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The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs—-performer Mike Daisey‘s monologue about where Apple gadgets are manufactured and who they’re manufactured by—-will return to Woolly Mammoth Theatre this summer, more than a year after it first appeared on the Penn Quarter company’s stage. And following a highly touted run at New York’s Public Theatre—-not to mention the widely mourned death of its namesake—-the play could be an even bigger audience draw over its July 17-August 3 run.
To create the work, the 35-year-old Daisey traveled to Shenzen, China, where he managed to enter the Foxconn factory complex where many Apple products are made, and discovered appalling working conditions there. Of its spring 2011 run at Woolly, Washington City Paper theater critic Bob Mondello wrote, “Daisey is not preaching that we should give up our iGizmos. He’s an Apple fanboy himself, who goes all geeky over laptops thin enough to slice sandwiches and relaxes by taking his apart, cleaning it, and putting it back together. But he does want us to think about how these exquisite toys are made.”
A radio adaptation of the performance aired on This American Life in January, and within a week it became the most downloaded episode in the show’s history. Since the fall, media coverage of conditions at Foxconn picked up; Apple joined the Fair Labor Association in January and, last week, announced an independent audit of its supply chain. There’s no evidence Daisey’s words contributed to these moves, but his performances—-as well as an op-ed he penned for The New York Times not long after the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs—-have certainly raised the profile of these human rights issues.
“He took this fact that we all already know, right, this fact that our stuff is made overseas in maybe not the greatest working conditions, and he made the audience actually feel something about that fact,” This American Life host Ira Glass says in the episode. And somehow, he manages to make it funny too.