Truth is Stranger Than….

This Mike Daisey thing is giving me a headache.

A fascinating headache but a headache nonetheless.   Like any really good piece of theatre, there doesn’t appear to be an obvious right or wrong answer and after each conversation I’ve had or blog post I’ve read I’ve been stimulated but left with more questions than answers.

I’m sure I don’t need to recount the entire situation but check out the recent retraction episode on This American Life for more information.

On Monday, Daisey defended himself at Georgetown University.  The Washington Post follows up on that event.

The blogosphere has exploded with some really interesting and impassioned discourse from multiple points of view in regards to truth, “theatrical” truth (and if there’s a difference) as well as details on Daisey’s instructions to Wooly Mammoth when originally presenting the piece.

Some highlights:

Polly Carl on the nuances of the individual self and the performer self.

Alli Houseworth of Wooly Mammoth issues her audience an apology and gives some details regarding what Mike asked of the company during performance.

Cody Daigle at Acting Unlimited Inc. weighs in on performing the piece during this entire controversy.  What is so thrilling to me about this post is watching theatre responding in real time to a current event.

Howard Sherman calls the entire event “a train wreck, media circus, artistic bombshell and teaching moment all bound up with a bright big bow of schadenfreude”.

Daisey is very clear on his own website  What I do is not journalism. The tools of the theater are not the same as the tools of journalism.”  Whether I like the man or not, or like his approach and his decisions or not I do have to agree with him on this point.

What gives me the headache is that I ALSO agree with Sherman, Yes, theatre is primarily a world of artifice, but it is also a world in which “truth” is valued, be it literal truth, emotional truth, what have you. In a place where we are normally are asked to suspend our disbelief, where that is an essential principle, we are also ready to believe wholeheartedly in fiction, where we willingly trust artists – and therefore, we do so even more when we’re presented with something represented as fact.”

Feel free to weigh in below.  I’m off to take some Advil.


About jjstagesource

Jeremy Johnson is the Member Services Mananger at StageSource and has been since graduating Emerson College in 2000. He has also worked as a freelance director throughout New England at companies including Gloucester Stage, Foothills Theatre, Stoneham Theatre, The Theater Offensive, Mill 6 and Boston Directors' Lab. He's worked backstage at "Blue Man Group" and onstage at "Shear Madness". His production of "Speech & Debate" at the Lyric Stage Company of Boston won the 2009 Elliot Norton Award for Best Production for a Mid-Size Company. He has also taught at The Cambridge School of Weston, Beaver Country Day School, Gann Academy, The Winsor School and Walnut Hill School for the Arts.
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One Response to Truth is Stranger Than….

  1. Terry says:

    The bottom line is he presented the piece as journalism to the producers,to the audience and in subsequent media appearances. So to hide behind the veneer of performance is very shameful. The biggest losers are the Chinese workers whose plight he overzealously chose to highlight. Their valid complaints regarding working conditions were marginalized by Mike Daisey’s obfuscations.

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