Playwright Mike Daisey, the man behind the Off-Broadway one-man show “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” has come under widespread and well-publicized scrutiny recently because of claims that parts of his monologue are fabricated. And he went so far as to cut questionable portions of the show for its final performance, which was held Sunday night.
Though Daisey claims that his show is theater and not journalism, he has been accused of misleading many news and entertainment outlets by portraying the monologue as true. News outlets that reported on the show include the Associated Press, the New York Times and MSNBC. But the most backlash the author has received is from the performance of a portion of the monologue on the popular Public Radio International show “This American Life.” The show aired Daisey’s report of working conditions during his visit to China’s Foxconn Technology Group, which makes Apple products like iPads and iPhones, among many other devices.
“This American Life” has since retracted the broadcast, which originally aired January 6 and received considerable media attention and put Apple’s labor practices under scrutiny. Daisey responded that he regretted allowing the program to air his story.
“What I do is not journalism,” he wrote on his website. “The tools of the theater are not the same as the tools of journalism. For this reason, I regret that I allowed THIS AMERICAN LIFE to air an excerpt from my monologue. THIS AMERICAN LIFE is essentially a journalistic, not a theatrical, enterprise, and as such it operates under a different set of rules and expectations. But this is my only regret.”
Before its final performance, the monologue was performed at The Public Theater, and that venues artistic director, Oskar Eustis, spoke to CBS News about the performance, and why parts of it were eliminated from the final show.
“We do not and cannot fact check our artists; we’re a theater, not a news organization,” he said. “The vast majority of what occurs on our stages is fiction. If we didn’t believe fiction could reveal truth, we would have to give up our profession. With that said, it obviously matters a great deal to me that our audience understands what they are seeing.”
In an interview with “This American Life” host Ira Glass, Daisey admitted he guessed the ages of some workers he met and fabricated stories of meeting workers that had been poisoned by chemicals used in the factory. The final performance received a standing ovation from the audience.