Steve Jobs' 'uncomfortable' off-Broadway debut
In spite of the Apple icon's death last week, Mike Daisey's critical play about Jobs' life and work is still opening as scheduled in New York
The show must go on. It's been less than a week since Steve Jobs passed away, but New York's Public Theater is proceeding, as scheduled, with a play titled The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. "Too soon?" asks David Ng in the Los Angeles Times. Here, a brief guide:
What is this play?It's a one-man show by acclaimed monologuist Mike Daisey. Previews begin Tuesday at New York's Public Theater, a large, well-respected off-Broadway venue. On the ticketing website, the play is described as a "hilarious and harrowing tale of pride, beauty, lust, and industrial design" that "illuminates how the CEO of Apple and his obsessions shape our lives." Notably, Daisey shares stories of traveling to China "to investigate the factories where millions toil to make iPhones and iPods."
Has the play been changed since Jobs died?Yes. Daisey tells The New York Times that the show now addresses Jobs' death, but that its portrayal of him hasn't been softened. The Apple founder's death "is of such importance that it absolutely has to be addressed because it heightens the importance of talking about his legacy," Daisey says. The play's central theme — that Jobs turned his back on the rebellious, humanistic ideals he once professed in order to build an electronics empire dependent on Chinese factories with inhumane working conditions — will remain intact, Daisey says. In a press release sent out last week, the Public Theater's artistic director said, "It is inevitable that reality and drama will intersect in surprising, sometimes uncomfortable ways. This isn't to be regretted; it's to be celebrated."
What did Daisey learn in China?Daisey says he witnessed horrific, inhumane working conditions — including workers sleeping in crowded "concrete cells." To gain access to the factories, which have typically kept journalists out, Daisey posed as an American industrialist and was thus able to finagle exclusive tours.
How hard is the play on Jobs?Daisey calls himself an Apple "fanboy" and an admirer of Jobs' work. But he insists that we confront the fact that our beloved gadgets are produced under inhumane conditions. "It's absurd to live in a world where you don't know where things come from," he says. "It's a disgrace to the memory of Steve Jobs. The story of how something is made is an integral part of the design of that thing."
Is the show being received well?Daisey has already performed the play in Seattle; Berkeley, Calif.; and Washington, D.C. The Washington Post's theater critic called it "a blisteringly funny, icily penetrating account of the extraordinary influence and not-so-benign impact the man and his company have had on the world." Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak saw the play last February and told reporters, "I will never be the same after seeing that show."