The Electronic Lover

a podcast opera by Lisa Mezzacappa & Beth Lisick

Welcome

July 13, 2020
Lisa Mezzacappa

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The Electronic Lover is a serial podcast opera created by San Francisco Bay Area composer Lisa Mezzacappa and Brooklyn-based writer Beth Lisick. The story is set in chatrooms at the dawn of the Internet, in the moment when we first invited computers into the most intimate aspects of our lives.

The series pilot, Episode 1, is a double episode, released August 14, 2020.

Download or stream the episode starting August 14 on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, Deezer and others.

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Episode 1 launch event!

July 24, 2020
Lisa Mezzacappa

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Please join us on Friday, August 14 at 7pm PDT for a live-streamed launch event with the cast and creators of The Electronic Lover.

The program is hosted by the Center for New Music in San Francisco, and is free and open to the public. Please visit the Center for New Music website to RSVP and for more info.

 

 

Episode 1 – Credits

July 13, 2020
Lisa Mezzacappa

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Cast

Karina Denike (Joan)
Michelle Amador (Margot)
Katy Stephan (Frankie)
Melody Jeune Ferris (Theresa)
Jesse Olsen Bay (Don, choir)
David James (Garrison)
Aurora Josephson (choir)
Danishta Rivero (choir)

Steve Blum (synth & keyboard)
Jordan Glenn (percussion)
Lisa Mezzacappa (bass)

Beth Lisick (narrator)

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Recorded and mixed (and sanitized) by John Finkbeiner (with meticulous social distancing, solid ventilation, and diligent mask wearing) at New, Improved Recording, Oakland CA. Additional engineering by Eli Crews at Spillway Sound in upstate New York.

Podcast logo design by Oakland artist Dan Nelson.

Co-created by Lisa Mezzacappa & Beth Lisick. Produced by Lisa Mezzacappa.

*****

Episode 1 was created with generous support from the Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation.

Episode 1 – Synopsis & Libretto

July 10, 2020
Lisa Mezzacappa

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Episode 1 (Pilot)

It’s the early 1980s, and people across the US are beginning to connect online for the first time. Internet service providers are setting up bulletin boards and chatrooms (also called forums, or “bands” after CB radio) for their customers, allowing people to discuss hobbies, politics, work, life and love with like-minded people they might never have met otherwise. Margot gets hired to be the Community Manager at a new online community. As women in the chatrooms find themselves talked over and preyed upon by men, Joan comes out of her shell and requests a forum for women only. She and Margot emerge as the leaders of a close-knit group of computer-savvy women, and bond over their newfound sense of purpose and possibility.

*****

NARRATOR:

The Scene: the virtual village square, 1984
The internet community is chatting away.

Voice 1:
In a field, in a tree, in the back seat of my mom’s car (of course), part of the venerable Mile High Club once when I was very young and very stoned. Where else?

Voice 2:
Jeez, Carly, you’re starting to get me riled up over here.

Voice 1:
Oh keep it in your pants, Moonrock. Where else? What about at Disneyland? Anybody ever do it on Space Mountain?

Voice 3:
…been laid up for a few days recovering—bike accident. You shoulda seen the other guy.

Voice 4:
That’s awful. I don’t know why they don’t put a in bike lane. After what happened to Mac, I’ll never ride without a helmet again.

Voice 3:
Lucky my skull is so thick.

Voice 5:
Both the radiator and the heater hoses are easy to change on the Malibu. Or a Torino. But to replace the fuses you’ll have to kneel down outside the driver’s side and sort of contort yourself.

Voice 6:
We both know I’m somewhat of a yogi—it shouldn’t present a problem.

NARRATOR:
Ah, the sound of people chatting on the internet!

Voice 2:
My father would start taking off his belt and hoo boy. Good old-fashioned Calvinist values!

Voice 1:
My Catholic dad did that too, and my mom never intervened. Not even when he beat me till I passed out.

NARRATOR:
But you’ll notice something is different.

Voice 3:
I first read Siddhartha as a twelve year old — I don’t think I quite got it.

NARRATOR:
Hmmm.

Voice 6:
While I agree with almost everything you’ve said here, I will take exception with one point, which is that…

Margot:
In this conference, we’re going to start putting the first response to each thread in the body of the text. And the topic header can include the number of lines so people know how long it is before they start reading. What if we put the name of the topic in all caps?

Voice 3 & 4:
All caps sounds like yelling!

NARRATOR:
This is the early ‘80s. The Net. The Web. Cyberspace.

Voice 2:
So you gonna join Ronnie and Nancy in the White House?

Voice 6:
You calling me a fascist?

Margot and Voice 4:
We don’t want a FLAME WAR.

Voice 6: (to Margot)
Margot, can you ask him to stop flaming me?

Voice 2: (to Margot)
I wasn’t flaming her!

Margot:
Hey guys, can you keep it civil? I don’t want to be herding kittens in the conference all night long!

CHOIR:
logging on
signing off
logging in
signing on
powering off
shutting down

Voice 6:
Anybody here? I had to practically strangle my daughter with the phone cord so I could get on the modem.

NARRATOR:
No wifi, no broadband, no DSL, no smart phones, no laptops.

Voice 4:
Give me your address and I’ll mail you a shot of Charlie. I got doubles made at the Fotomat.

NARRATOR:
No cameras, no jpgs, no attachments, no graphics, no video, no porn, no social media, no text messaging, no e-commerce, no bots, no trolls. No search engines. No cloud.

Voice 6:
Is anyone else awake and on the band right now?

NARRATOR:
That’s roughly: U up?

Voice 4:
Hilarious story, Nance. Hold on, I’m going to pull my lasagna out of the oven — then let’s continue this.

NARRATOR:
And that’s LOL BRB

Voice 5:
I’m going to call it for tonight. Thanks for all, Margot.

Margot:
Goodnight, DoctorFunk.

NARRATOR:
Not a real doctor.

NARRATOR:
Black screen, green type, blinking cursor, dial-up modems. Questions posed and left unanswered. Souls bared and twisting in the wind for hours.
Until someone logged on!

Voices:
Did the Grateful Dead play Deep Elem Blues last night?
One time I was in an elevator with John Wayne.
My tips for making the perfect Béarnaise.
When should I prune my heirloom climbing roses?
Where do you live?
Are you M or F?
Are you married?

NARRATOR:
Steelhead trout, geodesic tents, the San Diego Padres, Stephen King, Thailand, AIDS, Chrysler Minivans, Specialized mountain bikes, the Apple MacIntosh, dancing raisins, fajitas, Beirut, Basquiat. Divorce. Life. On your computer.

Voices:
What do you look like?
Right now.

What color is your hair? How are you dressed?
What is your nose like? How about your eyes?
Do you wear glasses?
Teeth straight or crooked?
Where are you sitting?

Right now.
What is on the walls?
At home or in an office?
Your workplace, your home, your home workplace?
Are there people or animals around you?
What do you see when you look out the window?

Right now.
How are you feeling?
Where are you on the path?
Where are you from? Where are you going?
Where are you at?
Right now.


CHOIR:
Ones and zeroes and zeroes and ones
Ones and zeroes and zeroes and ones

*****
Margot:
In another life
I had another life

NARRATOR:
Margot Halperin had been living on a commune since 1971

Margot:
Twenty-seven babies, twenty-seven humans,
Twenty-seven alive

NARRATOR:
Don’t worry. They weren’t all hers. She was the commune’s midwife.

Margot:
Sasha, Rainbow, Jacob, Sage, Marley, Christopher,
Chiara, Anthony, Clyde, Cubby, Flower, Jose, Tinsley,
Sondra, Scout, Oliver, Annabelle, Daisy, Jeremy, Dove,
Serena, Fukiko, Aura, Buckley, Simon, Pilar

And little Nicky who died on the school bus that awful winter, and the gentle souls who left us too soon

NARRATOR:
She was the perfect person for that job. Warm, nurturing, calm in an emergency.
But after twelve years living on a rural farm…

Margot:
Growing our own food
Sewing our own clothes
Building our own homes

NARRATOR:
…struggling to make their dream a reality…

Margot:
Turnips and pole beans
Washing diapers by hand
Recycling cans to buy heating oil

NARRATOR:
A friend she grew up with, her old high school boyfriend actually, asked if she’d like to come back to civilization. Work at this company he’d founded.

Margot:
Garrison Litchfield
Picked me up for the prom
On a motorcycle

NARRATOR:
We’ll let her sit there with her reverie for a second…

Margot:
Vroooooom!

NARRATOR:
So the job had to do with computers. It was some sort of computer … thing.

Margot:
I’d never touched one
I’d never seen one

NARRATOR:
Um, a computer, she means. Garrison needed a real people person. Someone who had a track record of  helping members of a fledgling community bond with each other

Margot:
You can connect people all over the world, he said
A free exchange of ideas, he said
Soon everyone will have one in their homes, he said
It will be the great equalizer, he said

NARRATOR:
Margot said her goodbyes and hitchhiked nearly 1700 miles, a journey that took her five days. She slept under a scrub oak in Bitter Springs, Arizona, fended off a rapist in Tucumcari, and read Richard Brautigan poems aloud to the recently divorced woman named Mirvie who drove her from Norman, Oklahoma to Amarillo in a white Cadillac.
And now she’s here with us.

Margot:
Topic 161

Voice 5:
SkiffWizard stole our stories from the Parenting forum, and used them in a magazine article for which he was paid two hundred dollars.

Margot:
Topic 204

Voice 2:
KenDog has been calling Joseph M. “a little Hitler” over in Gardening. Are we going to tolerate that?

Margot:
Topic 96

Voice 2:
The Pet Board has been hijacked by people talking about vaccines again

Margot:
Topic 136

Joan:
Can we please create a forum that’s for women only?

Margot:
Topic 142

Voice 4:
Should some of us get together for a potluck this Sunday?

Margot:
I’m your crowd control
I’m the bouncer and your mother
This is real emotion coming through these wires

We must be careful with feelings
If we want our world to flourish
We don’t want lords and lurkers
No raging egos, unchecked sarcasm, misplaced anger
Rampant misogyny

Let’s talk about the rules
Let’s share a protocol
Everyone takes responsibility for their own words
Welcome to the intellectual massage that never ends

****

Frankie:
You all know I’m the one running this place while Mr. Bossman takes a three hour lunch again

Man:
You may not know the whole story

Theresa and Susan:
After six years, I think she does

Man: 
I’m just saying, as someone who runs his own business

Joan:
You know what, Timbuk4, why don’t you just listen – instead of piping up all the time

Susan:
I went out on a date last night for the first time in years

Man:
I hope he brought you flowers

Susan:
He was actually a she, and no, she didn’t.

Man:
I didn’t know you were batting for the other team.

Susan:
I’m batting for my team.

Joan and Frankie:
Wake up, it’s the ‘80s!

Man:
So touchy

Theresa:
Beam me up, Scottie!

Joan:
Rough day, huh?

Theresa:
I’m supposed to be able to park close to the entrance at work, but they redesigned the lot! I had to park so far away and I walk so slowly with the crutches.

Joan:
That should be illegal!

Theresa: 
I’ll just get there earlier tomorrow.

Joan and Susan:
This is wrong!

Joan:
Give me the number.

Joan and Susan and Frankie:
I’ll call them! I’ll report them!

Man:
Sheesh, Talkin’ Lady. You’re a real ballbuster.

Joan:
Oh, so I’m a ballbuster. And what would you say if I were a man? I’m just looking out for our pal T-Rex. Everyone needs an advocate.

Man:
Yes, ma’am. Thank you, ma’am

Joan:
S-I-G-H

Theresa:
S-I-G-H

Susan:
Double S-I-G-H

Frankie:
Like a fish needs a bicycle

Man:
No harm, no foul.

Men:
Boys will be boys.

Joan:
I think we need a place where we can take our bras off

Man:
Go ahead, I won’t look.

Joan and Frankie:
Imagine.

Theresa:
A channel just for us!

Margot:
I can get that done.

Men:
Make sure to come visit.

Margot, Joan, Theresa, Frankie:
We need
A band
A forum
A channel
A lounge
A break room
A coffee klatch
A menstrual hut

Theresa:
I am taking my bra off

Frankie:
I am taking my face off

Joan:
I am trading my pumps for slippers

Margot:
I am pouring a glass of Cabernet

Frankie:
I am taking my bra off

Theresa:
I am taking my face off

Margot:
I am mixing a gin and tonic

Joan:
I am taking off my pantyhose

Theresa:
I am taking my bra off

Joan:
I am trading my pumps for slippers

Margot:
I am taking my bra off

Frankie:
I am mixing a gin and tonic

Theresa:
I am putting my L’eggs back in their egg

All:
We need a place to breathe
We need a private zone
We need to find our own ….
Cyberspot

A chatroom of one’s own!

Frankie:
How do we ensure
There are no trespassers

Margot:
No spies or prying eyes

Theresa & Joan: 
No assholes

Frankie:
Imagine

Margot:
I know you all
I trust you all

Joan:
She knows us all
She trusts us all

Frankie:
To explore ideas without them

Theresa:
Imagine

Frankie:
To let some steam off

Theresa:
To take my bra off

Joan:
To feel safe for once

Margot:
We can write the code, ladies
We can make it so, Joan

*****

Joan:
Bamboo

Margot:
Family: Poaceae,  Subfamily: Bambusoidae.

Joan:
Standing tall

Margot:
Guadua Agustifolia, the grandest of all

Joan:
So strong
So resilient

Margot:
Bending but never breaking

Joan:
Unadorned, solid, substantial

Margot:
And inside, hollow

Joan and Margot:
Full of possibility

Margot:
A place to fill with our own stuff

Joan:
Our hopes and dreams our aspirations

Joan and Margot:
Carved out as we wish

Margot:
Starved for a place of our own making

Joan:
These tender shoots flourish beside me

Margot and Joan:
My/Our private little grove will thrive!

Joan:
Our grove

Margot:
This room

Joan:
This room

Margot:
Could I have done it alone, Joan?

Joan:
Do you even wish to know, Margot?

Joan and Margot:
Our grove, our room
So strong, this room
So substantial
Bamboo, so resilient
Our room
Our room
Our room

Margot:
We are building something real here!

Choir:
Now let’s lock the door, let’s turn the key

Margot:
This means ladies only.

Choir: 
Indeed, we have found our spot

Joan and Margot: 
Male chauvinist pigs keep out!

Choir: 
Indeed, we have found our spot

Joan: 
I’ll protect you all,
You need only me

Margot: 
And don’t forget I am here,
My job to help out

Choir: 
Indeed, we have found our spot

Joan: 
You are worth your weight in gold, Margot

Margot: 
It was your idea all along, Joan

Others: 
Indeed we have found you both

*****

 

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