World premiere of JOURNALISM by Mike Daisey comes to Portland for one night on May 21

Here’s here. He’s there. He’s everywhere.

Exciting news for Portlanders.

PICA is bringing America’s hardest working theatre artist to town for just one night.

The show is a world premiere of JOURNALISM.

And the performer is Mike Daisey.

So you want the truth do you?
So you want the truth do you?

The prolific Mainer last thrilled and exhausted Stumptown locals with his 24 hour marathon show, ALL THE HOURS OF THE DAY, at T:BA in 2011.

Portland was also one of the first cities to see THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY OF STEVE JOBS, a show which went on to cause an enormous media spin cycle (technical term: “shit storm”) when Ira Glass of This American Life revealed that some details of the expose were fabricated. This was after Glass did a full show on AGONY. He then devoted a second show to unmasking the tale. The two Daisey episodes remain the most popular in TAL history.

Subsequent to that speed bump, Daisey regrouped and has moved on at a heightened pace of urgency. And if his new show AMERICAN UTOPIAS (one of 10 new monologues to emerge from Daisey’s secret underground lair in Brooklyn in the past 12 months) last weekend at Seattle Rep is any indicator, this sharp and unpredictable talent is at the peak of his powers. Here’s a review from Crosscut.

Living as he does at the intersection of theatre, politics, activism, and documentary, Daisey is an important American cultural critic. He is also a rare thing in the theatre world – an owner. Though unlike the all-owning corporations that often find themselves under his inquiring microscope, Daisey sometimes gives his intellectual property away for free. As a sole proprietor and producer of his own work, Daisey has a unique ability to go direct to the audience, bypassing some of the creaky channels of the ossified mainstream theatre establishment detailed in his ferocious 2008 broadside, HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA.

Incoming.  Mike Daisey is sailing into port.
Incoming. Mike Daisey is sailing into port.

Daisey believes in the power of theatre to truly change and challenge. As he quips in AMERICAN UTOPIAS, the theatre is one of the last public spaces where large gatherings of citizens are still tolerated in America. Because nothing dangerous can happen there. Right?

Come put the danger back in theatre – where it belongs.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013, 7:00pm

Tiffany Center
1410 SW Morrison St
Portland, OR 97205

Capacity: 900


From the press release:

About the show

In a single night, Daisey takes us on a fantastic journey through the sprawling landscape of journalism right now—how it functions, how it fails us, and how it choses to tell our stories. Using his own scandal as a jumping-off point, he illuminates how the myth of objective journalism weakens us and has made our public discourse easy to manipulate. From CNN to alt-weeklies, this is a true love letter to journalism—an impossible calling caught in a time of transformation, where people struggle every day to tell a story that actually shows us the truth.

About Mike Daisey

Mike Daisey has been called “the master storyteller” and “one of the finest solo performers of his generation” by The New York Times for his groundbreaking monologues which weave together autobiography, gonzo journalism, and unscripted performance to tell hilarious and heartbreaking stories that cut to the bone, exposing secret histories and unexpected connections. His controversial work, The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, was recognized as one of the year’s best theater pieces by The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Seattle Times, Seattle Weekly, San Jose Mercury News, and The San Francisco Bay Guardian.

This fall he will premiere All the Faces of the Moon, a 29-night epic monologue performed over an entire lunar month, at the Public Theater in New York City. That work will be available for free online for people around the world to listen and watch as the story unfolds. At more than forty hours, All the Faces of the Moon will be the largest piece of sustained theatrical narrative since the 13th century medieval mystery plays. All the Faces of the Moon is the sequel to All the Hours in the Day, the 24-hour monologue he performed in Portland at PICA’s Time-Based Art Festival in 2011

As a playwright, his transcript of The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs was downloaded over 100,000 times in the first week it was made available. Under a revolutionary open license it has seen more than sixty productions around the world and been translated into six languages. The first Chinese production opened last year in Beijing, and will tour to Hong Kong and Shenzhen this year.

Since his first monologue in 1997, Daisey has created over fifteen monologues, including the critically-acclaimed The Last Cargo Cult, the controversial How Theater Failed America, the twenty-four-hour feat All the Hours in the Day, the unrepeatable series All Stories Are Fiction, the four-part epic Great Men of Genius, and the international sensation 21 Dog Years.

He has performed in venues on five continents, ranging from Off-Broadway at the Public Theater to remote islands in the South Pacific, from the Sydney Opera House to an abandoned theater in post-Communist Tajikistan. He’s been a guest on Real Time with Bill Maher, the Late Show with David Letterman, a longtime host and storyteller for The Moth, as well as a commentator and contributor to The New York Times, The Guardian, Harper’s Magazine, The Daily Beast, WIRED, Vanity Fair, Slate, Salon, NPR and the BBC. In a brief, meteoric career with This American Life, his two shows are the most listened to and downloaded episodes of that program’s eighteen-year history. He is currently at work on a second book, an anthology of his monologues, and he stars in the Lawrence Krauser feature Horrible Child. He has been nominated for the Outer Critics Circle Award, two Drama League Awards, and is the recipient of the Bay Area Critics Circle Award, five Seattle Times Footlight Awards, the Sloan Foundation’s Galileo Prize, and a MacDowell Fellowship.

The review that is always up – your web site

There’s an old business school case study story about a Scandinavian airline CEO who was fanatical about cleanliness inside his planes. When asked why that was, he replied:

(In thick Swedish accent): “If someone sees a coffee stain on a tray table, they assume we don’t take good care of the engines.”


The principle is timeless: From the smallest available detail, we humans cannot help drawing large conclusions. It may not be fair, but it’s what we do. We cannot help projecting, assuming, and trying to intuit more about something. Because time is limited, options are plentiful, and we need to make a decision. So we use the (admittedly) imperfect evidence at hand.

In the absence of more info, we “read into” what we do have. FAST. Cleanliness then becomes a proxy for the level of care and attention deployed by the airline elsewhere in more important spheres – like aircraft maintenance. This little thing over here, it turns out, is directly joined at the hip to this much, much bigger thing over here. At least it is in the customer’s mind. Which IS reality.

If you walk into a restaurant, stand at the entrance, and no one comes to help you, and you then notice there is a spilled plate of food on the floor, and you hear the sound of a loud argument in the kitchen, what just happened – instantly – even without you being consciously aware? In one second (no more), using that fastest of all super computers, the human brain, you collected and processed all the data needed to answer: “Are we going to eat here?” Boom. You’re gone.

And yet all too often the exact same dynamic plays out (seemingly undiagnosed) in the visual medium that is the web. The navigation is tough, the images are poor, and the overall experience is not something you want to prolong. In that state of mind, how likely are you to make a purchase?

How does the audience know the show is good? The web site is good. Put another way, if a web site is outstanding, what are the chances that the shows it retails are going to be equally good? Fairly high. Why? Because the two, the visual design aesthetic and attention to detail manifested in the web site and show, are one and the same. They are two sides of the same coin.

A web site, like marketing, is not an ancillary part of a show. It IS the show. The web site is the prologue, because it gets the audience there to experience Act I. And unless that happens, there is no Act II. A good web site is an on ramp to your products and services with a giant green light above it. A bad web site is like a permanent coffee stain on your white tray table.

The good news: There are successful models to copy. One close at hand is the gorgeous new web site rolled out at PICA. Cruise around, kick the tires. Note how thin is the blood / brain barrier between the info you want and you. Everything you desire is right there. Beautiful.

Design so good you forgot to notice it was design at all.
Design so good you forgot to notice it was design at all.

V veni, vidi, vici – SNOW ANGEL by Mx Justin Vivian Bond at Star Theater

V came to town on December 19 courtesy of PICA and lit up an otherwise cold and rainy Portland night at the Star Theater.

The air was thick with songs, jagged bon mots, and perfume.

Opener (in Mx drawl): “Now, you know I had to name this show a long time ago for marketing purposes. And I didn’t know which way the election would go and how things would be now. But then I realized it would be fine either way because if Obama won, you know, people would be happy and the angel thing would work. And if Romney won snow angel would still be appropriate because it’s the exact same shape you would make if you were being raped.”

MX Justin Vivian Bond.  Photo: Patrick Leonard, PICA.
MX Justin Vivian Bond. Photo: Patrick Leonard, PICA.

TBA:12 Notes

PICA’s 10th Annual Time Based Art Festival | 6-16 September

16 Sep 7:30pm Laurie Anderson – Dirtday!

A nearly universal rule of art which almost never fails and was right on the money here: If the name has an exclamation mark in it, watch out. I remember being thrilled by a Laurie Anderson show on a dark winter night in Budapest in 1991. Maybe it was all those unfiltered cigarettes and Trabant fumes. But 20 some years later the schtick feels very, very dated. And perhaps a little embarrassing? If listening to rambling pseudo profundities delivered at about 30% the speed of normal conversation while colored lights flash is your thing, and you have $75, the Schnitz was heaven on earth last night. I lasted about 35 minutes. I dare say anyone in the audience could have given the – er – performance Anderson did. The whole thing seemed to hinge on your being aware you were in the presence of pure genius. Without that…

10 Sep 8:30pm Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol – Asalto al Agua Transparente

The music was good, but otherwise the drawbacks of spoken history were apparent.

8 Sep 6:30pm Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol – El Rumor del Incendio

Loved it. A genuine cultural artifact. Ending a little slow.

7 Sep 8:30pm Nora Chipaumire – Miriam

Hard to get at it. Views of the human body, when possible, were the highlight for me.

7 Sep 6:30pm Miguel Gutierrez – My Heavens What Have I Done

Tried, and failed, to make it through the “intro” to the actual piece. Audience was herded uncomfortably onto the stage, which wasn’t quite big enough. Somewhat interesting. Though performance is what I/we came for.

6 Sep 8:30pm Big Art Group – The People-Portland

Watching a live projection on the exterior wall of a building of a story unfolding within, which you can also partly see through an open window, is a compelling setup. And Big Art Group made the most of their opening night performance beneath a perfect September sky at Washington High School.

Show was a little late, but once it started, all were closely focused on the retold story of THE ORESTEIA. Ketchup bottle blood, psycho stabbings, and bewildered audience members trying out for roles (but never being able to pry them out of cast member Heather’s high-powered hands: “Here, I’ll show you”) were all in the mix. Interviews conveyed better than this type of material often does that the war is not far away – it is right here at home.

This format has huge potential for open air crossover.