Joe Price and Amy Couchoud have a hard time explaining what it is that they do.
“We have a fake start-up called Pepys, Inc,” says Price.
“It’s named after Samuel Pepys, the diarist,” says Couchoud.
“It’s satire on technology and 21st century relationships,” says Price.
“The idea of how we record our lives online and also the idea of how our online relationships are as valid as offline relationships,” says Couchoud.
“Kind of a mash-up between theater, improv, and performance art,” says Price.
“The idea of calling ourselves an arts collective and web start-up, that’s the best we’ve come up with on that,” says Couchoud.
“We’ve struggled to describe the show in the past,” says Price.
“But that still doesn’t describe what the show’s about,” says Couchoud.
“The more we talk about the show, the more we do need to explain if after that,” says Price.
Indeed. e-Geaux, the show put on by Price and Couchoud’s fake tech start-up and arts collective Pepys, Inc., can be a little difficult to wrap your mind around. It’s a fake conference where fake apps are rolled out for an audience, whose real Facebook data is used throughout the show to comical effect. (Audience members are asked to opt in to a program on their smart phones that accesses their status updates, photos, and other Facebook information.)
Some guests arriving at the Artisphere’s performance of e-Geaux Thursday night already had a sense of what the show was about, having read reviews of its well-received run at Capital Fringe last summer.
Malisa says she read about the show and “I sort of think I do” understand what will happen. “But probably not,” she adds.
Part of what throws the audience is that the fake apps put out by Pepys are, well, kind of desirable. One of them, e-Breaux, promises to take care of your Facebook responsibilities: posting “happy birthday” on friends’ walls, commenting on friends’ photos, etc. A friend who accompanied me to the show leaned over and whispered, “That would be really helpful. Like a secretary.”
Price explains that the parody is sometimes “a little too good.”
While rolling out a fake app at the DC Week closing party that offered to tell you whom you should talk to at parties (it also offered conversation starters based on your mutual interests), Couchoud and Price were approached by investors who thought it was real. Plenty of partygoers also fell for it. (“You’d be surprised how many people want to use our apps,” Couchoud says.)
“The funny thing about it is that app actually was useful,” Price says. “It was not random. I wrote an algorithm that computed those relationships.
It’s not the first time that Pepys has been too convincing. Price says some people were upset at Capital Fringe that the festival was allowing a tech company to have a platform. “They didn’t understand that it was a theatrical experience,” he says. Also, that the company was fake, apparently.