THEY DON’T PAY? WE WON’T PAY!
Of the 7 billion people on earth, 99% seem to be very unhappy in these turbulent times of global economic meltdown. More and more alarmed citizens all over the world continue to demonstrate with dramatic protests and confrontations. They are unwilling to silently endure any longer the rampant injustice affecting their lives in critical ways.
Sadly, this is nothing new. The same conditions and the same reactions have occurred for centuries. Not so long ago in the 1960s and 1970s, such issues as civil rights, war, and economic inequality generated enormous social unrest. The activist response of ordinary people was expressed vigorously, sometimes even violently, in the streets and on campuses everywhere. But there were other activists—artists and writers—who used their creative voices to express the massive frustration and discontent.
Among them was Italian playwright, Dario Fo, who won a Nobel Prize in 1997 and continues his writing and fighting today. A lifelong political activist and fierce advocate for social justice, his provocative agitprop plays have been translated into countless languages and staged across the globe.
One play in particular speaks directly to the core economic problems still plaguing the world. Fo recently updated this farcical masterpiece to better reflect current global issues, retitled it “Sottopaga! Non si paga!” and asked his American translators, Jon Laskin and Michael Aquilante, to render a sharp, colloquial script that would bring to life the essential argument of the play: The necessity and lasting value of popular revolt, presented through the eternal form of comedy, both high and low.
“They Don’t Pay? We Won’t Pay!” lets today’s English-speaking audiences thoroughly enjoy Fo’s hilarious tale of working-class housewives revolting against soaring food prices by taking matters into their own hands… so to speak. As the anarchic housewife ANTONIA says in the play:
“You have the right to pay what’s fair. This is like a strike. No—it’s better than a strike. In a strike, our lost pay comes out of our own pockets. Finally, here’s a strike where the boss pays. Even better, he’s busted—flat as us. They don’t pay us what’s fair? Why should we pay their prices? They don’t pay? We won’t pay!”
Jon Laskin and Michael Aquilante are writers and theater translators who have co-translated several works of Nobel Prize-winning Italian playwright Dario Fo, including “Accidental Death of an Anarchist,” “The Devil with Boobs,” and his classic political farce “They Don’t Pay? We Won’t Pay!” Jon and Michael’s critically acclaimed translations have been staged in many cities around the world, including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Anchorage, London, Dublin, Brisbane, Ottawa, and Toronto. “Anarchist” was honored with Toronto’s prestig
ious Dora Award, while “Boobs” received an L. A. Weekly Theater Award.
Currently, the Laskin/Aquilante team is developing adapted translations of another Italian Nobel Prize winner, Luigi Pirandello: “The Truth About Truth,” set in today’s Washington, DC, is based on “It Is So If You Think So”; while “Willie the First” is Pirandello’s “Henry IV” in a modern Mafia context. In addition to Laskin/Aquilante’s theatrical endeavors, 2016 will see the publication of their graphic book, “Wings of Wax and Feathers,” an urban-savvy retelling of the Icarus myth.