The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,’ Take 2
USinfo | 2012-12-29 09:35

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
Mike Daisey in "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs" at the Public Theater in 2011.
WASHINGTON -- "Why believe me? I'm a noted fabulist," says Mike Daisey, his honeyed voice all but dripping with sarcasm, eyes glinting with challenge. The audience at the Woolly Mammoth Theater here, where Mr. Daisey is performing an encore run of his solo show "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," chuckles in sympathy.
Mr. Daisey is, of course, referring to the controversy that erupted last spring over his popular, polemical solo show, in which he exposed the dire conditions workers were subjected to at the factories in China where Apple products - and much of the rest of the world's electronics - are manufactured.
When an abbreviated version of his show was broadcast on "This American Life," it was discovered that some of the details in his descriptions of the factory and his encounters with workers there had been embellished, even fabricated. The radio program took the unusual step of officially retracting the broadcast, and in a later program on the same show Mr. Daisey alternately defended his right as a theater artist to shape his narrative as he saw fit and expressed contrition at the liberties he had taken. 
The Woolly Mammoth, which first presented "The Agony and the Ecstasy" in 2010 and has long been associated with Mr. Daisey, had already booked a return engagement for this summer, and decided to stand by Mr. Daisey and continue with the run. In fact the company, far from fleeing the scandal, used it as a promotional tool: ads for the return engagement referred to it as "the most notorious and controversial play of the decade."
Fortunately for Mr. Daisey's rehabilitation as a theater artist, the show has evolved in the wake of the public outcry that arose when Mr. Daisey admitted that he had not stuck strictly to the facts in a show that was unabashedly billed as "a work of nonfiction." The program for the current run at the Woolly Mammoth does not carry any such description. Still, Mr. Daisey has smoothly excised virtually all of the material that was called into question by the radio show, which interviewed the translator Mr. Daisey employed during his visits to the factory. (It was not a happy indicator when Mr. Daisey told "This American Life" researchers that the translator - referred to as "Cathy" in the show - was not actually named Cathy. She was, and presumably still is.)
In a reference to Steve Jobs's reputation as a demanding boss, he jokingly refers to Jobs's head exploding, and adds, "That is hyperbole." But aside from a few allusions to the controversy - including a sarcastic assertion that we all know that humans, not "Oompa-Loompas," are employed to manufacture the sleek digital assistants we all rely on - Mr. Daisey sticks to his guns (except for that bit about the guns, of course), brandishing his forceful, admonishing tone with the same fervor that he used before the production inspired his own public agonies.
I'd be interested in hearing your reactions to Mr. Daisey's travails, and whether you think Mr. Daisey is right to continue performing a show that has been tainted by controversy.
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