Comedy of class 'Trumpets and Raspberries' at Arthur Miller Theatre

Courtesy of Chris Dzombak

By Dhruv Madeka, Daily Arts Writer
Published November 17, 2011

Imagine if, for one day, a member of the metaphorical 99 percent traded places with a member of the one percent. The ramifications of this unlikely and comical “Prince and the Pauper” exchange are examined in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance’s latest production, “Trumpets and Raspberries.”

Trumpets and Raspberries


Today and tomorrow at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Arthur Miller Theatre
From $10


Written by Italian Nobel Prize in Literature winner Dario Fo in 1981, the play is set in the Italy of his time. Directed by MT&D professor Malcolm Tulip, the show presents a fictional account of the real-life owner of Fiat, Giovanni Agnelli, after one of his workers, Antonio, saves him from a kidnap attempt.

Disfigured during the kidnapping attempt, Agnelli is confused for Antonio when Antonio leaves his coat with Agnelli. Doctors mistake the billionaire for Antonio, and Agnelli is given a face to resemble the worker. The show follows Agnelli as he walks through Antonio’s life while slowly recovering his own memory.

Fo’s plays were always structured for the enjoyment of the everyday man. They would only be performed at places where he was sure all could come and watch. In a satirical smirk, he picked Italy’s entire one percent as the subject of his play, since Agnelli controlled nearly 4.4 percent of Italy’s GDP at one point.

“Trumpets and Raspberries” is characterized by themes of class difference, complex relationships and mistaken identity. It’s often viewed as a comment on issues of the time, including governmental decisions, the police force and the medical field.

“It was very much about these rich business owners having such control over everything,” said School of MT&D junior Zoe Kanters. “The idea that a rich business owner was lowered to something as low as workers was comedic for (Fo’s) audience. It’s amazing that it can be connected to today, with Occupy Wall Street and … is still so relevant.”

The show is rooted in a form of theater that originated in Italy, known as commedia dell’arte. The characters in this genre are typically larger than life, aggrandized versions of personality types. This may have been Fo’s attempt to display the depth to which his characters are out of touch with reality. They often see themselves quite differently from the way everyone else perceives them. As a result, the characters are often considered strong and difficult to play.

“It’s such a farcy show, and such an … out-of-this-world show with the way we’re portraying it,” said Kanters, who plays a bumbling police inspector. “My biggest difficulty was just being able to go in and play and have fun with it, and experiment and find new things that make the show even more unique and different.”

While the “Raspberries” in the show’s title may not seem to immediately connect to the plot, the original Italian translation of the title reveals that these are the Bronx cheer variety — not fruit. This humorous sound reflects the comedic nature of the piece, as well as the disdain of the 99 percent.

—Fine Arts Editor Joe Cadagin contributed to this article.