In 'The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs', Mike Daisey traces the Apple CEO's influence on the modern world

The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs

August 13, 8.30 p.m.

He's the voice of witness. Your feisty guide to a world you quickly realise you have never completely understood. Mike Daisey, relentlessly truthful and unexpectedly hilarious, traces the story of Apple CEO Steve Jobs and how his deep obsessions have shaped the way we think, and the way we live.

“The best stories pierce the veils we place around ourselves, and give us a moment of illumination that transcends our daily life,” he says, adding: “It's through catharsis that theatre justifies itself — the moment that we reach a place in the theatre we could not have found on our own.”

His ability to guide audiences into unexpected places of truth is what makes him such a powerful performer. “The truth matters... The theatre as a house of illusions can be a beautiful thing, but, in our time, it is the voice of the witness we need the most. That is what makes theatre matter.”

This monologue, in classic Daisey style, weaves together opinion and investigative journalism to tell a story that as heartbreaking as it is hilarious.

“I delve into stories where traditional media has abandoned its responsibilities. In a world where traditional journalism is disintegrating, it falls even more than ever to artists who care about their world to speak truth to power. I hope that on my best days I do that, and have as much fun as I can along the way.”

The play is being performed at this festival with the support of the U.S. Consulate General, Chennai.

DIRECTOR’S CUT - Jean-Michele Gregory

Are monologues, which often have a political undertone, a more powerful medium than a full format play as a means of political expression?

As long as I've been alive, theatre makers have been very afraid that if their art says something clearly and directly about our world today then it is no longer art, but politics. I say there is nothing in this world that is not political, and we vote every day with how we spend our money, how we use our time. What we choose to do in our theatres is no different, and it's time we stopped being coy about it.

All theatre, whether ensemble or solo, has a calling to be mirror and witness to our shared world. In the case of monologue, the one voice speaking to many is an ancient, primal form that resonates the world over, and not just in theatres. As such, it can be a powerful tool for communion and catharsis.

Are there specific challenges to working in the monologue format?

Though we are working with non-fiction, the same dramatic tools must be applied. The experiences must be shaped, the story refined. In the case of this monologue, there is a lot of historical data to get across, as well as some more theoretical points to be made, and my constant job is to make sure these things are rooted in a dramatic way.

This production travels easily because it grapples with universal issues. But is contemporary world theatre becoming increasingly homogenous as a result?

Our monologues never lock into something rigid. They are extemporaneous, and so bend and shift as we do. I am betting on the lack of homogeneity... I am expecting the Indian audiences we meet to see different things in this piece than the American audiences have.

I think this kind of cross-pollination can only breed more texture, more angles, and increasing complexity.

As the fourth wall collapses, performances are becoming more interactive and theatre viewing a personal experience. Is this symptomatic of modern theatre?

The disappearance of the fourth wall is not what makes theatre modern: it's a symptom of our age. As the variety of what we can access while sitting in the comfort of our homes increases, theatre has struggled to define what it does best. I would argue that it is not the personal experience but the communal one.

If you want a personal experience, reading a book is excellent. So is watching a DVD, alone. But the theatre is the opposite of this — all those people crammed together, this one talking, that one loudly unwrapping candies — why bother?

We bother because without the other people, there is no theatre. Theatre is the intentional community created in the room when the lights go down and all the various individuals temporarily agree to form something larger than themselves: an audience, a temporary community, a group of people willing to go on an imaginative journey, together. Theatre is the recognition that this kind of communion can only be achieved with a group. That's what makes it theatre, and it always has.