“Long time no see,” as the sage said. Yes, I’m back and I bring you news of one of my
mentors and initiators: late actress, writer, activist, and senator Franca Rame, much missed, also wife and lifetime collaborator of Nobel Prize winner Dario Fo, who dedicated the prize to her.
This article was a request by fellow Italianist Donato Santeramo, for the first (of many i hope) collection of writings about Franca Rame. I accepted. It was also the third time she visited my life. She’s welcome back any time, and the article will appear in three “visits” here too. Enjoy the first one!
Thanks for your patience. I am well and happy to be back. Much more good and exciting news to come. Namaste.
The Initiatory Magic of Franca Rame
Franca Rame is coming back into my life. For the past three decades, she has inhabited my imagination in one way or another, as we shared the same living planet. As a young woman, I looked upon Franca and Dario as an enviable dyad: two people with equally magnanimous souls and talents, yet differentiated enough to grow together as they grew apart. It was difficult for me to behold that. I felt the danger of flying too close to the sun, as the daughter of a successful and honest politician whose first wife imploded in their relationship as a conventional couple. I was searching for alternatives, and, as a young woman and mother, Franca represented a role model for me when I was healing from my own mother’s early death from cancer. Later, I learned to diversify my emotional investments and overcome the fear of same-sex love. As a happy sexigenarian, I welcome this visit. I remember feeling the void the day from Facebook I realized the ultimate recycling had happened for Franca. May this first in-absentia volume initiated by younger colleagues be the time for me to reflect, in my wisdom years, on the wisdom of engaging with Franca when my career started.
I am grateful to the collection for hosting my 1984 interview with Franca Rame, a long- winded “confession,” oral-history style. It may be a measure of the divine feminine manifesting its power to
know that, in late life, Franca became a senator. I imagine her ambling the halls of Palazzo Madama where I felt intimidated when I was young. It is sad that she felt compelled to resign, in the same way that my father had felt compelled to reject executive positions in his own time. I’m happy to write this introductory reflection as I’ve become more cognizant of Franca’s initiatory role in my life. Aside from the sadness of parting, this third visit is an occasion to confirm Franca Rame’s legacy as initiatory and magic.
The first visit came about three decades ago, in the mid eighties, when my focus was separating Franca’s work from Dario’s, for recognition of hers, in a gender dynamic infected with male dominance as a cultural standard. I wanted her to admit she was an author and she wouldn’t. “Why did I do it?” I’ve often wondered. It was dissertation time, and I felt called to something that far exceeded my comprehension. I didn’t dare to presume I could interview Franca. And yet she wanted it. I was healing from my family tragedy, as the beautiful and auspicious couple my parents formed had imploded with my mother’s demise. I was exorcizing her destiny as I removed myself from the position of emotional recipient for, and physical obstacle to my father’s healing from that trauma. At 27, with a young child of my own, I had picked up the pieces of my life and moved from Rome to Riverside, California to get my doctorate. As dissertation time came about, a grant funded my trip to Florence for the appointment with Franca. My blended family at the time was composed of my young Italian daughter and the fellow student who was my French partner. They were waiting for me back at UCR. In retrospect, I was moved by my own path of seeking a place of co-creativity out of the masculine shadow of patriarchal domination and fear of inadequacy.
The train from Rome to Florence ran in the dark night. I was alone in the compartment when my mother visited. The apparition was very tangible. I kept my cool even as it occurred to me I was probably hallucinating. She said: “this is what you were meant to do. Go for it! It will save your life.” I’ve rarely talked about it. Yet it was this visit that summoned my strength as I met Franca. I’m now 5 years older than Franca was at the time, and 12 years older than my mother ever was. The results of that moment of meeting were the article on Theaterthat acknowledged Franca’s entity as a co-author, the interview in Italian on Leggere Donna, and its translation into English on Feminist Issues.
To be continued a week from now. Come back for the “second visit” on November 25, 2014.
Serena Anderlini-D’Onofrio, PhD
Author of Gaia,Eros,and many other books about love Professor of Humanities, University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez
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