An Italian comedy written by the recipient of the 1997 Nobel Prize for Literature and Italy’s most popular contemporary playwright.

MARCH 4 – APRIL 3, 1999

In the University Village
2540 Times Boulevard

Artistic Director: Rebecca Greene Udden
Managing Director: Lynn McHenry




Scene 1: Rome, Italy – Central Police Headquarters, 2nd floor office
Scene 2: The same building, 4th floor office

Later that day

There will be one fifteen-minute intermission



One 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, 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, about the 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.


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 published script used by MST) 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 him for further changes in the test 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 to that of the original Italian test. These changes were made with the consent of Richard Nelson, who remains credited as the American adapter of the play. Future productions may require further alteration of political references.

ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST was first staged on December 5, 1970, in Varese (Lombardy), Italy. Richard Nelson’s adaptation, directed by Douglas Wager, opened at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., on February 9, 1984.

-----the Prologue and Notes are excerpted from the published script of ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST.




By Theresa Hyde
MARCH 4, 1999

MAIN STREET THEATER Really Knows how to throw a PARTY!!!!!! Especially when it’s a DARIO FO Party!!! And especially when it’s in the Village, the hippest coolest spot in town. The invitation read, “Main Street Theater’s Board of Directors and Staff Cordially Invite you to The Opening Night of Accidental Death of an Anarchist by Nobel Prize-Winning Author Dario Fo. Thursday, March 4th, 7:30 pm at 2540 Times Boulevard……Please stay for the reception afterwards with the actors.”

(L-R) Jo Alessandro Marks and Shirley Cohen selling tickets for the Gem-Boree

And what a Party Reception it was!!! With champagne to quench your thirst, and the delicious little turkey, ham and cheese sandwiches and light and airy croissants served up by La Madeleine, one of our Staple Foods in the weight-conscious University Village.

When Main Street Theater Party-Goer Bijan Imani was asked what he thought of the show, he comments, “I find it very entertaining, funny. Jef Johnson was as good as Jim Carrey, or Robin Williams."” His wife, the beautiful Tara Imani says, "Oh, I totally enjoyed myself. It’s an intimate setting, you feel almost as if you’re a part of the play. The acting was superb, especially Jef Johnson who’s a very strong actor. A lot of wordy lines that he had to memorize and he didn’t miss a beat. He’s every bit as good as Jim Carrey and all the Greats. His facial characteristics are extremely expressive and I’d like to see him get up on the big screen. I wish him lots of luck, he’s great.”

(L-R)Jeff Lane, Kelly Cousins, Joel Sandel and Patrick Reynolds

Richard Laub who runs the Theater called The Little Room Downstairs says, “I thought it was a lot of fun! I couldn’t take my eyes off of JEF JOHNSON the whole time (laughs). There were other things happening, but I couldn’t take my eyes off him.” Richard has been helping Main Street with their Marketing this week, “And that’s how I happen to be here,” he adds.

Main Street MainStay Joel Sandel wants everyone to know that, “JEF JOHNSON is a genius!!! DON’T MISS THIS PLAY!!!” Kelly Cousins agrees, “JEF…….you just can’t miss his performance, he’s wonderful. What a beautiful set too, by the way. Beautiful set.” Jeff Lane comments, “Yes, it’s a very good performance. I thought JEF JOHNSON did very very well. It’s a good cast all around. Pretty hard hitting. It’s very hard humor, very dark. So, if you have a weak stomach, you have to be prepared. But it’s a strong play throughout. Lead Actor JEF JOHNSON, Fantastic Job and a Good Supporting Cast, too.” Patrick Reynolds says, “It’s non-stop fun, you have a smile on your face throughout the whole thing.”

....And Jef Johnson enters the picture

Well, JEF JOHNSON certainly stole the Show. And the Party afterwards. Everybody wanted to talk to him, everyone craved for his attention, like they knew him personally or something. I kinda found him intimidating, really, what with his bald head and all. The audience slowly parted as he came out of the dressing room and strolled through the Party Crowd. He turned his head as he listened and smiled incredulously as the audience started to chant his name.

Originally from Houston, JEF “THE FOOL” JOHNSON holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania. He has appeared at several MAIN STREET Productions, as well as EARLY STAGES and the Children’s Theatre Festival, the JCC, Skyline Theatre and Express Theatre.

He runs outside the Theater into the cool, windy night. I finally backed him into the corner as he closes his palms over his face to light his cigarette. He starts the interview by doing a Daddy Warbucks impersonation.
JEF: Actually, First of All, in the Program it says “Suspect” but the actual title of the Character is FOOL. What do you wanna know?

(L-R) Richard Laub of The Little Room Downstairs and Leo Boucher, Former Managing Director of Main Street Theater

THYDE: It’s amazing, the whole show is about you. I’ve already gotten several comments about how wonderful and how great you are.
JEF: Well (pause), they’re all true (smiles).

THYDE: How did you prepare for this Role?
JEF: Well, I studied a little bit about the author, Dario Fo. I have a background in slapstick performance. I know a little bit about his comedy some of the styles that Fo specializes in. So the combination of the research that I did and the Director’s (Steve Garfinkel) research and choices and Artistic Director’s (Rebecca Greene Udden) comments put together what you saw. It’s a part that‘s been done, I mean the play has been performed for twenty-some odd years to big sold-out houses in Italy and Mexico and South America and other countries. It’s been interpreted different ways.

THYDE: Love that Italian accent!
JEF: It’s supposed to be a little hoaky because The Fool thinks he’s a better actor than he really is. You gotta talk a little Italian! It’s fun, it’s fun, it’s a little different, we’re still practicing getting it to where we think it will eventually……..

THYDE: Is this the most challenging role you’ve ever played?
JEF: It’s tough, the lines……..there are so many lines, and we’re saying them so quickly and incorporating the Physical Acting. It’s tough to breathe and keep on top of things and be understood. But I’ve done a few other plays that are as challenging. I prepared for about six weeks.

(L-R) Jef Johnson and Patrick Reynolds

THYDE: That’s all? And you memorized all those lines…..
JEF: It’s a lot of lines (laughs). I did one other part that I probably had more lines and that was the role of The Duke in Measure for Measure. But this one’s a booger.

THYDE: Did you have to shave your head for this role?
JEF: I chose to do it. I talked to my movement coach, Gabriela Villegas who’s in Houston and she was asking me about it. Her ex-husband had performed it in Mexico some years ago. It’s real popular in Latin cultures. They have performed a version of it in Mexico where it ran for like a year, to sold out audiences. It was originally in Italian, but you know it translates into English, they can translate into anything. Mostly countries where they have the situation where the government… know, oppression and so forth…….it’s very popular, because it speaks to the people.

And I mentioned to her that I thought of doing it bald, partly because in the beginning we thought of a lot more character transformation than you saw. That almost everytime you talked, it would be different. And we would use wigs and so, for instance, when I opened the investigation, I was kinda immitating a Southern Senator to make a joke for the American audience, we thought I’d put a really bad toupee on, the bald head with the rubber band would look really silly. But we cut all the wigs and so forth and the idea behind being bald was that the metaphor of him being stripped down, that everything’s put on in this world.

(L-R) Theresa Hyde and John Kaiser

The Fool, of course, is an Anarchist, so he’s in there to turn the government on its head. So the baldness is sort of a symbol. It represents being stripped down, and putting all the layers on top. Western Culture might see him as a Fascist because they associate skinheads with Right Wing, when in fact he’s really an Anarchist.

THYDE: How much of the show was Ad Lib?
JEF: Everything to the script. The one four-page monologue in the beginning, I’m still having some difficulty getting it word-perfect so, there are times when I forget a word and I have to make something up to get the sense of it out. But all of it’s in the script.

THYDE: You were excellent. I’ve already gotten comments comparing you to Robin Williams and Jim Carrey……..
JEF: Well, you know people are wacky like that (laughs). I get that a lot from critics that say, well you know, Jerry Lewis, Lucille Ball. People don’t quite know what to say and I think that sure, I’m influenced by all these people but at the same time, I’m contemporary with these people you just mentioned. You’d like to think that someday they might say, “Wow, I like what he does and he’s Jef Johnson” rather than trying to compare you to other people. It’s what’s familiar in their mind, I think, what I remind them of. I’m not trying to imitate Robin Williams, he’s a genius and Jim Carrey’s a goon. He’s talented, he’s a rubber band, you know.

THYDE: The last time I saw you was on another Dario Fo play called The Virtuous Burglar. I found you very good looking then, back when you had all your hair.
JEF: Oh, well, that goes without saying (laughs). All the hippies hang out in my house (more laughs). I think that there’s a shocking quality as the light’s coming up, as a lot of the audience realizes I’m gonna be bald.

John Kaiser: MUGSHOT 2000

THYDE: You do plan to grow your hair back, right?
JEF: I don’t know……… makes it easy, I don’t have to bathe everyday (laughs). Yeah, I plan to, for other roles.

THYDE: I go back inside the Theater and approach John Kaiser who plays The Captain.
His recent Main Street Productions are Watch on the Rhine, Hay Fever, The Sisters Rosensweig, An Enemy of the People, etc. He is taken aback as I stick the tape recorder in his face.
JKAISER: Looks like a scene in the play. Yes?
THYDE: Tell us about the part that you’re playing……
JKAISER: I really don’t know anything about it. It’s not like they’re actually people or actual characters. It’s a Farce about Italian politics that none of us really know anything about or understand. But it’s more an Action piece for us, than a Character piece. It’s not like we have personalities or lives or inner thoughts. It’s just keeping pace with the piece. It’s beyond comedic, it’s a complete farce. And yet there is kind of a social subtext to it, it’s a critique of society. Of course, anything about exposing police corruption is always timely, no matter what country you’re talking about. I mean, in the news this afternoon, I’m sure there were several stories about it right here in town.

John Kaiser as the Police Captain

THYDE: Monica Lewinsky……..
JKAISER: Well, she’s always good for a laugh. But you know, since I watched her last night, I have a better opinion of her.
THYDE: Don’t we all?
JKAISER: I mean, I feel like she had no idea of the scope of what she was involved in, and she still doesn’t have any idea. But we wanted to throw in more local politics. But essentially, it’s a frame for political ideas formed in a character story, or a human story. And of course, the Reporter (played by Ginny Lang) is about the Media who approached me with a tape recorder, very much in the same way you’re doing right now. So you know, you reached right in into the Cast Party.

(L-R) Main Street Artistic Director Rebecca Greene-Udden, Leo Boucher, (Former Managing Director oF Main Street Theater, now works for Opera), and Robert Leeds

Robert Leeds, who plays the high-pitched Police Chief was having a relaxing drink after the Show. He has appeared at MST in Leave It To Jane, An American Daughter, The Witlings, Lady Be Good, Macbeth, etc. Elsewhere he has appeared with the Houston Shakespeare Festival, Stages, Houston Grand Opera and The Little Room Downstairs. His television commercials include a feature role for Randall’s and an international role for Kellogg’s.

THYDE: Hello, how are you doing?
RLEEDS: Fine, good to see you again.

THYDE: Tell us about the part you’re playing. I know it’s hard to describe….
RLEEDS: It’s real hard to describe. I play of the Chief of the Police Division in Rome. And the Anarchist comes in and pretty much takes over and demoralizes us. He keeps running circles around us, and we just try to keep up. And she (The Reporter) is uncovering the graft in the Police Dept.

(L-R) John Kaiser and Robert Leeds

THYDE: How did you prepare for this role?
RLEEDS: I learned a lot of lines, an awful lot of lines (laughs). And I just worked my voice up as high as I could get it.

Ginny Lang, who plays The Reporter, has appeared in numerous productions at MST, including Everything in the Garden, It’s Only A Play, Serious Money. She is the former Artistic Director of Checkmate Theatricals and is currently president of Comprehensive Community Affairs, her newly-formed consulting business.

THYDE: Tell us about the part that you’re playing…..
GLANG: I’m the reporter who comes in and quizzes the police about the Anarchist’s death and tries to find the out truth on how the Anarchist died. And of course, I’m totally fooled. I am the only one onstage who doesn’t know that The Fool (that is the part of the Fool), that he is playing various roles. I’m the only one who doesn’t know that he isn’t the Captain of the Police Department. So, I’m completely taken in.

THYDE: You’re also the only female in the whole play.
GLANG: I am. I’m the only female.

Character Actors Extraordinaire: John Kaiser as the Police Captain and Robert Leeds as the Police Officer

THYDE: How did you prepare for this role?
GLANG: This role was difficult because it is translated out of the Italian. Which means that the language is often awkward. So it was difficult to memorize, but I have worked in Dario Fo pieces before so I knew something about the politics and I knew something about the history behind it. And then, with Steve Garfinkel’s Excellent Direction, he was very good!!! And told us exactly what he wanted. But if is JEF JOHNSON’s piece.

THYDE: He is the whole show.
GLANG: Ohhh, he’s wonderful and it is so difficult not to stop and watch him, you know. He is so brilliant. Every moment. He is absolutely brilliant. A constant cascade of characters, of voices, and of faces.

THYDE: Tell us about your background as an Actor…..
GLANG: I’ve been working at Main Street Theater since, oh probably, 1983 was the first time I worked here. I’m an actor about town. The last role that I did was in Six Degrees of Separation (she portrayed Louisa Kittredge) here, about a year and a half ago and before that I played the witch in Into the Woods.

THYDE: Why did you choose Acting?
GLANG: Acting is not something that you choose. Acting chooses you. Like most artists, it’s something that you can’t NOT do. If it’s in your blood, and if it’s something you love to do, you have to do it. Even if you only get the opportunity to do it every now and then. I have my own business, and I only get to do it (I used to do it a lot, professionally) every now and then and it’s a love that I have no desire to get away from. So I do it whenever I have the opportunity.

Todd Greenfield is the one who plays two roles, The Officer and The Sergeant. He has appeared on MST’s Main Stage in An American Daughter, The Witlings, Good Housekeeping, and Hapgood. Mr. Greenfield holds a BA and an MA from the University of Houston at Clear Lake.

THYDE: Tell us about the part you’re playing…….
TODD: The Sergeant is the first part I play, it’s kind of a little hoity-toity cop. And the second one is kind of a gum-chewing, not-quite-so-smart simpleton of an Officer. But he’s basically happy in what he does, so he’s always in a good mood, just has the gum and chews.

THYDE: How did you prepare for this role?
TODD: Actually it was funny because we didn’t really have much of a character for the second Sergeant for the longest time. I was just kind of standing there not doing much of anything. Once I got the gum in my mouth, then suddenly, the whole character just went Bing! I know this character was like, Okay you’re alive. The gum was basically It.

THYDE: Tell us about your Acting background…..
TODD: Well, this is my fifth show here. I started here about two years ago with Hapgood and I’ve also done Good Housekeeping. I was a Theatre Major and I graduated from UH Clearlake about fifteen years ago. So I actually have been doing Theatre in Houston for about 5 years now, I took an 8 year break after graduating. And kinda just back into it.




Stop by the table in the lobby and purchase a ticket from an MST volunteer for the drawing to be held June 4, 1999, during MST’s 24th Birthday Party.




DRAWING DATE: June 4, 1999 at MST’s 25th season kick-off party. Winners need not be present to win.
PRIZE: $5.00 per ticket or 3 tickets for $10.00