Behind The Screen, from Realities (Day 19)

If you’ve been keeping up with the story of Realities, you know that the wheelchair-bound Alex has a new physical therapist, Anna, who is reawakening not only his body but his emotions. It turns out, though, that there’s a rival for Anna’s affections: ALICE, short for “Algorithmic Linguistic Interactive Computer Interface,” a quasi-human presence that Alex has coded into his operating system. (Remember, Steve and I wrote this nearly 20 years before Siri and “Her!“)

In my dream production, ALICE would played by the same actress who plays Cybil, though the role was sung by a different actress (the magnificent Claudia Carlsson) in this recording. Alice is the product of technology and stage magic, a disembodied voice and an impossibly alluring, constantly changing image. In time, she is joined by a chorus of “Microchips,” dancers dressed in unitards and cowls which are studded with small flashing electric lights. Their costumes make them look sleek, not even human – perhaps like something out of Alwin Nikolais – regrouping in various patterns as they dance.

ALICE
Never mind the limits of the body.
Never mind the boundaries we know.
In cyberspace
There’s not a place
The human race can’t learn to go…

Behind the screen
Behind the screen
There is a magic world that no one’s ever seen
Behind the screen
A world serene
A place that shimmers in a ghostly shade of green
A world of order
A world of light
A world where logic makes everything go right…
Behind the screen,
There are no victims,
There are no heroes,
Just ones and zeroes
Behind the screen

MICROCHIPS
One one zero zero (etc)

ALICE
A perfect world awaits you here,
Where all the answers will finally appear.
No ambiguity, all things are clear.
Won’t you join me?
Come and join me….

You’ll find no problems, you’ll find no pain.
You’ll find no questions that reason can’t explain.
Unlock the power that’s hidden in your brain.
Come and join me.
Won’t you come to me?

Forget your body and learn to fly.
You’ll move with perfect grace in cyberspace,
You only have to try.
Across the matrix, just you and I.
We’ll reach the speed of light,
Beyond the night we’ll go,
Together!

MICROCHIPS
One one zero zero (etc)

Re-reading the libretto for Realities, I can’t help feeling stirred by the audaciousness of what Steve and I dreamed up. Playwright Paula Vogel, when she teaches a workshop, has an exercise where she challenges her students to write something “impossible to stage,” and this falls squarely into that category. The drama of Realities is derived largely from the tension between two contrasting worlds: the real world of meatspace, where gravity, poverty and entropy keep us earthbound, and the alternate world of cyberspace, where anything is possible and perfection is attainable. Which one of those realities would YOU choose to live in?

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