Mike Daisey caused a sensation a year and a half ago with his one-man show “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.”
The theatre piece blasted Apple for the inhumane treatment of its Chinese workers. But it was attacked for inaccuracies, an attack that forced Daisey to publicly apologize.
Chastened but undaunted, Daisey’s back at the Seattle Rep with a couple of new monologues about Disney World, Burning Man, and Ayn Rand.
Mike Daisey addresses the issue of accuracy in his new monologues with a kind of disclaimer in the program. These stories are true, he writes, but as we know, all truths are fictions.
“I wasn’t being open enough, so having the statement, the colophon, is an effort to sort of clearly, but without it being didactic, talk about what’s in the shows, kind of like a list of ingredients but then not giving away the recipe. I am still the magician and my job is actually to saw the woman in half and you can’t tell how I did it,” says Daisey. “So I cannot actually tell you everything because if I did I would be a journalist, which would be fine, but it would be a totally different job, and we’ve seen journalists on stage, it doesn’t work out.
Daisey may not be a journalist but he’s heck of an entertainer and as knowledgeable as most journalists.
In the first of his new monologues, called “American Utopias,” he gives us hilarious and thought-provoking accounts of his visits to Disney World, Burning Man, and Occupy Wall Street’s Zircotti Park. He ultimately concludes they are all spaces in which communities can dream of a better world, a utopia.
What makes this take so compelling is that he starts out despising them, especially Disney World.
“I just find the entire corporate structure alienating,” says Daisey. “Being in a place where you’re sort of required to have fun and it’s sold to you, it just creeps me out.”
When I suggested the reason he couldn’t enjoy Disney World might be because he never went there as a child, he just laughed it off.
“It’s like, what’s wrong with you? You weren’t brainwashed early enough, that’s the problem.”
Daisey eventually came around on Disney World because he sees the impact it has not on him, but on his extended family, which embraces it wholeheartedly.
He had the same hate/love relationship with Burning Man, the temporary counter-culture community that springs up annually in the middle of a Nevada desert.
“I was afraid it would be unbelievably hot all the time. That I would take drugs that would be very powerful and then I would be outside my body flying around like a spirit disembodied, that I would be naked in a chair, reading the book “Dune” while a sandstorm swept over me, and all those things ended up happening.”
Despite it all, Daisey decides it was well-worth his time.
“It was a really fantastic experience because of the things that aren’t there, namely your cell phone doesn’t work, you have no computers that work, you have no Internet connection, you’re actually separated from humanity. You might say I can do that and go up into the forest, but what you can’t do is be separated from humanity at large but still be with a community of tens of thousands of people. That’s actually really unique.”
Daisey’s other monologue is called, “[Expletive], [expletive], [expletive] Ayn Rand.”
Among other things, Daisey says it’s a pocket-size biography of the controversial thinker and writer, Ayn Rand.
“She had a fascinating life. She basically built the underpinnings of what is now the mainstream of thought in the Republican Party. She basically formed a cult/religion and had that religion explode on her because of a passionate affair. She’s a really fascinating person.”
Daisey says he saw an odd parallel between Rand and his own experience with the Steve Jobs monologue.
“One of the purposes, the reason I did the show, is that I, with Agony and Ecstasy, I built a viral mimetic weapon, an idea that spreads, so I look at both “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged” as weapons that way, like why do they work,” says Daisey. “There is something about them that speaks to people.”
Daisey will be “speaking to people” about Ayn Rand, starting Wednesday at the Seattle Rep. His brilliant “American Utopias” has just wrapped up its run there.