Arts Desk

Mike Daisey’s Agony and the Ecstasy Will Return to Woolly Mammoth, but Not as Non-Fiction

Mike Daisey performs in "The Last Cargo Cult" at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

At this point, we might as well rename Arts Desk the Daily Daisey.

Today's bit of Mike Daisey news: In a statement today, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company says it still plans to stage a summer remount of Daisey's controversial monologue The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, a version of which was retracted by the public-radio program This American Life last Friday. The troupe already expressed support for Daisey in an earlier statement, released the day news broke that he had lied to This American Life producers during their fact-checking process—casting in doubt key scenes in the monologue's account of human rights abuses witnessed at the Foxconn manufacturing plant in Shenzhen, China.

But today's Woolly statement isn't merely a reiteration of support for the embattled performer: The company apologized for describing The Agony and the Ecstasy as a work of non-fiction during its spring 2011 run in D.C. And the company announced a discussion about the controversy hosted by Artistic Director Howard Shalwitz and Managing Director Jeff Herrmann, which will take place at Woolly Mammoth on March 27 at 7 p.m.

The statement also expands on Woolly's reasons for keeping The Agony and the Ecstasy on its schedule. In short: Woolly's believes in the piece's "essential truth"; it considers the work's role in spreading awareness of labor issues to be important; the work sparked an important conversation; and it's theater, not journalism. Later in the statement comes additional justification:

By his own admission, Mike stepped over some inappropriate boundaries in his zealousness to get his point across in Steve Jobs. We are confident that he will learn important lessons, as we have, from the scandal surrounding this show. We’ve already seen evidence in Mike’s appearance at Georgetown University on Monday, during which he publicly began the process of identifying the choices he made withSteve Jobs, good and bad, with scrupulous honesty.

Read Chris Klimek's recap of Monday's Georgetown appearance here.

As for Woolly's "non-fiction" gaffe: The company's former marketing and communications director, Alli Houseworth, wrote about working with Daisey in 2011 in a jarring post for Arts Journal:

For months and months four major non-profit organizations across the US (Seattle Rep, Berkeley Rep, Woolly and the Public Theater) worked to put TATESJ on the stage, bringing the story we all felt was so enormously important – a story Mike told at least me time and time again was true. He insisted that “This is a work of non-fiction” be printed in playbills. This was to be a work of activist theatre. Staff at Woolly handed out sheets of paper to every audience member that left our theatres, per Mike’s insistence, that urged them to take action on this matter. (I and other staffers would get nasty emails from him the next day if even one audience member slipped by without collecting this call to action.) As the head of the marketing staff at Woolly, my staff and I worked hard to get butts in seats, and it worked. We sold out our houses.  As in the other cities where Mike appeared, we got Mike in every major news outlet in DC, and the buzz, hype and importance of the show only grew along the way.

Houseworth says theaters ought to boycott Daisey's work. Woolly is standing by its man. Sounds like next Tuesday's discussion could get pretty interesting.

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  • Jane

    Are there any vaguely flattering pictures of this guy anywhere?

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com Jonathan L. Fischer

    Well, that's your opinion, Jane. For what it's worth, we've only been using theaters' press shots!

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