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Drenched Daisey

April 25, 2007

Melissa Hillman, artistic director of Impact Theatre in Berkeley responded to yesterday's posting about Yale's ban on stage weapons and the incident at Harvard's American Repertory Theatre during Mike Daisey's show. Thanks Melissa for sending me back to read Daisey's blog, in which the performer explains in more detail what happened to him on stage and his subsequent response.

Daisey is not only a fine performer but also a courageous human being. It turns out that the group that assaulted him during a performance of Invincible Summer wasn't a Christian group after all (though they repeatedly identified themselves that way as they fled the theatre, according to Daisey.) They were one of two high school groups present at the performance.

In an effort to understand what motivated one member of the group to drench Daisey's handwritten text in water, the performer called up the school and spoke to the perpetrator, a teacher named David. The two apparently spoke for an hour. Daisey tried to get David to understand what he had done. David, in turn, tried to explain his behavior. Who knows what really went on in the mind of the miscreant, but it seems that some strong language used in the show (fears about the "cleanliness" of the production) were the probable cause of David's outrage.

Here's what Daisey says about David:

"He has three kids--one is 21, and two are 17--and he's terrified of the world. Terrified by violence, and sex, and he sees it all linked together--a horrifying world filled with darkness, pornography and filth that threatens his children, has threatened them all his life. They're older now, but he says he still sees things the same way--and that the only way to protect his children and himself is to lock it all out of his life."

And a few words about the reason for the assault:

"He [David] reiterated the administrator's line that it had been a "security issue" (his words) and that "we had to get our kids out of there". He said at one point, "You're probably more *liberal* than I am" and the word *liberal* had this hook on the end of it, one that he probably didn't even intend, but it was unavoidable for him--it sounded edged, like a slur..."

From reading Daisey's post, it doesn't seem like a consensus was reached, though I am staggered by Daisey's open-mindedness in picking up the phone and attempting to reason with the guy.

Fear makes people react in strange ways. It takes a great deal of bravery to get up on stage and tell stories in front of a live audience. The creators of solo shows (many of whom draw on experiences from their own lives, as Daisey does) are more vulnerable than most and have to be superhumanly brave to do what they do. They also have to be very talented to do what they do well and make it art rather than public therapy. Daisey has learned to be braver than most through his work. That's probably why he had the strength to get on the phone and talk to David. Without this kind of inner force, Daisey wouldn't have been able to get back on stage since then and continue performing his show.



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