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'How to End Poverty in 90 Minutes' Much More Than Just a Play

Audience members to decide how to spend $1,000 in cash during each performance

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April 29, 2013

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Imagine a theatrical performance in which $1,000 dollars is onstage and the audience is asked to spend it. That’s the premise of “How to End Poverty in 90 Minutes (with 199 people you may or may not know),” an unusual piece of theatre directed by Northwestern faculty member and Sojourn Theatre founder Michael Rohd at Northwestern University from May 15 through May 25.

“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.

Conceived by Rohd in collaboration with Northwestern student cast and team members, “How to End Poverty” is more than just a play. It is a lecture, public conversation, physical theatre piece and interactive workshop that will challenge a different audience during each and every show with the question: how do you attack the problem of poverty in America?

In the course of each 90-minute performance, the audience will listen, explore and ultimately choose how to spend $1,000 from ticket sales sitting on the stage. The production is an experiment in dialogue, collective decision-making, shared responsibility and, most of all, in the ability of art to help make the world a better place.

While touching on serious issues, “How to End Poverty” will be neither dry nor self-righteous, according to Rohd. “Like any theatre piece, it’s entertaining. It will include moments of fiction, spectacle and physical theatre, as well as discussion and audience involvement.” 

As a director, Rohd sees theatre as an opportunity to produce encounters that allow strangers to connect with one another -- and preferably on civic issues that are difficult to discuss and often ignored. “My first goal and the goal of my collaborators is to figure out how to have a creative and imaginative conversation about complicated topics," said Rohd.

In addition to a cast of 16 Northwestern undergraduates, the production boasts a design team that includes Emmy Award-winning choreographer Billy Siegenfeld, Tony Award-winning co-set designer Todd Rosenthal, Michael Merritt Emerging Artist Award-winning lighting designer Sarah Hughey, Jeff Award-winning sound designer Rick Sims and Los Angeles-based video/projections designer Shannon Scofano. Rohd is also working with Northwestern MFA design students Shawn Johnson (co-set designer), Stephanie Cluggish (costume designer) and Kati Sweaney (dramaturg).

Sponsored in part by a grant from The Alumnae of Northwestern University, the production is partially supported by a grant from Northwestern University’s Center for Interdisciplinary Research in the Arts Committee and co-sponsored by the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities. It also is supported by an Innovations grant from the Northwestern University School of Communication.

Construction Alert: A three-year construction project underway on the southeast end of the Northwestern University Evanston campus has closed the Arts Circle Drive to traffic. Free parking for evenings and weekend events remains available, but the project will impact handicapped parking and patrons requiring special access to Evanston campus theaters. Visit www.tic.northwestern.edu/construction to learn more.

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 at www.tic.northwestern.edu.

Topics: Campus Life