Act I Scene 1
Sometime in the future, in the City. Computer projector on main screen showing a search engine that does not exist in the early Twenty-First Century. Letters are entered one at a time to spell "cheap talk." Someone is at work here in real time, moving the cursor, flipping through images on various webpages. The unseen actor is trolling the web for downloadable files that would not be routinely archived by search engines, stopping to listen or view the occasional file, adding the it to the hard drive. Following this sequence: split scene; lights up on GEORGE at his computer desk in his home office and MARTA in her studio downtown, at her old mixing board/console she calls Emi.
GEORGE (to the computer, spoken simultaneously with MARTA'S mixing board talk below. They speak in deliberate cadences, in a duet, sometimes talking over each other, sometimes in rhythmic alternation, without directly acknowledging the other's presence): C'mon, c'mon, c'mon, c'mon....if you were any slower, I'd be passed out on you (moving his head towards the computer monitor). You know, you ought to protect your pixels, my friend—my head is dead weight.... I'm working, don't you get it? Goddammit. Get on with it or I'm going to ship you out to the Place. The place that you don't like me to talk about, where Dad and Grandad and Great-Grandad all went last year...now you don't want me to call (whispering these three words ) The Green Team, do you? Maybe I need something a little newer here. Are you listening? (Calling softly) Green Team. You're supposed to gigabatch but you move like an Atari. GREEN TEAM! You are one worthless antique (he hits the machine).
MARTA (to her mixing board, spoken simultaneously with GEORGE'S computer talk above): A-T-N-A, Emi, A-T-N-A. What? Oh, you don't know speak Acronym-ese? You only know MIDI? Guess. A-T-N-A. All Talk, No Action. All talk, all the time. Emi, can you tell me what happened to Georgie Porgie? He used to be so fun. (Playing with a processing effect on the board when she repeats the line. She gets into a rhythm with the other "He used to be" lines that follow.) He used to be so fun. He used to be so fly. He used to be so fine. (Repeating the three lines to a beat, as needed). He used to be (stopping the rhythm). He used to be a lot of things, Emi, a lot of things (she is focusing on tweaking the board's settings) but we have work...to...do.
GEORGE becomes aware of the audience's presence. Sensing a potential sale, he puts on his public persona and plays a file from his hard drive containing a classic and coveted file. This file has the look of a flipbook, a moving picture made up of stills. It depicts a couple talking at first (no sound), then engaging in a chaste kiss, reminiscent of the silent film era. MARTA now alternates with GEORGE's speaking (just as written), instead of speaking over him.
GEORGE (to the audience): No one has this anymore, you know. Very rare. Are you by chance interested? I can assure you that I am the exclusive dealer, and yet I can offer it to you at a very competitive price. Ah. It's not your style. Too tame. You'd prefer to have it without so much conversation (he snickers, making sport of the audience). You're not convinced of the value of this kind of objet d'art. I understand. Like most people, you're skeptical. Most people's aesthetic is hopelessly lost in the past. Here's a quote for you then. A terribly outdated Twentieth Century idea that's wrong, to put it simply.
"Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking one element:..."
MARTA (to the audience, continuing the quote GEORGE began): ...its presence in time and space." Walter Benjamin. I had to read him to get my degree—you know how it is. But his idea of "aura," the unmistakable quality that every original work of art possesses—I get that. Some people say they see auras. I hear them.
GEORGE: Once upon a time someone saw a unique thing of beauty, bought it, stuck it on a mantle somewhere. There was an exchange...cash for something you could hold in your hand. That's all obsolete now. The so-called "aura" of the original no longer applies in the Digital Century.
MARTA: Back in the Twentieth Century, the radio J's used to work with "pots." (Holding up a couple of large circular plastic knobs-old potentiometers.) That's what the engineers called the knobs on their boards that ran the volume or the mix or maybe an old-time effect like reverb. (She illustrates reverb by switching on her mic and moving the device that correspond to the on-screen cursor, the "mouse" of this era, presumably to select the effect) Re-verb. (She switches the mic off). Now the only thing that moves is ...(holds up the cursor device...and then drops it with disregard). Personally, I like the pots. Sounds almost like a place where a seed could grow, you know?
GEORGE: Nevertheless, I am a collector in many ways very much like the "art" collectors of yesterday. And in fact very much like the royalty before them who put their artisans into service to make whatever they desired. Where we differ, however, is that I collect the blueprints that tell photons when and where to bombard and excite pixels to luminesce. Or if you prefer the simpler version, I collect data. The patterns that once existed in cyber-loci, were taken for granted, missed by the so-called Intelligent Searching Engines. Patterns that should therefore be irretrievably lost. Gone. If not for me.
MARTA: (She has retrieved something from her pocket since she last spoke.) I went to a wedding last weekend, and they gave us these. (Holding up a very small gift bag) Yeah, seeds. I guess they liked the idea of everybody going home and planting their Forget-Me-Nots. I thought about it, and I realized that since I work in the sonosphere, which sits on top of the dirt and water sphere of the geo... not in it, I have to plant these as sound seeds (she moves downstage to an amplified metal container, opens package, spills the seeds, listens to the sounds of bouncing seeds, then pauses. Speaking quietly) Then there's the sound after. In the stillness. (Pause). Did you hear that? You didn't, did you. The sounds that fill what most people call silence: the hum of the lights, the breathing of the person right next to you, your own heartbeat, (improvise the list as sounds become audible in the theater: the man back there clearing his throat, the car engine outside). the low rumble of the earth, growing something new. The growl inside your belly, inspiring, breathing, breathing you. When I play with all that, I know why I'm here. George, on the other hand, doesn't listen. He doesn't speak that language anymore. He misses so much.
GEORGE: My friends, old Walter's aura has lost its luster. A digital copy of a digital copy is identical to the original. Art need not dwell in that kind of sweaty, smelly body space he was talking about. On the contrary, Art can now exist on account of ones and zeroes orderly arranged to trigger... electrons firing straight at your eyeballs locked onto the screen. These days, people like you need detritus collectors like me.
MARTA: It's not that he's stupid or evil—I know he's looking out for us, trying to make sure we'll have...what do we really need though. He's so lost. (Riffing on the words) So lost. SoulLost. Lost So-Cyber-SoLost-SoSo-Space-SoSo-Dido. Perdido. George doesn't listen to the sounds around the words. He doesn't get the aura thing. He just sorta flails around trying to capture everything without really understanding any of it. (She hears her owns words and realizes what she is saying). Without really getting it. (Pause) Our seventh anniversary is next month. No ring, we just celebrate my move-in date. Into his palatial apartment on the Upper East Side. Yeah but we had some really good years. You might not know it to look at him now, but he was really something in the day, full of himself as always, but also full of passion.
(A flashback to seven years earlier, in a club. MARTA and GEORGE have each put on an article of clothing that reflects their youth—MARTA is 23, GEORGE in his mid 30s.)