Daniel and I went to see Mike Daisey’s ambitious 24-hour monologue (All the Hours in the Day), which was part of PICA’s TBA festival this year. We should have prepared better, because we couldn’t keep going after thirteen hours. I don’t know how Mike Daisey made it. By the end he was talking a little slower, but held it together far better than I.
Before the event, people kept asking me why someone would do something like this. Since I’m not Mike Daisey and therefore could not give an answer, I instead reflected on the history of performance art. Endurance has always been a theme: how far can we push ourselves? What are the limits of our abilities? What can we learn about being human from these experiences?
Now that I have been through the event, and had some time (not enough) to reflect on it, I would say that the whole of it was a metaphor for life: it is long yet short, often trying, curious and indefinite, but ultimately without a clear purpose and invested with only as much meaning as we are willing to allow. Sitting through that monologue was hard (as hard as the wooden seats we had to sit in). The way that time seemed to shift around me was surprising; it went by more quickly than I’d thought. I felt like I had lost a day: not because it was a waste of time, but because it didn’t feel like all that time went by. All day Sunday I could not shake the feeling that it was Saturday. I felt I had lost something, but couldn’t explain what. I’m still not sure if that feeling had anything to do with the flexibility of time or not.
Mike Daisey began by sitting down behind a large table, on stage, and taking a shot of vodka. He carefully laid out a handkerchief and a Colt 45. Then he said, “There is not enough time to tell you everything you need to hear.” Many in the audience laughed. Not enough time in a 24-hour monologue? How funny! We were quickly disabused of that opinion; he told us how, in life, we never have enough time to say the things we want to say to the people we love. It became clear, in that first 45 minutes, that he would not let us off easy. This was not a joyride. This was not a joke – but it wasn’t to be taken too seriously either.
He wove a complex story, where fact and fiction blended together until they were indistinguishable from one another. Bits of narrative would begin in one place, get dropped, and then emerge again eight hours later. In trying to describe to people what it was like, I told them it was as if Daisey was weaving a complex tapestry of narrative. A thread would begin here and pick up there, filling in a picture that the audience could not see until it was laid before us. It ranged all over the human condition: hope, fear, loss, grief, depression, happiness, love – it was a long ride. I laughed, I cried, I sat until my ass fell asleep and then until I fell asleep.
After thirteen hours, I turned to Daniel and said I thought it was time to go. I arrived intending to stay the whole twenty-four hours. Working an eight-hour day immediately before was not wise. I had also had trouble sleeping for the two nights before, the worst insomnia I’ve ever experienced in my life. It seems perverse; sleeping is the one thing I never have trouble doing. But then I am terrible at staying awake – I only ever pulled an all-nighter once in my nine years of higher education. I was such a basket case in class that I decided it wasn’t worth having finished the research paper, and vowed to never do it again. Until All the Hours in the Day, I hadn’t even tried.
I slept from 8am until 2pm, the dead sleep of the truly exhausted. Then I watched the rest of Daisey’s monologue streaming live from his blog. The story clearly went some interesting places while I was gone, but nothing was incomprehensible; everything had made an original appearance before I left. I’m sorry I missed so much. I don’t know how he went on.
Finally, he came to the end (which I wasn’t at all sure he would reach): There isn’t enough time to tell you everything you need to hear, he said. This time, no one laughed.
Read more about Mike Daisey’s performance here: TBA Diary and here: (Semi-)Live Blog. But really, you had to be there. It was just one of those things. I’m not at all sure that I should publish this post. It seems like there is so much more I could say, more I could describe, deeper I could go. All the Hours in the Day will sit with me for years to come.
As much as I wish I could have made it through the whole, I’m glad I had the sense to go home and take care of myself. I only get one day a week off with Daniel, and sleeping next to him when neither of us have to get up and go to work is one of the more beautiful things in my life. Life is short, sometimes shockingly so, as Daisey reminded us, so I’ll take what I can get.