Does The Last Cargo Cult prove Atlantans are cheap?

When I entered the Alliance Hertz Stage last week for Mike Daisey’s The Last Cargo Cult, an usher holding a stack of cash handed me a $10 bill. “Great!” I thought. “This is one of the best plays ever, and it hasn’t even started yet!”

During the monologue, Daisey alluded to the money: how it consisted of denominations from $1 to $100, and how no doubt the people who got the higher denominations feel superior to those who got lower ones. One of the play’s recurring themes holds that money has no inherent value beyond what we (as a society) agree to assign to it. Then, near the end, Daisey revealed that the money he had distributed was his actual payment for that particular performance. For his last words to the audience, he brought out a glass punch bowl and said that he’d like the money back, since he needs it to live on, but made it optional for his ticket-buying public. We could return it, we could add a little more to support him, we could give back less than we’d received, or keep the whole thing. Since I got in on a press pass and had not actually paid for the show, I would’ve felt weird hanging onto the $10, so I gave it back. I noted that several of the $100s were in the punchbowl by the time I got to it.

Later, I had a chance to chat with Daisey via email, and I asked him about the money stunt: