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Comment Archives: Stories: Spoleto 2012: Theater

Re: “David Lee Nelson's Elephant in My Closet is earnest and bittersweet

So, I'll like it politically, but is it good theater?

I can get the political affirmation from any number of friends, online chats, or Facebook groups without paying admission. I expect a bit more from an entertainment venue.

Posted by Booklady1 on May 23, 2014 at 9:33 PM

Re: “Miles and Coltrane: Blue(.) will get in your veins

Fantastic review Ms. Lewis! You, as usual, hit the nail on the head, describing the darkness of Davis's soul driving his expression, in contradistinction to Coltrane's core belief that the saxophone and his ability to play it were divine gifts, allowing him the therapeutic liberty of expression ...

1 of 1 people like this.
Posted by George J. Gatgounis on June 29, 2012 at 1:31 PM

Re: “Monologist Mike Daisey's painful odyssey through the new media machine

The very last words I have to say on this subject, hopefully until the end of time.
http://www.manandultraman.com/archives/872

Posted by PatrickS on June 11, 2012 at 5:12 AM

Re: “Mike Daisey is just as disappointed with himself as you want him to be

I was at the show and was thoroughly disappointed. Definitely not worth the 35$ i paid for the ticket. What I also found rather humorous was the fact that he never explicitly mentions what he did wrong in regards to his 'scandal'. I know there were some audience members who bought a ticket not knowing much (or anything) about Mike Daisey and then spent 2 hours listening to him drone on about whatever he did wrong, not knowing what in gods name he was talking about. Indeed, even I, knowing the ins and outs of the scandal, got sick of hearing about his sob story. I was looking forward to hearing about teching in India and instead got this barely coherent monologue. Mike Daisey, if you want people to forget about your scandal then stop talking about it.

2 of 4 people like this.
Posted by droctagon on June 8, 2012 at 10:59 AM

Re: “Mike Daisey is just as disappointed with himself as you want him to be

First of all, Sweetie, Ira is a him not a her. (Bless your little heart)
Second, and more important, you're being scammed and enjoying it. Daisey was a bush-league journalist/entertainer until he got caught with his hand in the journalistic cookie jar. His show of remorse? He's apologizing all the way to the bank! Since he scammed APR he's made more money for notoriety and apologies than he has in his entire career up to that point, so you see he's not going to drop the apologies until suckers like you stop paying to hear them. (Bless your little heart!) Isn't that obvious Dusty?

1 of 7 people like this.
Posted by Ima Oldman on June 8, 2012 at 7:16 AM

Re: “Mike Daisey is just as disappointed with himself as you want him to be

The show definitely felt like a work in progress, raw and over-long, but was fascinating for that reason. It will never be seen again in this form. He kept talking of getting older, but he is still making the young man's error of letting others define him. I kept wishing he would drop the apologies. As a master story-teller, he has to know that it is as easy to tell the truth with fiction as to lie with facts. He should have never let Ira Glass dump her guilt onto him. He's a smart man, and I think he will eventually gain the confidence in his art that comes with maturity.

4 of 5 people like this.
Posted by obviousdusty on June 7, 2012 at 9:36 PM

Re: “Boston Marriage needs counseling

This cleverly titled review of "Boston Marriage" is fair and constructive. Too often, local reviewers uncritically praise productions playing in town. But we need reviews that point out flaws as well as highlights. This review is a good example of the kind that local [and visiting] patrons find useful and enlightening.

Posted by GGG on June 7, 2012 at 8:39 PM

Re: “Monologist Mike Daisey's painful odyssey through the new media machine

My thoughts exactly, Mat.

"The problem is and always was that he allowed the media to present his show as fact. Neither Shakespeare nor David Lynch went before the media, repeatedly, and allowed the media to purport that the material presented in their theatrical works was the literal truth.

Daisey did that. He did exactly that. There isn't any analogy you could possibly conceive of that explains that away or makes it right. I cannot quite understand why you are going to such lengths to absolve Daisey, or how you are trying to tie this to the demise of "Capital-J Journalism".

The standard of "art" in taking literal truths and altering them to present a narrative in a cohesive and entertaining manner is unquestioned. Trying to pretend that Daisey is blameless because of this standard is indefensible."

Posted by arteear01 on June 7, 2012 at 4:29 PM

Re: “Monologist Mike Daisey's painful odyssey through the new media machine

Patrick,

Your "profile of Daisey as an artist" and not as a journalist fails because you are indeed viewing him through the media lens that he placed himself under. Your piece assaults the media for all of the wrong reasons and ultimately allows Daisey to get away clean for his "tragic flaw". Perhaps if you had focused more on the long-running traditions in which art has tried to express true stories without sticking to literal truth (as you have now in this most recent comment), you would have succeeded in defending Daisey's right to embellish or augment his story with dramatic touches instead of sticking to the literal story of his trip to China.

Instead, you've traveled a different road in your column, trying to apply the standard of the artist to one who did not stick steadfastly to that concept but instead allowed his art to be presented directly as truth on numerous occasions and in numerous venues.

Should Daisey be allowed to go on performing his art? Sure. He can even leave in all the specious bits, if he wants to. There's really no question about that. In fact, there never was a question about that.

The problem is and always was that he allowed the media to present his show as fact. Neither Shakespeare nor David Lynch went before the media, repeatedly, and allowed the media to purport that the material presented in their theatrical works was the literal truth.

Daisey did that. He did exactly that. There isn't any analogy you could possibly conceive of that explains that away or makes it right. I cannot quite understand why you are going to such lengths to absolve Daisey, or how you are trying to tie this to the demise of "Capital-J Journalism".

The standard of "art" in taking literal truths and altering them to present a narrative in a cohesive and entertaining manner is unquestioned. Trying to pretend that Daisey is blameless because of this standard is indefensible.

Posted by mat catastrophe on June 6, 2012 at 4:46 PM

Re: “Monologist Mike Daisey's painful odyssey through the new media machine

Hi Mat. You hit the nail on the head when you say Daisey's piece is theater and not journalism. The very point of theater is to "make up key details of a story to present a piece of dramatic theater." This is what theater has been from its beginning. Nobody's objecting that Shakespeare deliberately made up key details about the reign of Henry the IV in order to present a piece of dramatic theater. Nobody's pulling out their hair because 'The Elephant Man' took dramatic liberties with the real life of John Merrick. Did Daisey inflate elements of his China experience for the same reasons? Obviously, yes, because that's what drama is. He is here at Spoleto performing theater, not performing journalism. He has repeatedly acknowledged the mistake he made by appearing on TAL (again at this festival). My point is let's allow the man to do theater, which he's good at, and to stay well away from journalism, which he's not good at.

I didn't say I teach journalism in Vietnam. I said I earned an M.A. in journalism. At RMIT's Centre for Communication and Design, I teach mass communications, e.g. media and society, communication theory, cultural studies, and Asian cybercultures. Regarding the lack of a free press and one whose function is to merely produce propaganda, the more time I spend outside the U.S. looking in, the more unclear it is to me which system prevails here. As Ballard (and Noam Chomsky) have noted, mainstream news outlets in the West serve up just as much propaganda as you'll find in any authoritarian state. But here it's driven not by government directive but by advertiser influence, the status quo, the fear of political flak, and the never-ending hunger for profit. Different models, same outcome.

Posted by PatrickS on June 6, 2012 at 12:00 PM

Re: “Monologist Mike Daisey's painful odyssey through the new media machine

The clowns at the cable news networks (and their lawyers) would be quick to point out that you're confusing "news" and "opinion". The news they present is accurate, if highly biased. As much as I love you, Ballard, you're not only missing the point but you're providing misdirection, too. Not helpful.

1 of 2 people like this.
Posted by arteear01 on June 6, 2012 at 9:54 AM

Re: “Monologist Mike Daisey's painful odyssey through the new media machine

Re: "I know of no journalistic standard that says that is OK to simply make something up because it helps prove a point..." — Tell that to the clowns at the cable news networks.

1 of 1 people like this.
Posted by TBLesemann on June 6, 2012 at 9:29 AM

Re: “Monologist Mike Daisey's painful odyssey through the new media machine

The International Business Times has nothing kind to say about this piece: http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/347023/201…

4 of 4 people like this.
Posted by mat catastrophe on June 5, 2012 at 7:02 PM

Re: “Monologist Mike Daisey's painful odyssey through the new media machine

You seem to have quite a talent for missing the point, Patrick.

1 of 1 people like this.
Posted by arteear01 on June 5, 2012 at 1:06 AM

Re: “Monologist Mike Daisey's painful odyssey through the new media machine

First off, I did not say Daisey didn't go to China. I'm saying that Picasso wasn't in Guernica and your attempt at analogizing the two pieces of art falls a tad short of the mark.

Secondly, there are parts of Daisey's show that were called into question as to whether or not they were true or happened the way Daisey initially said they did. He has removed six minutes of his show because of this. Let's be plain: he made up key details of his story to present a piece of dramatic theater. He did this under the misguided assumption that either A) it was OK to do this to bring light to a serious problem, or B) that no one would ever know the difference. Probably both.

I know of no journalistic standard that says that is OK to simply make something up because it helps prove a point, or makes for a dramatic moment in a story. Then again, maybe my communications degree is every bit as useless as I think it is as long as I continue to insist on taking certain parts of it seriously.

Granted, Daisey's piece is theater and not journalism - but by not clearing delineating between those two things he allowed clear falsifications to be presented as truth to many members of the media (who, in fairness to Daisey, swallowed the cock and bull hook, line, and sinker).

So, since you have spent time in a society without a free press (which makes me wonder how you were teaching journalism there), which is worse: not having a free press, or having one whose function is to produce propaganda?

5 of 5 people like this.
Posted by mat catastrophe on June 4, 2012 at 9:05 PM

Re: “Monologist Mike Daisey's painful odyssey through the new media machine

Mat, it's been verified and corroborated a dozen different ways -- including by This American Life -- that Daisey spent time in China researching his piece and did impersonate an American businessman to gain access to the Foxconn factory to get a firsthand look at conditions there.

0 of 2 people like this.
Posted by PatrickS on June 4, 2012 at 6:08 PM

Re: “Monologist Mike Daisey's painful odyssey through the new media machine

I don't recall Picasso giving interviews stating that he was in Guernica when it was bombed.

4 of 5 people like this.
Posted by mat catastrophe on June 4, 2012 at 2:02 PM

Re: “Monologist Mike Daisey's painful odyssey through the new media machine

Hi Sybil, forgive me for not replying sooner. I was at the bottom of the Grand Canyon last weekend and only hauled myself out and back into Charleston a day ago. Your point is well-taken, and I largely agree with you. But I disagree with the notion that as soon as an artist decides to touch upon an “important” subject, he or she is bound to do so with journalistic accuracy. Shall we blame Picasso because his portrayal of the horrors of the Spanish Civil War in “Guernica” are not photo-realistic? Surely the tragedies of that war and the suffering it inflicted upon innocent civilians was of greater significance than the working conditions of some factory laborers in China. Yet we easily recognize the ridiculousness of expecting journalism from Picasso. The artistic expression in “Guernica” -- which exaggerates, condenses and reinterprets those events from 1937 -- is far more effective (now as it was then) as an artistic and, crucially, political commentary against the war precisely because of the way the artist manipulated the actual events.

I do not seek to compare Daisey’s art to Picasso’s. But the principle here is the same. My task in writing this article was to present a short profile of Daisey as an artist, not of Daisey as a journalist. Daisey is not a journalist. He has never claimed to be a journalist. He was not invited to Spoleto to perform journalism. I see no reason to hold him accountable at Spoleto to the codes of conduct of an institutional practice that has nothing in common with theater except that it shares with it the same medium of expression -- language.

Did Daisey, in his earnestness, make a mistake in agreeing to allow segments of his monologue to be aired on This American Life, whose ethic is one of documentary-style journalism rather than artistic expression? Absolutely. Has he acknowledged and apologized for that mistake? He has not stopped doing so -- he apologized again, at length, in front of an audience with Martha Teichner after his opening night performance here last week.

Like you, Sybil, I studied journalism -- I have a M.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication. I also live in Vietnam, a Communist country with strict restrictions on the press and Internet, where I teach mass communications to Vietnamese university students at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Saigon. In Vietnam I see every day what a country with no fourth estate looks like. In Vietnam there is no institution to shed light on corruption and abuses of power, no one to give voice to the voiceless. Speaking truth to power is illegal there, and the gap between rich and poor, influential and marginalized, grows greater every day. So I know as well as anyone how critical journalism is to individuals and to societies. I do not seek to trivialize it by choosing not to pour more gasoline over Mike Daisey’s flaming hulk for mistakes he made and has expressed contrition for. I only suggest that he is a mere human being, just as capable of making mistakes as you or I am, and that he should be allowed to step down off the pyre to practice his art as an artist with a conscience -- a rare thing in these times.

Regarding Aristotle’s ideas on the tragic flaw, I don’t think an awareness of it calls for much real cultural prowess. That’s the stuff of almost every high school Western Lit class. I noted that, for Aristotle, the tragic flaw was ‘often’ something of no great importance but, though seemingly small, leads to the character’s outsized downfall. For Daisey, that flaw was clearly a tendency to inflate the truth in his monologues, just as we all do when telling a story. But there was surely some hubris in this story as well. Appearing on This American Life? Improving working conditions for squillions of poor Chinese families? Becoming an internationally recognized monologist? Hard to say no to. In combination, these relatively minor flaws -- for an artist -- conspired to bring about a decidedly grim result for Daisey. That doesn’t make him the world’s worst person. It makes him someone who probably had very good intentions and who tripped on them in front of the world because of the kinds of errors that are common to pretty much everyone who has ever lived. That’s what I call tragic.

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Posted by PatrickS on June 4, 2012 at 1:12 PM

Re: “Monologist Mike Daisey's painful odyssey through the new media machine

Good point! By the time i read the whole thing, I entirely forgot the opening quote, in retrospect used more to show cultural prowess than to illustrate an applicable point. Clearly incongruous with the rest of the argument!

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Posted by Sybil Fix on June 4, 2012 at 11:49 AM

Re: “Monologist Mike Daisey's painful odyssey through the new media machine

Smart, well-written comment, Sybil, though I think you went a little soft on Patrick. ;-)

"...a fundamental character defect, often something of no great importance..."? Make up your mind, is it fundamental or is it unimportant?

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Posted by arteear01 on June 4, 2012 at 12:36 AM
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