Last fall, as Mike Daisey was performing his new tetralogy entitled The Great Tragedies, he recounted some of his experiences as a student in London. One of his acting teachers was a fierce martinet with a habit of interrupting her students by yelling "YOU'RE BORING ME! "
Ever wonder how lesser talents continue to survive? The answer can be found in this brilliant musical number composed by Jule Styne (with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim) for Gypsy: A Musical Fable.
I've been obsessed by my cousin Stephen's death since he was shot and killed in his South of Market apartment in San Francisco in May.
For many artists, the ability to see what others don't -- or can't see -- is what adds an element of humanity or depth to their work. For most people, 2 + 2 may equal 4. But for an artist, the result may be 4 plus a pink rhinoceros. Or a cupcake with day-glo icing.
Many claim that theater holds a mirror up to society. But all too often, when society gets a look at its reflection, the results are not pretty.
People often make the mistake of thinking that storytelling is something that comes naturally to everyone. Why? Because, as children, we listened to our parents read to us or tell us stories as a means of lulling us to sleep.
Did Marketplace's Rob Schmitz really think that, on a tour of the facility arranged by Apple and Foxxconn that he would meet underaged workers, people poisoned on the job, or people who had been hurt in a explosion?
It makes sense to expect that the most important aspects of Mike Daisey's monologue be able to stand up to scrutiny, but to excerpt a theatre piece, a work of testimonia, a memoir and suddenly expect it to stand up to journalistic standards is naïve at best and dishonest at worst.
Even if Mike Daisey is the Sharazad of documentary theater -- a man for whom fantastical tale-telling comes as a second nature -- it seems unfair to be too hard on him.
What is most tragic here isn't Daisey's lying -- everything in China is part of the Big Lie -- it's that his misplaced heroism and genuine American naivety on economics is so common in the media.
If one fundamental truth has emerged from the scandal surrounding Daisey's dramatic fudging, it's that the lived reality of many Chinese workers is undoubtedly bleak -- no embellishment needed.
Can a writer working in the realm of nonfiction ever change the facts because he's Making Art or Delivering an Important Message? The view of basically every respected journalist is Hell No. But a new book takes the opposite view.
He borrows the power of the truth business to create drama. He's like the politician that lies about his résumé. But is the lying pol better or worse than the demagogue who speaks from the heart?
The journalist and the dramatist must navigate between the siren call of story and the rocky shoals of truth. Both Jason Russell and Mike Daisey wrecked their ships. We should judge them not simply by their navigational skills, or lack thereof, but also the things they carried.
Prior to the airing of last weekend's Retraction episode of This American Life, the big story around Mike Daisey's monologue was its release as a free download, available for others to perform royalty-free.
If invisible Children and Mike Daisey did nothing else, they woke the vast majority of the planet up to the fact that we need to pay attention to the human rights of everyone.