How Theatre Failed America:
When Daisey is describing his Seattle experimental and Maine summer stock days is there a spark of real love and ad lib mischief in his voice and eyes. He loved those salad days and his fellow actors. They put on plays with no budgets, made no money, were almost starving. His memories are hysterically funny, told with an engrossing raconteur's verbal and physical energy.
Even if you've never been that poor, or that creative, Daisey transmits the inner high that working artists feel when it all goes right on stage. That memory of spontaneous electricity remains forever, driving artists to continually seek unstructured stages, stages without strict direction and money goals. It's what keeps underground artists giving their time and talent, always seeking the personal and experimental moment, avoiding high budget, crowd pleasing rote productions. Daisey is an example of the successful, self produced, opinionated, memoir driven actor, fed up with the casting game, out to talk his own talk.
Perhaps what Daisey is really talking about is how competition between actors and directors, instead of reliance on the collective troupe mentality, have destroyed much of what was idealistic in the early, wacky experimental days. Only the remarkable San Francisco Mime Troupe has continually lived up to its political agenda. Nowadays even they must accept partial funding from government grants and corporate sponsorships to continue their free, open air shows. They haven't totally lost their critical edge, but it's a far cry from R. G. Davis's original intention of a free guerilla theater for the people, by the people and of the people unencumbered by potential strings from “The Man.”
Mike Daisey is a powerful storyteller who cares about his subjects. From his high school one act play competition student-actors, to his on-the-fly rural Maine summer stock to college theater education, regional theater funding and audience development he speaks from the heart. He is another a mirror of our discontent with creative mediocrity and the corporate art establishment's ego driven need to ever expand arts facilities.