Tassos Stevens, Telephone
(Coney, 2020)

The first telephone call happened on 10 March 1876. And we’re going to recreate this moment.

You’re Alexander Graham Bell, you’re the famous inventor, the famous man.

You’re Thomas Augustus Watson, his assistant. There’s less that is known about you, as is often the case for the assistants of famous men. But I find your story fascinating.
As a young man you tried bookkeeping and found it boring, so you quit. Then you tried carpentry and found it exhausting, so you quit. Then you find work in a Boston machine shop, as a machinist. And you’re really good at this.
And it’s here that Bell discovers you, and hires you as his assistant.

Two years later, 10 March 1876. Bell and Watson.
You’re each sitting in two rooms in the same house in Boston. We can imagine lots of other people in other rooms for this historic moment, and a cross-section of the house might look a lot like this zoom call in gallery view.

The telephone in Telephone, written and performed by Tassos Stevens for the interactive theatre company Coney, is both the fabric of a theatrical play presented via video conferencing call and the medium by which we magically experience the piece across the space-time continuum. In a sense the whole performance is a reimagining of the telephone for the 21st century and beyond. There is even a directory where the participants on the call dial a number provoking the operator to connect them to a telephone narrative. Through these dialled narratives we travel back in time through the history of the telephone. We travel to a future where the party line of the past (a telephone line shared with a number of households) becomes a video call for 100 people who want to celebrate to the telephone’s possible connections.

by Maya Chowdhry