Thursday, April 23, 2009

Todd Olson Versus Mike Daisey

For those Mirror readers who may not be aware of it, below are links to an online dust up between Mike Daisey and Todd Olson, Artistic Director of American Stage Theatre Company.

Todd Olson sent an e-mail to Mike Daisey in response to Mike's monologue How Theatre Failed America, which has been playing around the country since last year, including a sold out run at the Public in New York.

Actually, Olson's e-mail seemed more of a response to an essay titled The Empty Spaces , which, reportedly, was a limited or condensed version of some of the things discussed in How Theatre Failed America.

Here is Olson's original e-mail to Daisey, with Daisey's point-by-point responses included.

And here is Olson's full reply to Daisey, (published in full on Isaac Butler's blog.)

They are both quite lengthy, but probably worth a read if you care about these issues.

UPDATE: Mike Daisey, has a response to Olson's email up on his blog now.


Mike said...

I've responded to Mr. Olson in full here:

99 said...

Mike Daisey's got a response up now:

Art said...

Thanks guys,

I just updated the post with the link to the response.

Thomas Garvey said...

Thanks for posting this, Art, although I admit I cringed repeatedly while reading it. In the past I've admired Daisey for bringing up some of the tough economic issues regarding theatre and theatre education, but he really shoots himself in the foot here. He comes off as an insecure bully who doesn't know how to respond to skeptical challenge. And the idea that he could actually handle the difficult, monied egos that often sit around the table in the board room - much less get them to sign off on his proposals! - is just laughable. Thanks for a look at the man behind the curtain.

Art said...

Hi Thom,

It's funny, but I actually thought it was Todd that really launched the first salvo here. Olson came off as very knee-jerk and dismissive of Daisey in that first e-mail.

Though Olson did sound much better his second e-mail. And, hence, Mike is a little more measured in his responses as well.

Strange, but I actually realized that I know Todd briefly from his time here in Boston. I didn't make the connection at first.

Thomas Garvey said...

Sure, Olson launches "a salvo," and his tone is clearly defensive. And he employs some light mockery (gasp); he calls Daisey "a kind of national theatre darling," and makes snippy asides about his friend's "misguided rant," etc. But Daisey responds manically, and insultingly. He calls Olson "a bigot" repeatedly. He says Olson is "shitting on artists" and is "dead already." Give me a break. That's not dialogue, and it makes me embarrassed for Daisey. One gets the feeling that subconsciously, he is all too aware of the power of Olson's critique; he is dependent on the largesse of the wealthy patrons of such theatres as the ART - indeed, we'd probably never have heard of Mike Daisey without them. Olson is simply calling him on that hypocrisy. Hence the rant.

Thomas Garvey said...

P.S. - The fact that Olson was associated with the ART suggests to me there's a bit more backstory here than meets the eye.

Ian Thal said...

The exchange doesn't seem to indicate that they have any prior connection with one another. Given the insults in both directions, I think it's unlikely that that such a "backstory" would have been unacknowledged.

Thomas Garvey said...

Well, I don't have any hard information about whatever shared past they may have, but there's an edge to their posts that my sadly lengthy experience has led me to recognize as personal. And again, lengthy experience has shown me that backstories are very rarely acknowledged. They're revealed instead. I wish Olson had made one further point to Daisey, btw - which is that isn't he actually the one benefiting from the economic situation he decries? Frankly, it's hard for me to believe that if theatres re-oriented themselves away from paying for gleaming new facilities and TOWARD building expensive resident acting ensembles (a move I'd applaud!), that he personally would be much in demand. One-man rants like his get the play they do largely because theatre's financing strategies rule out large casts and fully-produced plays. I kind of admire him for attacking so vehemently his own economic niche, but it makes his tone seem slightly ridiculous.