by Rachel Swan
Famed monologist Mike Daisey, who presented two monologues in concert last year at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, has always walked a fine line between dramaturgy and investigative journalism. His play The Last Cargo Cult provided a shrewd critique of mass production, developed largely during a trip to the island of Tanna. It's only outpaced by The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, a piece Mr. Daisey wrote to explain how his infatuation with and curiosity about Apple technology ultimately led him to visit the Foxconn factories in China. The phrase "Agony and Ecstasy" is entirely apropos, since the play, which was recently featured on Public Radio International show This American Life, is both a diatribe and a somewhat reluctant hagiography.
Mr. Daisey was not the only person to expose Apple's unfair labor practices and economic malfeasance, but he certainly made the problems more visible. It's perhaps no accident that Foxconn factories were audited shortly after Agony and Ecstasy aired on Public Radio International, which ultimately compelled Apple to disclose its list of suppliers.
In the meantime, Daisey has continued propagating the message by providing a free, downloadable version of Agony and Ecstasy on his website, so that any performer can use it without paying royalties. He's also made it available as a PDF, and now he's let fellow writer Jay Bushman tweet the whole thing in individual 140 character bits, via the Twitter feed Agony-Ecstasy-Jobs. It's a labor of love that is, indeed, a labor, but Mr. Daisey is pleased to connect with other actors and use art to effect social change. "I have not managed to get this show to Broadway," Daisey warned. "But if someone else wants to try, more power to them.” Agony and Ecstasy is currently in repertory at the Public Theater in New York. The run ends March 4.