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Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company - Defy convention How Theater Failed America


created & performed by MIKE DAISEY

January 7 – 18, 2009

Plus, three free roundtable discussions. Click on schedule below for details.

OverviewWho's whoSchedule and PricesDirections & Parking

About the Show

Mike Daisey returns to Woolly Mammoth following his sold-out run of
If you See Something Say Something.

“The Master Storyteller” Mike Daisey (The New York Times) returns to Woolly Mammoth to sink his razor-sharp wit into a subject he knows well: the American theater. In this acclaimed monologue about theater, failure, passion, and hope, Daisey fearlessly takes stock of the state of theater in America: a shrinking world with smaller audiences every year. He tells his own story of a life in the theater, both hilarious and heartfelt, as he challenges us to believe in the power of live theater while questioning the state of things today. From gorgeous new theaters standing empty as cathedrals, to “successful” working actors traveling like migrant farmhands, to an arts culture unwilling to speak or listen to its own nation, Daisey seeks answers to essential and dangerous questions about the art we’re making, the legacy we leave the future, and who it is we believe we’re speaking to.

"...a FUNNY, SURPRISINGLY SUPPLE performance about
life in the theater...rendered here with EXPLOSIVE HUMOR
and a dark edge of tragedy."
Washington Post

"Gifted monologist Mike Daisey…takes on this taboo topic with scorching anger, humor and heart. 3 ½ stars"
Washington Times

[A] world-class raconteur."

"[Daisey] is full of passion and rage. Fierce energy...animates his storytelling [with] a great deal of subtle humor."
DC Theatre Scene

"Blending political anger with striking personal stories, this piece should reach anyone who believes in live performance."
– Variety

Check out the Washington Post's feature
article on Mike Daisey (1/2/09).





Who's Who



MIKE DAISEY(Creator and Performer) has been called “the master storyteller” and “one of the finest solo performers of his generation” by the New York Times for his groundbreaking monologues which weave together autobiography, gonzo journalism, and unscripted performance to tell hilarious and heartbreaking stories that cut to the bone, exposing secret histories and unexpected connections.  His monologues include last season’s critically acclaimed If You See Something Say Something, the controversial How Theater Failed America, the six-hour epic Great Men of Genius, the unrepeatable series All Stories Are Fiction, and the international sensation 21 Dog Years.  Over the last decade he has brought his work to venues including the Public Theater, the Cherry Lane Theater, the Barrow Street Theatre, Yale Repertory Theater, the Spoleto Festival, American Repertory Theatre, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Center Theater Group, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, the Noorderzon Festival, the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, Perseverance Theatre, Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, Intiman Theatre, the Under the Radar Festival, Melbourne’s Victorian College of the Arts, Performance Space 122, and many more.  He’s been a guest on the Late Show with David Letterman, as well as a commentator and contributor to Studio 360, WIRED, Vanity Fair, Slate, Salon, WNYC and the BBC.  His first film, Layover, was shown at the Cannes Film Festival this year, and a feature film of his monologue If You See Something Say Something will be released next year.  His first book, 21 Dog Years: A Cubedweller’s Tale, was published by the Free Press and his second book, a collected anthology of his monologues, will be published by TCG in the fall of 2010.  He has been nominated for the Outer Critics Circle Award, two Drama League Awards, and has been the recipient of the Bay Area Critics Circle Award, four Seattle Times Footlight Awards, the EST/Sloan Galileo Prize, and a MacDowell Fellowship.


JEAN-MICHELE GREGORY(Director) works as a director, editor, and dramaturg, focusing on unscripted, extemporaneous theatrical works that live in the moment they are told.  Working primarily with solo artists, for the last decade she has collaborated with monologist Mike Daisey, directing at venues across the globe including the Public Theater, the Barrow Street Theatre, the Cherry Lane Theater, Center Theater Group, the Under the Radar Festival, Yale Repertory Theatre, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Chicago’s Museum for Contemporary Art, American Repertory Theatre, the Spoleto Festival, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, the Noorderzon Festival, Intiman Theatre, ACT Theatre, Performance Space 122, the T:BA Festival, and many more.  She also works with New York storyteller Martin Dockery (Wanderlust, The Surprise) and the Seattle-based performer and writer Suzanne Morrison (Yoga Bitch, Your Own Personal Alcatraz).  Her productions have received three Seattle Times Footlight Awards (21 Dog Years, The Ugly American, Monopoly!), the Bay Area Critics Circle Award (Great Men of Genius), and nominations from the Drama League and Outer Critics Circle (If You See Something Say Something).


Schedule & Prices

January 7 – 18, 2009


The run of HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA is accompanied by roundtable discussions about the state of American theater on January 9th, 12th and 16th. The roundtables put theater administrators, funders, and critics in direct conversation with actors, directors, and technicians working in Washington DC theater in an attempt to honestly and critically assess where we stand.

All roundtables are moderated by Mike Daisey and are FREE. These are not post-show discussions, but rather open dialogues about the state of the art form, and the floor will be opened to audience questions and statements as well. To attend any performance, a ticket is required; however, anyone may attend the roundtable discussions for free.

Fri., January 9: “For-Profit, Non-Profit, No-Profit”
(Approximate start time of roundtable: 9:50pm)
Julianne Brienza, Executive Director – Capital Fringe Festival
Martha Knight, Stage Manager
Jacqueline E. Lawton, Dramaturg, Playwright, Teaching Artist
Bill O’Brien, Director of Theater and Musical Theater – National Endowment for the Arts
KenYatta Rogers, Actor/Director/Educator
Eric Schaeffer, Artistic Director – Signature Theatre
Harry Teter, Jr., General Manager – National Theatre

Mon., January 12: “The State of Our Union”
NOTE: This performance is sold out, but anyone may attend the roundtable afterward.  Approximate start time of roundtable: 9:20pm).
Jessica Dukes, actress & Woolly Mammoth Company Member
Rick Foucheux, actor & Woolly Mammoth Company Member
Michael Kahn, Artistic Director – Shakespeare Theatre Company
Blake Robison, Producing Artistic Director – Round House Theatre
Howard Shalwitz, Artistic Director – Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
Maggie Boland, Managing Director – Signature Theatre

Fri., Jan. 16: “American Theatre in 2034”
(Approximate start time of roundtable: 9:50pm)
Gabriela Fernandez-Coffey, Actress
Peter Marks, Theatre Critic – Washington Post
Jenny McConnell Frederick, Co-Artistic Director – Rorschach Theatre
David Muse, Associate Artistic Director – Shakespeare Theatre Co.; Freelance Director
Shirley Serotsky, Director of Literary & Public Programs – Theater J; Freelance Director
Jeremy Skidmore, Producer – Source Festival; Freelance Director
Molly Smith, Artistic Director – Arena Stage

Wednesday, January 7, 8pm
Thursday, January 8, 8pm
Friday, January 9, 8pm
Saturday, January 10, 8pm
Sunday, January 11, 2pm
Sunday, January 11, 7pm

Wednesday, January 14, 8pm
Thursday, January 15, 8pm
Friday, January 16, 8pm
Saturday, January 17, 8pm
Sunday, January 18, 2pm
Sunday, January 18, 7pm


All seats $25!



Directions & Parking


641 D Street, NW
Washington, DC 20004

View Larger Map


Nearby landmarks:

Woolly Mammoth is located in the bustling Penn Quarter neighborhood on D Street between Oyamel and Rasika restaurants, around the corner from TicketPlace, and down the street from Shakespeare Theatre Company's Lansburgh theatre. We are two blocks north of the National Archives and National Gallery of Art and two blocks south of the Verizon Center and the Smithsonian American Art Museum/Portrait Gallery.


  • Take the Yellow or Green line to Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter. Get off at 7th Street and Indiana Avenue, walk up 7th Street about a block, turn right on D Street, and you will see us.
  • Take the Red, Yellow, or Green lines to Gallery Place-Chinatown. Get off at the 7th and F Street exit, walk two blocks down 7th Street (toward The National Museum of Crime and Punishment), and turn left onto D Street, you will see us immediately on your left.
  • Check train schedules here


  • The 70, 71, D1, D3, and D6 buses stop at the corner of 7th Street and E Street. Get off of the bus, walk south on 7th Street (toward Jaleo), continue 1 block and turn left on D Street, we are immediately on your left.
  • The P1, P2, P6, 13A, 13B, 13F, 13G, and 54 buses stop at 7th Street & Pennsylvania Ave. Head north on 7th Street toward Indiana Ave. (you will see the Metro stop for Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter-Gallery Place). Walk about 2 blocks and turn right onto D Street, we are on the left.
  • Not all of these buses have the same route for both directions, so please use WMATA's Trip Planner here.


There is limited metered street parking in the Penn Quarter near Woolly Mammoth, in addition to the following parking garages:

  • LAZ, 325 7th St. NW (entrance is on D Street, directly across from the theatre). Open late during Woolly productions, $10 evening rate when you mention youíre going to Woolly.
    Mobility-impaired patrons, please be aware: LAZ shuts off its elevators on the weekends. Mobility-impaired patrons who wish to use this garage should ask the attendant to park their car in the garage for them. Other options include the Interpark garage at 616 E St. NW which offers an elevator that lets out onto 7th St. opposite The Shakespeare Theatre.
  • Interpark, 616 E St NW. Open until 11pm Sunday - Friday and 1am Saturday, $9/hour (maximum $20).
  • Interpark Liberty Place, 325 7th St. NW. Open late during Woolly productions.
  • Colonial Parking, 601 Pennsylvania Ave (entrance at 6th & C). Open until midnight Monday - Saturday and until 11 pm Sunday, $10 flat evening and weekend rate.*

Garage prices and hours subject to change without notice

Driving Directions

From Virginia via I-395: When crossing the river bear left towards the 14th Street exit. Follow 14th Street, until Constitution Avenue and take a right. Turn left on 6th Street and another left onto D Street NW. (Note, earlier directions indicated the 12th Street Exit, which is currently closed for construction.)

From Virginia via I-66: Take I-66 into the District when it becomes US-50. Turn left onto 7th St NW. Turn right onto D St NW.

From Bethesda, Rockville, Potomac and points west: Reach Wisconsin Ave., NW via either Interstate 270 and River Road or Rockville Pike (which becomes Wisconsin Ave.) Remain on Wisconsin Ave. until reaching Massachusetts Ave., NW just south of the National Cathedral. Take Massachusetts all the way to 9th St. Turn right on 9th. Turn left on D St.

From Rt. 50, Baltimore and points east: Reach New York Ave., NE via either Rt. 50, I95 or the Baltimore Washington Parkway. Remain on New York Ave. all the way downtown to 6th St., NW. Turn left on 6th St. Turn right on D St.



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Mike Daisey, photos by
Kenneth Aaron


When Mike premiered this show Off-Broadway, he led a series of roundtables about the state of the theatre in New York and nationally. The community—from administrators to actors to critics to patrons—gathered in droves to air their concerns about the current climate and propose a healthier vision for the future.  Woolly Mammoth jumped at the chance to be the first (and thus far only) regional theatre to host this show and the dialogue surrounding it.  We are looking forward to gathering with our colleagues to tackle tough questions about the role theatre can and should play in the Nation’s Capitol.

Howard Shalwitz

Woolly Mammoth would like to thank the following patrons for their generous support of
How Theater Failed America:

Shannon & Michael Alford
James C. Byrnes
James & Andrea Hamos
Chas Hausheer & Sheila Sweeney
Miriam J. Cutler & Paul Salditt
David & Hope Kosier
Julie Rios
Scott & Evelyn Schreiber
Adrienne & David Umansky


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