Category Archives: Artistic

What We Monologue About When We Monologue About Monologues

Hey, what did you do this weekend? Oh yeah? The beach? Cool, well, I –  Oh, you went parasailing? That’s really – A secret midnight beach party? With an open bar? Brittany Spears invited you to the VIP lounge?! Well, shut up. I had a cool weekend too, alright? You want to know what I did this weekend? I mean, what I did this weekend besides watch random Olympic events (Canoe Slalom anyone?) and feebly “work out” to stave off the overwhelming sense of my own physical inadequacy in comparison to these athletes?

Well, I spent nearly five hours of my weekend sitting quietly in a dark room while a large, passionate and frighteningly articulate man berated, seduced, interrogated and confided in me. No, it wasn’t date night. I was watching two interrelated monologues by Mike Daisey: The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs and The Orient Express (Or, The Value of Failure), which wasperformed at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in a special workshop presentation.

OH MY GOSH, huge surprise! I totally lured you in with that intro, right? You thought I was starting a new gossip and nightlife column on the Woolly Mammoth Blog. Instead, I’m going to perform my own monologue (see what I did there) about monologues. A meta-monologue. I know; it’s a huge disappointment to all of us.

Now, I know I wasn’t the only one sitting in the audience of The Orient Express who’d just been to The Agony and the Ecstacy, and, to further complicate this Venn Diagram, I imagine that of the segment of the audience who were there seeing both monologues nearly back to back, I wasn’t the only one who’d seen some of Mr. Daisey’s other work, like How Theatre Failed America or The Last Cargo Cult. And of that minority, maybe even a few had been to Woolly Mammoth in previous seasons to see Josh Lefkowitz’s monologues at Woolly. So, with all this said, I may be making an unfair assumption, but I believe I was one of the few, if not the only, person who was there not because of the controversy and press surrounding Mike Daisey, or because of the low price (free) of the tickets, but because I’m a real fan of monologues as a theatrical genre. I mean the real introspective, storytelling, “non-fiction” kind of monologue written and performed by artists like Mike Daisey and Spalding Gray and Eric Bogosian. They get me going, get my brain working, my heart thumping, my juices flowing.

Now, to be honest, I’m the kind of person who gets excited by a great New Yorker article or by someone reading out loud to me, so if you’re thinking, “Uh, the The New Yorker?  Reading out loud? So Lame,” then you might want to leave. But, as a consolation prize, here’s a great YouTube video. Really though, I think the comparison between a well written monologue and a well written New Yorker article is apt. There’s a certain way in which both are constructed, esoteric observations, descriptive metaphors, digressive anecdotes, and cold information jutting off like ribs from a central narrative spine made up of the author’s personal experiences on a trip to China or following a celebrity or researching Shakespeare or investigating the spread of Dengue fever. In some sense, it’s an ethnographical approach to storytelling; by inserting themselves into the narrative and subject matter, the author’s cultural biases and personal proclivities are made evident, making space in the narrative for matters of subjectivity and cultural relativism. But what’s so beautiful about the monologue is that, unlike just about any other narrative form, is that everything – its creation, presentation, and reception – happens at the same time, in front of the audience, in the same room, united within the single figure of the monologist.

The first monologist I saw perform was the afore-mentioned Josh Lefkowitz, when he performed as part of the 2006 Washington, DC Fringe Festival. I was a young and impressionable 16, an aspiring and apparently terrible actor just introduced to Stanislavski, The Actor Prepares, objectives, beats, spines and super-spines. I was filled with theatrical jargon and misconceptions about what constituted “real” theatre. But, when Josh walked on stage, sat behind the table that was the only set piece in the tiny room, and began talking to us, the audience, without pretense, without character, without objective, I was blown away.  I was blown away by the form’s immediacy, it simplicity, its intimacy. That someone would sit there and with the self-bearing honesty of a confessional, talk about their life, their passions, their family. In the monologue, Josh mentioned a couple other monologists, but in particular he talked about Spalding Gray. When I got home, I sat down in front of YouTube and watched the entire film version of Gray’s Swimming to Cambodia. You can too, if you like. Then, I bought up book versions of all his monologues. I even read his collected journals (really interesting by the way). I was, and still am, fascinated by the connection that Gray forms with his audience. I could feel it even through the computer screen. I felt like I knew this man, and that he was speaking directly to me. And in some sense, he was. Gray never wrote down his monologues, rather creating rough outlines in journals and on legal pads, from which he would perform the monologue in real time. In that way, the monologue could be different every time. Gray would perform a monologue over and over again, and based on the audience’s response and his own perception of how it went, would add or subtract text, move passages and words, try a new inflection or add a pause. Through that process he would crystalize and refine the shape and content of his monologues, all based upon his relationship and his perceived relationship with the audiences he had in front of him.

And that’s exactly what was so fascinating about watching Mike Daisey perform The Orient Express, a brand new piece and is still finding its exact form. In The Agony and the Ecstasy it is clear that Daisey, over the course of much iteration, has found exactly the right metaphors, the exact words, perfected when to quip and when to shout, when to draw the audience in and when to excoriate them. But, with The Orient Express, he’s still in the process of distillation, and watching him search for exactly the right way to say something to make it clear to us, was evidence of just how much his monologues are based upon that basic interaction between performer and audience. If he sensed we hadn’t understood something, and who knows exactly how one feels that, he’d try to refine whatever image he’d just presented us with to make it clearer. Often, he’d make several passes over the same point, approaching from different angles, burrowing into its marrow, ear cocked to hear just how we, the audience, reacted to each pass.  And midway through the play, as I sat in the dark way up in the second to last row of the balcony watching this process, I realized that my laughter, my shifting in my seat, my nodding, my gaze may affect some small part of The Orient Express, and that was truly exciting.

~ Sam Lahne, Literary Assistant

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Filed under Artistic, The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs

From Mike Daisey – Why I Am Still Performing THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY

The Washington City Paper cover story by Chris Klimek uses a classic journalism storytelling technique: it asks a question at the end of its first movement that serves as the thesis around which the story turns. The question is:

“Why is Daisey still performing a play that brought him so much disgrace?”

It’s a great question. It’s an essential question, and despite all the interviews and writing around this run no one has actually directly asked me this question, so I thought I would do my best to answer it today.

It’s been a hard thing to look clearly at myself and see how I failed to live up to my expectations. I abused the trust of the public, let down my colleagues, and I failed to live up to my obligations to my craft. In the wake of the This American Life retraction, I posted a full apology for my behavior which you can read here.

After the public story went quieter, it was time to really begin to examine what I should do. Rather than go silent, I decided to remove all of the material that was contested in the TAL retraction and rebuild the show.

To some, this may seem absurd—after all, the show has been discredited, so why bother? I won’t lie and say that there wasn’t a strong temptation to simply cancel everything. It would have been much easier to drop everything and move on.

But this story was always much larger than I am, and the central tenet of the show’s work—to connect the audience empathically with the brutal circumstances under which the things they use every day are made—is absolutely true and always has been. No one contests that—not TAL, who interviewed Charles Duhigg, not Apple’s own auditors, not the NGOs who have reported on these issues for years and years.

Simply put, my failure to live up to what this story needed from me doesn’t absolve me of the responsibility to tell it right.

It’s similar to what so many have been demanding from Apple—I want them to make it a priority to consider how they are building their devices, and to take real measures to consider human rights and living wages in the process of their manufacturing. Just as I expect Apple and other manufacturers to reform their ways, I needed to look to my own house and do the same.

If I expect them to build an ethical iPhone, then I had better build an ethical monologue.

Classically, people go to ground in literary or journalism scandals that involve falsehoods and the betrayal of the public’s trust. But I am not a journalist, nor is this a book. It’s a piece of theater, which only exists when it is performed. As a consequence, the very thing that makes it ephemeral affords a unique opportunity to do the right thing, and make this story work ethically in the room.

One of the interesting things about theater is that it is not a broadcast medium—it is a communal undertaking. People choose to participate in theater, and my obligation is to those who are participating in the room. People who do not want to hear this work have a simple alternative—they can stay home.

This new version of THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY OF STEVE JOBS has been performed in five cities since the closing of the show at the Public. Based on deeply unscientific exit polling, audience surveying, and random questioning after shows, we believe that only about half our audiences are even aware of the TAL retraction. Many nights the number feels like it may actually be lower.

This creates a fascinating environment: What does an artist owe his audiences, especially when they are coming in with radically different expectations? How do we shape a show that works for most people in the room?

Peter Marks, the head critic for the Washington Post, said this in his review:

“Daisey does not use this revisit to Woolly to analyze his behavior in this affair, the unfortunate distraction that has turned Jobs’s “Agony” into Daisey’s. It’s a major disappointment…what’s missing is Daisey’s mind trained on the task of deconstructing his actions. Is that as important as the question of how thousands of Chinese workers are treated, making the products we love? Of course not. But it wasn’t Daisey’s listeners, or the media, that prompted this need. It’s unfortunate that some of us want the matter to intrude, however artfully this storyteller might weave it.”

While I can understand the desire for me to explain my actions, I think doing so in the course of AGONY/ECSTASY would be unethical because it would make the show more about me than about the very real issues and real people the show addresses.

Instead, in this new version, I try to make it very clear that I am a storyteller. I remind audiences, point blank, that they do not need to believe anything they hear on this stage, and urge them to find tools to investigate for themselves beyond the theater.

I think the new version also touches more deeply on the connections between rural China and the Special Economic Zones, and the circumstances that make work at Foxconn and other manufacturers an attractive option for many. It endeavors to humanize and complexify those relationships without letting the crimes that have been committed, and how we share that responsibility, off the hook.

The six minutes that were cut gave me the time to do this. Artists are thieves; this piece would have been nothing without the work of so many who know far more about China than I ever will and took the time to talk to me about it, or whose works I learned from. Time on stage is precious, and I have tried to make something that I hope does service to that time.

I do believe the work is stronger today than it was before; each audience member will make their own judgments, and that is wonderful. The show is not apologetic, because that would be terrible theater, and inappropriate in the show’s narrative arc. However, in the final moments of the show, at its climax, I do say this:

Steve Jobs, this genius of design and form, blinded himself to the most essential law of design: that the way in which a thing is made is a part of the design itself.

He forgot that.

And so did I.

It won’t be enough for many. That’s the way it is—it’s never enough, it can’t be. But I leave it there as part of the compact I have with those who choose to participate in it with me. And I say it because it is true.

Every night people walk in through the door who have never heard this story before, and I am honored to have the work of sharing it with them. When I talk to them after the show, and I can tell they are seeing their devices in a new way, I know that it would have been a crime to run away from my responsibilities and let this work die because of where I let it down.

The answer to why I am still performing this show that brought me so much disgrace is that now, when I tell it in the room, it brings me grace.

~ Mike Daisey, Creator and Performer of The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs

You can read this post on his website, here.

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A Note from the Dramaturg – Apple in China REDUX

During a public forum at Woolly Mammoth with Mike Daisey earlier this year, Artistic Director Howard Shalwitz noted, “One might hope that the dialogue around this show helps the whole field engage in a discussion about the ethics and boundaries of documentary theatre. It combines two words – documentary and theatre – and while theatre is mostly about illusion, documentary is mostly about truth.”

With The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, Mike utilizes real life events and sparks our curiosity about how our electronic devices are made. The production has played a vital role in focusing national attention on labor practices at factories in China that manufacture products for Apple and other US companies.  Mike’s piece sits on a continuum of activist art that includes diverse sets of tools, goals, and rules of engagement. Some pieces on this spectrum adhere as closely as possible to documentary truth, whereas others utilize theatrical illusion to make their points in vivid and memorable ways. Wherever on the spectrum a particular documentary theatre artist lies, his or her first task is to help orient the audience as to how literally the story’s words should be taken.

Tectonic Theater’s The Laramie Project strings together verbatim content from interviews with a town’s residents and tries to make sense of the real-life murder of Matthew Shepard. Anna Deavere Smith performs text verbatim from interviews, but creatively weaves them together to create an emotional and intellectual journey for the viewer around a given issue. Ping Chong & Company’s community-specific oral history pieces often cast community members themselves as actors. Peter Weiss’ The Investigation draws liberally from the Auschwitz trial transcripts. In No Child… (performed at Woolly in 2008), solo-artist Nilaja Sun doesn’t draw from verbatim interviews, but performs her own memories as sketches of the children, teachers, and other faces of a Bronx high school. The structure, form and rules placed on each of these works are linked with the desired goal of each artist for what they hope the audience will be thinking when they leave the theatre.

Mike Daisey would describe his work as stories that weave together autobiography, gonzo journalism, and unscripted extemporaneous material that changes with every performance. Rather than utilizing verbatim text, Mike utilizes the lens of the individual. He lets his experiences work on him, simmer (often for long periods of time), and then reemerge in extemporaneous form. While Mike carefully outlines each section of his monologues, every performance is a fresh ‘retelling’ of the story. The type of theatre Mike has most frequently been associated with is the memoir tradition pioneered by Spalding Gray. Gray brought the monologue form into great popularity in the 1980s; in monologues such as Swimming to Cambodia, he made the personal and stream-of-consciousness political, and was mesmerizing doing it. It’s also possible to see some of Mark Twain in Mike’s work. Twain made the irascible raconteur political, and remained pithy and wise even when he was most outrageous. Mike’s works play on the experience-of-the-individual as political, and live in the tension between outrage and wisdom, and between comedy and tragedy.

How literally is the audience to take the words of this particular type of theatre? One notable aspect of Mike’s works is the trope of the bumbling non-expert, our ‘hero’ who will walk us through how he was transformed by a given experience. This hero is a visible investigator. In almost all of the documentary theatre examples given earlier, the investigator is invisible — only the found content is edited and formed into a theatrical whole. The invisibility of that investigator gives the illusion of objectivity – but as we know from documentary film, the juxtaposition and editing of material is always subjectively constructed. The ‘character’ of Mike, however, is front and center in The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs and Mike’s other monologues – constantly acknowledging the existence of narrative manipulation.

In watching the ‘character’ of Mike onstage, we see one man who has a question, and sets out on a Quixotic mission to answer it. We hear an account of his remembered experiences juxtaposed with the history of a technological innovation giant, Apple. As an audience, what is our reaction? We’ve just experienced a catharsis – we see our relationships with our devices in a new light. We’re also hungry to stock up on more information.The trope of this singular ‘hero’ inspires discussion and leads the audience to find out more beyond the story of this one man.This particular production paves a path for the audience to do that additional investigation – pointing us to those very reports, resources and tools. We, the audience, become the hero in our own quest to understand and take ownership of the most pressing challenges in our world today. The choice is ours.

The controversy sparked by The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs has illuminated what happens when an artist falls off course. In his passion to advocate for fair labor practices, Mike allowed the audience to believe each detail of his story was literally true, although it lay squarely in that theatrical zone between truth and illusion. The citizen and activist Mike has a wealth of fact to bring to his craft. In the show, these facts are marshaled for the character ‘Mike’ in a compelling way. In the previous iterations of the production, in a few key instances the character ‘Mike’ was also granted license to report things that happened in the Specialized Economic Zone (the SEZ), though they did not happen directly to him. There was a gap between the facts of preparation and the performance itself. In the performance you are about to see, the six minutes of contested material have been cut, the complexities of the controversy incorporated, and new material added covering developments that have occurred since the production was birthed in 2010. This reframing adds another layer of complexity to how we view this narrative. If we look at the rules and specific form Mike has pioneered over his entire theatrical career, we can see that when it’s applied to the content of this production, a fascinating tension develops. A form built on remembrance of a personal quest can be an uneasy fit with a growing hot-button issue where the masses are clamoring for statistics, evidence, and specificity in order to usher change. It’s a challenge to frame The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs as not ‘factual evidence’ of the problem, but as a critical catalyst for the audience to look for more evidence themselves.

A transcript of The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs is available online, royalty-free, and has been downloaded over 100,000 times. Since late February there have been over 25 productions around the world with different actors and with different sets and stagings, adding another chapter to the life of this work. Last March, Mike  traveled to DC to appear on our stage to personally speak with Woolly’s audience about the role of truth and illusion in his work and take questions and comments. In addition to the ongoing examination of labor practices that it helped to spark, The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs has continued to fuel a rigorous debate about the rules of engagement that govern documentary theatre. The irony can hardly be missed:  Mike Daisey has very publicly acknowledged his own specific failure in framing the last iteration of The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.Yet it’s hard to think of another work of theatre in the past decade that has been so successful in focusing attention on a critical world issue.  This raises the challenging question:  what role does truth, and what role does illusion, play in that success?

~ Ronee Penoi, Production Dramaturg and Producer-in-Residence

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Guide to Apocalyptic Categorization

I feel I need to apologize to my readers. Two weeks ago I wrote a Post-Apocalyptic Survival Guide for the Woolly Mammoth Blog that I now feel failed to provide much of the critical information necessary for preparing to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. I was negligent in addressing the critical question for any apocalyptic readiness preparations, “What kind of apocalypse will you need to survive?” So as my personally imposed act of penance, I present you with my “Guide to Apocalyptic Categorization”

A Nuclear Apocalypse – While movies like The Day After may just seem like cold war paranoia today, there are still approximately 19,000 nuclear weapons in the world today. That combined with the growing concern with the safety of the world’s 430 plus nuclear power plants and all of a sudden Brendan Fraser’s family in Blast from the Past doesn’t seem so crazy for building their own personal fallout shelter. While reactors in power plants don’t explode with anywhere near the kind of destructive force of a nuclear warhead, they can have long term impacts on the habitability of the surrounding environment when things go wrong. I haven’t seen Chernobyl Diaries yet, but I assume it as a good documentary source of information about how the environment around the famous Ukrainian power plant was impacted by the 1986 accident.
Probability: Based on the prevalence of nuclear material on our planet—both in weapon and power plant forms—and all the 1960s PSAs I have been watching lately I would say that a Nuclear Apocalypse is Medium Probability.
Survivability: Depends. If you are under a desk, High. For those not taken out by an initial blast, who also manage to avoid Acute Radiation Syndrome, I would rate survival chances at Medium to Medium-Low. Being prepared to enter a lawless economy based on bartering and violence with other survivors can however increase your chance of survival.

A Technological Apocalypse – Robots are everywhere these days. They build our cars, vacuum our floors, and arrange our train travel. Now it may just be my personal grudge with Julie the Amtrak Robot, but I have a feeling that robots may not be happy with cheerfully serving man forever, and I am not alone in my thinking. Between Skynet and the Matrix it is pretty clear that machines becoming self aware can only lead to bad things for humanity. And robots are just one of the many technologies in development today that could one day wreak havoc for us humans. Pick up just about any Michael Crichton book you will soon be plagued by the constant fear that somewhere scientists are making deadly uncontrollable nanobots or cloning dinos.
Probability: Now that we are making robots whose sole purpose for existing is geriatric care I am going to give this one a High Probability.
Survival: Very Low, unless your name is John Connor.

A Pathological Apocalypse – First came Bird Flu, then came Swine Flu, then finally came the Super Flu. Ok so no Super Flu yet, but it may be on its way. As if the diseases naturally occurring in the real world were not terrifying enough, authors like Stephen King have to scare us with the possibility of manmade super diseases breaking free from their research laboratories and ravaging society. While mankind’s ability to tolerate some of these pathogens may save us from a War of the Worlds style alien invasion, anyone who has seen Outbreak or knows about the very real disease that inspired the film knows there is much more to fear from these microscopic predators.
Probability: Medium. The more you know about what they keep around for research at the CDC the more paranoid you will become.
Survival: Medium to High. We have done it before. The Plague, Ebola, and Spanish Flu all did a lot of damage but humanity survived. Immunity, early detection, quarantine zone, these are all words that make me feel a little safer. Just hope you are not neighbors with Patient Zero and you have a decent shot at living through it.

A Zombie Apocalypse – Often related to the Pathological Apocalypse in films like 28 Days Later, zombies due merit their own category. Sometimes the cause of a zombie outbreak is a deadly virus but other times it is supernatural like in Evil Dead. Now we can add another item to the list of terrors that can cause someone to become a zombie, Bath Salts. Not the kind you put in your tub, but the drug similar to LSD that reportedly caused a Florida man to start eating another man’s face and made him oblivious to being shot by police officers.
Probability: Very High, since it’s already happening.
Survival: Depends on if you count being a zombie as surviving or not.

Other possible causes of an apocalypse include: Meteors, Super Volcanoes, Alien Invasions, Drastic Climate Change, God, and Dragons. But in most of those situations we are all pretty much doomed beyond possible redemption so there is not much you can do to prepare.

~Cameron Huppertz, Literary Assistant

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#Woolly8

Tickets may have sold out two hours after going on sale, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be a part of the conversation around the reading of Dustin Lance Black’s 8 at Woolly Mammoth tonight, Monday, June 4, 2012. Written by Academy Award-winning screenwriter and AFER Founding Board Member Dustin Lance Black, 8 chronicles the historic trial in the federal constitutional challenge to California’s Proposition 8. Woolly’s one-night-only reading of 8 is directed by Alan Paul, Associate Director of Shakespeare Theatre Company, and will feature a cast of more than 20 prominent actors from the DC theatre community, including Woolly Company Members Jessica Frances Dukes, Rick Foucheux, Jennifer Mendenhall, Eric Sutton, and Emily Townley. Other actors participating in the reading include Jimmy Kieffer, Kurt Rhoads, Kimberly Schraf, and Holly Twyford.

Thanks to our friends at #NEWPLAYTV, we will be live streaming the town hall discussion following tonight’s reading for anyone to view. We expect the discussion to begin at approximately 8:45pm. We are lucky enough to be joined by several amazing leaders in the fight for marriage equality. Rea Carey, the Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, is one of the most prominent leaders in the LGBT rights movement. DC Councilmember David Catania and Maryland State Senator Richard Madaleno Jr. both played important roles in securing equal marriage rights for all residents of DC and Maryland respectively. Brian Moulton, the Legal Director of HRC, is a national figure in the same-sex marriage conversation, and Matt Nosanchuk, Senior Counselor in the Civil Rights Division at the US Department of Justice, served as one of the leaders of the LGBT policy group during Obama’s first presidential campaign. Please tune in and contribute to the conversation on Twitter by using #Woolly8.

Everyone is encouraged to stop by the Woolly Mammoth lobby from 6pm-10pm tonight to participate in T8KE ACTION—an LGBTQ Activism Fair. The event is free and open to the public. Visitors can learn about ways to get involved with important issues affecting the LGBTQ community here in DC. Participating organizations include the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the ACLU, Human Rights Campaign, SMYAL, Metro Teen AIDS, the Community Education Group, PFLAG DC, and the DC Center for the LGBT Community.

~ Cameron Huppertz, Literary Assistant

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Post-Apocalyptic Survival Guide

“I ran into a guy in the Wal Mart.  We were talking about duct tape – there isn’t any left at the Wal Mart, of course, and I never got any before because I thought, well, really, what’s the use, and now I’m sorry because it’s handy…”
– Maria from Anne Washburn’s Mr. Burns, a post-electric play

A great deal of scholarly meditation has been aimed at the questions surrounding our civilization’s demise. Many non-fiction tomes, academic articles, and well researched documentaries have examined the various ways all of humanity might perish and what that would mean for this planet we inhabit. But the most practical guides to the survival of human life post-apocalypse most certainly are found in popular fiction.

Whether it’s an alien robot invasion or someone forgetting to turn off all the lights at your local nuclear power plant, radiation will probably be a big problem in the post-apocalyptic world. But thanks to Battlestar Galactica I know what to do. Just take anti-radiation meds. Keeping a supply of potassium iodide around is probably a smart move for the apocalypse prepared. Is that headache dehydration or slowly building damage from radiation? You may not know until it’s too late, or you find a geiger counter. Either way the smart move is to just have those thyroid saving pills on standby now.

If you survive long enough to escape the fallout, you will probably have exhausted all the non-perishable food you were able to throw into a wheelie suitcase as you scrambled towards the evacuation route. So now you will be hungry, and if Into the Wild  taught me anything it’s that growing great facial hair does not mean you will automatically know a poisonous Pokeweed Berry from a delicious Blackberry. Luckily there are tons of travel size edible plant guides that will teach you how to get nutrition from the natural world around you. I would Amazon overnight one and put it in that emergency backpack you keep by your front door right away.

There are of course plenty of plausible apocalyptic scenarios where your primary concern may not be finding food, but instead you might find yourself trying to not become food. Night of the Living Dead, 28 Days Later, Resident Evil, The Walking Dead, and Scooby-Doo have all made it clear to me that our public school system’s failure to teach “Zombie Apocalypse Preparedness” is probably the single greatest problem in modern America. Luckily there is a great piece of extracurricular reading available to all of us, The Zombie Survival Guide. This must-read is full of useful information that could give you the edge you needed to remain living when the Living Dead rise. Who else is going to tell you to put down that shotgun and pick up an easy to use machete?

So there you have it: two books, a bottle of pills, a machete, and duct tape. All the tools you will need to survive in a post-apocalyptic world, no matter what hideous disaster destroys civilization.

~Cameron Huppertz, Literary Assistant

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Digiturgy

From UrbanDictionary.com:

digital [dij-i-tl] adjective 1. Describes any kind of information that is stored as a sequence of bits rather than as the kind of information stored without sharp differences like a flow of sound on tape or ink on paper, which are examples of analog record. The analog information is susceptible to noise, aging and corruption during copying much more than the digital media. 2. Slang for cool, awesome, boss, pro, wicked, rad, gnarly, nasty, crazy, sweet, etc…

From Dictionary.com:

dramaturg [dram-uh-turj] noun – specialist in the craft or the techniques of dramatic composition, especially one who acts as a consultant to a theater company, advising them on possible repertory.

From My Internship at Woolly Mammoth:

digiturgy [dij-i-tur-jee] noun – 1. the gnarly examination of the wicked cool craft or technique of dramatic composition using awesomely boss information that is stored as a sequences of bits.

When I got to Woolly Mammoth I had never actually been a dramaturg on a show before. However I was a borderline unhealthy social media consumer and amateur blogger, which turned out to be pretty useful when I started work as the Assistant Dramaturg for A Bright New Boise. John Baker, the lead Dramaturg for the show, was interested in creating an online version of the Actor Packet dramaturgs typically produce to help contextualize a production for the actors. The wealth of images, videos, and This American Life episodes we felt could be useful for the actors was just not going to be easily shared through the standard paper packets Woolly had been using previously. A blog however, is the perfect format for sharing and organizing all the information we wanted to share.

So I got to work building us a Tumblr page. At first the blog was just a great tool for sharing and organizing the type of content that you can’t print—videos, large images, links to webpages, and audio clips, but John and I decided to make the most of this experiment. Instead of viewing this page as just an online version of the paper packet we started to imagine ways everyone involved in the production could interact and build a shared sense of purpose around the show.

Managing Director Jeff Herrmann’s trip to a Hobby Lobby

We did little things at first, like posting images the cast and Woolly staff took when they visited Hobby Lobby stores. Once we extended the invitation to interact with the blog to the whole Woolly team people started bringing me things specifically to post on the blog—my favorite moment was finding a flyer at my desk detailing exactly how the world would end. As the set, props, and costumes started to take shape in the shop, I would go and take pictures of the progress to post on the blog, and again everyone got very excited about contributing to the blog, seeking me out when they had something cool for me to photograph.

The blog didn’t just act as a site for interaction and conversation around the production, but really became a resource for the rehearsal room as well. When an actor would mention an article or video they thought really resonated with a particular scene, I was able to find it online, post it, and anyone working on the production could find it there. Not only did this crowd-sourced dramaturgical research generate a wide variety of high quality information, but it also gave more people a sense of ownership about the project, that I think contributed to the consistent number of daily visitors to the page and the amazing conversations about this show that took place in the rehearsal room and all over the theatre.

Based on this success, I was very interested in continuing our digiturgical experiment as the Assistant Dramaturg for Woolly’s production of Mr. Burns, a post electric play. Since Mr. Burns takes place in three acts over 82 years, pulls on pop culture references that span over a century, and takes places in a post-apocalyptic world inspired by books like The World Without Us, “time” presented itself as a really clear way to organize actor packet information. That lead me to Dipity, a site that lets users generate online timelines.

I plotted each of the play’s acts, the origins of the major cultural references, predictions about the “post-electric world,” and historical examples of nuclear disasters and abandoned cities on two Dipity timelines and embedded them in a blog, so that each timeline entry linked to a blog post with more images, videos, and information about each event. Then I added tags to every blog post so that the whole site could be easily organized and searched by topic. This thing is heaven in blog-form for my inner nerdy kid.

We are just now entering the second week of rehearsal, so it is early to make any judgments about the success of this Mr Burns blog. Hopefully this way of organizing information will be a helpful resource for the cast.

~Cameron Huppertz, Literary Assistant

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