“The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” was hands down one of last year’s best and most provocative plays–in it, solo performer Mike Daisey tracked his visit to a Chinese factory that produces Apple products. It was a damning, complicated and funny saga, one that lingered long after the curtain.
I joined Daisy’s mailing list after the show, and have been getting period emails since. Yesterday’s update, below, is seriously exciting and worth reading. Yes, theater matters!
I can’t tell you how excited I am to send this email to you.
First, if you haven’t heard, during this break in the run at the Public we spent a month collaborating with Ira Glass and THIS AMERICAN LIFE to adapt THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY OF STEVE JOBS for the radio.
It aired the weekend of January 6th in a special episode of THIS AMERICAN LIFE where the only story was our excerpt of the monologue adapted for the radio, followed by a discussion featuring TAL doing extensive fact checking, interviews with Chinese labor activists, and a debate between myself and Nicholas Kristoff.
You can listen to the show here:
Apple was asked to be on the show or to respond in any way. They refused.
In its first week the episode was the most downloaded in THIS AMERICAN LIFE’s history. The internet exploded, and the story went everywhere—I received over a thousand emails in just a few days; the response was overwhelming.
That same week news broke that hundreds of Foxconn workers had a stand-off that lasted two days, where they were all threatening mass suicide by throwing themselves off the roof of the plant over their working conditions.
This is at Foxconn, a company which Apple’s own 2011 Supplier Responsibility Report said was completely up to code, and which Apple applauded for their efforts. This is the company about which Steve Jobs said the employees enjoyed a virtual paradise of movie theaters, swimming pools, and luxury.
A week after our show was broadcast, Apple made an abrupt announcement. After years of stonewalling and silence, they released the full list of their suppliers, and agreed to outside, independent monitoring of working conditions in the factories they use. It is not everything, but it is a small step down the right road.
Many news outlets are crediting THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY OF STEVE JOBS for being a large factor in Apple’s decision. I’ve received a number of emails from Apple employees who have told me they believe that hearing this story on THIS AMERICAN LIFE, a program many Apple employees listen to with their families and their children, created “a morale situation” that finally compelled Apple to begin to do the right thing.
I would like to thank everyone who has heard this story and then told it on to the next person. In theater we sometimes doubt that we can effect change—I think we all doubt it, sometimes. The truth is that telling stories, person to person, is the best way we have ever had of connecting to the human—and whatever this show may or may not have achieved, it has come out of the conversations happening night after night after night.
Amazing stuff, right?
Photo by Kevin Berne