Introducing Myself on the ARTblog

It’s been a couple of years since I blogged in a more conventional sense–I started blogging at mikedaisey.com in 2000, well before blogging had become ubiquitous, and perhaps because of that I grew tired of posting commentary about my life moment to moment. I’m also a professional monologuist, and I discovered that I got my autobiographical impulses fully realized on the stage, and didn’t really relish the idea of working them out piecemeal in public. Instead of retiring the blog, I gradually let it take control, and posted what interested me–and over time it has become a virtual online scrapbook, the internet equivalent of bookmarks and dog-eared pages, keeping track of evocative images and articles I see online. The change has been great for the site, and great for me–now when I visit my own site I find inspiration in the juxtapositions, and I can search the archives to find things I might have lost track of, a kind of miniature Google. The Boston Phoenix recently did a preview piece in which they focused on the blog as an integral part of my artistic identity, and while I don’t know if that’s true, it has certainly been a fascinating project.

So when American Repertory Theatre asked me to blog on their site about my run at their theater I was intrigued–with a contained format, I felt that the entries could be an interesting exercise in following the process Jean-Michele (my director) and I go through developing the work, and since the run at A.R.T. covers three very different monologues, all at different places in their developmental life I thought a little hands-on commentary could be intriguing. So here we are.

And where we are today is New Haven, Connecticut, where I’ll be opening Invincible Summer at Yale Repertory Theatre this evening. It’s a special three-day engagement which will function as a kind of test-bed for the much longer run that immediately follows at A.R.T.–we got in yesterday and immediately rushed into tech, where we configured the lights, sound and all the rest in about six hours. My monologues use very particular lighting, with slow, almost imperceptible changes over stretches of time, so that a theatrical effect is achieved that, to my eyes, echoes the nature of story: shifting, chimerical but never overtly plotted or “dramatic” in a conventional sense. It’s hell on dimmer systems that run the lighting, and in many spaces a lot of tech is spent coaxing the systems to deal with slow, slow, slow fades and making them graceful. Considering that this short run is the equivalent of a touring production, I’m very happy with what we’ve achieved–we’re working with Melissa Mizell, whom we met at the Spoleto Festival the last few years, and she knows what we look for, which I think helped things enormously.

Tonight’s show will be very stressful for me, as it is the first time I will have spoken the show aloud since the Public Theatre run in January. The monologues grow and develop like living things, and as a consequence there is an unpredictability inherent to the process of doing them again–they are never memorized, and due to the passage of time they naturally shift when put down, and I have to figure out where they’ve moved to. It can be hard to distinguish between what’s inspiration in the changes, and what’s simple unfamiliarity, but some of the best discoveries in monologues of the past have come on nights just like this, and I think I’m up for the challenge.

I don’t do much on opening days–I had an interview this morning, then slept some more, and now we’re headed to IKEA, where I’m hoping to find the perfect water glass for this evening’s show, along with some meatballs and tiny red potatoes.

Mike Daisey

Crossposted to mikedaisey.com

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