Jessica Moss is the writer, co-creator and sole actor in MODERN LOVE, a tale of love and mis-connections in our complicated world of social media. She had the time in her schedule to answer some questions for me about the show and about gearing up for The Next Stage Festival. Read On!
Q:. Tell me about the play and your role in bringing it to the Next Stage Festival.
A: MODERN LOVE looks at web connectivity and relationships, both online and off. It looks at this through the eyes of Trish, a girl who has 660 Facebook friends but still feels lonely. With her, we travel through a Web Wonderland of sorts, through dating sites, chat rooms, Skype, Twitter, text messaging, and other online encounters, while she tries to connect with people, both IRL and on URLs.
It’s about things that everyone can relate to: loneliness, identity, and Facebook. But these very commonplace things are talked about theatrically, in a highly physical, stylized way. The piece couldn’t be told through any medium other than theatre.
I wrote it, and I’m in it.
Q: Where/How did the idea for the show originate?
A: With my precarious relationship to Facebook and my dazzling array of anxiety problems. I wanted to talk about how I knew so much about my friend’s lives, but I felt like we were getting farther and farther apart. About how anyone can get a hold of me instantaneously now, but I still feel out of touch. About the idea of a ‘friend’ being someone you collect on a website and don’t relate to in real life. I knew that I wanted to do this as a one person show, where I could simultaneously create a zany, over populated world, and a world of isolation, and/or one body on their own.
Eric Double and Julia Nish Lapidus of Theatre Caravel, who I knew from performing at their company’s events and just from around the theatre community, were applying for a young artists’ residency with Canadian Stage and they needed a project to apply with. We came together and then brought on Kyle Purcell, who is a multimedia genius and takes care of the considerable tech element in the show. We were very fortunate to have a performance slot at the Festival of Ideas and Creation in May, and from there, we applied to Next Stage and have expanded the piece to what it is today.
It’s been about a year since we began and it’s kind of amazing where we’ve been able to go.
Q: Love and relationships certainly have changed since the Social Media explosion. Do you think it's for better or for worse?
A: I think there are positives and negatives. There are beautiful things about distance no longer being a problem, being able to be in people’s lives when you can’t physically be with them, being able to connect so quickly for help or support. But there are things that are falling away, like time spent face-to-face, being able to keep secrets, holding someone’s hand.
Either way, the conclusion I came to working on the play is that social media, in various, constantly changing forms, is here to stay. We have to find ways to love each other and show that love meaningfully with and through technology. Because loving people, and missing people, and wanting to connect, those things are here to stay too.
Q: How many facebook friends do you have? How many of them are actually your friends?
A: I have between 690 and 692 friends on Facebook…I think people keep deleting me or deactivating their account, because it fluctuates a lot. When people delete me, I go through a fairly serious depression about it. I have a policy that I have to actually know the person in real life to add them to Facebook. So I do know everyone. But ‘friend’….well, that word is changing now. I don’t tell Facebook everything. At all.
Q: How's the experience been with the Next Stage Festival? For NSTF newbies, what can you recommend?
A: I’m so incredibly grateful to the Next Stage Festival. It’s a wonderful opportunity for someone like me, and for all of us involved in MODERN LOVE. We’re artists who are fighting out there, trying to put on our own work, and it’s very difficult. The boon of a company like Toronto Fringe helping us out is huge. It really helps. It helps in that it is an opportunity to put on a show, to gain exposure, to practice our work and hopefully get better at it as we move forward. And it also helps in that it is a vote of confidence: artists experience a lot of rejection, so every now and then you need someone to believe in you, to trust you enough to let you try. The members of the Fringe team are the most incredible, talented people, and they care so much about theatre in Toronto.
I recommend that NSTF newbies go with an open mind and see as much as possible!
And warm up in the beer tent.
Q: Other than your show, are there any other "must sees" at the NSTF?
A: Honestly, the festival itself is something to experience, and half of the fun is discovering shows, lucking out and finding a surprise that you love. I’m excited for everything, and I can’t pick one show over another. Just go. See a play. See ten plays, if you can.
But please come to MODERN LOVE. And text me if you like it.
The Next Stage Festival runs from Jan 4-15 at the Factory Theatre (Mainspace & Studio Theatre). MODERN LOVE opens Thurs, Jan. 5 @6:30pm. For tickets click here or call 416-966-1062.