. On stage – with his beloved wife, the actress Franca Rame, who died last year – he would tell intriguing stories, with a profoundly deep sense of humanity.

I am also grateful to him for all I learned from his writings, and his political engagement for civil rights and social justice.

I had the chance to meet him once early in the morning in Milan on a busy bus like a any other commuter.  Dining with him and his wife later that day, he was the one who asked questions and listened carefully to other people.

At 90 years-old, he is still a great actor, with the same vibrant, funny voice.

Daniela Passeri,

Sustainability teacher