How Theater Failed America

A theater pro examines, and implicates, his own world

Back in 2000, when Mike Daisey vaulted to fame with Twenty-one Dog Years: Doing Time at Amazon.com, I asked a friend who was an executive at Amazon how she felt about a former employee doing an exposé on their culture of “creative capitalism.” She answered that they’d loved the show, and that Daisey was “exactly the sort of creative guy that we want working here.” Then last week at Monopoly!, his most recent show, I sat across from a group of Microsofties who howled with laughter when he said Microsoft Word reminds him of a neurotic girlfriend who’s always looking over your shoulder and offering “helpful” suggestions. It’s part of this talented solo artist’s skill: no matter how much he rants about a particular subject, no matter how much vitriol is spilled, Daisey can do so without raising rancor in the hearts of his targets. He’ll certainly be putting this talent to the test with his new show, How Theater Failed America, which he’s testing out with a brief run at the CHAC this weekend. And while he won’t necessarily be naming names, he does have some particular culprits in mind, “and it’s not audiences,” he explains over coffee. “I’m really interested in talking about how we, the artists, the administrators, the art people, are responsible for our declining audiences and decreasing cultural relevance.” Since its glory days in the ‘50s and ‘60s, the regional theater movement which gave us theaters like the Seattle Rep, Intiman, and ACT has, in Daisey’s opinion, become inexcusably timid with their programming, while cutting off their commitment to sustaining repertory companies of local actors. Seeing as Daisey sustains himself through performing at such theaters (“I’m the go-to guy when the big production of Pericles that they’ve been planning falls through”), this sounds like an act of career suicide. But if anyone can pull it off, it’d be Mike Daisey. Capitol Hill Arts Center, 1621 12th Ave., 800-838-3006, www.brownpapertickets.com. $20-$25. 7:30 p.m. Fri., Feb. 8-Sun., Feb. 10. JOHN LONGENBAUGH

Feb. 8-10, 7:30 p.m., 2008

 
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