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Daisey Apologizes, Talks about Global Labor at Georgetown

March 20, 2012 – Playwright and acclaimed monologist Mike Daisey appeared at Georgetown March 19 to talk about global labor issues.

Georgetown’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor extended the invitation for Daisey to present his talk “A Hammer With Which to Shape It: Art and the Human Voice in the Global Labor Struggle” in November as part of its Labor Lab series.

The series invites interested faculty, students, and friends to look at labor issues anew and also hosted United States Poet Laureate Philip Levine earlier this year.

Agony and EcstasY

Controversy clouded Daisey in recent days after Ira Glass of the “This American Life” radio show retracted the monologist’s comments on Chinese working conditions on one of its shows.

Daisey’s most famous show and the monologue brought into question, “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” ended an extended run in New York March 18. The monologue is a one-man theater show about Apple, its late founder Steve Jobs and Chinese factories where the company’s products are made.

Daisey’s appearance at Georgetown was his first public appearance since the show concluded in New York, and the monologist took the opportunity to address the recent controversy surrounding his work.

The Truth

Daisey said he was only trying to make people aware of unacceptable work conditions China.

“I never meant to mislead them about the story or the truth and a lot of them won’t accept that,” Daisey says. “But it’s the truth.”

Joseph McCartin, executive director of the Kalmanovitz Initiative, addressed the controversy before introducing Daisey.

Discussion Opportunity

“We believe that the developments of the past several days offer us the opportunity tonight for an unusually deep and searching discussion dealing with such things as truth, power and social justice,” he said, “the kinds of things that deserve discussion at a great university.”

The Kalmanovitz Initiative’s mission is to develop creative ideas and practical solutions for working people grounded in a commitment to justice, democracy and the common good.

The student-run Lecture Fund and The Corp at Georgetown co-sponsored the program.

Human Connection

“When we invited Daisey here, we wanted him to help us think about the power that art has to make what is invisible visible, to give voice to the voiceless, to create a human connection across the international supply chain, linking consumers to workers on the other side of the world,” says Jennifer Luff, research director at the Kalmanovitz Initiative.

Daisey, who has written and performed over 15 monologues since 1997, says the goal of his one-man show is to connect audiences to the workers’ experience at Foxconn factory in Shenzhen, China, after news stories appeared about a worker committing suicide after being beaten up.

When such stories were censored in China while Daisey was visiting China in May and June 2010, the monologist said he desperately wanted to inform people of what was happening.

Art and Activism

“This [monologue] was driven, it wanted to change things,” he says. “It wanted to break out of the theater and change things. It wanted very badly to see change in the world.”

Daisey says he wanted to create art in the form of a monologue in order make people aware of the labor issues in China involving Foxconn and Apple.

Now he finds art and activism “inseparable.”

“I think that’s what art can do is effect that kind of change,” he says. “[It can] create bonds of empathy between us and people on the other side of the world.”

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