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Hillary Clinton Says Broadway Helped Her Recover

hillaryatsunset

In the months after her defeat by Donald Trump in the race for President, Hillary Clinton was so devastated, she writes in her new memoir, “What Happened,” that she had trouble finding relief. Good friends suggested Xanax and recommended their therapists.  Instead, she writes:

“I went to Broadway shows. There’s nothing like a play to make you forget your troubles for a few hours. In my experience, even a mediocre play can transport you. And show tunes are the best soundtrack for tough times. You think you’re sad? Let’s hear what Fantine from Les Misérables has to say about that! By far my favorite New York City performance was way off Broadway: Charlotte’s dance recital.” Charlotte is her two-year-old granddaughter.

Among the shows she attended (unmentioned in her memoir but receiving much press and social media  attention at the time): The Color Purple, The Humans, In Transit and Sunset Boulevard. I happened to attend that last musical on the same night in February as she did, and, as I’ve observed, I was struck by how much was packed into the thunderous greeting she received by her fellow theatergoers — admiration, defiance, a shared history, shared emotion, a shared loss.

Hillary at Sunset Boulevard

What Happened book cover

Buy “What Happened”



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Appreciating Michael Friedman: Review of His 2011 Occupy Wall Street Musical

In honor of Michael Friedman (September 24, 1975 – September 9, 2017) here is my October 29, 2011 review of “Let Me Ascertain You: Occupy Wall Street, Stories From Liberty Square,” a one-night only musical presented at Joe’s Pub by The Civilians, the theater company Friedman co-founded. (It’s astonishing this was only six years ago, no?)

OccupyonStage1 There is the man who was laid off a year and a half ago as the creative director for a children’s television production company, and showed up at Zuccotti Park a day ago after being evicted from his apartment. There is the firefighter from New Jersey who has served Read more of this post

Fourth of July Patriotism on Broadway: Excerpts from Hamilton to Hello Dolly

As Americans celebrate our 241st Fourth of July, it’s bracing to realize that the most patriotic new show on Broadway is “Come From Away,” a musical about Canada.

But American patriotism on Broadway is not just a thing of the past, in musicals such as George M and Will Rogers Follies.  Several current Broadway shows offer their own patriotic moments, albeit filtered through the 21st century. Excerpts below

Alexander Hamilton in Hamilton

America, you great unfinished symphony
You sent for me
You let me make a difference
A place where even orphan immigrants can leave their fingerprints and rise up
I’m running out of time, I’m running and my time’s up 􏰀 Wise up􏰀
Eyes up

 

Bandstand

A group of World War II veterans who’ve formed into a band rebel against the sponsors of a song contest

All they want to do is
use our uniforms and wave us around like flags. We’re not props, Donny. We’re not for sale. We’ve already given them everything we got. We’re goddamn United States veterans, and these people wouldn’t know real sacrifice if it slapped ’em in the face.

 

The Schuyler sisters in Hamilton

ANGELICA 
I’ve been reading Common Sense by Thomas Paine. So men say that I’m intense or I’m insane.
You want a revolution? I wanna revelation
so listen to my declaration
ELIZA/ANGELICA/PEGGY 
“We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.”
ANGELICA
And when I meet Thomas Jefferson… I’m a compel him to include women in the sequel.
ELIZA 
Look around look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now!
ELIZA/ANGELICA/PEGGY 
History is happening in Manhattan and we
Just happen to be in the greatest city in the world

 

Emilio Estefan in On Your Feet

(A record company executive has just told him to change his name and his music in order to “cross over” outside “the Latin market”)
When I first got to Miami there was a sign in front of the apartment building next to ours. It said, “No Pets. No Cubans.” Change my name? It’s not my name to change. It’s my father’s name. It was my grandfather’s name. My grandfather, who we left behind in Cuba to come here and build a new life. Now, for 15 years I’ve worked my ass off and paid my taxes. So, I’m not sure where you think I live… but this is my home. And you should look very closely at my face, because whether you know it or not… this is what an American looks like. We’ll do it on our own.

 

Dawn in Waitress

Dawn is talking with her fellow waitresses about her personal profile for a dating site

 Dawn: “Ecstatically alive, enthusiastically American, dynamic and witty, I am a woman of many passions, including a rare turtle collection. I love the History Channel.
Jenna: Now that’s nice
Dawn: Note: I have played Betsy Ross in 33 Revolutionary War Reenactments.”
Jenna: ….Okay…. That’ll set you apart from the crowd –
Dawn: I’m calling myself “NewDawnRising.”

 

Ogie in Waitress

Ogie has responded to Dawn’s profile.

Ogie: So I’ll pick you up on Sunday at 7?
Dawn: Maybe?
Ogie: Maybe! Maybe! There’s a reading at Rainard Park of the Federalist Papers.
Dawn: How do you know about that?
Ogie: I played Paul Revere in 42 Revolutionary War re-enactments. Well actually, 40 times technically I was the standby Revere but 2 times Paul was out – so I did actually play it, although one of those times I got injured halfway through, I had a bayonet issue– fell off my horse and had to have my spleen removed.
Dawn: “One if by land, two if by sea…”
Ogie: “…and I on the opposite shore will be!”

 

War Paint

Helena Rubinstein gets back in the cosmetics game

This is the time to reach my goal.
My American moment. I hereby take a vow.
I vow to win the heart and soul
Of American women. This is my mission now.
I’ll show them they have faces of power and resplendence,
a backbone and a basis
to assert their independence.
When they achieve their rightful role, their American moment, equal and adored, that American moment
will be my reward.

Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden make the most of war-time rationing during World War II

Through thick and thin, Manila to Berlin!
Or helping defend our freedom from “the enemy within” –
America will make it!
No enemy can break it!
With make-up made to take it on the chin!
Necessity is the mother of invention!
Brains and brawn! Brains and brawn! Dusk to dawn! Women win!

Hello, Dolly!

When the whistles blow
And the cymbals crash
And the sparklers light the sky
I’m gonna raise the roof
I’m gonna carry on
Give me an old trombone
Give me an old baton
Before the parade passes by!

 

Julius Caesar at the Public – Pics, Controversy,Reviews

The depiction of Julius Caesar as a Trump-like figure in the Public Theater production of “Julius Caesar” has sparked outrage, the removal of sponsorship (funds) by Delta and Bank of America, and a vigorous defense. Below are the photographs from the production by Joan Marcus, and links to some articles about the controversy.

 

Public Theater’s response:

 

BRUTAL IRONIES IN THE FLAP OVER TRUMP AND ‘JULIUS CAESAR’

“Shakespeare used to be considered a defense against totalitarianism. How we flattered ourselves.”

Julius Caesar: Suddenly Controversial by Melissa Hillman

“Has no one read Julius Caesar? ..The play does not condone the murder of Caesar. While Caesar’s desire to be king, his arrogance, and his deafness to criticism all threaten democracy, murdering Caesar results in disaster…Here’s the paradox: Trump’s arrogance, desire to rule like a king, deafness to criticism, and complete lack of tolerance for anything other than adulation mirror Shakespeare’s Caesar, yet to say so openly is dangerous exactly because it is true– Trump will act like a king and use the power of his office and fame to retaliate. ”

Other Shakespeare theater companies are being attacked by people apparently mistaking them for the Public Theater.

Knives are out for theaters that bear the name ‘Shakespeare’

And what did the critics think?

Jesse Green of the New York Times liked it, making it a critic’s pick.

The first half…is great, nasty fun, even if it’s preaching to the choir. To the extent there is a problem with the Trumpification of ‘Julius Caesar’…it arises in the second half…It is then that we are faced with the ways that Trump and Caesar never properly scanned, and an aftermath in which that confusion breeds more confusion…To be fair, this is a problem built into the play

So did Adam Feldman in Time Out New York

Elizabeth Vincentelli in Newsday did not.

Turning Caesar, an efficient leader, into a comic caricature makes little sense. It may be fun to watch but it also undermines the show’s powerful ambiguity

Neither did Frank Schreck in The Hollywood Reporter.

Jeremy Gerard in Deadline was mixed.

A very good production whose singular drawback is that it makes no sense

Can Socially Conscious Theater Make A Difference?

In Power Struggle on Broadway: Escapist vs. Socially Conscious Shows in the 2016–17 Season, a piece I wrote for HowlRound, I point out that there were more socially conscious than escapist plays and musicals that opened during the Broadway season just ended. To which a reader in the comments section replied in effect: What difference does it make?

That’s more or less the question I pose at one point in the video below to Robert Schenkkan, playwright of the new anti-Trump play, “Building the Wall,” which is being produced all over the country — including at New World Stages in New York City beginning May 12th.

Tamara Tunie, who co-stars with James Badge Dale in the New York production of the two-character play “Building The Wall”

Below the video: Shows that have made a direct and tangible difference.

Shows That Have Made a Direct Difference:

Waiting For Lefty, the Depression-era play about a taxi driver strike, by Group Theatre playwright Clifford Odets, was performed all over the country in support of labor unions.

Waiting for Lefty

Fortune and Men’s Eyes (1967) by John Herbert led to the creation of The Fortune Society, which helps ex-convicts find jobs—a success story written up in a recent memoir by its producer, David Rothenberg, entitled Fortune In My Eyes.

The Exonerated by Erik Jensen and Jessica Blank, based on transcripts of wrongfully convicted prisoners on Death Row, is said to have influenced Illinois Governor Ryan’s blanket commutations of the state’s death penalties.

The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler inspired a global movement known as V-Day that fights to end violence against women.

The Laramie Project by the Tectonic Theater is said to have helped lead to the signing of the Matthew Shepherd Hate Crimes bill; the theater company was invited to the signing of the legislation at the White House.

The Normal Heart, when produced in 1985, led mainstream newspapers such as The Christian Science Monitor to mention HIV/AIDS for the first time anywhere in their pages.

The Justice Cycle, six plays including Los Illegals by Michael John Garces, the artistic director of Cornerstone Theater Company, led to a theater troupe of day laborers, Teatro Jornalero Sin Fronteras (Day Laborer Theater Without Borders), that educates day laborers about their rights.

8 the Play, based on transcripts of the trial that overturned the ban on same-sex marriage in California, helped move the conversation forward, arguably helping to change the American public’s attitude.

 

Watch: Actors on Activism

 

It’s best to start your activism young, advises Celia Keenan-Bolger, an actress nominated three times for Tony Awards, who grew up in a family of activists. That way, “it’s like your daily routine in the morning. You brush your teeth, you call your congressman, and go to work.”

Keenan-Bolger was speaking at the 2017 BroadwayCon panel entitled Actors and Activism, one of four Broadway actors – along with Hamilton’s Okieriete Onaodowan, Shuffle Along’s Amber Iman, In Transit’s Margo Seiberg – and director Tina Landau.

Yes, they acknowledged, there are obstacles to activism. Some people are afraid that producers and directors will blacklist them, Amber Iman said. It’s a challenge,  said Tina Landau, for non-profit theaters to get around the requirement to keep out of electoral politics in order to maintain their 501(c)3 status. It’s not easy, Margo Seibert pointed out, to be truly inclusive.

There also can be peer pressure to become an all-out activist — loud and proud, and all that — even if that does not fit your personality. To which Landau replies: “The personal is political. The political is personal. It’s your heart. You will find your way to activism, however big or small.”

Below are four videos from the panel.

Performer Amber Iman explains how, looking for “a real purpose in my life,” rather than just waiting for my next show, founded Broadway for Black Lives Matter, which has become the ongoing organization Broadway Advocacy Coalition.

 

Director Tina Landau explains how she overcame her shyness about street activism to help found The Ghostlight Project.

 

Actress Margo Seibert explains Racket, the organization she co-founded that battles the same women feel about menstruation.

 

Keenan-Bolger, Iman, Landau, Seibert and Hamilton’s Okieriete Onaodowan offer advice on how to become an activist.

Operate always out of love — Okieriete Onaodowan

 

Anti-Inauguration Schedule: Artists in Outrage

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Below is a list of Anti-Inauguration activities — some of the events initiated by artists to turn the feelings of shock at the outcome of the Presidential election into a a show of solidarity and protest that is intended as prelude to ongoing resistance:

louder-together-pen

Writers Resist: #LouderTogether

2 p.m., January 15

Steps of Main Branch of the New York Public Library

PEN America’s literary protest on the steps of the New York Public Library will bring together hundreds of writers and artists alongside thousands of New Yorkers on the birthday of Civil Rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr. Broadway Kids Against Bullying sing “I Have a Voice” (More than 90 other Writers Resist protests are scheduled at the same time throughout the U.S.)

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The Resister Project

January 4 to 15

Kraine Theater

A variety show, put together by The Dirty Blondes theater collective,  featuring 10-new plays, stand-up comedy, music and poetry. Proceeds donated to the American Civil Liberties Union.

bealight8-5x11

 The Ghostlight Project

January 19 at 5:30 p.m.

Many locations throughout the nation and the city

Inspired by the tradition of leaving a “ghost light” on in a darkened theater, theaters in (as of this writing) 43 states (around 50 in New York City alone) have agreed to hold some kind of ceremony at 5:30 p.m. (in each time zone) “to stand for and protect the values of inclusion, participation, and compassion for everyone-regardless of race, class, religion, country of origin, immigration status, (dis)ability, gender identity, or sexual orientation.” They ask you to bring a light.

(The photographs above of theater artists holding posters “I am….I fight for” is part of the Ghostlight Project.)

List of participants

artstrike2-1400

J20 Art Strike

January 20

More than 100 visual artists and critics have signed a petition calling for cultural institutions to close on Friday, January 20.

“We consider Art Strike to be one tactic among others to combat the normalization of Trumpism—a toxic mix of white supremacy, misogyny, xenophobia, militarism, and oligarchic rule. Like any tactic, it is not an end in itself, but rather an intervention that will ramify into the future. It is not a strike against art, theater, or any other cultural form. It is an invitation to motivate these activities anew, to reimagine these spaces as places where resistant forms of thinking, seeing, feeling, and acting can be produced.”

This has not gotten much traction, according to an article in the New York Times.

“The struggle is long, and I would say it is not our role to close,” said Tom Eccles, the executive director of Bard College’s Center for Curatorial Studies. The Whitney Museum, for one, will remain open, but will implement pay-what-you-wish admission.

The Hillary Speeches

January 20, noon

Streamed online

A concert of two of Hillary Clinton’s speeches set to music, and sung by such Broadway performers as Chilina Kennedy of “Beautiful.”

concertforamerica-logo

Concert for America

January 20, 3 p.m.

Town Hall and Facebook.

concert4americaaA concert featuring a parade of Broadway stars — Betty Buckley, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Jessie Mueller, Javier Munoz,  Kelli O’Hara, Billy Porter and on and on. The proceeds for “Concert for America: Stand Up, Sing Out”  will be donated evenly to Planned Parenthood, NAACP, Sierra Club Foundation, Southern Poverty Law Center, and the National Immigration Law Center. While the concert is reported to be sold out, it will be streamed live on Facebook as well.  It’s intended to be the first in a series of monthly benefit concerts and will be streamed live on Facebook.

“Hate comes from a lack of love, so we can’t fight it with more of its own toxicity, we have to fill it with love,” Jessie Mueller told the Associated Press. “There are really big things at stake. Things we can’t save or solidify or safeguard alone. We have to think bigger, we have to ask for help, we have to reach out to one another and band together. I hope this concert can be an example of that.”

sanctuary_-web_by-hunter-canning-404x270

The Sanctuary Project

January 20 – February 17

HERE Arts Center

“The Sanctuary Project opens on January 20th with an Inaugural Ball” (at 8:30 p.m.) “and continues with a full month of work by more than 50 different artists from a wide range of backgrounds. The schedule includes new theater works; panel discussions with major arts leaders; and a variety of dance, concert, and other non-traditional works.”  A play entitled “Radical,” by Sergio Castillo, presented on January 25th, “imagines a world where American Fascism has become the law of the land.” Another play, by S.P. Monahan, presented on January 26, is entitled “The Persecution and Assassination of Hillary Rodham Clinton as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade.”

womens-march-on-washington-poster

The Women’s March on Washington

January 21,, 10 a.m. to 1:15 p.m.

Washington D.C.

Though not artist-organized, it would be difficult to omit what promises to be the largest protest march around the Inauguration. The march “is for any person, regardless of gender or gender identity, who believes women’s rights are human rights.”

womens-march-nyc

There are local chapters, such as the New York City chapter of the Women’s March on Washington , so that people can travel to D.C. as a group. There are also Sister Marches being held throughout the country and abroad (370 as of this writing.)

Debate! Politics and Theater. The Week in New York Theater

hillary-clinton-and-donald-trump-puppets-designed-by-rick-lyon
Political theater gets new meanings — and new attention — just six weeks before the Presidential election….and less than three weeks before the cut-off for voter registration.

Avenue Q holds a mock debate today with puppet candidates. But other shows are leaving “mock” behind:

hamiltonvotecap

The cast of Hamilton will register people to vote outside the Richard Rodgers September 28 & October, from 5 to 7 pm #Ham4GivingADamn

Even the Broadway Flea on Sunday had its share of politics:

hillaryatbwayflea


(Notice Christine Pedi at the far right of the photograph. This table sold mostly Newsical memorabilia but, as the man in the Hillary t-shirt put it, “This is the first time the union” — he meant Actors Equity — “has ever endorsed a candidate for President.

The Week in New York Theater News

Ramin Karimloo in Les Miserables

Ramin Karimloo in Les Miserables

Remember Ramin Karimloo’s Broadway debut in Les Miserables (Who can forget?) He joins cast of Anastasia as Gleb. The musical is set to open April 24.

Bette Midler

Bette Midler

Theatergoers bought $9 million worth of tix to Hello, Dolly with Bette Midler, breaking record for first day of Broadway advance sales

Watercolor costume sketch by Lemuel Ayers for the musical St. Louis Woman, starring Pearl Bailey, 1945

Watercolor costume sketch by Lemuel Ayers for the musical St. Louis Woman, starring Pearl Bailey, 1945

The new National Museum of African-American Culture and History in D.C. features hundreds of theater-related items in its permanent collection.

 

mamieparris

Succeeding Leona Lewis as Grizabella in Cats: Broadway vet Mamie Parris, currently in School of Rock

branden-jacobs-jenkins

Playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, theater artist and educator Anne Basting are among among 2016 MacArthur Foundation “genius” fellows

lastblackmanlogo

Cast of #LastBlackMan by Suzan Lori Parks (Opens Nov 13):

lastblackmancast

 

 

 

The pod people: Bernardo Cubria interviews playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis

 

bwayfleawinnerscorner

Winner’s corner at the 30th Annual Broadway Flea Market and Grand Auction?

Unicorn Gratitude Mystery Review: Karen Finley as Hillary, Trump and Crazy Dirty Poet

A quarter century after she gained infamy among right-wing critics as the obscene, nude “chocolate smeared woman,” performance artist Karen Finley is on stage every Sunday at the Laurie Beechman Theater with “Unicorn Gratitude Mystery,” three theater pieces presented back to back. Some might consider them little more than profanity-filled screaming rants and non-sequiturs – and the critics this time could be more than just on the right, since Hillary Clinton gets the Finley in-your-face treatment just as bluntly as Trump.

 

In “Unicorn,” Finley arrives on the tiny stage dressed bizarrely like a deranged reject from “Cats,” with a gold-painted cardboard horn on her head, and she sweetly praises the unicorn: “The unicorn has a golden halo with rainbow curls.” She talks of the unicorn in what starts to sound like an incantation, albeit a funny one – “The unicorn does not like Styrofoam under any circumstances….Since the Unicorn doesn’t exist they never need to worry about fraud, deleted emails or waiting for the G train.” But she ends the piece by abruptly changing course and attacking the unicorn: “Where were you unicorn for the those in the church in Charleston?…Where were you unicorn as Trayvon opened the rainbow Skittles?” From rainbow curls to the rainbow Skittles that were in teenager Trayvon Martin’s pocket when he was shot dead; the swerve is breathtaking – underscoring a point that is a major theme of her work: How loathe Americans are to face the grim realities in our society. Finley has a method beneath her work’s apparent madness; an art to her seeming random self-indulgence.

“Gratitude” takes an even harsher swerve. Finley has changed into a blonde wig and a pantsuit, and she begins by expressing her gratitude in ludicrous ways – “I am so grateful – not that I am great – but I am great full full of greatness – gratitude is my attitude.” Hillary Clinton is not just speaking to her supporters; she appears to be talking to Bill Clinton too, and then Bill Clinton seems to be speaking, and Finley’s piece launches graphically into former President Clinton’s infidelities and a certain notorious stained blue dress.

Finley changes once again for “Mystery,” into a Make America Great Again cap and an absurd hairpiece, and recites what sounds like verbatim sentences from Donald Trump, although they take on an antic tone. She soon transitions once again into the obscenely surreal, where Trump is lascivious, needy and literally girlish. (“My hair is Faye Dunaway’s running away in Bonnie and Clyde…I am platinum blonde…I am Eva Marie Saint kissing Cary Grant on the train, Grace Kelly’s close up, Kim Novak in Vertigo…”)

The final transformation feels like an epilogue. Karen Finley changes in front of us this time; she turns from one of her caricatures into the actual red-haired Karen Finley, in an elegant dress. And her final poem is about a woman who likes having sex with veterans. “She…was with men who would die for her…she was worth dying for. “

If it’s hard to call what Karen Finley does in “Unicorn Gratitude Mystery” political theater, her provocations resonate with surprising power.

 

Unicorn Gratitude Mystery

Laurie Beechman Theater in the West Bank Cafe

Written, directed and performed by Karen Finley

Costumes designed by Violet Overn

Lighting and sound design by Kristopher Anton

Running time: 90 minutes

“Unicorn Gratitude Mystery” runs on Sundays through September 18


 

The Trump Card Review: Mike Daisey’s newest monologue

Mike Daisey has put a script of “The Trump Card,” his latest monologue, on his blog to encourage people to perform it without seeking his permission or paying royalties.

I saw Daisey perform the monologue in a one-night-only performance on a recent Sunday at Joe’s Pub. He has also performed it in Washington D.C., and written an article entitled “The Theatre of Trump,” for American Theatre Magazine, for which he got made up as Donald Trump:

mikedaisey-as-trump

6/24/16 Photograph © T Charles Erickson

This is not how he appeared in his monologue. He looked the way he always does:

Mike Daisey portrait.jpg

This is, in another words, another Mike Daisey monologue. There are a few moments in “The Trump Card” when Mike Daisey impersonates Donald Trump, to spot-on comic effect. He describes Trump’s mostly silent demeanor as host of “The Apprentice” as that of a “dyspeptic toad,” and then demonstrates with a hilarious facial expression. And then, a couple of times, Daisey mimics the presidential candidate’s smarmy babbling when he introduces another outrageously offensive conspiracy theory but tries not to take responsibility for it:

“I think the President works with Muslim extremists. I mean, by ‘I think,’ I mean ‘people are saying.’ I mean, I don’t want to think it, but it’s just happening. You know how people say things. What are you going to do? It’s terrible, let’s not talk about it, but I said it…”

Daisey says at the outset that his aim in the monologue is not to flay Trump for the audience’s pleasure. But this claim seems hollow, especially when Daisey himself takes such obvious pleasure in name-calling — calling Trump at various times an “orange gremlin,” an “orange goblin,” a “free-floating aneurysm.”

The timing of “The Trump Card,” and his generous push to get it widely read and performed, might suggest that a civic-minded Daisey wishes to contribute to the public debate as the election nears. It seems clearer, though, that the timing is more about Daisey the showman taking advantage of the moment.

Yes, Daisey presents some damning information. He tells stories about the two men he says most shaped Donald Trump. The first was Trump’s father Fred, a developer who was such a racist that he inspired Trump tenant Woody Guthrie to write several songs denouncing him (Google the lyrics for “Old Man Trump.”) The second was Roy Cohn, who had developed the strategy of lying as counselor to (eventually) disgraced red-baiter Senator Joseph McCarthy, and who became Donald Trump’s attorney.

Daisey also offers his take on the rise of Trump — blaming it on such phenomena as the Republican’s “Southern strategy” initiated by Nixon; the Democratic indifference to the anger and suffering of working class whites; the “Fuck it” mentality of  Americans that would lead to the selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s vice-presidential running mate without her being truly vetted. Above all, though, he seems to give credit to Trump’s skills as a performer:

“…he is very good at his job. I tell you, all I have to do is turn off the parts of my brain that have ethics and morals, and I admire the fucking shit out of this guy. Because I understand him because he and I are both performers, and we work with the same toolset. I understand him in a way that I’m not sure that many people other than me do. And so, that’s the reason I started this” — the reason why he created “The Trump Card.”

 

This focus on performance is key. Mike Daisey is no Michael Moore, although there are superficial similarities. In films like “Roger and Me,” “Sicko,” and “Bowling for Columbine,” Moore uses humor to cite facts and expose flaws in American society. He no doubt identifies as a filmmaker (and a humorist), but it’s safe to assume he views his filmmaking as the medium for political advocacy.  Daisey sees himself as a theater artist, first and foremost; it was his defense when “This American Life” host Ira Glass accused Daisey of falsifying the facts in his visit to Apple’s operations in China in Daisey’s monologue “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.”

”I am an artist—that is to say a professional liar,” Daisey says in “The Trump Card,” and one can detect a certain defensive tone in this declaration, as if still smarting four years after his public humiliation. It’s a tone that colors the new monologue. He is in effect asking his audience to consider “The Trump Card” as entertainment, not reliable civic discourse.

So, he tells us of a party he held to play “Trump: the Game,” which he describes as “essentially Monopoly for dogs,” a party at which he served Trump Steaks and Trump Water.  This party takes a turn toward the surreal when he eventually informs us that the guests included Fred Trump and Roy Cohn, both deceased. Was the entire “Trump The Game” party, then, a fantasy constructed for the monologue rather than an actual party?

And then there is the odd undercurrent throughout “The Trump Card” of accusation against the audience — that we are wealthy, leftist elitists who are somehow responsible for Trump. I wondered whether Daisey was giving us a taste  of the class- (and race-) based resentment that is at the heart of the billionaire’s appeal to his supporters. My main question was whether Daisey was doing this consciously or subconsciously.

There is little that struck me as politically useful or reliably insightful in “The Trump Card.”  Yes, the Trump phenomenon is an exercise in weirdness, but, as Daisey acknowledges, it’s a weirdness we’ve been subjected to every day for months. What exactly does Daisey add to it?   I suspect, however, the script will get a lot of downloads, and theaters will produce it.  “… I’ve had inquiries from a dozen theaters so far,” Daisey writes on his website. “And AGONY/ECSTASY, which I released the same way, has had almost 200 productions (that I know of) all over the world.”  The Trump brand may help sell “The Trump Card,” but the most memorable story in Daisey’s latest monologue has nothing to do with Trump.  Daisey tells us in compelling detail how as a child he ate all the M&M’s he had been given to sell for a school fundraiser.  It’s quintessential Daisey, the kind of personal story that makes his monologues worth watching.