Director’s Note for We Won’t Pay
Here is the director’s note I wrote for the production I just directed of Dario Fo’s We Won’t Pay! We Won’t Pay! Overall, the play went very well. The set was fantastic, the lighting and costumes were great, the actors really stepped up to the considerable challenge.(In fact, Ron Jenkins, translator of the play, Dario’s onstage translator and collaborator, and a clown college graduate and theatre professor) told me that he thought we really got the rhythms of Dario Fo in the play– something that he has seen a lot of professional companies fail at. And later told the people that hired me that they really picked the right guy! — Ron, the check is in the mail! )
Considering that I was in rehearsal beating the rhythm of the play out with a stick, I feel pretty vindicated and happy. And a lot of the clown routines I added in (including a three minute chase sequence, complete with Chariots of Fire Slow Motion) were very well received.
There were of course notes I could have given to the end (and continued to work on) but I am very pleased with how the show came out.
Anyway, here’s the director’s note:
I met Dario Fo in 1996 in Copenhagen as part of ISTA (the International School of Theatre Anthropology). Dario and Franca Rame (his wife) were presenting at the conference. I’d known who he was, and was excited to meet him of course, but I didn’t really get how great he was until he spoke/performed. He was recovering from a stroke, and he apologized for his weakened state. But with each sentence he spoke he drew strength from the audienceâ€™s reactions, until 45 minutes laughter (I mean later), he had transformed into seventeen or eighteen different characters, had us eating out of the palms of his hand, and looked and sounded as strong as an ox. He spoke in Italian, and although I speak nothing more than “Ciao Bella”, I felt like I understood Italian perfectly. He was that clear at communicating.
I ended up following Dario to every performance, lecture, and art exhibit he attended for the next two weeks, listening to him speak, watching him drink coffee. I’m lucky I wasn’t arrested for stalking. Dario was (and is) my ideal theatre artist — a hybrid playwright/actor/director/artist/theater owner/social activist who was (and is) equally adept at all of them, and just plain hilarious. I realized that I wanted to become Dario Fo when I grew up. Eleven years later, I haven’t managed it, not by a long shot, but Dario Fo is still at the root of my thoughts about what makes compelling theatre.
We Won’t Pay! We Won’t Pay! is perhaps Darioâ€™s most produced play and is emblematic of his work– a story that starts simply, but quickly gets outrageously complicated. His stories and plots have tangents, embellishments, digs at authority (the pope, the cops, and big business among them) and concrete visual images that are logical and absurd, both at once. These tangents and images push the actors to constantly engage the audience, to charm them, to conspire with them, and to entertain them.
It is amazing how relevant this 35 year old play is today. It’s a story about two couples pushed to the edge by rising prices, shrinking jobs, skyrocketing crime (both real and imagined), an uncaring government, and an inability to pay for the necessities of living. In the age of the $3 gallon of gas, the $4 cup of coffee, and the $5 gallon of milk, does this sound familiar? I thought so.
I want to say thank you to EVERYONE at Theatre Fairfield. Everybody Iâ€™ve met from students to professors to other guest artists, have acted like real professionals. And of course, I must thank my talented, talented cast, who have generously given of their creativity and talent to make this show the wonderful working experience that it’s been.
Enjoy the show! And to quote Dario and Franca (who are quoting Moliere) â€œLaughter opens the mind of the audience so that the nails of reason can be hammered in. “
I hope you leave the theater with your head full of nails.