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A play built out of questions? Yes, it really works!

By Heidi Nelson

Can you name a play in which audience members dance, turn change out of their pockets, speak truths, tell lies, weave stories about the past, and share dreams for the future? All this and more happens in the Foundry Theatre’s How Much Is Enough: Our Values in Question. Because ArtsEmerson will host The Foundry in August and September for rehearsals and the world premiere, I visited the company in New York City for a casual workshop rehearsal to get a better idea of what this curious new piece holds in store.

I’ve turned off my phone as a symbol that the people with whom I want to be in contact are in this room…

On the soggy Monday evening of July 25th, I made my way through the rain puddles in the East Village of Manhattan, located an unassuming gray door on 2nd Avenue, and trotted up the stairs to the rehearsal room. The space had a warm and well-used atmosphere with an old hardwood floor and several round wooden tables with red chairs set up. Company members and their guests were milling about, and Melanie Joseph, The Foundry’s Artistic Director, invited me to sit down.

All right, The world and valuenow raise your hand if you think: I don’t know why the world is the way it is but I’m willing to answer some questions about my own attempt to live a life of value so we can all listen to one another and get a sense of just exactly who we think we are tonight…

The most unusual (and exciting) aspect of this play is that it is made up of questions. Rather than simply observing interactions between characters on stage, the audience actually engages in the conversation. I know this probably sounds off-putting to a lot of theatergoers—audience participation can be embarrassing, disruptive, or just plain irritating—but playwright Kirk Lynn has a different goal. He wants participants to speak genuinely and listen to one another. In this case, audience participation is not a gimmick, a quaint trick to amuse spectators or make sure the audience feels “included.” The audience is the heart and soul of the play.

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