Moon #7: “The Naked Emperor is Still Laughing”
“All story is struggle. And this is our secret history.”
Mike Daisey works two very different angles in the intro to Part Seven of his 29-part theatrical opus, All the Faces of the Moon. The result is a PACKED episode, but these two angles are important, because they further accentuate the ways in which this insanely ambitious performance differs so drastically from typical theater.
First, he has a lot of fun with the fact that this seventh performance is the production’s official “opening night.” That there is an official opening night for an episodic experience that is different every night illustrates just how unsuited the round hole of the traditional American Theater is for a delightfully square peg like Daisey. The distinction could seem worse than useless; it could actually come off as condescending to what Daisey is trying to accomplish, but he takes it in stride, claiming that this opening at least takes place at a key “chakra point” in the story. After six episodes of setup, he suggests that this one is the first one that really counts.
This seventh episode is also informed by the date on which it took place – the twelfth anniversary of 9/11. It’s a territory no other production could dream of covering so comprehensively, but again because of the overall length and timing, Daisey can afford himself a little time to reflect. He plots a delicate, but thoughtful course through the particulars of the subject, and thanks to his his usual dry humor and keen observations it never feels like “a very special episode of…” Perhaps most bracing is Daisey’s wondering if we are being “too dramatic” when we say that everything changed after 9/11. He offers a telling answer while giving us brief a tour of where all the characters, his “deck of cards,” were on 9/11 – Livia, the teenaged girl delivering a message for the Grey Lady, was only 4 years old when the attacks occurred. It becomes clear just how much things did change, Dasiey says, when you consider that there are those alive now who do not remember anything of the world before 9/11 and our current state of emergency and war.
He takes time to consider America’s current geopolitical status – including Syria and what he calls our “thuggish” mentality when dealing with other countries. This leads him down a rabbit hole about the atrocities and coups America has helped inflict upon the world. In his recent speech on Syria, President Obama called America the “anchor of global security,” a concept that Daisey finds horrifying knowing the things that America has done and continues to do in the name of this “security.” This information isn’t hidden or contested, he says, it’s just not talked about. It’s ignored. But Daisey’s point here is far from political – he’s helping build a case for a key aspect of his own story. His point lies in the way people can ignore terrible things that are happening right in front of them. If you can believe that, he says, you can easily believe that there is magic everywhere that we just don’t see.
The main story of this episode finds young Daisey and his friend Gibbs learning about these invisible mysteries. They are trading tarot cards for stories with Phil, an alcoholic who lives in a shack in the woods. As they ply him with porn and booze, Phil helps initiate them into an enigmatic world of shadows and symbols. Daisey makes time for just one of Phil’s stories, one called “The Dreamer” concerning a man named Carl, who confronted the darker side of himself by drawing the ghastly visions from his dreams in a book. Carl, who went onto create a “framework” to better understand these visions, sounds an awful lot like Carl Jung with his “Red Book.”
Much like Carl, young Daisey must confront this underworld directly at the end of the episode, when Gibbs introduces him to an icky form of divination involving flies and sugar packets.