(Image Caption: Philip Elmer-Dewitt and Mike Daisey at Macworld Expo. Photo by Glenn Fleishman.) At Macworld Expo 2011, I ran into Mike Daisey on the trade show floor. He was taking a walk around with Philip-Elmer DeWitt of and a producer from the regional theatre company that planned to mount the show they had helped workshop, "The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs." I was not precisely pleased to see him, and we chatted awkwardly for a moment, before they went on their way. The show toured widely, Daisey became a much-quoted and videotaped expert on Apple's supplier factories in China, and in collaboration with Daisey.
It all came apart Friday, when . I'm not surprised a bit, but it makes me blue how this played out.
I met Daisey in Seattle over a decade ago when he developed the monologue that put him on the map, "21 Dog Years," later expanded . I had worked at Amazon for six months in 1996--1997, and called Daisey up for lunch. We became something between acquaintances and friends. He took "21 Dog Years" on the road, and had a successful off-Broadway run. I saw the show again there, bringing a bunch of Mac writers and New York friends during the last Macworld Expo in that city. I saw a later version when a theatre company that produces typically "classic" theatre brought him back for a run, and participated in an on-stage discussion by past Amazonians after one performance. He and I have lost touch in the years since, but I followed his career arc until he had become something akin to Spaulding Gray, if not yet quite as well known.
That made our encounter in 2011 difficult. Because I knew that Mike doesn't speak literal truth in his performances. Unless a play or monologue is presented as being factual, one knows that the narrative is shaped to the needs of the form. The Amazon story (both play and book) was full of elements that I either know for a fact, learned from friends and colleagues, or could intuit were not factually precise or were fabricated.
That is fine in the theatre, although perhaps a disclaimer such as Gray's at the outset of this article would have helped. Performers who tell stories are there to . They paint a world you inhabit during a performance and play your emotional piano. With a good script and good performers, you leave with insight, but not necessarily new facts.