Burning man is an anarchic system with really strong structural walls, but within that system, people are allowed be extremely free. . . But everything is very class-based: to go to Burning Man requires a good deal of resources, even though participating entails living without money for a week. I assumed the lack of money would be window dressing, and I actually didn’t think that would have a power to it. Burning Man is this anarchic spring that is far beyond social norms, but it knows that. That is why it’s so time-bound: you’re only there a week. . . . Also, it’s so far away from everything, there’s no risk of it spreading anywhere else.
Whereas Occupy was the opposite: it was a fire set right at the heart of Wall Street. That shift is very exciting to me. Looking at that very human force of connecting in a tribal way, living in a place and feeling like a community — we used it in a provocative way. Because of that provocation, the culture pushes back. A big part of the show is talking about that response.
Did you go to Burning Man in order to write this? I perform orally. I don’t write. I write books, and I write things, but I don’t write anything that I perform in front of a crowd. My monologues are forged in the moment that I am speaking with the audience. . . . They never become the script, and they never turn themselves into texts.
The transcripts for The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs that’s available is derived from recording, and then laid down on the page by compiling multiple recordings together and looking for something that would work well in the context of other people performing it. But it doesn’t exist as a text for me.
The transcript is released under an incredibly open license, so if they choose to make changes, they’re absolutely free to do so. So it gets adapted in a wide variety of ways.
Have you seen any of these adaptations? There’ve been over 45 so far that I know of, and no one is required to ask permission. So there’s probably a lot more. . . . It’s been translated into six languages so far, that I know of.
But I’ve only seen one so far. I was in Chicago in the fall performing, and there was a high school that was doing a production that had turned it into a 15-person cast. It was really fun. I love high school drama, and I taught it, briefly, years ago.
There’s a musical coming out this summer in DC. There will also be a non-musical adaptation in Mandarin, performed in Beijing, and it's going down to Shenzhen this upcoming spring, and I’m thinking of flying back to see it.
Has the life of The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs changed in any way since the scandal? I’ve revised the show so there’s no material that’s ever been called into question, and that’s the version everyone is performing. I performed it after everything happened for about six months in a variety of places, which was challenging.