Johan Padan and the Discovery of America

This play, translated and performed by Mario Pirovano, produced by Dario Fo, is a monologue on the extraordinary life of a 15th century rogue adventurer who accidentally wound up on one of the first ships to the Americas.

Alone, without costumes or scenery, purely by use of gesture, mimicry and voice, Pirovano brings to life the situations and characters of the story, the human and the animal, impersonating effects from rain to fireworks.

‘Johan Padan’ represents a rare opportunity to witness a simple, ancient form of storytelling in which words, pictures, gestures and old-fashioned imagination are everything.

Press release by Dario Fo:

“Let us state clearly that is not the lamentable history of the massacres committed by the conquerors on the Indios.

This is not the story of the usual losers. It is rather the epos of the victory of a population of Indios.

There are two fundamental types of chronicles of the discovery and conquest of America. On the one hand the stories written by the scribes following the conquerors. On the other, the tales of the coprotagonists who do not count, the “lastagonists”, from the dirty ranks, who come to tell their adventures having lived very close, even often right in the middle of the conquered, as prisoners…and even slaves!

Johan Padan is one of these unlucky adventurers, a gallows-bird of the fifteenth century, who has found himself right in the middle of thee discovery of America.

Johan Padan is a real figure, maybe his name is not exactly Johan Padan, but his actions are real: indeed they come from dozens of true stories told by the very men who lived them, the extras from the rank-and-file coming from all countries of Europe. All desperate people who do not count for anything in the official history of the discovery, but who arrived in the Indies, came in contact with the local people and found that they could count for something, or even a lot!

Johan Padan, a man from the mountains, does not like to sail but is compelled in spite of himself to make the great voyage. He is kidnapped by cannibals who fatten him up with the intention of eating him. He is saved by a stroke of luck and he becomes shaman, chief-wizard, doctor and is called “son of the rising sun”. He ha also compelled to teach the stories of the Gospels to thousands of Indios. Apocryphal Gospel of course.

The simple seamen, the ranks of little worth who switched sides with the conquered were many more than we used to think. And we must be clear: they did not content themselves with surviving, but they worked as strategists and military trainers so that the Indios could resist for a period of time against the invasion of the Christians.

We know the names of some of them, the best known are: Guerrero, Altavilla, Cabeza de Vaca. Hans Staden.

But today we offer the extraordinary chance to know in person and from his own voice the tale of the most renowned of all the renegade foot soldiers: Johan Padan, ‘son of the rising sun’.”