Okay, a quick response from ART public relations has cleared up a few things about l'Affaire Daisey.
First, I apologize for my last headline. Mike Daisey is in no manner on his way to being "banned in Boston." Just one of those irresistible showbiz phrases.
According to ART, a class from a Norco, California public high school was in Boston for a choir competition. I guess in search of "cultural experience" they called ART group sales and booked a party of 87 for the Thursday night show of Daisey's highly praised Spalding Gray-esque solo-show "Invincible Summer" (described as "an intensely personal story of a family in crisis against the backdrop of massive social upheaval"). Daisey is basically in residence at ART all spring, after previously doing the show in NY (at the Public's Under the Radar, I believe.)
ART claims the group sales rep was explicit with the school rep about the...well, explicitness of the show. Only during the walkout did one of the teachers identify the school, to an usher, as "Christian." (Notwithstanding that it's still a public school?)
ART says it has received no other protests about "Invincible Summer", from this group or any other.
I'm relieved at this, since the description and the footage at first suggested to me the kind of perfectly coordinated "walk-out" recognizable from more "staged" protests. But that seems not to be the case. Instead, it's just another case of clueless teachers and/or parents not seriously looking into what they're taking their children to. And assuming all "theatre" is Rodgers & Hammerstein wholesome.
After all... it's ART for chrissake! (As Daisey amusingly explains toward the end of the clip.)
Now having written a lot about censorship myself on this blog over the last year, I have to say I'm not as concerned about this incident as some people. Even if it were a staged protest (which it's not) audience protest is very different than an institution shutting down a show. (So, if ART , say, suddenly pulled the plug on Daisey--which they're not--he'd have a much more grounded complaint.
I don't know Daisey and, regrettably, have not caught his work. I know him as a presence in the blogosphere, too. But I have to say, granted the man was under the pressure of an extraordinarily weird and confrontational moment... I don't think he comes off well in that footage. I can understand the shock of half your audience leaving, of one of them literally defacing your work. But his yelling after them should warn liberals of the senselessness of whining in the face of red-state rigidity.
People have the right to walk out of a show. God knows we all have. Usually out of boredom. But I bet many of us have out of some sense of "offense" as well. Just turn the tables for a sec and imagine if you found yourself at a solo show by someone you never heard of who turned out to be an Ann Coulter clone. If you find such a worldview offensive, wouldn't you want to walk out? Or even throw something?
Now, granted, what's more disturbing about this case is the forced nature of the walkout, where a handful of "responsible adults" dragged 80 kids out of there who--according to ART--were mostly having a fine time. I hope those students protest that!
But what I sense in Daisey's initial (albeit, gut) response is that insularity that has so neutered our chummy liberal theatre circles. Check out these fears from his blog:
It's common to think things will never happen where you are--never in Cambridge, never in New York, never in Seattle--that sort of thing, whatever it is, never happens here, not in our community. Then it happens, right in front of you, and you realize you were blind to it, that you forgot that intolerance and zealotry and viciousness are human currency everywhere, and it takes your breath away.Yes, there are people who disagree with us! Maybe even in our home town! We usually enjoy the luxury of not seeing them at our edgy little downtown shows (they're too busy waiting on line for Mamma Mia) but when they come, don't be surprised if they don't like the naughty words. I mean, there is a culture war going on.
Daisey's first response was to chastise the anklers for not staying and "talking". He accuses them of immaturity for just walking away. But I have to say he sounds awfully immature saying so. I kinda wish he'd have turned to his fellow blue-staters and Harvard hipsters left in the crowd and just said "fuck 'em."
Instead, his reaction is a bubble popping. The illusion that we just do theatre for our like-minded friends--and that anyone who might have different values will be happy to "dialogue" with us godless evildoers--just falls apart instantaneously. Telling.
I know it may not be fair to criticize a very private moment for Daisey. And I can't be so sure I would be so heroic either in such a surprise situation. But he does post it on his website for all to see. And he was filming it in the first place.
Anyway, I hope this non-scandal settles down into the revealing anecdote that it is, and that we all take it as a reminder to try to get out of the bubble more often.
Correction: I previously misspelled the Mamma in Mamma Mia with one 'm'. Yes, I'm an idiot.