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Mike Daisey's big news

posted by Karen McKevitt on Thu, Jan 26, 2012
in News , Our shows

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It's hard to believe that a whole year has gone by since Mike Daisey performed The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs on our Thrust Stage. Even then it was clear: for Mike, this wasn't just about creating a successful theatre piece -- it was about changing the values of one of the largest, most popular American corporations.

Or, perhaps, "American and Chinese corporations."

Because, as the Twitterverse pointed out recently, for all its billions, Apple has $0 in American manufacturing. (Again, that's from Twitter. Debate at will.) (Also from the Twitterverse: "People, we're also responsible b/c of our lust for the products.")

The waves that started here in Berkeley have reached epic proportions in New York, where Agony enjoyed a terrific run at The Public -- and returns there on January 31.


In the meantime, the largest tidal wave came in the form of a special episode of This American Life featuring a portion of Daisey's monologue followed by a rigorous discussion and debate. It aired the weekend of January 6. Mike Daisey reports that it's the most downloaded episode in This American Life's history. Listen to it. I heard part of it in the car and was mesmerized -- thankfully, I wasn't the one driving.

And yesterday, the New York Times posted this article, which has since moved up the front page of its site and garnered over 1,000 comments.

Earlier this week, Mike emailed "Some Big News" to Berkeley Rep, among many others. I had seen a version of this email on his Facebook wall, and I'll excerpt it here. After all, Mike can say it so much better:

"That same week [as the TAL airing] news broke that hundreds of Foxconn workers had a stand-off that lasted two days, where they were all threatening mass suicide by throwing themselves off the roof of the plant over their working conditions.

"This is at Foxconn, a company which Apple's own 2011 Supplier Responsibility Report said was completely up to code, and which Apple applauded for their efforts. This is the company about which Steve Jobs said the employees enjoyed a virtual paradise of movie theaters, swimming pools, and luxury.

"A week after our show was broadcast, Apple made an abrupt announcement. After years of stonewalling and silence, they released the full list of their suppliers, and agreed to outside, independent monitoring of working conditions in the factories they use. It is not everything, but it is a small step down the right road.

"Many news outlets are crediting THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY OF STEVE JOBS for being a large factor in Apple's decision. I've received a number of emails from Apple employees who have told me they believe that hearing this story on THIS AMERICAN LIFE, a program many Apple employees listen to with their families and their children, created "a morale situation" that finally compelled Apple to begin to do the right thing.

"I would like to thank everyone who has heard this story and then told it on to the next person. In theater we sometimes doubt that we can effect change—I think we all doubt it, sometimes. The truth is that telling stories, person to person, is the best way we have ever had of connecting to the human—and whatever this show may or may not have achieved, it has come out of the conversations happening night after night after night."

And thank you, Mike, for telling the story first.



Much of the information presented in "The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs" by Mike Daisey has been shown to be a fabrication, and its presentation on This American Life has been formally retracted and an apology issued. I would suggest that Berkeley Rep do the same. Saying that the performance was art and not journalism does not cut it. A lie was presented as truth, the audience was miss led, and damage was done. This type of performance should be more thoroughly vetted if it is to be included in your repertoire.

DCR | Fri, Mar 16, 2012

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