NU Theatre: How Would You Spend a $1,000?

Someone sets $1,000 on a stage and says, “How should we spend it?” What would you decide?

Here’s your chance to find out. This year’s theme for Northwestern University’s theater program is poverty. With that in mind, veteran Sojurn Theatre director Michael Rohd was asked to bring his brand of theater programming—that of a dialogue between theatre and community—to close out the season. The result? The upcoming “How to End Poverty in 90 Minutes (with 199 other people you may or may not know).”

The show takes $1,000 from tickets sales and asks the audience along on a journey, that while structured, engages them in active participation about how the money should be spent. The actors have spent class time in preparation on both the theme and the show.

“I was asked to propose a show to the theatre department based on the theme for the year—poverty,” Rohd says. “I told them to do this, I would want to teach a course.” The students were immersed in readings, reflections and personal presentations on poverty, along with discourse from community leaders engaged in solving the problem of poverty.

Armed with a deeper knowledge of the subject, these student actors are ready to put it to the test on stage. Theatergoers should know, this isn’t a straightforward lesson on poverty, and it isn’t improv, either.

“If you think you’re coming to a play to learn about how to end poverty … no,” Rohd explains. “It is a show. There is song, dance, scenes … and it is inviting the audience into and through conversation (about poverty). About a third of the show is participatory structured—a facilitated conversation that the cast leads.”

The end result? With each performance, another $1,000 is sent out into the community as part of a collaborative discussion on an important social issue.

“We’re certainly putting information and context into the space,” Rohd says. “I hope people learn theatre is an interesting and surprising way to have a public conversation. It’s the intersection of civic life and civic discourse and theatre and art.”

“How to End Poverty in 90 Minutes (with 199 people you may or may not know)” will be staged at the Theatre and Interpretation Center at Northwestern University’s Ethel M. Barber Theater, 30 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston campus. Performances will take place at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 15; 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 16; 8 p.m. Friday, May 17; 8 p.m. Saturday, May 18; 2 p.m. Sunday, May 19; 10 a.m. Wednesday, May 22; 5 p.m. Thursday, May 23; 8 p.m. Friday, May 24; and 8 p.m. Saturday, May 25.

Tickets are $25 for the general public; $22 for seniors over 62 and Northwestern faculty and staff and educators; $10 for full-time students at the door; or $5 for Northwestern students with advance purchase only. To purchase tickets by phone or for information on discounts for groups of eight or more, contact the TIC box office at (847) 491-7282. Tickets are also available online.