if you can get to buffalo (wing dings)

mes amis—

I’ll save my very belated 2014 apologies and winter festival musings for another post. For time is of the essence. Trish Harnetiaux’s If You Can Get to Buffalo: An exploration of ‘A Rape in Cyberspace’ by Julian Dibbell is due to open at the Incubator Arts Project on Thursday.

I met Trish years ago when she was living above Tina Satter in a cute Williamsburgish loft owned by an older Italian gentleman. Still remember the aromas of that mahogonay hallway and the lace on the front door. Trish’s warmth matches her wit and it was with great pleasure that I found out more about her latest progetto…via the interwebs of course! Ours was an emailed interview. 


initiate, for our readers, just what the “rape in cyber space” story is about
“A Rape in Cyberspace” is an article that Julian Dibbell wrote in the Village Voice in 1993, about one of the very first online communities called LambdaMoo.  It was a virtual mansion where members created characters, entirely through text, and created a community that interacted socially online.

my, my! I recall the chat rooms of my youth .. a snowy saturday, a young man from kentucky, and my mother’s expression concern as my father made me a grilled cheese.
well then, tell me more about how you adapted/riffed on dibbell’s oevre.
I was doing research into the beginnings of the Internet, was really interested in the origins of online social interactions and found Julian Dibbell’s article from a 1993 Village Voice article called “A Rape in Cyberspace.” It was not only a fascinating story of the demise of one of the very first online ‘utopia’s’ but the article was written in this amazing voice that somehow captured the spirit of this new world—both the freedom and the dangers of it. Then, poking around Julian’s personal site (… total stalker)

…aren’t we all!
I stumbled upon a subsequent Charlie Rose Show episode that he was on.


charlie rose and i used to play tennis you know. carry on.
Again, in 1993 people, of course, didn’t have the vocabulary we do now (except for people like Julian) when talking about how things worked on the internet. It was amazing. So I took the idea of a Charlie Rose show being part of the structure of this play (there are actually fictionalized Charlie Rose scenes) and mashed it all together also including a look inside the odd, beautiful and occasionally disturbing relationships we find online. It’s been 20 years since the article has come out and as a society we’re in a much different place, we like to think that we “know” how the internet story ends, but what’s been so interesting is seeing how confusing the anonymity aspect still is.

I mean, we still argue over the question of whether we are responsible for our own online experiences… Interestingly enough, the episode of Charlie Rose that I reference has since been completely erased from the web.

i smell a conspiracy theory.
Then, director Eric Nightengale and I began the real work over the last four years of drafts, readings, workshops, long hiatuses and basically trying to find a way to tell this complicated story theatrically. Which I really believe we’ve accomplished with If You Can Get To Buffalo. It’s funny though, it’s probably not the play I thought I was writing back at the beginning, the process has been as much about elimination as it has been about crafting.

aye, the mark of a true artist is knowing what to edit. allora, what were your first experiences like with the internet?
Well, early on, I remember trying to hack the White House website.

c’est vrais?!
I spent hours thinking I could find something, some evidence or something, that was hidden… But, of course, I didn’t find anything, probably because I’m not a hacker, and probably because what I was actually doing was just clicking on links. But I didn’t really know that. Besides some early chat room dabblings however, I haven’t ever committed myself to an online community, so researching this one has been eventful. I definitely consider myself in the generation that uses email as a huge tool and also aware enough to recognize it’s full of tonal dysfunctions, but that’s different. Or is it?  I mean, in a way when you’re using the Internet as a basis for communication, which is partially what we’re examining, I’ve found in my life that it’s easier to be bolder or more measured or it can easily go the other way and the immediacy of your actions can be more hasty and reactionary.

what has changed/developed since when you did it back in may?
The production we did with the Acme Corporation in Baltimore was instrumental in the show we have today. I’ve made a healthy amount of rewrites and Eric and I took everything we learned—both good and bad—and made major adjustments. Besides this, I think that us working with Rob Erickson on the mostly original music has been huge!

love me a lumberbob!
Not only in finding a new tone, but Rob’s helped us fill out the world of the play through a sound that’s so authentic to the time period. And, not to give anything away, but he’s also contributed some sly choreography.

stop! now i am on tenterhooks. well then. he’s not the only star in your cast, why there’s starr busby [wink!] and julia sirna-frest among others. what’s working with them been like?
I can’t say enough good things about our cast. I mean, did you know that Starr Busby is actually playing Charlie Rose?

busby in a rady & bloom production

busby in a rady & bloom production

shut up. this means that by the theatrical transitive property starr and i must play some tennis together!
And playing the role like an absolute badass.

i’d expect no less from such a starr.
And Rob, aside from all his other artistic contributions, is playing the role of Mr. Bungle—

i know a Mr. Burgle! Who is your Mr. Bungle?
Well, he’s our strangely poetic puppet master who… well, I can’t really ruin it, right?

ruin us!
Kippy, you temptress! All I can say is that we’re definitely tapping into Julia’s songstress superpowers.


...from sirna-frest's myspace era

…from sirna-frest’s myspace era

she of the magic pipes.
The rest of the cast—Demetri Bonaros, Greg Carere, Ifitaz Haroon, Minna Taylor & Alex Viola are a goddamn JOY. So much talent.

an embarrassment of riches. what is your secret artistic inspiration or guilty pleasure?
Secret… hmm. Oh god, I like to back myself into corners and then crawl out of them.

how did you survive winter festival and why should people see your show?
Man, so many great shows the last month—most of which I missed being in rehearsal. But I was so glad to have seen both Eliza Bent’s wizardly show and Tina Satter’s House of Dance before all the madness began!

aye, the house of dance was toe tapping fun.
People should see our show because it’s about them—since they all use the World Wide Web, and this is an origin story about other people, just like them, maybe even them, that did too. Only before, say, Twitter.


Well mes amis, you heard it here first. If You Can Get to Buffalo runs Feb 13-23 at the Incubator Arts Project. The cast is killer so shake your tail feather and buy a ticket. I will attend Sunday evening .. that is, if I am not paralyzed by the cold and winter travel travails!



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