Great Men of Genius
Created and performed by Mike Daisey
Directed by Jean-Michele Gregory
Special Presentation · Thrust Stage
June 6–July 1, 2007
Running time: each monologue runs 75 minutes
This June, masterful monologist Mike Daisey, creator / performer of 21 Dog Years: Doing Time at Amazon.com and The Ugly American, returns to Berkeley Rep with Great Men of Genius, a series of shows that apply his trademark wit and unique perspective to fascinating historical figures. On consecutive nights, Mike profiles the legendary lives of P.T. Barnum, Bertolt Brecht, L. Ron Hubbard and Nikola Tesla, exploring the nature of genius and the pride, insanity and chauvinism that bind these men together. Meet one genius for an insightful and entertaining evening—or meet all four for a truly epic account of triumph and folly.
- Bertolt Brecht playwright, poet, lover of women and certifiable cad who escaped Nazi Germany, sympathized with the Communists, failed in Hollywood, was persecuted by McCarthy and redefined world theatre.
- P.T. Barnum gifted entrepreneur, showman, raconteur, hoaxster, freakshow and circus promoter who changed the face of nineteenth century America through blatant, shameless lying.
- Nikola Tesla mad genius, brilliant scientist and visionary who sparred with Thomas Edison and died insane and penniless writing love sonnets to pigeons after bringing the world electricity as we know it.
- L. Ron Hubbard bigamist, occultist and charismatic science fiction author-turned-guru who took 1950s popular psychiatry by storm and went on to create the Church of Scientology: the most celebrity-driven and litigious organization on Earth.
“Comic, poignant and thought-provoking…entertaining and impressive…a monologue of pugnaciously revelatory satire…Daisey charges into the material with energizingly pugnacious bravado, satiric glee and investigative skill…told with wit and panache, Daisey punctuating his words with sharp gestures as his flexible voice assumes different characters and rises from intimate confidences to manic bellows…The result isn’t just highly entertaining. It’s also bracingly honest and affecting.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Watching a Mike Daisey show is a lot like staying up all night listening to the maniacal rantings of the smartest kid in your dorm holding forth on science, art, showmanship, megalomania and, of course, Star Trek…Comic timing is Daisey’s secret weapon…I laughed so hard I cried…Great Men is big-time brain candy that takes a while to digest. It’s a colossally gutsy project that takes the whole medium-is-the-message thing seriously as Daisey slaps the convention of the short and tight solo genre upside the head…seeing these shows as stand-alone solos would be cheating yourself of one of the cheekiest theatrical adventures in recent memory…it was like having Daisey teach a full-on Western Civ survey class.”—San Jose Mercury News
“In the first few minutes, Daisey had us in the palm of his meaty hand, tickling our bellies. (Our scribbled notes in the darkness say this: "Fucking HILARIOUS.")…He paints for us not only pictures of who these men were, but also of himself, and, by association, how the productivity and madness of genius can be expressed in our own lives. And did we say he’s funny? Daisey is freaking funny. And smart…He is a cross between Louis Black and Andy Richter, or the love child of Spalding Gray and Micheal McShane…The ultimate result is a vivid and detailed portrait of the nature of megalomania and success…the five-hour plus journey was brilliantly executed. We say, stock up on trail mix, coffee, chocolate, and get tickets for one of the remaining Sunday marathons before this unique theatrical experience sells out.”—SFist