The Washington Post

Directing Mr. Daisey

Jean-Michele Gregory keeps her monologuist husband on track

Mike Daisey, shown here with a giant, inexplicable disco cube.
Mike Daisey, shown here with a giant, inexplicable disco cube.

In a Mike Daisey performance, the monologuist sits at a table with a script in front of him and talks about his life for two hours. So when people find out the man behind “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” has a director, they often wonder what she does.

She is Jean-Michele Gregory, Daisey’s wife. She works almost exclusively on Daisey’s shows, balancing her life and work by making them one and the same.

Their new work, “American Utopias,” delves into the optimism and opportunism of Burning Man, Disney World and Occupy Wall Street, forming a piece that departs from Daisey’s typical set-up in a few flamboyant ways we won’t spoil for you. We spoke to Gregory about what it’s like to live and work with Daisey.

What’s the hardest thing about working with Mike?
When things are great, they’re really great. But when you have a bad day at rehearsal, you have to go home with the same guy who was an [expletive] at rehearsal.

Do you ever want to go on a trip and NOT have it become a monologue?
Mike doesn’t want to be cannibalizing his whole life for material. If he starts thinking “what a great story this will be,” he won’t use the story in a show, because I think he’s really afraid that he’ll have this messed-up relationship to reality otherwise.

You went to Burning Man for this show. What did you think?
I really did not want to go. Mike said, “We have to go to Burning Man,” and I said, “YOU have to go to Burning Man.” But it’s had a profound impact on the way I think about how we organize our societies.

How did that connect to Disney?
They’re both immersive experiences that attract the same kind of zeal in the people who go there, but their Venn overlap is very small. Then we started thinking about Occupy, and people gathering in that public place, and that became the cornerstone.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre, 641 D St. NW; through April 21, $35-$67.50; 202-393-3939. (Gallery Place)



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