You are on page 1of 4

All of my prejudices traveled with me on the night I went to see Mike Daisey perform his

monologue "How Theater Failed America." But I wasn’t concerned. My prejudices fit nicely
into a miniscule leopard-print handbag. If I wear matching shoes, no one notices.

How startling, then, as I sat there in the darkened theater, to hear Mike Daisey speak
directly to me and describe all the contents of my swanky handbag with deadly accuracy!
What the hell was this conjuring act?

Then I heard someone I knew, in the row behind me, whisper to her friend that Daisey can
create a world on stage with just himself, a table, and a glass of water. I realized I wasn't
alone but sitting among dozens of other people, many of them artists I knew and loved.
Daisey's talent includes the ability to make it seem that you are alone with him, on a
fogbound road in Maine, and he is telling a story just for you, about a different night, long
ago, on a fogbound road…

The story is everything in Daisey's work. He is a master storyteller, a lover of the tale both
tall and short. Although politics inform his work, he doesn’t sacrifice a good story for the
sake of the political or the sentimental, an agenda or an effect.

Today this is a minor miracle. Over the past seven years, many of us who made a habit of
keeping our political views in the voting booth have been forced by outrage and conscience
to step up and speak out. Or shriek out. Mike Daisey speaks, but in a voice more subtle and
nuanced than most, and with a mind to what is essentially human in every situation, at
every moment in history.

This is why his stories strike such deep chords and resonate for such a long time. They may
contain political truths, but first and foremost they contain human truths. There has never
been a time in this society when we needed to hear these truths more.

Without such art we have nothing upon which to project our deepest, inexpressible, perhaps
unspeakable nature, and nothing against which to measure and disarm it. In the absence of
art, the ever-present but suppressed turmoil of human life goes unaddressed and becomes
toxic. You can hide it in a leopard-print handbag, but you can't make it go away. Only the
words of a real artist can do that.

At a time when the shared or common experience is not openly held in high esteem, here is
a real artist who recognizes the public hunger to know that we are all made of the same
stuff, and that although some of that stuff
is completely insane, it isn't all bad.

•••
“What distinguishes him from most solo performers is how elegantly he blends personal
stories, historical digressions and philosophical ruminations. He has the curiosity of a
highly literate dilettante and a preoccupation with alternative histories, secrets large and
small, and the fuzzy line where truth and fiction blur. Mr. Daisey’s greatest subject is
himself.”
NEW YORK TIMES

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 extemporaneous monologues. Below you'll find
summaries of his twelve full-length monologues, production histories, links to reviews and more.

If You See Something Say Something

In this groundbreaking monologue, Mike Daisey tackles a story at the heart of our
world today: the surprising, secret history of the Department of Homeland Security.
This is woven together with the untold story of the father of the neutron bomb—
called “the perfect capitalist weapon” for the way it kills civilians while leaving cities
and industries intact—and a pilgrimage to the Trinity blast site, where atomic fire
rewrote history a half a century ago and ushered in an age of American supremacy.
Combining damning fact and searing personal history, Daisey takes us on a journey
through the dark heart of America, in search of answers for what it means to be
secure, and the price we are willing to pay for it.

Praise for If You See Something Say Something:

"A finely tuned fury...funny, provocative, meticulously embroidered. What this
master story-spinner produces is pure value in streams of finely etched argument.
Daisey guides us through a tale of paranoia, politics and paradox. Detailed, episodic
and even poetic—‘I’m a subversive person. I’m a bad person. I am a person of
interest’ declares Daisey, and on this last point, certainly no one is going to
contradict him."
WASHINGTON POST

"A very literate, richly researched and frequently very funny show—a monologuist
who always threatens to burst out of his chosen form. A keen and snarky satirical
ear for the ironies and contradictions of the American cultural-political-industrial
complex—semi-gonzo reportage from the perspective of the everyday, no-special-
access dude."
CHICAGO TRIBUNE
"Searingly intelligent and funny—Daisey ties everything together in a graceful, epic
sweep that leaves you pondering whether the impulse to annihilate is bred in the
bone - and whether vulnerability is a liability or simply the essence of what it means
to be human."
WASHINGTON TIMES

"A riveting stage presence—his comic timing is honed to a fine, sharp point. He
deals in hard truth with such humor and energy you forget what he's saying is
piecing you like a sharp needle."
PORTLAND MERCURY

"A scathing and hilarious critique of today's War on Terror. Leaves the audience in
gut-busting laughter with the residual "gawd, this is so fucked up" feeling that
permeates the entire show—Daisey keeps you captivated with his weaving narrative
and brilliant insights."
DCIST

"Exquisitely conceived and obsessively researched—by interlacing the straight
history with his own anecdotes and observations, Daisey is able to infuse a
somewhat sterile topic with a folksy, around-the-campfire sensibility."
WASHINGTON CITY PAPER

"Who knew that traipsing through the past six decades of America's security culture
could be so engrossing? Listen to a master story-teller show how to condense, edit
and sift away all that could be used into a potent script of frightening issues and
provocative analysis, punched up with perfectly pin-pointed delivery."
POTOMAC STAGES

If You See Something Say Something was workshopped at the Lensic Performing
Arts Center in Santa Fe before its premiere at Woolly Mammoth Theater in
Washington DC. From there it will appear at the TBA Festival in the Northwest and
the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago before running at the Public Theater in
their 2008/9 season this fall.
Mike Daisey makes fine Chicago debut
By Chris Jones Tribune critic | Chicago Tribune critic
October 13, 2008
Mike Daisey, the provocative monologuist who made his Chicago debut over the weekend at the
Museum of Contemporary Art, lands somewhere between Spalding Gray and Michael Moore,
with odd snatches of Jon Stewart.

Daisey remains seated, a la Gray, at a simple wooden desk with only a glass of water and a few
notes for company. But instead of recounting internal neuroses, Daisey's material relies more on
first-person, semi-gonzo reportage from the perspective of the everyday, no-special-access dude.
And he has a keen and snarky satirical ear for the ironies and contradictions of the American
cultural-political-industrial complex.

The new monologue, "If You See Something, Say Something," forges links between Daisey's trip
to the site of the first nuclear bomb detonation and the brief, fraught history of the Department of
Homeland Security. It notes the weird relationship between aggression and fear in the post- 9/11
world, argues the dangers of standing armies who will always find something to do, attacks the
morality of the atomic bomb and kvetches about airport security.

It's a very literate, richly researched and frequently very funny show.
One of Daisey's most effective tools is the contrast between his bursts of physical
energy and his thick body's confinement behind his desk: He's a monologuist who
always threatens to burst out of his chosen form.

Daisey is on his way to New York's Public Theatre with this piece. At about 105
minutes, it could use a trim. Although its linkages are provocative, its final
conclusions have yet to find full focus. A little more Homeland Security perhaps,
which is a fallow field, and a little less of the more familiar guys who built the bomb.
And when he challenges our own perceptions of terror and fear, he really starts a
spark that needs further ignition. But nobody has put things together quite like this.
You can't beat the irony of trying to take a little tub of debris from Los Alamos, N.M.,
through airport security and wondering if you'll set off the alarm.