2013 Capital Fringe Show Preview: ‘The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs: The Musical’ by Meghan Long, Producer

Do you ever wonder where your sh%t comes from?  

Those in the theatre community are no stranger to Mike Daisey and his work. His engaging and epic work has spanned a vast array of topics – from the highs and lows of the American Theatre (How Theatre Failed America) to Burning Man and Disney World (American Utopias). His most talked-about and controversial monologue is The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. In a wave of media scrutiny and controversy, Mr. Daisey revised the 2011 monologue and presented a second iteration of the work in 2012. In February 2012, Mr. Daisey made the play available free of license and royalty. Not surprisingly, the result of this free creative license is over 50 productions in numerous languages and even a performance in China.

(from left to right) Mikey Cafarelli, Phil Dickerson, Steve Isaac, and Gillian Han in rehearsal. Photo by Timothy Guillot
(from left to right) Mikey Cafarelli, Phil Dickerson, Steve Isaac, and Gillian Han in rehearsal. Photo by Timothy Guillot

And now we’re adding to the canon of The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs adaptations with a musical adaptation!

The idea to adapt Mike’s play into a musical is wholly the inspiration of my producing partner, Timothy Guillot. Tim is an incredibly talented musician and composer, and an accomplished playwright.  We reconnected post-undergrad – we both attended The George Washington University – and have been producing together for the past few years. This will be our third year at the Capital Fringe (our inaugural production was in 2011 with Tim’s Insurgent Sonata, followed by last year’s The Webcam Play, also written by Timothy Guillot), and when Tim brought me the idea of adapting The Agony and the Ecstasy into a musical I immediately said, “Yes!”

I caught up with Tim in between rehearsals to pick his brain and give you the inside scoop on the inspiration behind the adaptation. Part of our job as creative artists is to tell stories is new ways – building on the conversation and bringing the work to new audiences.

Meghan: Was there a light bulb moment that you knew you had to adapt this play? What inspired you to adapt it into a musical?

Timothy: I initially saw it as a fantastic creative challenge. For a singular artist like Mike to make his work available for all to read, adapt, and produce is a unique and inspiring act. I immediately knew I wanted to do something with it, and my background being what it is, I shortly thereafter decided on a musical.

How did you approach the adaptation? Mike’s production features just him and his words, at a desk with some papers and a glass of water on stage – how do you translate this into a musical?

In exploring the text I quickly realized that Mike is a master not only of the art of storytelling but of its structure. The way he structured the narrative, from the clear establishment of the stakes to the fascinating inciting incident to the double helix he formed with the Jobs narrative – it’s brilliant. So I elected to focus on that, to tell the story as best as I could, and to use music to augment the immense depth that’s already there. In terms of casting, I thought it would be a fun twist to have the actor who plays Mike also plays Steve Jobs. I then opted for a semi-traditional four person SATB Chorus to flesh out the harmonic language and play all of the auxiliary characters. So you meet Wozniak, you meet Sculley, you meet Sun Danyong, Cathy, the Guard, and perhaps even cameo from Mike’s Wife.    

In our creative conversations we have spoken about your choice to leave the scandal and controversy over the play out of this adaptation? What prompted you to make this choice?

Focusing on the scandal, to me, was not the right choice. I could have easily jumped all over the controversy, turning the adaptation into a satire of Mike’s work, and while musical theatre and satire have a predominantly happy relationship, I didn’t want to go there. I wanted to focus on Mike’s story. I wanted to take advantage of Mike’s brilliant narrative. It’s engaging, it’s funny, it’s compelling, and most of all – it’s important.

What can audiences expect to see at The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs: The Musical?

A lot of humor. A lot of seriousness. Familiar musical tropes and structures turned upside-down. Incredibly loud, intense moments. Incredibly soft, delicate moments. Activism. Passivism. Truth. Lies. Silver, white, and black. Vibrant color. A relatively frequent use of f-bombs.     

…and a really awesome Hawaiian shirt.

Adapted from the monologue by Mike Daisey
Written by Timothy Guillot
Directed by Ronee Penoi
July 11 – 28, 2013


Courtesy of Artist Bernhard Handick.
Courtesy of Artist Bernhard Handick.

at the Mountain – at Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church
900 Massachusetts Ave, NW DC 20001
Thursday, July 11 at 9pm
Sunday, July 14 at 2:15pm
Wednesday, July 17 at 6:15pm
Saturday, July 20 at 10pm
Tuesday, July 23 at 9pm
Sunday, July 28 at 4pm

PURCHASE TICKETS HERE, or by calling 866-811-4111.

Cast:  Steve Isaac, Mikey Cafarelli, Emily Kester, Phil Dickerson, and Gillian Han.

Creative Team: Timothy Guillot, Ronee Penoi, Meghan Long, Lorna Mulvaney, Marissa LaRose, Solomon HaileSelassie, Andrew Morrissey, Kevin Faragher, and Julie Dennis.

Follow us on Twitter @junesongarts



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