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Just to offer some contextual background regarding Mike Daisey and his YouTube postings, please check out this video.

I have no idea who actually made the claim that Mike Daisey "raped" James Frey. It doesn't seem to have been Frey, since Daisey laments on YouTube that Frey doesn't even *mention* their sexual relationship in his book.

However, what I find audacious and full of psychological violence is Daisey's act of broadcasting his past sexual relationship with Frey to the world, without Frey's consent or apparent knowledge. I would personally be so infuriated and betrayed by such an act that I would either tear Daisey limb from limb or sue his ass off.

As someone who is so concerned with "violation" in the space of the theatre, one would think he would exercise the courtesy he expects of others in relation to his own peers and intimates. I find his confessional performance bizarre, self-absorbed, pathetic, and just revolting on so many levels.

sharkskin girl

Dear Jim,

Thanks so much for your post. It's great to hear from both sides of the argument.

While I haven't been following the post-walkout debate very closely, I do feel the need to question whether you believe Mike Daisey should have catered his show to certain members of the audience. Whether or not Daisey knew a portion of the audience was Christian doesn't seem like either a reason to change one's work or to react any differently to a mass walkout of one's performance. Perhaps he could have written it off, in the moment, as "oh they're offended because they are Christian, or young," but that seems rather reductive to the audience that walked out, actually. Further, the fact that he was willing to amend his show to allow for a dialogue that wasn't granted by those walking out seems to me to offer a unique and productive opportunity for the offended parties that was unfortunately disregarded.

I have to wonder if choosing to walk out at a less disruptive moment wouldn't have been a better choice -- teaching a sense of respect for art, no matter whether one agrees with it or not, and not putting the students in an obviously tricky situation. Was there an intermission? Or perhaps even a pause between sections in which to leave rather than in the midst of one? While I understand and sympathize, to some degree, with the adults responsible for the teenagers in the audience, I'm not sure teaching kids that blatantly interrupting a performance is okay is the most responsible option here.

The issue of "forgiveness" seems a fraught one to me. To grant forgiveness when it isn't asked for is a rather self-aggrandizing act. However, so is a mass exodus in the middle of a show. Everyone has their right to react as they like, barring actual violence (the water pouring being a step in that direction), and this is extended to the audience and to the artist.

Thanks again for your post-
sharkskin girl


My son was there
One thing most people are missing. It seems to me, Mr Mike Daisey, knew before he posted on youtube, who this group were and came from. In the info area of the clip It states 87 members of a Christian group. why?
I talk to him about this in messages ,he said he had posted before he knew who they were. It does not look that way to me . The one that puts the clips on youtube, are able to pull their clips, and repost, They can remove comments and block viewers from making a comment. Which he did to me.
Day of walk out 4-19-07
Talked with Cindy L. from the school and the man the poured water David 4-20-07 acording to news papers and his site.
Youtube shows posted 4-21-07.
Why? After reading much about Mr. Daisey and hid followers. I think I have the answer.
Seems as he forgave 1 and punished 86 others lets not count the other 11 adults just the 75 kids that were 14-17 years of age.
He heard there cries with their comments .
They were high school kids from s. California .there for choral competition.
To date 5-4-02 more info are shows Christian ,still. He said 4-21-07 is a repost .but he did not amend info


Actually, the more I encounter their respective thoughts on documentation and what audiences do by means of it, the less I am sure that they are not talking about the same thing. I'll try to explain this later if I can find Auslander's quote from Walter Benjamin addressing how the document "reactivates" prior objects. This discourse of "reactivation" is the same one Phelan uses in talking about documents, although she apparently talks about reactivating prior traumas, which I think is different than reactivating objects. I heard her talk on the Falling Man a long time ago, and can't recall the details.

In both cases (Auslander's theory and Phelan's), I have some unsolved questions about the reactivation process. But more thoughts on that later.

sharkskin girl

Dear Snarky,

I love the idea of "The Yellow Legal Pad"!

Ah, the Auslander/Phelan dialectic emerges again... I haven't had a chance to read PA's piece from PAJ, but I've been intending to for a couple of weeks now. You've inspired me to shift it to a higher position on my queue.

Have a great weekend-


Hey Sharkskin Girl,

Well, perhaps my accusations of "sexism" were, in fact, an effort to find a good reason to dislike Mike Daisey. His victim posture (and the subsequence speech he makes on his blog about how he forgave the perp) are too much for me. I find his onstage persona (as well as his real-life personality) deeply annoying. But that's just me...

I disagree with you, though, about this part of your response:

"The yellow notepad becomes symbol of both what is lost in every performance--that which can never be fully recovered by the written or videoed document--and what was specifically lost in this protested (though that does seem to be a strong word for what happened, doesn't it?) performance. Yes, the notes are, in fact, recoverable, but the experience of that paper and what it carried with it, is certainly not."

I don't know if every performance presents us with an unrecoverable "loss." In any case, it strikes me that the experience of the yellow page is precisely what was *not* lost in this performance.

Its "violation" is fully documented in the video, and future audiences will certainly be able to "recover" the moment when the paper was doused. They will also be able to see what happened to this poor "objet d'art" in the immediate aftermath of its dousing: how its body was gingerly held up and shaken, how it was carried offstage like some holy host, etc... Future audiences will be able to reconstruct the fact that it was dried and photocopied, and thus *reappeared* as a document of what it had once been.

I agree with Phil Auslander's theory that documents are, in themselves, performative. We don't need the original to recover what you call "the experience of that paper and what it carried with it." We can, if we wish, perform our *perceptions* of that experience by means of the document. The Youtube video is good enough for me, but if I wanted to take my performative engagement with the document a step further, I would probably grit my teeth and email Mike Daisey, and ask him to send me yet another photocopy of his Art.

Oh, the trauma of it all... Mike Daisey should do a spoof on that Charlotte Perkins Gilman short story, "The Yellow Wallpaper," and write his own performance called "The Yellow Legal Pad." I might actually pay to see that show. :)

sharkskin girl

Dear Snarky, Wowzer, and Mirroruptonature,

A few responses to this fantastic dialogue:

Regarding the "sexist" aspect of Daisey's comparison of New York City's blatant commercialization of itself to sex with Paris Hilton, I rather feel that in being presented and presenting herself as a blatantly sexual object, Paris Hilton goes somehow beyond being an objectified woman into a larger notion of what a certain stereotype of hyper(hetero)sexualized celebrity signifies. She is, in many senses, a cultural icon of sexual excess, and the self-reflexive, if one-dimensional, critique Daisey affords her (thinking only of "being" PH whilst in coitus flagrante) is less a case of sexism--less being about PH as a person--than of metaphorically reading a pop-cultural reference.

Regarding a political incorrectness to mocking Judaism or Islam, I feel like power dynamics need to be considered here--which are, of course, rarely connected to actual majorities. Particularly in the context of the U.S. actions in the Middle East, jokes concerning Judaism and Islam often carry with them greater cultural collateral than jokes about Christianity. That said, I'm also troubled by the emphasis on the "Christian" aspect of the walkouts, and less interested in reading a religious significance than the performative consequence and effect of the walkout itself.

Finally, what seems to me the most innocuous and yet present aspect of the discussion is the question of how important the "yellow paper" is to the performance. As a writer, and, occasionally, an artist, I am rather ocd about what the actual materials of my medium are: I will procrastinate writing for days just so that I can find the perfect pen and paper. Or pencil and sketchpad. Or desktop background. There is no rational reason for this, but it is of great personal significance to me.

The idea that Daisey, if only in a moment of frustrated and hurt slippage, referred to his script as "my art," suggests both the significance of the materiality of the performance as well as the ephemerality of the trace of each extemporaneous moment within that same performance. The yellow notepad becomes symbol of both what is lost in every performance--that which can never be fully recovered by the written or videoed document--and what was specifically lost in this protested (though that does seem to be a strong word for what happened, doesn't it?) performance. Yes, the notes are, in fact, recoverable, but the experience of that paper and what it carried with it, is certainly not.

Does that make Daisey a martyr? No. But it does speak to the varying qualities of performance, just as the audience's perambulatory response speaks to the varying qualities of intersubjectivity and responsibility between performer and audience.



Hey Mirroruptonature,

My remarks were not directed at you, but at the plethora of people out there who lament this minor incident through the framework of Nazism, censorship, and "Christofacism."

Daisey wasn't censored or assaulted. He uses those discourses in his own statements to aggrandize and no doubt publicize his performance, which, based on the snippet I've seen, is sexist and dull.

If this is what the world has come to--equating the rudeness of a high school chaperone with Adolf Hitler and religious zealotry--then we are wholly losing the battle for critical thinking.

I'm thinking now about Tweed's earlier comment regarding the Rachel Corrie debacle. Few people have the nerve to say the "unspoken" things they may feel about Jewish and Palestinian protesters. We are taught it is politically incorrect to mock or berate those religions. But when it comes to Christians, they are an easy mark.

As for the color of paper someone uses during their performance, I don't don't know if this is a substantial issue in the wider scheme of things. Had I not learned from Youtube that the paper typically used by Daisey is yellow, I wouldn't have noticed or cared. The purpose of his hand-written notes, from what I can gather, is to have an outline of what he intends to talk about during the performance. Big deal. Some people make outlines; some people memorize their lines; others use headsets through which someone directly feeds them their lines.

While not exactly trivial, these preparatory details do not make or break a piece for me. They are not the things I think about weeks later, "Gosh, that yellow legal paper sure made an impact on how I understand Daisey's work." Even with Spalding Gray, it wasn't his checkered shirt or his sparse table and bottle of water that people cared about in the end; it was the personal, often-embarrassing nature of the stories he told, and how he opened himself up to the world in the most intimate of ways.

I agree with you that these details have an impact, but not the sort of impact that qualifies one as an internet martyr. Daisey needs to get a life... or at least some perspective.


Hey Wowzer, Snarky

Slow down. I think we are on the same page here.

You added so many things I didn't say. Be careful. I never said I was "deprived," and I never said it made the show less than what it was before.

I did pick my words carefully and was very clear to say that it had changed not that it had been hurt.

If anything, this is mostly to your point: the fact the performance has been altered is a good thing.

But to say that the hand-written notes are not part of the Art, when the artist makes a conscious decision about the placement, the color and the purpose of them?


I agree with Wowzer. Performances and performance aesthetics change from night to night for a wide range of reasons. Spalding Gray was mangled in a car crash, and that changed his performance aesthetic forever.

If the "trauma" of having someone dump water on one's precious scribblings is too much for Daisey and his audiences, then maybe they should go back to watching American Idol, Meet the Press, or wherever else you can expect to find predictable aesthetics and audience responses these days.

And I gotta say, comparing the experience of visiting New York to fucking Paris Hilton is just so... banal. Not only is it sexist in some vague way (why don't whiny performance artists ever compare visiting New York to fucking Brad Pitt), but it's ridiculously provincial. He merited a walk-out just for that dopey comparison.


Come on with the I-was-deprived-of-the-yellow-notes-version of the show bullshit. The show was going to be different with or without yellow notes, hello. That is why we go to theater right? So now not only is Mike Daisey a victim (his words) but you and everyone who might ever see his words are victims too? Nevermind that that number just went up by 70,000 people on youtube and threatens to propel Daisey into the unfortunately precarious cultural position previously occupied by the NEA 4.
You know I don't begrudge Daisey's efforts to make sense of this being in some moments awkward and less than cool, I mean it's not like he has a person as a cool cat to begin with and hey, that's some serious dizzifying effect, but I have no respect for everyone else's mock cultural rage. That kind of shit is pure Fox News. Don't be Alan Colmes.


Hi All,

With regards to whether or not the notes are art, I would offer this:

If you have ever seen, of even watch the videos of Daisey's performances, including the one of the walkout, he always has the YELLOW legal pad sheets with the original outlines of his show written on them, neatly arranged in front of him.

I went to see the show Sunday Night, after the infamous walkout. On the desk were White photocopies of what I assume to be the original outlines.

I was not seeing the same aesthetic that others had seen. I was not seeing the same aesthetic of seeing a storyteller working from the handwritten ink notes he had sketched for his outline.

It had changed. It was different. The slightest bit.

I hope you don't think I am overanalyzing, but I think there is importance in this.

sharkskin girl

Tweed and Snarky,

First, I want to clarify that, as far as I know, the walkout wasn't premeditated. As it was a high school group from an allegedly Christian school, it may have been as banal as a teacher facing a potentially ethically compromising situation and choosing to remove her or his students from it. The question of whether the material was actually ethically compromising is an issue, but, as it has been pointed out on Playgoer's and Parabasis's blogs, we all have the right to walk out of anything, even en masse; and, Tweed, as you point out, it's pretty amazing when something like this happens. Even though it is personally hurtful to the artist. And the fact that is happened "live," as you point out, Snarky, is, in fact, the entire issue, right?

Second, while the cry of censorship has gone up, I think what you both address is exactly on point. And I'm with you, Tweed, on 'vive la revolution!' In the current sociopolitical context when the notion of protest has been somewhat compromised, and the question of actually *doing* something about what one is protesting is circumscribed by permits and zoning laws, there is something pretty amazing about an 87-person walkout -- as there is about someone actually pouring water on the performer's notes.

While I don't advocate violence toward those with whom one doesn't agree, the fact that the water was poured on Daisey's 'art,' as he calls it in the show -- another issue, considering the notes to be the 'art' -- rather than on Daisey does at least suggest that Daisey himself wasn't in harm's way, other than via a few drips.

In one of the commments on Playgoer's blog, a viewer brought up the fact that the audience took on the role of performer in this moment. While that particular writer found this to be an offense, I think it's spectacular -- and I choose that word intentionally. It created a spectacle within the already there spectacle of Daisey's show, and fully brought down the fourth wall already compromised by Daisey's general style.

In performance art, the relationship between the audience and performer is integral to the performance, and there are many moments in the genre's history in which the audience does become the perfomer -- John Cage's 4'33"; the overenthusiastic, and rather wanky, guy who proceeds to cut the straps of Yoko Ono's dress in Cut Piece; the audience member who held the gun to Marina Abramovic's head in Rhythm O; and the audience members who took the gun away in that same performance; the audience members who DID NOT stop the rats from burning in Kim Jones's Rat Piece. These are BRILLIANT moments of intersubjectivity within performance and shape not only that genre but an overarching understanding of what attending to performance means.

Perhaps Daisey would not consider himself aligned with these artists, but theatre no longer stops at the stage -- and hasn't for quite some time now. I, for one, am thrilled that audiences are coming out of their passive shells, and paid-for seats, and responding to what they see and hear.

Thanks so much for your comments-


Yeah, and to think that "Fucking Paris Hilton" could generate such politicized force!

Where were these high school rabble-rousers when Hilton's boyfriend was broadcasting their sex life all over the Internet? They should have downloaded the tapes and spilled water all over them in some public and sensational way. But I guess it's more fun to mess with the "live." :)


What a mind-blowing event!: they didn't protest outside, they didn't storm into the theatre. THEY BOUGHT 87 TICKETS WITH THE INTENT OF A MASS WALKOUT.

This is one of the most brilliantly failed but complex performances of resistance I've ever encountered - culturally, economically, aesthetically. It's good to know that the politics of theatre still spur some action. The recent Rachel Corrie debacles have been incredibly inert, rooted in abhorrent, unspoken biases and tacit relationships.

None of that here! If I were Daisey, I would be thrilled with this once in a lifetime reaction. Vive la revolution!

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