Even though Mike Daisey’s speech at Georgetown University drew a crowd Monday night, there are a few people who don’t want to see him on stage: theater professionals.
Alli Houseworth, the former marketing and communications director of the Woolly Mammoth Theater, which produced “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” has called on other theater professionals to boycott Daisey’s work. Daisey’s monologue on the public radio show “This American Life” was revealed to be partially fabricated.
Houseworth, who now works as an independent arts consultant, wrote an op-ed for Arts Journal that urges theaters not to produce Daisey’s work until he apologizes to the audiences he deceived. She emphasized that when she was working with Daisey to produce the show about labor conditions in Apple factories at Woolly Mammoth last year, he insisted that “this is a work of non-fiction” be printed in every playbill. “This American Life” retracted its entire show about Daisey after they discovered that he fabricated details and characters, and did not visit all of the places in China that he said he visited.
What Mike did was apologize to him, to Ira [Glass, of “This American Life”]. But he never apologized to us, and he never apologized to our audiences. In fact, what he did in his retraction interview was say, “I believe that when I perform it in a theatrical context in the theatre that when people hear the story in those terms that we have different languages for what the truth means.” My answer to that is that “This is a work of non-fiction” is pretty clear language. And how dare you, Mike, how dare you say to Ira Glass that the context in which the work is presented is different. All this time I thought you respected this industry, respected our audiences the very same, if not more than the audience of This American Life.
In a public appearance at Georgetown University last night, the Reliable Source reports that Daisey once again apologized to Glass. On his blog, he apologized to radio listeners but said to his audiences, “It’s you that I owe the most to. I want you all to know that I will not go silent — I will be making a full accounting of this work, shining a light through this monologue and telling the story of its origins, construction and details.”
Daisey’s work is scheduled to come back to Woolly Mammoth this summer. Brooke Miller, Woolly Mammoth’s press director, has responded to Houseworth’s remarks in a statement that says that the theater did not feel it was right for them to “punish” Daisey:
As a former Woolly staff member, Alli Houseworth has expressed strong personal feelings about her relationship with Mike Daisey during her time at Woolly and how Mike should be treated by American theatre companies moving forward. Alli was a great marketing director and she is absolutely entitled to her opinion, but she speaks from an outside perspective which does not represent the views of Woolly Mammoth.
Like everyone else, we have spent the last few days sifting through our complicated feelings about the revelations that were aired on This American Life. There is no simple answer or response to all of this. But we do know that Mike has apologized, to us and to his audiences, and will no doubt continue to do so over the coming weeks and months. We also know that we support our artists — especially at times of duress (however self-inflicted) — and we believe in the importance and power of Mike's show.
At the same time, it is clear that Mike made mistakes in the way he characterized the truth of what he personally witnessed during his time in China. But it is not our job to punish Mike and we believe we can hold our heads high for our decision to continue with the remount as planned and in letting DC audiences decide the matter for themselves. We plan to release a longer statement on our position in the next several days.