In 2011, Steve Jobs’ death made news around the world. In the spring of 2012, his name was back in the headlines, this time in a theater production. Mike Daisey’s monologue “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” was heavily criticized for its description of a Chinese factory that made Apple devices. The production, originally advertised as “nonfiction,” came under fire as many learned that facts about the working conditions in the factory were exaggerations.
After some revamping and removal of certain embellishments, the controversial show is coming to the stage at 8 p.m. Sept. 13 at the Performing Arts Center.
The monologue intertwines descriptions of how Apple products are made in the factory in Shenzhen, China, with descriptions of the odd genius of Steve Jobs, going back and forth between startling facts about working in the Foxconn plant and how decisions made by Jobs affected these workers.
The controversy surrounding Daisey’s original production first emerged after Daisey read an excerpt of his monologue on the national radio program “This American Life.” The excerpt reported several details that were later proven to be false, including Daisey’s claim that girls as young as 12 were working in the factory and that the factory was guarded with guns.
Though Daisey drew criticism for his embellishment of the conditions at Foxconn, the factory that assembles all things Apple, the rebooted version of the show has garnered praise since it opened this summer. Charles Isherwood of the New York Times wrote in his blog, “Version 2.0, in my view if anything, is more powerful, funny and engaging than the earlier production.” Isherwood also noted, “the details about the long hours worked and the spate of worker suicides at the Foxconn compound are still both disturbing and well-documented.” Reviewer Andrew Long of the Austin Chronicle wrote that it was a piece of theater absolutely worth seeing.
Despite its controversial past, Daisey’s monologue is particularly relevant to college students, who, as studies show, are increasingly using Apple products for studying and entertainment. According to an article published in 2010 by CNNMoney, 47 percent of college students use MacBooks.
“That statistic doesn’t really match with what I have seen,” business and Plan II student Diana Yang said. “Most of the people I know use MacBooks.”
Freshman Lindsay Richmond also said that Apple products have played an increasing role in her life. “I have a MacBook Pro, an iPhone, an iPod and my family has an iPad, not to mention the old iPods that I have had,” Lindsay said. Yang has around four Apple products as well.
The increasing dependence of society on products such as iPhones is a topic explored in “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.” Daisey, a self-proclaimed “Apple fanboy” says in the show, “I had never thought, in a dedicated way, about how they [Apple products] were made.”
“I think that it is important for consumers to know some information about how the products they use are made,” Yang said. Cindi Baldi, teaching assistant for the class, Organizational Corruption and Control, said.
“I’m all for the truth about [working conditions] at Apple coming out,” Baldi said. “However, I don’t think a monologue or something presented as theater is the right platform because even if the facts or stories presented have an element of truth, people are viewing it as entertainment and will subconsciously dismiss much of it as fiction.”
UT students will get the opportunity to learn a little more about Apple or a little more about entertainment, depending on their perspective, when Daisey performs Thursday through Saturday.