Originally presented at Canadian Stage’s Festival of Ideas and Creation, Theatre Caravel‘s Modern Love takes a look at the ways we connect with and disconnect from each other every day. Here, we talk with writer and solo performer Jessica Moss about the show’s upcoming run at the 2012 Next Stage Theatre Festival (opens January 5, 5:30pm—Factory Studio Theatre).
Theatromania: What inspired you to write Modern Love?
JM: There used to be a loneliness I could only feel in crowded rooms, and now I feel it all the time.
That’s a line in the play. And that’s where it started from.
I’m really tormented by Facebook. Like, really. I found that the more “friends” I had, the
more I questioned who my real friends were, and the more people knew and could find out
about my life without me being aware, the more I had no one to tell anything to. I wanted to talk about the idea of “connection” as something technical, a hook up to an online world, in juxtaposition with the idea of a connection you have with one other person. I wanted to talk about how our world is shrinking but my sense of being alone is getting bigger and bigger.
I love solo shows and I thought that one performer playing all the parts could
simultaneously show a world very crowded with people and connections and interactions,
and a world that was scarily isolated. My favourite work is always very funny and very sad at the same time, or alternating quickly between these two things, and my feelings about how absurd my social interactions were, but also how much they were hurting me felt like they were in some balance between hysterical and heartbreaking.
So I thought all of these things could come together and make a show.
Theatromania: How has the production evolved since it was first developed for Canadian Stage’s Festival of Ideas and Creation?
JM: There are three other people involved in the show: Kyle Purcell, who does all the
mulitimedia work, Eric Double, the director, and Julia Nish-Lapidus, the producer. They’ve
all worked very hard on bringing this to life, both at the festival, and now, as we’re moving
towards Next Stage.
The first production we did was 30 minutes. For Next Stage, we knew there was more to
flesh out and things we wanted to touch on, so we expanded to 60 minutes. In doing that,
we had the opportunity to talk about new things (Twitter and Skype now have little features, among others), but we also had to find a way for all of these additions to help the central relationships and problems of the play get deeper and deeper.
Building the show to what it is now was, I think, about thinking bigger, and pushing the
limits of what was possible for me as a performer and for the technology that we use (which involves a giant screen), while at the same time getting simpler, clearer, and more honest about the heart of the show.
Theatromania: Have you learned anything in the process?
JM: I think I’m learning that no matter how much I learn, I have a lot to learn. It’s a hard lesson. Like, calculus hard. I feel I learn something and then in the next project it doesn’t work. So I learn something opposite, and then in the next one that doesn’t work. The truth is in between all these things, maybe. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis. And then the synthesis
becomes the new thesis and it all starts again.
I’m either learning a lot or slowly going crazy.
Theatromania: Best experience working on the show so far?
JM: The reception at the Festival of Ideas and Creation was really amazing. I was incredibly nervous, and didn’t know what to expect, in terms of who would come, how many of them would come, and what they would think about it. We had to bring in extra seats, there were so many people, and we just had this lovely, generous audience who were so supportive. Even my ability to feel bad about myself was silenced by the kindness of that room.
There was one line that I thought was OK in the script, and when it was performed onstage, it got an enormous laugh. It shocked me. I was worried it wouldn’t resonate with anyone other than me, and their laughter was an acceptance, a “Yes, me too!”
People coming up to me after and saying, “I feel that way too,” is such a wonderful
experience. One of my favorite quotes is from Chuck Klosterman: ‘“Art and love are the
same thing: It’s the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you.” It’s scary to stand on a stage and talk about my fears, insecurities, hopes, and to present them in a way that reflects my pretty weird imagination. When someone sees that and goes, “I get that,” it’s like they see the parts of me that I wish I could hide, and they don’t run away. It’s an antidote to loneliness.
Theatromania: What excites you most about this year’s Next Stage Theatre Festival?
JM: It’s a Fringe in January! All the friends, theatre and beer without the unpleasantness of beautiful weather!
Theatromania: Are you working on any upcoming projects?
JM: I have ideas for seven hundred plays in my head. So, my plan is to train seven hundred monkeys to create them for me. And one monkey to do the bookkeeping. Someone has to keep track of all those bananas.
Modern Love runs from January 5 to 15 at the Factory Studio Theatre. Visit fringetoronto.com for a full performance schedule, and stay tuned for our review!