“Facebook me later …” is as ubiquitous a request these days as “Call me later … ” or “Text me later …”. For most people Facebook has become their main source of communication these days. Why, I’d even wager you found this review on Facebook.
As adults we all know how we’re using it to keep in touch, get our news (or our “news”), stay connected, and be in random chatter streams with our friends, our “Friends” our friends-of-friends and our frienemies. We’ve learned the art of the passive-aggressive post, learned how to limit our feelings to the right amount of characters, learned that by randomly quoting songwriters, celebrities, philosophers and politicians we can let their words speak for us when we’re too lazy to encapsulate our own feelings. But of course – it’s desperately important that we DO transmit our feelings at least once a day (though some have inner Facebook timers that go off on the hour …) or else our friends, “Friends”, friends-of-friends and frienemies start to wonder how we’re doing. And we can’t have that.
However, unless you’re a parent, and a “cool” parent at that – one whose teen daughter is divulging everything she’s thinking and feeling (unlikely) – do you have any idea how 13 – 15 year old girls are using Facebook? Girls who are already challenged with navigating the socially awkward minefield of adolescence now must deal with the added pressure of projecting it all onto The Social Networking Site. facebook me, created by and starring The Arts Effect All-Girl Theater Company (with script by Katie Cappiellois) is based on the lives and experiences of these young company members as they maneuver through fitting in, standing out, trying to be noticed (but not for the wrong reasons), all while attempting to not alienate their best friends, their boyfriends and their families. Because at any given moment a fatal mis-step will get posted on Facebook by those best friends, boyfriends and family members and damage control worthy of that necessary by BP after the oil spill doesn’t even begin to describe what these girls must summon.
facebook me begins with a cacophony of girl chatter – they speak in pairs, they have melt-downs on the phone … all the while talking over, through, and with each other. Brilliantly we hear the white noise of nothingness (does what they say really matter?) until a girl’s voice will rise above the others to deliver a particularly striking note of teen angst (often evoking laughter) only to meld back into the group where then several girls, for different reasons, will chime in with the same phrase in completely separate conversations. It is both artfully woven (reminiscent of Sondheim’s “Now-Soon-Later” from A Little Night Music) yet still manages to maintain the integrity of the feeling that you’re in a Starbucks around 3:00pm and school just got out. Pure chaotic girl drama … gosh can they just reign it in for a minute?
These girls layer their multimedia lifestyles the way they layer their accessories; they’re chatting in person while IMing on their smart phones, they’re calling to leave messages while grabbing their laptop to check people’s status updates. When someone doesn’t answer the phone they try them on video chat, or send a recorded video. They’re uploading mobile photos all the time to express their joy, their sorrow, their random moments, before racing to see what everyone thought of their update. The roller-coaster of their emotions as they move from thrilled (that someone commented) to horrified (at the tone of the comments) can be felt viscerally as we lurch through their world on this wild ride called Teen Girl.
When a newbie to Facebook is aghast at the whole intimacy and immediacy of the process (“Who else can see this???” she squeals and is horrified to learn … EVERYONE), her friend shushes her away with a dismissive wave and continues to Facebook stalk girls who won’t speak to her in person, but whose Facebook personas fascinate her anyway.
Another story thread finds unseen but alluded to boys from another school creating a “who’s hot/who’s not” ranking site. When two friends post their photos with one rising to the top and another languishing far below her “hotter” (or so the ranking says) friend the conversation is fraught with brutal honesty. Each girl is mortified by the comments people are making – the “hotter” girl is getting comments that would make those shouted by construction workers blush, while her less voluptuous friend is being urged to “eat a sandwich”. Both girls’ self esteem is shattered by the comments and yet instead of directing their feelings toward those that are hurting them they turn their anger on each other. Of course in a strange way this makes sense … the other people are virtual, but this friendship is real and therefore at real risk.
As another pair of girls visit Victoria’s Secret and post photos of one girl’s now largely enhanced bosom (“Why would she do that?? another girl asks), we begin to see that these young girls are actually no different than adults. What’s so fascinating about facebook me is how much of a metaphor it is for the adult Facebook experience as well. At this young age the only assets they have, for better or for worse, are their bodies and they flaunt them proudly in order to one-up their friends, “Friends” and friends-of-friends. Is this any different than some adults who can’t keep from checking into Foursquare with rabid frequency just to prove how much of a whirlwind social life they have? (I’m the Mayor of my local bar!!), who post pictures of every gourmet meal they eat (Nom Nom Nom!!!), of every exotic hobby they have, of every lavish, or drunken, or cool or exclusive party they attend (Woot!)? Adults who update their status on an hourly basis (“Making dinner for the kids …” / “Watching a Three’s Company Re-run” / “How do you get blueberry pie stains out of a white blouse?”) and have to tell the world when they’re in love (Dick and Jane are in a relationship!). I mean really – the assets are more plentiful, but are adults any different on Facebook? As the good book says - “… and a little child will lead them.” Not so little, but you get the picture.
When one girl commits what her friend considered tantamount to social suicide – posting “I HATE FACEBOOK!!!” on her status, it prompts another girl cross town to scream “I do too!!! I HATE FACEBOOK!!!” Immediately followed by “I’m going to friend her! …. Oh! I’m so excited!!!” And in that one moment that juxtaposes light and dark we see the ridiculous seduction of Facebook. It also shows that this wonderful group of young women have their finger on the pulse of the internal monologue we’re all having. But most of all, it highlights – in a way that few other things could – exactly how Facebook has reduced us all to High School students again who desperately need to be liked and “liked”, who tally up our friends in quantity not quality and who still think that a good picture with a good quote under it can tell the world who we really are.
Directed jointly by Katie Cappiello and Meg McInerney, who keep the pacing swift and engaging, they never allow this show to veer off into young-girl histrionics which it so easily could do. They balance the comedy and tragedy on a fine edge here and one that allows the girls’ stories to be revealed with honesty. The media design by Grant McDonald and graphic design by Jeremi Chenier are fantastic; Facebook is, after all, a main character in this play and the designs allow the site to make an appearance when necessary, underscoring the events, giving us further glimpses that round the story out for us, without devolving into a distracting slide-show.
Eye opening, thoughtful, and brutal, facebook me will make you think twice next time you decide to update your status.
The cast features: Winnifred Bonjean-Alpart, Alexa Caban, Vikki Eugenis, Sophie Hearn, Kendra Jain, Fiona McSweeney-Glynn, Naila Perez-Stringari, Eliza Price, Danielle Stefania, and India Witkin.
Writer: Created by The Arts Effect All-Girl Theater Company, Script by Katie Cappiello
Director: Katie Cappiello & Meg McInerney
VENUE #1: Teatro SEA
Fri 26 @ 6:30 Sat 27 @ 12 Sun 28 @ 2:45*