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Play exploring life of Steve Jobs to be performed at Technological Institute

Paige Leskin, Reporter

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A play detailing the life of Steve Jobs and the growth of Apple under his leadership is coming to the Technological Institute on Friday, as part of an engineering professor’s continuing effort to merge science and theater.

The production is presented by the Engineering Transdisciplinary Outreach Project in the Arts, a program run through the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. In its sixth season, ETOPiA sponsors an annual free play for the Northwestern community.

The organization was created by McCormick Prof. Matthew Grayson, who is in the electrical engineering and computer science department. He said he sees his teaching position as a way to unite these subjects with theater.

“We’re trying to communicate science to the public,” he said.

Titled “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” the play explores Jobs’ role as CEO of Apple and how he transformed the company and the technological world. It also looks at the labor processes used to make Apple products. Grayson, who said he chose the play based on its relevance to the community, described the play as both “retrospective on the history of Apple and Jobs” and “critical of the (Jobs) era.”

The piece being performed at Tech is a revised version of the original, a monologue written by performer Mike Daisey. Daisey was criticized for the play when it was revealed that some portions were fabricated after National Public Radio’s show “This American Life” aired an excerpt.

Grayson said he expects the play’s focus on Apple products’ labor processes to create a lot of talk. He stressed that it will show audience members how much they take these processes for granted.

Weinberg sophomore Karsh Sahay said he is interested in seeing how the play illustrates Apple’s place in influencing labor processes.

“Apple has to (strike) the balance between human capital and technological innovation, but all in all, this company can’t be blamed for the actual society that allows this practice,” he said.

The play will be directed and performed by award-winning Chicago actor Lance Baker. Grayson praised Baker, saying he is “very educated in the nuances of the performance.”

Baker’s stage will be a small lecture hall in Tech that seats only 90 people, an atypical performance spot. But Grayson said this is “part of the charm” of the production.

“You need one performer, one audience member, and you have theater,” he said.

The set-up includes minimal lighting and set dressing, but Grayson emphasized that only these small changes are needed to transform the space.

Grayson said he understands Tech is not primarily known for theater, and he uses that fact to his advantage. By creating a “series of unexpected events,” Grayson said he hopes to create a dialogue among audience members. To facilitate these conversations, each performance will be followed by a discussion led by various panelists, including Grayson and other professors.

McCormick senior Sam Toizer said he is attending the play. He said he was pleased with last year’s ETOPiA play and has read Jobs’ biography.

“Jobs is a crazy intelligent person and had a really awesome life story,” he said.

The play will run Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. until Oct. 20.

Twitter: @paigeleskin


About the Writer
Paige Leskin, Managing Editor

Paige is a Medill sophomore studying political science and journalism. Her past positions at The Daily include city editor and covering the City Council...