Performer Mike Daisey to bring comedy to the Yale Rep

Where do the New York transit system, divorce and life in a post-9/11 world collide? Find out this weekend at the Yale Repertory Theater.

Monologuist Mike Daisey will perform a piece called “Invincible Summer” starting Thursday and running through the weekend. Daisey said “Summer” tries to engage the audience by telling a personal story and relating it to historical events. Daisey, who performs with only an outline, said in an interview that his extemporaneous style allows the show to vary and evolve from one venue to the next.

“It’s really a dialogue between me and the audience, although the audience doesn’t say as much,” he said. “Their presence in the room is why the story is told at all. If they weren’t there, there’d be no performance.”

Daisey said his monologues are the result of a collaborative process, with his first and most important collaborator being his director and wife, Jean Michelle Gregory. He also stresses the importance of having a receptive audience.

Victoria Nolan, managing director of the Yale Rep, said she thinks the Yale audience will benefit from the comedic aspect of Daisey’s work.

“I believe students are going to be engaged by Mike’s fiercely intelligent comedy,” she said. “And what better time than New Haven’s mud season to get the belly laughing. I expect it to be hilarious.”

Yalies who make it to the Rep next weekend may recognize from appearances on “The David Letterman Show” and in popular YouTube videos.

But while his work might be funny, Daisey insists that he is not a comedian.

“I think my work interweaves comedy and tragedy,” he said. “I think the primary purpose of my work is to communicate — to tell a story.”

Daisey said the question of fact vs. fiction in his act is not a simple one. While his monologues might technically fall into the category of nonfiction, Daisey said elements of point-of-view and narration make telling a story, even a “true story,” more like fiction.

“All of it is true … in the sense that we think of stories as being true,” he said. “When I’m speaking about something that’s autobiographical, it’s about something that happened to me. When I’m speaking about something historical, I state the facts. But as we tell a story, we edit it. We’re always editing — shaping a story and making it our own.”

After seeing one of Daisey’s shows performed a year ago, Miriam Felton-Dansky DRA ’09 said she was impressed with his ability to relate anecdotes to larger historical points.

“It was funny and candid, one of the most engaging one-person shows I’ve seen recently,” she said. “He managed to translate his own fascination with history, technology and human relations to an audience, using just a few notes on a legal pad and a glass of water.”

Deeksha Gaur DRA ’07, who saw “Invincible Summer” performed in New York, said it was such a memorable experience that she wanted it to be shared with all of Yale.

“It completely blew my mind,” she said. “You can’t wait to hear what he says next.”

In an attempt to increase student attendance, she said, the Rep is offering $15 student tickets.

After his Elm City performance this weekend, Daisey will continue to tour the country with “Invincible Summer,” dropping a few new monologues along the way, like his latest one, “Tongues Will Wag.”

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