“The ethical value of one’s actions depends on their anticipated and predictable consequences.”
– Noam Chomsky
“Truth is the most valuable thing we have, so I try to conserve it.”
– Mark Twain
“The Truth is more important than the facts.”
– Frank Lloyd Wright
I’m going to say it. There’s a bloody carcass in the middle of the room, and everybody’s pouncing on it. Mike Daisey said and did some things. Things – from his world view – that didn’t jive with much of the rest of the world’s view. Journalists and theater practitioners alike have weighed in. I’m weighing in again, hopefully for the last time.
Let’s try to forgive.
I know. Too soon. Some will forgive. Some won’t. But what if we did?
There’s a line. Everyone has it. I have it. You have it. It’s that line you won’t cross. We assess how much collateral damage one is willing to leave behind after one crosses “that line.” For some, they’d do anything for fame, power, or money. They’d do anything to get ahead. Kill. Maim. Torture children. And I’m just talking about FoxConn. Others will go to war to change the world. Our own nation does it time and time again.
But we collectively accept those lies. Those ‘truths.’ We allow politicians to tell us one thing one day, and another the next. We watch television and call it reality. We accept cock-and-bull from pundits and players looking to get paid for stirring up the pot. And Mike Daisey stirred it up.
Let Mike do what Mike does, I say. The karma he’s created is strong. He knows this indiscretion will follow him, so let Mike wrestle with his own conscience. We need to focus on how we can be diligent and smarter theater artists and administrators. This event can strengthen our industry, if we learn from it. If we take our eye off the ball because we’re nitpicking at each other over the way one man portrayed “The Theatre” in the mass media, we’ve got deeper problems than I thought. We must continue endeavoring to change the world for the better with our work.
This is the purpose of The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs: To change the world. Its message deserves to continue. The working conditions at FoxConn are much bigger than Mike, his few fabrications, or the theater arts. Many artists are preparing presentations of Mike’s downloadable monologue. When these performances occur, I hope they are presented in context. By providing context, the truth of the story lives on, preserving the facts, while informing the audience of the monologue’s mendacity. It’s how Mike must contextualize the story now, and this framework imbues it with integrity.
As theater practitioners, we want the world to notice us. We want so badly to carve out a niche for ourselves because the slices are so small. There isn’t enough for all of us to eat, so when one of our own falls, we leap on the carcass in front of us. But what does it say about us when we cannibalize our own? Certainly, this is a great opportunity to reflect and discuss ethical and litigious issues, but shredding Mike Daisey does little more than throw fuel on an already raging fire. Let’s quench the flames and choose to rebuild.
We’ll be stronger for it. And that’s the truth.
If you are in the New York City or Washington D.C. areas, there are two panels this week and next about these topics. Every crisis is an opportunity. Let’s use it to learn and grow.
Truth in Theater: A Conversation (NYC)
The Public Theater
Thursday, March 22 at 8pm
Seating is free but limited; for tickets, call the Public at 212-967-7555.
(This is not a Public production)
Convened by TONY theater critic Adam Feldman, the panel will discuss questions of veracity, ethics and artistic license in nonfiction-based theater. Participants include writer-director Steven Cosson (This Beautiful City), playwright-performers Jessica Blank (The Exonerated) and Taylor Mac (The Young Ladies of…), and critic-reporters Peter Marks (Washington Post) and Jason Zinoman (The New York Times).
Discussion at Woolly Mammoth Theater (Washington, D.C.)
Tuesday, March 27, at 7pm
Reservations are encouraged; for tickets, call Woolly Mammoth Theater at 202-393-3939
(This is sponsored by Woolly Mammoth)
A free and open discussion to the public. It will be hosted by Howard Shalwitz, Woolly Mammoth Artistic Director, and Jeffrey Herrmann, Managing Director. They aim to engage with the audience about this subject.