Old-fashioned Telephone Games


Scottish artist Zoe Irvine's 'Dial-A-Diva' project has its historical roots in the Theatraphone, a medium that existed roughly from 1840 to 1920 that allowed those with the means to have a telephone in their home to patch in performances from theater and opera companies. Irvine has reincarnated the pre-radio transmission method as a day-long, globe-spanning series of short performances that will take place on September 8. Beginning at 7:00 p.m. local time in New Zealand and ending roughly 24 hours later with a performance in Hawaii, just before Saturday slips over the international date line, audiences around the world are invited to dial in to the continuous conference call. The roster of performers includes karaoke singers in Seoul, musicians 'The Anger Boys' in Ramallah, a carnival band from Poland, folk music from Burkina Faso, MCs and opera divas from Colombia, and a similarly far-flung list of other styles. A half-way celebration will take place in Stavanger, Norway, and a complete schedule of local performances times, phone numbers to call, and a link to a live web stream can be found on the project web site. Its Victorian roots aside, Dial-A-Diva has an appealing and even nostalgic quality that looks back to the more recent history of pre-Web connectivity, when land lines--humbly tied as they are to things like time zones--were at the forefront of networked communication. - William Hanley