Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The watering of Mike Daisey

Have Christian youth groups taken to interrupting and trying to destroy artistic performances they disapprove of? Invincible Summer is Mike Daisey's story of the last glorious summer before everything changed. Starting with the bizarre history of New York's epic subway system and his hilarious detailing of dog days in a cramped apartment in the hot city, Mike crafts a startling vision of his neighborhood before and after one terrible day, setting an intensely personal story of a family in crisis against the backdrop of massive social upheaval.

So this Boston monologue that involves a story of 9/11 seems to have gotten a Christian flash mob displeased school outing treatment with one member dousing the actors notes with water. On further investigation it looks like some teachers taking their Christian high school students to a play they booked at group rates decided to walk out and the students had to follow and may have been encouraged in their behavior. Watch the video and see what you think.

To have chosen this performance, this monologue, seems particularly ironic. I believe he was also perfoming Monopoly but the performance "Invincible Summer" during which they walked out and attacked his notes refers to Camus's philosophy that it is our inner being, our soul to put it in religious terms, that determines our fate, not the vicissitudes of life.

Mike Daisey the performer writes:
I'm still dealing with all the ramifications, but here's what it felt like from my end: I am performing the show to a packed house, when suddenly the lights start coming up in the house as a flood of people start walking down the aisles--they looked like a flock of birds who'd been startled, the way they all moved so quickly, and at the same moment...it was shocking, to see them surging down the aisles. The show halted as they fled, and at this moment a member of their group strode up to the table, stood looking down on me and poured water all over the outline, drenching everything in a kind of anti-baptism.

I sat behind the table, looking up in his face with shock. My job onstage is to be as open as possible, to weave the show without a script as it comes, and this leaves me very emotionally available--and vulnerable, if an audience chooses to abuse that trust. I doubt I will ever forget the look in his face as he defaced the only original of the handwritten show outline--it was a look of hatred, and disgust, and utter and consuming pride.

It is a face I have seen in Riefenstahl's work, and in my dreams, but never on another human face, never an arm's length from me--never directed at me, hating me, hating my words and the story that I've chosen to tell. That face is not Christian, by any definition Christ would be proud to call his own--its naked righteousness and contempt have nothing to do with the godhead, and everything to do with pathetic human pride at its very worst.

And it wounded me in my heart, because I trusted these people. Scared parents and scared teachers running from a theater because words might hurt them, and so consumed by fear that they have to lash out at the work, literally break it apart, drown it. They've made me afraid of my audience, afraid of my craft, just the smallest amount, and that's the trust I will have to relearn tonight and every night. That's the work--the only way out is through, I tell my students, and it is true for me and it is true for everybody.

I tried to engage with the group as they fled, but they ran out like cowards, and not one of them would stand and discuss with me what they'd done. That cowardice still takes my breath away--that they wouldn't stand and speak like men and women and tell me in their voices their grievances. In spite of everything, I still believe--Jean-Michele says that's one of the reasons I'm a monologuist--and I fought to the end to get a single voice to speak and reckon with me, but they ran and didn't look back.
Another link from Jim.

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