Cast of the Studio Theatre production of "Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson." (Scott Suchman/Scott Suchman )
On Aug. 4, the performance of “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company will be followed by a discussion with Apple co-founder and Silicon Valley whiz Steve Wozniak and the monologue man himself, Mike Daisey.
Tickets for the event start at $100. It is the most expensive ticket to see Daisey, ever.
That might sound like a lot for a play and a Q&A session, but think of it this way: At the Apple store, $100 gets you basically nowhere, unless you’re in the market for a few sets of headphones.
Daisey’s shined-up show subtracts about six minutes of what Woolly describes as “contested material” and adds 12 minutes that deal directly with the controversy surrounding Daisey’s reporting.
“Our approach going in is to be really open and candid [to] any and all questions that might come,” said producing dramaturg Ronee Penoi. “The goal is really to give the audience a chance to respond. . . . We’re all prepared for whatever may come our way.”
A quick recap: Daisey appeared on NPR’s “This American Life” in January, performing an excerpt from “Steve Jobs,” which ran at Woolly in spring 2011. The monologue turned out to contain fabricated sections about Daisey’s interactions with workers in China who make Apple products. “This American Life” subsequently retracted the story because, as Ira Glass wrote on the “This American Life” blog, the program could not “vouch for its truth.” Glass wrote that “Daisey lied . . . during the fact checking we did on the story, before it was broadcast.”
Outrage ensued. Apologies were demanded. The Internet exploded like the Fourth of July sky. Also, it was fantastic PR.
Woolly Mammoth already had Daisey’s show slotted to return this summer, a decision it announced Feb. 16 in the aftermath of Jobs’s death but before the news of the retraction. The Q&A session was finalized later. Although post-performance discussions aren’t new territory for Woolly, this case, with the two-for-one of high-profile guests and the charged subject matter, is unique.
Penoi says the Woolly team isn’t concerned about hostile reactions from audience members. “What I’ve been very passionate about is finding a more expansive language for how we can talk about what happened and approaching it from as many viewpoints as possible.”
In a phone interview, Daisey said that he hopes the forum will focus on the meat of the monologue: namely, labor conditions in China and the “real cost of our electronics.” As for the controversy, “I’m certainly not avoiding it,” he said, but “I don’t know if the world wants another public forum” on the issue. Nor does he think the audience is “owed” further explanation. “I never owed anyone anything.”
Tuesday-Aug. 5, 641 D St. NW. www.
Studio Theatre gets controversial
‘Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson’
“I hate Andrew Jackson,” said Christopher Gallu, one of three directors of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” at Studio Theatre. “I told these guys” — he means his directing partners-in-crime, Keith Alan Baker and Jennifer Harris — “as soon as we started doing research, I was disgusted with the fact that he’s on the $20 bill. It makes me ill.”
Jackson “did bad things,” said Baker, perhaps campaigning for the coveted Understatement of the Year award.
“All presidents do bad things,” he said. “But [Jackson] did a particularly bad thing” when he enacted the Indian Removal Act, uprooting tens of thousands of Native Americans and setting into motion the Trail of Tears, the horror that would occur under his successor’s presidency.
Yet as we forgive our rock stars their drug addictions and our actors their egos, so we are inclined to forgive our presidents’ hypocrisies (see also: Thomas Jefferson, the slave-owning seeker of liberty). Jackson, then, maintains his allure, especially in this irreverent, crazy, sexy, cool musical. He is reviled and revered for his violent tendencies — don’t pretend you don’t think it’s even a tiny bit awesome that Jackson engaged in more than 100 duels and carried around two bullets in his body as souvenirs.
“There’s this aspect, the ‘Bloody Bloody,’ you would think the first thing is that it’s all about the people who were killed,” Gallu said. “But it’s also used in this erotic way between Andrew and his wife, Rachel. . . . It puts to the point this love of violence that is attributed to Jackson. Was it just violence, a sexual thing, a power thing? It’s freaky and funny at the same time.”
“Bloody Bloody” on Broadway was beloved by critics but unpopular with audiences, closing at a loss to investors after a 31/2-month run. The show did well at the Public Theater in New York and the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles, though, and Studio’s “Bloody Bloody” team expects similar success in the District. “It speaks to Washington . . . [to] all the characters that we live with every day,” Baker said.
The show “allows us to see both what it’s like to see the rock-star version of a president, where he’s onstage and millions of people are screaming his name, and also what happens behind it all,” Harris added.
Gallu thinks that “most people will be energized by the show.” Not that he can predict how all audiences will react. “The only thing I’ll say about everybody is that they’ll all have an opinion.”
Wednesday-Aug. 5, 1501 15th St. NW. www.studiotheatre.org; 202-667-8436.