A Note on the Text of Dario Fo's


Act One:

Act 1 Scene 1: Rome, Italy - Central Police Headquarters 2nd-Floor Office
Act 1 Scene 2: The same building, 4th Floor Office

Act Two:

Act 2: Later that day.

CHIEF . . . the officer was referring to the first version. We re talking about the second one.

FOOL. Ah, that's right... . Let's hear it: what did you correct?

Like the police transcripts discussed in the play, the play itself has been altered a number of times since its first production in Italy in 1970. The version here was first created by Richard Nelson in 1983 for a production at Arena Stage. His adaptation was based on Suzanne Cowan's literal translation, published in Theater Magazine in 1979. For the Arena Stage production and the subsequent Broadway production, both directed by Douglas Wager, Nelson revised the dialogue for the American stage and added some references to current politics. His adaptation was approved by Dario Fo. Subsequently, Fo asked for further changes in the text, which were made by Ron Jenkins and Joel Schechter, in collaboration with Fo and Franca Rame. The changes include some new political references, and dialogue closer in meaning to that of the original Italian text. These changes were made with the consent of Richard Nelson, who remains credited as the American adaptor of the play. Future productions of the text may require further alteration of political references, unless our President is elected for a life term, and outlives the century.

ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST was first staged on December 5, 1970, in Varese (Lombardy),

Richard Nelson's adaptation, directed by Doug Wager opened at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 9, 1984


On the night of December 12, 1969, a bomb exploded and killed sixteen people at the Agricultural Bank in Milan. At the same time, another bomb exploded at a bank in Rome which did not go by without causing casualties, and another bomb was discovered at the tomb of the unknown soldier. Milan police arrested an anarchist, Guiseppe Pinelli, and accused him of the crime. At a certain point in his interrogation, the anarchist flew out the window of the police station. The same day, another anarchist - a dancer by profession - was arrested; he was suspected of being the one really responsible for the bomb in Milan.

Something similar occurred in New York in 1921, when the anarchist Salsedo flew out the window of a police station, around the same time that Sacco and Vanzetti were arrested for a crime never proven against them. Their story has nothing to do with the one we are telling now. But from these stories we can conclude that many anarchists are obsessed by the urge to jump out of the window, because they believe they are able to fly.

It is an illusion of theirs that when they're two or three yards from the ground, they merely have to open their arms and move their feet to fly up again. Some observers have suspected that anarchists are able to fly, but they are also so underhanded that they smash themselves to the ground, just to incriminate the police and other state institutions by dying.

Anyway, the investigation of the death of the anarchist in Milan was filed away in the archives.) The dancer anarchist was proven innocent after three years in jail. Public pressure has frequently been exerted on authorities to re-open the investigation of the anarchist Pinelli's death in Milan, but they keep postponing it.

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info on an one production of the play may be found here.
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Updated: 10 June 96