ARTicles: Falling from Grace:
“I’m sorry if I’m going on and on,” Mike Daisey says brightly. “But that happens when you talk to a monologuist.”
A monologuist is a person who delivers monologues; in Daisey’s case a single monologue comprises an entire evening’s entertainment. Daisey “goes on and on” with such panache that his one-man shows are a hit from coast to coast. Unlike many solo performers, Daisey does not portray characters; instead, he goes onstage as himself. “I’m not an actor,” he says. “I’m a storyteller.” Seated behind a table with a glass of water in easy reach, Daisey weaves a narrative web, braiding together story lines and blending in metaphors. He juxtaposes autobiographical events with global events, compelling the audience to see each through the lens of the other.
For the past twenty-five years, monologuists like Daisey have played a major role in American theatre. In 1979 Spalding Gray debuted his monologue Sex and Death to the Age 14 at the Performing Garage in New York. The piece examined Gray’s childhood in Barrington, Rhode Island, and he followed it with other autobiographical pieces, including Swimming to Cambodia, A Personal History of the American Theatre, and 47 Beds. Critic Theodore Shank declared Spalding’s monologues the “most literally autobiographical work that has been presented in the theatre.” While autobiographical material has always provided fodder for stand-up comedians, satirists, and writers of all kinds, it remains rare in the theatre for a performer to use himself as his text.
Enter Mike Daisey.