The Yearning To Be Seen: a Review of Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata

Deeply touched by the Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata.  Veda Hille and Bill Richardson have written a non-linear musical that uses actual Craigslist ads for its lyrics.  Craigslist, in case you’ve been in a hole, is an online one-stop-shopping for finding whatever it is you want— from someone you saw on the train that day, to an old trumpet, to homes for your cats.  It’s a pared down, non-glitzy site—just text–where you have to use words to sell what it is you want to sell, or get what you want. Ads are quirky.  I think with the number of them, people have to come up with newer and more outlandish ways to make their ad stand out.  It’s not a Tumblr site so there’s no pics in your subject line to make you stand out–just a line of text.  What is Craigslist anyway?

The musical is episodic, going from ad to ad, occasionally reverberating or repeating a motif in another ad, enough to make it stick together well.  There are a number of “characters” who have very specific and ludicrous (sometimes even strange) desires and wants.  It would be easy just to laugh at all of them–and we do.  Audience tonight was having a great time laughing it up at the woman trying to sell her 300 stuffed penguins, singing an alphabetical list of the different species of penguins and hoping to find a special child who might want them all.  Or the man who wants someone to sit in his bathtub of cooked noodles…  Or the wanderers who keep missing each other–though having a brief moment with someone they fall for.

It would be easy to laugh, except Hille and Richardson don’t let us off that easy.  They have found a way to make that search poignant, a statement on 21st Century technology becoming the medium for expressing our desires.  There’s a song though that Hille sings in the middle–a quite surprising song about Noah and the doves he sends out into the world to find land.  And this becomes the central metaphor that pulls the show together in a quite exposing, vulnerable, emotional way— that Craigslist is a collection of those doves, sent out–with no replies, really.  “No one learns how the story ends.  Did they find each other?  We don’t know,” Hille says in the Artist talkback tonight.  There are only beginning moments–story starters, if you will–but we don’t know if any of the missed connections actually connect.

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What if you knew the Internet would be gone next week?

I was thinking about how much I live a web-life–the articles I read online from newspapers I subscribe to online, the contact I keep with people online, the deals I make online, the shopping I do, the uploading, the downloading.  We already have virtual lives.  We don’t need Second Life to show us how to be an avatar; we are already avatars in our own online worlds.

But what if by next week you knew there would be no more Internet? No more Facebook.  No more Amazon.  No more NY Times on the web.  No more getting your news there.  No more Youtube.  No more buying on iTunes.  No more Skype.  No more sharing lives this way.  No more information.  No more wikipedia to answer questions, or health sites to give you info.  You were restricted to the former ways of staying in contact with others, the former ways of looking up info, the former ways of living.  Welcome to LudLife.  You would still have a computer–it just wouldn’t be connected to a network.  You would still have a phone, but not a smart one.  There would be no texting.  You would have to talk.

If you knew this internet shutdown would happen on March 31st, what would you do between now and then?

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Internet before Coffee? How does it affect your family?

laptop and coffeeHey, I just read a great NYT article that I think will ring true in your family as well.  Read this:

Coffee Can Wait.  Day’s First Stop is Online


Karl and Dorsey Gude of East Lansing, Mich., can remember simpler mornings, not too long ago. They sat together and chatted as they ate breakfast. They read the newspaper and competed only with the television for the attention of their two teenage sons.

That was so last century. Today, Mr. Gude wakes at around 6 a.m. to check his work e-mail and his Facebook and Twitter accounts. The two boys, Cole and Erik, start each morning with text messages, video games and Facebook.

The new routine quickly became a source of conflict in the family, with Ms. Gude complaining that technology was eating into family time. But ultimately even she partially succumbed, cracking open her laptop after breakfast.”

I’ve noticed that I’m online first thing.  I do manage to get coffee started and an english muffin in the toaster, but I’m there at the computer licketysplit.  

How much of this is part of internet addiction–or communication addiction?  I don’t know.  

Read this very funny, and poignant post in the same issue of the NYT today:

I’ve Got Mail–by Verlyn Klinkenborg


I wish my memory worked differently. I’d like to be able to conjure up an accurate image of my consciousness from, say, 25 years ago. You know what 25 years means: No cellphones, no e-mail, no Internet, no social networking (except with an actual drink in hand), and only the most primitive of personal computers. What I want to answer is a single question: Was I as addicted to the future then as I seem to be now?”

Care to share your experiences?  What were you like 25 years ago before all this technology gave us such instant access?

For science fiction writers this should be a good exercise to think through.  Whenever you are designing the future, think about the implications of one change, and see the effects ripple through society and culture.  Life 25 years ago is very different from the way it is now.  And for every good piece of technology there are consequences.  It’s just an interesting thought problem that might be fun to fuel a writing exercise: what small change in the world could bring about major cultural changes?