NEW YORK — Mike Daisey, the off-Broadway performer who admitted he made up parts of his one-man show about Apple products being made in Chinese sweatshops, has cut questionable sections from the monologue and added a prologue explaining the controversy.
Oskar Eustis, artistic director of the Public Theater, where the monologue is being performed, said Saturday that Mr. Daisey has "eliminated anything he doesn't feel he can stand behind" from the show and added a section at the beginning in which he addresses the questions over how he has been portraying the work to the media.
Mr. Eustis called the prologue "the best possible frame we could give the audience for the controversy" and said Mr. Daisey agreed to make the changes — which are "his and his alone" — himself.
"Mike is a great storyteller, not a journalist. I wish he had been clearer about that distinction in the making of this piece," Mr. Eustis said. "If we had understood the rules Mike was using to make the show, we would have framed it differently from the outset."
Mr. Daisey portrayed his work as fact during a media blitz to promote his critically acclaimed show, and he misled dozens of news and entertainment outlets, including the popular public radio show "This American Life," the Associated Press, The New York Times, MSNBC and HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher."
But in an interview with "This American Life" host Ira Glass broadcast Friday, Mr. Daisey acknowledged that some of the claims in his show, "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," weren't true. The show retracted its Jan. 6 episode because Mr. Glass said he couldn't vouch for the truth of its claims.
Mr. Daisey, who admitted Friday on his website that the work is a mix of fact and fiction, did not respond to questions sent to his personal email account, and his publicist did not respond to a request for comment Saturday.
The controversy is unlikely to lessen the media scrutiny of the Chinese factories that make Apple products, since news outlets including the Times have reported about the dangerous working conditions in them, including explosions inside iPad plants where four people were killed and 77 were injured.
But some of Mr. Daisey's older monologues might get a second look.
"If he had only chosen to actually utilize what theater allows you to do — which is to transform fact into something that retains an emotional truth," said Howard Sherman, a former executive director of the American Theatre Wing and an arts administrator and producer. He didn't see Mr. Daisey's show but said he thought it might "call into question people who do this in the future."
Mr. Daisey is just the latest artist to apparently get tripped up by the truth — joining a list that includes James Frey, who admitted that he lied in his memoir "A Million Little Pieces," and Greg Mortenson, who is accused of fabricating key parts of his best-selling book "Three Cups of Tea."
The controversy raised once again the question of the artist's role in society and what his or her responsibility is to the truth. And has Mr. Daisey ultimately harmed the very people he was trying to help?
Terry Teachout, chief theater critic for the Wall Street Journal, called Mr. Daisy a talented artist but said the episode was "unforgivable," and Peter Marks, the critic for The Washington Post, tweeted that Mr. Daisey's "zeal seems to have gotten the better of his judgment." Chris Jones at the Chicago Tribune suspected Mr. Daisey "was seduced by the glare of attention."
The controversy put the Public Theater in a difficult spot, protective of artists, but also sensitive to audience concerns.
"We do not and cannot fact-check our artists; we're a theater, not a news organization. The vast majority of what occurs on our stages is fiction. If we didn't believe fiction could reveal truth, we would have to give up our profession. With that said, it obviously matters a great deal to me that our audience understands what they are seeing," Mr. Eustis said.
Mr. Daisey, who performs his monologues seated at a desk and using notes, has previously tackled everything from dysfunctional dot-coms to the international financial crisis. A movie has been made of his monologue "If You See Something Say Something," and in a weird twist, he did a 2006 show called "Truth" about how art and fact mix. In it, Mr. Daisey admitted he once fabricated a story because it "connected" with the audience.
Mr. Daisey told Mr. Glass he felt conflicted about presenting things he knew weren't true. But he said he felt "trapped" and was afraid people would no longer care about the abuses at the factories if he didn't present things in a dramatic way.
In an interview with the AP last year when his show was first in New York, Mr. Daisey's passion for humane treatment of Chinese workers was evident.
"Artists are people who are called to action," he said. "If they're not active then they're probably asleep."
An Apple spokeswoman declined again to comment on the revelations about the monologue. The company has been rebutting Mr. Daisey's allegations for months, to little effect.
Before he scrubbed the monologue, he described traveling to the Chinese industrial zone of Shenzhen and interviewing hundreds of workers from Foxconn Technology Group, the world's largest electronics contract manufacturer. Mr. Daisey said he stood outside the gate with a translator and met workers as young as 12 and some whose joints were damaged because they performed the same action thousands of times a shift.
"I talk to people whose joints in their hands have disintegrated from working on the line, doing the same motion hundreds and hundreds of thousands of times. It's like carpal tunnel on a scale we can scarcely imagine," he said, according to a transcript of the show. Later in the monologue, he said he met workers poisoned by the chemical hexane, used to clear iPhone screens.
But "This American Life" reported Mr. Daisey's Chinese interpreter disputed many of the artist's claims when contacted by Rob Schmitz, a China correspondent for the public radio show "Marketplace." Among them, the translator said guards outside the factory weren't armed, Mr. Daisey never met workers from a secret union and he never visited factory dorm rooms.
Mr. Daisey told Mr. Glass he didn't meet any poisoned workers and guessed at the ages of some he met. He also said some details he used were things he read about happening elsewhere.
"I'm not going to say that I didn't take a few shortcuts in my passion to be heard," he told Mr. Glass. "But I stand behind the work. My mistake, the mistake that I truly regret is that I had it on your show as journalism, and it's not journalism. It's theater."
In the edited monologue, Mr. Eustis said Mr. Daisey acknowledges "that his translator, Cathy, does not remember things which he does remember."
Apple's popularity among consumers and investors alike has only grown while Mr. Daisey has been railing against the company. Since his one-man show hit the stage in the summer of 2010, Apple has sold more than 74 million iPhones, more than 35 million iPads and more than 29 million iPods.
Mr. Daisey's embellishments threaten to set back the efforts to improve the working conditions in China and other countries where many trendy gadgets are made, said veteran technology analyst Rob Enderle.
He said he fears Mr. Daisey's tainted credibility will embolden more U.S. companies to turn a blind eye to how the assembly-line workers are being treated in the overseas factories run by their contractors.