Mike Daisey in The Last Cargo Cult. Photo: Berkeley Rep.

At the end of every performance of  “The Last Cargo Cult” at Berkeley Rep, monologist Mike Daisey invited the audience to return to him some of the cash that had been handed out at the beginning of the show.

As members of the audience had walked in, they had been handed crisp $1, $5, $10, $20 or $100 bills.

The money represented what Berkeley Rep had paid him for each performance. Daisey challenged the audience to decide how much his show was worth. They were informed they could keep the money, give it back, or even add a little extra.

So after six weeks of performances, did Daisey re-earn his salary? Did he make any extra?

Apparently Daisey brought in a whopping $1,169 and half cents in profit, according to the Berkeley Rep blog.  Audiences clearly felt the solo performance was worth more than the price of the ticket.

The theater also recorded some choice audience reactions as they entered the theatre. Here are a few of them:

“Oh my God, I got a dollar!”

“Ten bucks? Dad, I got ten bucks!”

“No thanks. I don’t need it.”

“Cool. Now I can get a cookie.”

“Oh. Did I drop this?”

“I get $5 and he gets $1? I like this!”

“How do I have to humiliate myself to keep this?”

“There’s a small hole in this dollar. I bet that’s significant.”

When handed a $10, a confused woman kept repeating, “But parking was only $5.”

A wife got $100 while her husband got $1. She said, “Relax, it isn’t real.”

A woman who received $100 spent preshow examining it for flaws.

A woman stood her ground until the moneyhandler gave her $5 instead of $1.

When a wife got a $1 and her husband got a $5, she said, “I am not giving this back! This is blatantly unfair.”

“Why don’t I just give it to the homeless man outside?” (She refused the money and went into the theatre slightly peeved.)

Update, 10:25am: Mike Daisey responded to this story with a comment which we thought was worth sharing here:

“Audiences clearly felt the solo performance was worth more than the price of the ticket.”

While that would be nice, it isn’t exactly the dynamic that was playing out. What this posting fails to mention is that the money I give out each night is my own, not the theater’s–it is, in fact, every dollar I have been paid for the performance that they are watching at that moment.

Checking the churn of the performance, many audience members take the money they’ve been given and leave, while other’s choose to be more generous–but is their contribution connected to the original ticket price, or to my fee, which is made up entirely of what is in the bowl?

We’ll be posting much more comprehensively on this in the future, once the economist and statistician have worked through all of the data.

Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...