I saw Mike Daisey perform two of his The Great Tragedies monologues this weekend - Romeo & Juliet and MacBeth, despite the icy weather here in Dallas (one show courtesy of Daisey himself who fronted some comps... much gratitude). Good stuff. As a solo performer myself, I have listened to many of his shows on recordings. I have seen him perfom a few times in the past (How Theatre Failed America, Great Men of Genius, etc.). His 24 hour-in-total-duration monologue All The Hours of the Day served as inspiration for my own 6 hour and 20 minute solo longform monologue experiement Dribble Funk 380.
I am particularly interested in how he puts his shows together. I have started to pay really close attention to the structure of his shows and how he paces them. It was really wonderful to get a chance to study his work up close again.
I was reminded of this article I read years ago. I had to look for it, but this is Mike talking about carving a career out in the arts in an interview with DC Theatre Scene back in 2011:
Instead of trudging through the ranks of various theater companies, it seems like you’ve very much created your own space for yourself as a performer. Do you have any advice for other prospective monologists or otherwise ambitious performers?
I do! My largest piece of advice is to cheat. It’s very important to cheat. People are prone to not cheating, but they need to cheat. The system of the theater as it’s designed is to prevent people from rising, because there are more people, more artists, more actors, more people who want to work in the theater than there is capacity. So the theater is actually dedicated to getting rid of as many people as possible. The dominant paradigm is actually to get rid of people.
So if you follow all the rules – if you go to the right grad schools, if you do everything exactly by the letter – you’ll probably fail, because the system is built to get rid of 99.999 percent of the people… Everyone I know who’s been successful in the theater is so because they cheated in some way or another. They discovered what advantages they had that no other people could emulate, and they worked to exploit those things. They used the talent they naturally have, but they also found edges and angles other people couldn’t exploit or emulate to game the system.
I really think that people who want to be successful in the arts have to carve a space out for themselves. The only way to do that is to follow unconventional wisdom. If people truly want to be successful, they have to learn how everyone is supposed to do things, and then figure out how they’ll subvert it.