Was Mike Daisey's bad journalism good theater? | Bleader

Was Mike Daisey's bad journalism good theater?

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No worry, its show biz
  • No worry, it's showbiz
We've heard enough about Mike Daisey and journalism. He lied to This American Life, they screwed up by not really fact-checking him, and his piece on deplorable working conditions at Apple's Chinese supplier, excerpted from his one-man show, The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, shouldn't have run as a factual report on TAL. Done with that.

But the question of whether Daisey's fabrications (including a dramatic encounter with a worker who lost a hand making iPads) are acceptable as theater is trickier.

The experts are still batting that one around.

The Chicago Tribune's Chris Jones argued over the weekend that embellishing in the service of a larger truth is what artists do, and that there's a "noble tradition" of it among monologuists. He mentioned Spalding Gray and David Sedaris. But in Monday's New York Times, critic Charles Isherwood took the other side, maintaining that theater purporting to be factual can't be cheating on the small stuff. "[T]heater that aims to shape public opinion by exposing the world’s inequities has no less an obligation than journalism to construct its larger truths only from an accumulation of smaller ones," Isherwood wrote.

Who's right?

(Daisey's April 7 show at the Chicago Theatre has been canceled by its hosts, WBEZ and This American Life.)

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