Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Pushing Daisey

Pushing Daisey

So much has already been written about the dust-up (or water-down) at comedian Mike Daisey's Friday performance of his Invincible Summer at the American Repertory Theatre (ART) in Cambridge, Massachusetts that I won't bother to repeat the story -- instead, I'll just offer my two cents.

Just as I must vigorously defend Daisey's right to use his First Amendment rights, regardless of how appropriate or inappropriate I might find the subject matter, I also defend the First Amendment rights of audience members to express themselves by walking out from a show they found objectionable.

But speaking of objectionable, there is absolutely no defense whatsoever for the adult chaperone (to the students of California's Norco High School) who doused a bottle of water over the outline for Daisey's routine. For that, Daisey is deserving of the belated apology he received from Norco principal Jeff Johnson.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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At 25 April, 2007, Anonymous E said...

The thing that's a bit frightening to me is this notion of "we had to do SOMETHING to protect the children."

From what?

I recently took a group of students to NYC for a weekend; it was a similar situation. We got tickets to two Broadway shows, which I thoroughly investigated before purchasing seats. The last thing that anyone responsible for teenagers while on a school trip needs is an accusation of impropriety while on said trip. I understand the school's concerns, and respect their decision to walk out. I myself have walked out of things.

However, it's this language of terrorism applied to an evening of words and ideas that is bothersome to me. And Daisey is right: the young man who poured water on his notes should be punished in some way. As he said, if the man had taken a boxcutter (or spraypaint or magic marker) to a painting in any gallery or museum, he would be definitely be prosecuted.

Nowhere in any of our documents that form our government are we guaranteed the right to NOT be offended or bothered.

At 25 April, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

E, That is precisely why I have stated I would vigorously defend Daisey's right to say what he's said. I've taken in plenty of performances where I've squirmed in my seat, whether it's been my lack of comfort with the subject matter or the language, but I'm not about to demand that any of it be changed. I also agree that there was a willful act of vandalism here.

At 25 April, 2007, Anonymous Al said...

While I agree that anyone has the right to walk out of a show to protest, one thing doesn't sit well with me: in this case, they were told prior to purchasing tickets that there was adult material and language. IF this act was in no way message driven and purely "to protect the children", then it's not a question of first amendment rights -- they weren't speaking or expressing OR protesting, they were just fleeing. And the fact that they fled in such a disruptive manner was destructive to Mr. Daisey's art, water aside.

The teachers and chaperons taught poor judgment to buy the tickets and worse judgment to leave in such a disruptive fashion.

At 25 April, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Al, Thanks for your comments.

I've watched and rewatched the video. From that narrow one camera view, what I see -- apart from the vandal who decided to douse Daisey's outline with water -- is a fairly orderly and quiet departure by the group from the theatre.

Was the en masse departure meant to disrupt? I'm not sure.

I'm also not sure why someone overseeing this school group would have given the go-ahead decision to see the show if in fact they were advised of the nature of the performance. It just doesn't add up to me.

But again, as an unwavering supporter of First Amendment rights -- whether I agree with the expression or not, and make no mistake, walking out of a performance is indeed an expression -- I believe anyone who walks out of a performance is entitled to do just that, whether it's one person or a hundred.

And dare I say it, I think that Daisey -- after initially losing it by screaming at his departing audience (I may well have done the same if I were in his shoes and just had seen my outline vandalized) -- recovered quite well and most likely offered his remaining audience an even more rewarding experience.

At 25 April, 2007, Anonymous e said...

You're doesn't add up.

Any theater manager worth his salt - especially at the well-known ART - would ALWAYS disclose content when asked, particularly by a school administrator. They know too well the legal ramifications of ommissions in that regard.

Here's my thoroughly intuitive, completely baseless idea of the conversation between the chaperone and theater management:

Chap: We'd like to come see your show. We have a group of high school students in town - is the subject matter appropriate for this age group?

TM: Well, there are profane words and some mature situations, but it's just like what you might see in a PG-13 movie or something like that. In fact, we have another high school group in the audience that night, as well.

Chap: Oh, well that's dandy. Please put us down for 80.

And then they pulled a "oh my god it's janet jackson's nipple" reaction and sensed all the angry emails and phone calls from parents and backed out.

And somehow I DON'T doubt that some self-righteous chaperone made a 'several of our students are Christians!' type of comment upon leaving in their huff.

I'm fascinated by this discussion - FASCINATED - because I work with kids and have been prompted to wonder what I would have done in that situation. Honestly, I would have simply googled the artist before buying the tickets.

Ahhhh, but everyone else is to blame for children's exposure to anything.

At 25 April, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

E, I really appreciate your perspective -- as well as insight into the no-win situation you as an educator are potentially in.

Personally, if I were in charge of such a group, I would have ensured that every student on that trip had a signed waiver from their parents/legal guardians expressly stating that as part of the cultural experience, they may be exposed to shows with opinions/viewpoints/language that may not necessarily represent the viewpoint or opinions of the school. Is that overkill?

I just remember back when I was in high school and made my first trip to London, my parents signed a waiver from my school stating that they understood that the cultural experience might include drinking alcoholic beverages. My parents signed the form without any questions.

At 25 April, 2007, Anonymous Esther said...

Seems to me like it would have been a fairly simple matter to call the theater beforehand and ask whether there was any profanity in the show, since that was what upset this group. I mean, it's a yes or no question. The answer would have been yes, and the school representative could have said, thanks, but I don't think this is the show for us. End of conversation.

I watched the video and the group did seem to walk out in as orderly a manner as possible. Pouring the water was juvenile, and certainly not a lesson you want to teach about the proper action to take when you disagree with someone.

At 25 April, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Esther, I agree with your points.

But according to Daisey's latest blog entry, someone associated with the high school did inquire about the nature of the program and was warned.

I can only surmise that this individual either had second thoughts upon listening to the start of the show (the walk-out happened early into it) or was perhaps overruled by someone else once inside.

While I agree that this could easily have been settled before the show if the school official buying the tickets had exercised more care, they had every right to walk out on the show once it began. And exercising his right, Daisey continued with his performance and is now receiving much more attention (and no doubt higher ticket sales) than he has previously received as a direct result.


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