Game Changer?

Posted July 23, 2012 at 12:01am

Washington’s Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company might help save the world one Mike Daisey show at a time … or maybe not.

In a letter published in a June playbill, theater co-founder Howard Shalwitz credits Daisey’s monologue “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” for changing Apple Inc. and Foxconn’s labor practices.

“Just a few weeks ago,” Shalwitz says in the letter. “[T]wo of the largest companies in the world, Apple and Foxconn, announced important new changes in labor conditions for hundreds and thousands of workers who assemble iPhones and iPads in China.

“It is rare that a work of theater has such a direct and salutary impact on world,” he continues. “Woolly Mammoth is proud to have played a role in bringing the show to life, and equally proud to welcome it back to our theater this summer.”

Daisey, for his part, seems less comfortable taking the credit for any change in labor practices.

It would be pretty hard to trace a direct correlation between the monologue and the policy reforms, Daisey tells HOH.

Perhaps this hesitation is for the best. In March, Foxconn did announce that it would implement a reformed labor policy. By June, however, the worker’s rights group Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misconduct slammed Apple and Foxconn for serious labor violations committed between March and May of this year, just after the labor reforms were supposed to be implemented.

Calls and emails for comment from Apple Inc. and AFL-CIO’s political action committee were not returned.

Daisey came to national prominence after Public Radio International and WBEZ Chicago’s “This American Life” broadcast segments of the performance for a national radio audience.

Soon after the program aired, a reporter based in Southern China uncovered several inconsistencies in Daisey’s piece.

In March, “This American Life” ran an hourlong retraction of the earlier program, the first in the show’s history.

Daisey will be performing “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre through Aug. 5, as well as a free, one-night-only workshop of his newer work, “The Orient Express (Or, the Value of Failure)” on July 29.

Correction, July 23
The original run date of “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre was incorrect in a previous version of this post.