Mike Daisey is an artist I’ve written about more often and in greater detail than only anyone else. He’s certainly the artist with to whom I’ve spent the most time speaking directly. The reviews I’ve written of his monologues and the features I’ve reported about how he creates them and the op-ed I was once moved to write in his defense all reflect my great admiration for his work.
That has not prevented me from condemning him when I think he’s deserved it, and he did do something that warranted condemnation, years ago. I will say that in the third year of a Donald J. Trump administration, it seems awfully quaint that so many journalists who had never publicly discussed theatre at all before they lined up to express their outrage at Daisey in the spring of 2012 got so steamed over a guy who tells stories in theaters for a living taking some liberties with one of them.
Anyway, Daisey’s wildly ambitious current show A People’s History—an 18 part retelling of American history circa 1492-to-now, based heavily on the work of Howard Zinn but also on Daisey’s own life—is the subject of my second Washington City Paper cover story about him, available today wherever finer Washington, DC alt-weeklies are given away for free. My 2012 WCP story detailing the problems he created for himself with his show The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, and his effort to remedy them, is here. In fact, all of my writings about Daisey are mere clicks away! How much time do you have?
This took a few days longer to appear than it should’ve, for boring reasons only partly within my control. Anyway, last Friday I attended a workshop of a new monologue by Mike Daisey — an artist I’ve written a lot over the last six or seven years. I didn’t find room in the piece to mention that the monologue was directed by Isaac Butler, who has been doing some terrific writing on the theatre for Slate. The oral history of Angels and America that he and my sometimes-editor Dan Kois posted this week is marvelous piece of historical journalism. Anyway, my Washington City Paper review of the still-developing The Trump Card is (finally) here.
I’ve written about monologuist Mike Daisey a lot in the last four years, but especially last year, in the wake of damaging revelations about his show The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.
He and I met again at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, his performing home here in DC since 2008, last Friday to talk about his new piece, American Utopias, which I review in this week’s Washington City Paper. I’ve just posted an edited, partial transcript of that talk up on Arts Desk. Continue reading →
If Uncle Sam is now reading PARADE magazine, we’re screwed. Photo by Heidi May.
I’ve had the privilege of speaking with the great raconteur Henry Rollins a few times now. When I interviewed him in 2008 about his plan to play the Birchmere on Election Eve, we spoke in September, several weeks before the show. He was predicting at that time John McCain would be elected president. A few days after our conversation, Lehman Brothers collapsed, the fiscal dominoes started falling and the dynamic of the race changed dramatically.
Once again, Rollins will be speaking here in DC — in DC, where we don’t have voting representation in Congress; not the “DC area” this time, at the 9:30 Club — the night before America chooses a president. I’ll be there. I was surprised to learn when we spoke the other week that he hadn’t heard of Mike Daisey.
The interview is on Washington City Paper Arts Desk today.
I’ve already written at length about my reaction to the news that Mike Daisey — a stage storyteller whose work I’ve admired for years — fabricated the most emotionally resonant elements of his tech-manufacturing expose monologue The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. He’s bringing the show back to the place of its birth, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, for a three-week engagement starting next week.
I spent a vacation week from my day job writing about him again. It was not at all restful. It did not help that my usual and customary stress valves — running and boxing — were both severely impaired by a record-pummeling 11-day heatwave here in Our Nation’s Capital that included the hottest day ever recorded in Washington, DC: 105 degrees Fahrenheit on July 7, if you care. On the plus side, my electricity stayed on.
But I digress! My cover story in this week’s Washington City Paper does some chin-scratching about Woolly’s decision to stage Daisey’s controversial show again, and attempts to explain why I think Daisey remains an important artist despite the poor decisions he made during his perilous crossing of the artist-activist Rubicon. I’ll take what he says on stage from now on with a grain of salt, but then I always did. The main thing is I’ll keep showing up to hear what he says. Continue reading →