Here is an excerpt from an interview I gave to Seattle radio host Luke Burbank about a year ago:
Burbank: “How do you reconcile telling a good story with also trying to get the facts right and when do you decide what is the more important goal?”
Daisey: “Oh, well you know what I’ve found over the years is that the facts are your friends, like if there’s ever a case where I’m telling the story and I find the facts are inconvenient, 9 times out of 10 it means I haven’t thought about the story deeply enough. I really believe in this because the world is more complex and more interesting than my imagination. So the world is full of really fascinating things. You have so many tools on stage as a storyteller. Like, any time you want something to happen, you don’t have to pretend it happened and lie, you can use a flight of fancy, you can say, ‘I imagine what this must look like.’ You can say anything and you can go in whatever direction you need to go, but be clear with the audience, but be clear with the audience that at one moment you’re reporting the truth as literally it happened, and another case you’re using hyperbole, and you just have to be really clear about when you’re using each tool. No, for me it’s not actually that hard if—and this is a big if—if you’re pretty scrupulous about not believing you know the story before you see it.”
Thanks to Chris Hayes for finding this exchange. I’m putting it out here because I think it very succinctly sums up the rules I have for myself about how I create my monologues, and in so doing, I think it also makes clear where I fell short in The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.
When I said onstage that I had personally experienced things I in fact did not, I failed to honor the contract I’d established with my audiences over many years and many shows. In doing so, I not only violated their trust, I also made art that didn't live up to what it should be.
This is not the place for me to try and explain my good intentions. We all know where the road paved with good intentions leads. In fact, I think it might lead to where I’m sitting right now.
I had an acting teacher, years ago, who always taught that the calling of an artist is to be humble before the work. He knew, I think, how easy it can be to lose one’s way.
I listened to a podcast of the discussion some of my colleagues had a few nights ago discussing “Truth in Theater”—and what a thing it was not to be there, to have been asked not to come, and what a strange feeling to know that it was my trespasses that had made the conversation necessary in the first place.
But also, what a gift: to just be able to sit and listen, and to hear these people I so respect discuss these issues with intelligence and humor, and to hear the civility they extended my way even when they took serious issue with some of the choices I have made.
It made me reflect upon how lucky I have been to call the theater my home all these years, the only place I can imagine this kind of discourse happening. It made me grateful for the great privilege it has been to be able to call myself a storyteller and to have audiences come and listen to what I have to say, to extend their trust to me. I am sorry I was careless with that trust. For this, I would like to apologize to my audiences.
And I would like to apologize to my colleagues in the theater, especially those who work in non-fiction and documentary fields. What you do is essential to our civic discourse. If I have made your path more difficult, or the truth of your work harder for audiences to discern, I am sorry.
I would also like to apologize to the journalists I gave interviews to in which I exaggerated my own experiences. In my drive to tell this story and have it be heard, I lost my grounding. Things came out of my mouth that just weren’t true, and over time, I couldn’t even hear the difference myself.
To human rights advocates and those who have been doing the hard work of bringing attention to these kinds of labor issues for years, if my failures have made your jobs harder, I apologize. If I had done my job properly, with the skills I have honed for years, I could have avoided this. Instead, I blinded myself, and lost sight of the people I wanted most to help.
I use the word “truth” a lot in my work. These words from the opening scene of How Theater Failed America come to mind:
Some of you are hoping tonight that the rarest of things will happen: that someone is actually going to tell the truth.
That’s rare. That’s hen’s teeth.
You should know better.
And so should I. Because that’s what I’m looking for—every time I come back to this place, and all the places like it. Looking for the truth: that rare, random descent, like a feather across the back of your hand.
I speak about truth because it is what I aspire to. All my stories, even when I’ve fallen short, have been attempts to experience the truth with my audiences.
I am sorry for where I have failed. I will look closer, be more patient, and listen more clearly.
I will be humble before the work.
(You can read some thoughts on what's next for AGONY/ECSTASY here.)