Public Theater's Oskar Eustis Issues Statement on Mike Daisey's Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs

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23 Mar 2012

Oskar Eustis
Oskar Eustis
Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Public Theater artistic director Oskar Eustis addressed audiences prior to a March 22 panel discussion about monologist Mike Daisey's fabrication of portions of his acclaimed work The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.

Time Out New York theatre critic Adam Feldman hosted the discussion at the Public, which also featured writer-director Steven Cosson (This Beautiful City), playwright-performers Jessica Blank (The Exonerated) and Taylor Mac (The Young Ladies of…), and critic-reporters Peter Marks (Washington Post) and Jason Zinoman (The New York Times). A podcast of the evening is forthcoming. 

The Agony and the Ecstasy recently concluded a return engagement at the Public Theater, where it previously enjoyed a critically acclaimed, extended run last fall.

Representatives for the Public declined to offer comment to Playbill.com prior to the panel, but Eustis did take the stage to address the audience. That statement was posted on the Public's official website.

Eustis' statement follows:



Every performance creates a contract, implied or explicit, between the stage and the audience. That contract directs how the audience should view the performance, what the rules of engagement are. It covers everything from the physical relationship between actors and audience to the border between fiction and fact contained in the performance.

Our job as a theater is to create that contract anew with every performance, and then to fulfill it. We did not do that with The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. We would not have called it nonfiction had we known that incidents described in the piece were fabricated. We didn't know, and the result was that our audience was misled. The piece had a powerful, positive impact on the world, and we are proud of that. But that doesn't relieve us of the responsibility of honoring our contract with our audience.

As artists, we know that truths do not always hinge on facts. However, when we present pieces whose power depends on their claim to authenticity, we must hold ourselves to a different and higher standard of accuracy. We must ascertain, to the best of our ability, that the facts presented in the piece are, in fact, facts. We will do so in the future.

As previously reported, following Daisey's January appearance as a guest on "This American Life," NPR "Marketplace" China Correspondent Rob Schmitz reached out to Daisey's Chinese translator to substantiate Daisey's personal stories of his encounters with laborers. The translator disputed portions of the information Daisey presented, including claims that he visited a factory in Suzhou and his gripping account of a factory laborer who sees a working iPad for the first time.

Read Playbill.com's reporting on the story here.