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China Daily 10-19-2012


Apple of our eyes
Xu Lin


The Chinese version of a smash hit play about the morality of producing Apple products will premiere in China at the end of the month. Xu Lin gets a sneak peek.

For many Apple die-hard fans, their obsession with the products has evolved into reverence for the company's co-founder, Steve Jobs. Oct 5 marked the one-year death anniversary of Jobs and perhaps, one of the best ways to remember the man is by watching the play The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.

His Chinese fans will be delighted to know that avant-garde director Wang Chong is bringing the premiere of the theatrical monologue's Chinese version to the capital at the end of October.

"It's the perfect timing to put it onstage because Apple has just released iPhone 5 and will unveil iPad mini soon. It's interesting that these high-tech toys are monopolizing our lives right now," he says.

The one-man show was written by American writer and actor Mike Daisey, who flew to a factory of Apple Inc's main manufacturer, Foxconn, in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, to interview the assembly line workers.

Since its debut in the United States in 2010, the documentary theater has attracted much media attention although it was later discovered that some of the stories were fabricated.

After Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak watched the show in 2011, he said in an interview with The New York Times that he "will never be the same after seeing that show".

It is a play that portrays the author's love for Apple products, the genius of Jobs, the history of Apple and the negative working conditions of the factory workers, such as having to work overtime. The monologist realizes the human price one pays for the stylish gadgets after talking to some workers.

"I also like iPhone because it's user-friendly. One may take it for granted that these stylish gadgets just popped out of Jobs' head. Actually, manufacturing an iPhone involves sophisticated processes," Wang says.

"The middle-class is detached from the workers and they don't think much about the bitter experiences of the workers, as they live different lives," he says.

There is a scene in which the performer takes a photo of a young factory girl whose job is to wipe iPhones every day and says maybe she has wiped his mobile phone before.

"The girl is unsophisticated and doesn't kick up a fuss. I feel bitter about it. She is just one of the tens of thousands of invisible workers. We must hear their voices," Wang says.

In the last scene, the actor jumps from the desk 13 times continuously, before he rips away a big curtain with the picture of Jobs on it. Behind the curtain reveals headshots of 40 people, symbolizing young workers, not just from Foxconn factory, but also other industrial units in the world.

"The audience will be shocked by the ending. Yet, many will be reminded of a series of suicide cases involving workers from the company in 2010.

"Although we're living in a globalized world, Chinese theater rarely tackles the theme. The production is not aimed at blaming anyone for their indifference but to trigger deeper thought about globalization and its effects," says Wang.

He says monologue is rare in China, because Chinese theater usually delves into collective images in a certain era rather than individual feelings.

The actor controls lighting, music and multi-media by himself. He uses two iPads on stage: to play background music and to project visuals onto the screen.

"Because everything is transparent to the audience, they will see through the theater illusion, the fakeness. But they will also know that we're touching on real issues. The use of Apple products is like a paradox and tends to make us introspective," Wang says.

"Everyone should watch it, no matter whether you like or hate Apple. Not everyone has an iPhone or iPad but most people have mobile phones, which are handmade by such workers."

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