Q&A With Playwright Gino Di Iorio 

New York City-based playwright Gino Di Iorio spent some time with TRW discussing his newly published play, SCAB. This two-hander about the realities of the working class explores an unlikely bond between a hardened factory worker and her young replacement, building to a stunning climax as it shows us the human stories behind opposing points of view. With amateur and professional theatres on a mission to produce topical, thought-provoking work that entertains while it brings about greater understanding, Gino Di Iorio is absolutely an author to know.

by Katie Stottlemire

KATIE STOTTLEMIRE: Your play SCAB follows two line workers, Gilda and Eduardo, over the course of a week of training while a strike is occurring outside the factory building. What inspired you to write this play?

Gino: The play was really born of a kind of hopeless frustration that no one seems to care about working people anymore. The unions are dead in this country. We’ve got 10% union membership in the US, Mexico it’s slightly higher. I grew up in a blue-collar family. My folks were both working people, union people. And I wondered what they would have thought of present-day politics. I can’t imagine they would have fallen for Trump’s fake populism, but I know they would have been upset at how the left has abandoned working people. They felt this during the Clinton years after NAFTA so I can only imagine what they would have thought today. Gilda really has no place to go. She’s been abandoned by the left, she’s been sold out by the union. And Eduardo is only doing what any struggling worker would do—he’s taking the work where he can get it. 

KS: Throughout the play, racial and class tensions are explored through the similarities and differences in the characters, woven in through explicit conversations and implied meanings. There’s a particularly interesting conversation that Gilda and Eduardo have about the differences in the American working class and the Mexican working class. Was race a central theme of this play?

Gino: Race was prominent in earlier drafts but a lot of that was taken out. It’s really not about race, it’s more about class. Although I do think that Mexican and American workers have misconceptions about one another and I wanted to explore that in the play. There’s a lot of contempt between the two characters; for example, Eduardo thinks Gilda is lazy and privileged, while Gilda views Eduardo as a “scab”—one who works during a strike. By play’s end, both characters find they have a lot in common. But it’s a bumpy ride!

Monica Wyche and John Anthony Torres co-star in SCAB at Premiere Stages (Photo by Mike Peters)

KS: As details about each character are revealed, we learn that Gilda has been a line worker for a very long time. While Gilda’s participation in and feelings about her union were once dedicated and steadfast, during the play she is working during a strike and taking the company’s buyout. Can you tell us about the importance of this change in Gilda’s feelings?

Gino: Gilda feels abandoned by the union because for all the talk and strikes and bargaining and walk outs, the union couldn’t save her job. But what’s even worse, she is going against the union advice to help train her replacement workers, which breaks her heart. I mean, what was all that “sticking with the union” stuff about? Of course, we realize she has no choice. She doesn’t get the buyout unless she agrees to train Eduardo. But it’s an awful choice for her. 

KS: A moment of the play that sticks with me is when Eduardo says, “I will never know your story unless I ask.” That’s a powerful moment. Theatre itself is an extension of Eduardo’s statement—it allows its audience to experience and witness someone’s story, someone who could be wholly different from them, and connect the common threads of our experience. Would you say Eduardo’s statement is an undercurrent in all your work?

Gino: The thing is we don’t know and of course, we don’t ask. And unfortunately, that’s true of the theatre as well. Everyone is always talking about how divided the nation is. But it never occurs to us that we may be the ones doing the dividing. We think, “Oh no, it’s not me. It’s those people on the other side.” So the hope is that in the theatre, we ask questions of those who have different opinions, find out where they’re coming from, what makes them tick, and hopefully we can come to a greater understanding. Unfortunately, too many of us live in an echo chamber and we must fight against theatre becoming reflective of this. Do we really explore these issues in the play? Are we challenging our own belief systems? Or do we just go to the theatre to hear what we already know and enforce what we already believe? That’s what I’m trying to address with SCAB and pretty much all my other works.

John Anthony Torres and Monica Wyche in “Scab.”  Premiere Stages (Photo by Mike Peters)

KS: What themes are you currently exploring in your work?

Gino: I’m working on a play called Woke which explores the radicalization of today’s college students. I think it’s an important topic, especially with the growing antisemitism that we see on our campuses. I’m also developing a play called Clowns which is a dark comedy. After these last two pieces, I needed to visit a different place. So Clowns is about working people as well, but in a very different environment.

Read Gino Di Iorio Bio HERE

READ SCAB

Article by Katie Stottlemire