Mike Daisey has a blog. So do millions of other people. But unlike those millions, Daisey has an archive that goes back to 2001. (That’s before Gawker!) He posts excerpts and links to everything that interests him. Subjects range from the FBI’s breach of the Patriot Act to David Eggers to gadgets to the decline in confession among Catholics.
“It was intended to be unfiltered,” he says over the phone from his Brooklyn home. “I make it a point not to edit, just to post things. Over time, it starts to assume its own personality. It’s funny how things transmute into art. . . . I follow a lot of open-source things, and I think it’s interesting to disclose an on-line version of the internal stream of things.”
Daisey’s monologues work the same way. In Invincible Summer and Monopoly!, both of which he’ll perform here courtesy of American Repertory Theatre, he takes seemingly incongruent topics and mixes them with personal experiences to create the dramatic equivalent of a classic cocktail: there’s a balance of strong, sweet, and sour components and a few dashes of bitters. Invincible Summer, for example, mixes 9/11, the history of the New York subway system, the performer’s move to Manhattan, and memories of his parents’ deteriorating marriage. Most monologuists work from a script; Daisey has only an outline. Each night the same story emerges differently; he could be a hip-hop artist freestyling, or a Baptist preacher.
This approach dovetails with his belief that too much exposure to something shocking, like the images of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center, has a desensitizing effect. “Sometime when you play an image like that over and over, you can turn it into porn, drain it of all meaning. There’s a demonstration aspect to showing your life on stage. If I clearly outline what happened to me, people feel like they can talk about what happened to them. . . . Nothing I can think of has been so well documented and had so little synthesis. . . . I think that’s why there’s weariness with the phrase ‘9/11.’ People just shut down.”
That also happens with corporate supremacy, a focus of Monopoly!
“I’m willing to admit a truth a lot are uncomfortable with: we live at the mercy and behest of corporate forces. We gave them the same rights people have, and in doing so we gave up our independence. They’re more like disinterested, amoral gods set up above ourselves that most of us work for.” Daisey’s breakout show, 21 Dog Years, probed the corporate cultishness at Amazon, where he worked during the dot-com boom. “It’s challenging to tell the truth. The default setting for our society is lying. What keeps the artists in business is the need for people to tell the truth.”
Invincible Summer | April 4-29 | Monopoly! | May 1-5 | Zero Arrow Theatre, Mass Ave + Arrow St, Cambridge | | $38-$50; 50 at $15 at noon day of performance; $15 student rush | 617.547.8300
On the Web
American Repertory Theatre:www.amrep.org/invincible