Mike Daisey: Not Failing America

Actor and monologuist Mike Daisey, who has been a rising star in the past few years, has a new show at Joe's Pub called How Theatre Failed America. It failed? Really? It's over?? Well, not exactly. Daisey is really saying that it is failing, that the whole medium is becoming very corporate, increasingly in that last bastion of artistry, regional theatre. There are no more acting companies! Nowadays, New York actors are just shipped in for single runs, then hurry back to the city. For example, the American Repertory Theatre in Harvard Square (that's, um, in Cambridge. Which is, um, across the Charles river from Boston), dissolved most of its famous company in the early aughts. And (in my opinion) has suffered a downfall in quality since. (Carry the company torch, Steppenwolf!) Daisey, as it would happen, recently had a very negative experience at the ART. Not one that necessarily dealt with corporate control of theatre, but rather with lovable old Christian nuts.

Almost exactly a year ago, Daisey was performing his monologue Invincible Summer at the ART's Zero Arrow Theatre when a group of 87 Christian protesters staged a walk out (objecting to his language? his content? it's somewhat unclear) and poured water over the original copy of the work. (He sits at a table with his notes, much like the late, great Spalding Gray.) He rebounded expertly from the awkward situation and continued on in his typical effusive, open, and intelligent way. A great performance. Daisey is a smart and exciting fellow, and his work is a blessed reminder that not all theatre is failing us. Read the Times review of How Theatre Failed Us here, and watch video of the protest incident below.