Octet and Internet Addiction

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Before Netflix’s THE SOCIAL DILEMMA, the 2019 musical OCTET tackled the harsh reality and trajectory of digital technology addiction and social media. Written by Dave Malloy (THE GREAT COMET) and directed by Annie Tippe, the a cappella chamber musical debuted Off-Broadway at the Signature Theatre Center and earned eight Drama Desk Award nominations. Staged as a sort-of AA meeting for tech addicts, each song serves as a share about a different manifestation of tech addiction.

Are we all addicted to tech? How dangerous is it? Or, is it not necessarily the tools, but how we use them that can lead us to breakthroughs or breakdowns? Host Ruthie Fierberg delves into the origins of the musical and its roots in research with Tippe before opening up the discussion to three experts. Dr. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang offers the facts about technology’s effects on our brains and socialization; Dr. Hilarie Cash, who treats internet addiction, advises how to recognize true addiction and gives tips to establish a healthy media diet; and software engineer Daphne Larose proposes a new path for responsible tech development and the beneficial uses of software, the Internet, and games.

Listen to the live album of Octet here.

Referred to in this episode

Create the Change

Why We Theater is a product of part of the Broadway Podcast Network, edited by Derek Gunther, and produced by Alan Seales. Follow us @whywetheater on Instagram & Twitter.

Our theme music is by Benjamin Velez. Hear more at BenjaminVelez.com.

Our logo is by Christina Minopoli. See more at MinopoliDesign.com.

Special thanks to Dori Berinstein, Leigh Silverman, Patrick Taylor, Tony Montenieri, Elena Mayer, Wesley Birdsall, and Suzanne Chipkin.

Connect with Ruthie!



Annie Tippe, Director

Annie is a director and creator of new work, film, and music theatre. She won the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Director for Octet. Recent: Dave Malloy’s Octet (Premiere, Signature Theatre) and Ghost Quartet (Premiere, The Bushwick Starr, etc…), Leslye Headland’s Cult of Love (Premiere, IAMA Theatre Company), Bess Wohl’s Continuity (Goodman Theatre), Cowboy Bob (Village Theatre; New York Stage + Film), James + Jerome’s Ink (w. Rachel Chavkin, Under the Radar/Met Museum) and The Conversationalists (The Bushwick Starr). Named one of two finalists for this year’s SDC Callaway Award for her work on Octet. Former Ars Nova Director-in-Residence, Drama League Directing Fellow, Williamstown Directing Corps. AnnieTippe.com Instagram: @amaginnis Twitter: @annietippe


Dr. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, Professor of Education, Professor of Psychology, USC

A neuroscientist, psychologist, and former teacher, Mary Helen currently leads research at the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California. She is currently launching the USC Center for Affective Neuroscience, Development, Learning and Education. Her research focuses on the science of social emotion, self-awareness, and culture and their implications for development and schools. Other recent work involves the study of learning that occurs when the brain effectively balances its inward and outward systems; the neurological effects of family conflict on youth; the development of prosocial emotions like admiration and compassion; and socialization in schizophrenia. Candle.USC.edu, Twitter: @CandleUSC


Dr. Hilarie Cash, PhD, Chief Clinical Director at reSTART

In 2009, Hilarie co-founded The reSTART Center for Digital Technology Sustainability, the first treatment program of its kind in the United States to treat Internet gaming disorder and co-occurring conditions. She has been working in the field of mental health as a private practitioner for over 30 years specializing in the emerging field of Internet and video game addiction for the last 20. She has written multiple papers on Internet addiction, Internet Gaming Disorder in children and adolescents, as well as the screening test used to detect and evaluate Internet addiction symptoms.


Daphne Larose, Senior Software Engineer/Technical Lead Manager at Niantic Inc.

Daphne is a software engineer, tech developer, coder, and engineer currently working at gaming company Niantic Inc., working on Pokemon Go!. She is the founder of BlackFemaleCoders and has worked at such companies as Apple, Pocket Gems, and Lexmark working in device tech. Named one of the Top 50 Women in Tech by Forbes in 2018, she has spent her career designing APIs, adding features to various programming languages, writing security software for printers, writing the string logic for previously released Apple emoji and is now working on games. She loves writing and telling stories, reads constantly and grew up playing console and PC games.  Her ultimate goal is to be the inspiration she would like to see in our world and loves connecting with anyone else who is trying their best to do the same.


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