By Holli Harms

What is theatre? A collective? A gathering together in a shared experience? Something that must be face-to-face to create power and depth? A THOUSAND WAYS (PART ONE): A PHONE CALL By 600 HIGHWAYMEN (U.S.) presented by The Public’s Under The Radar Series has shattered all of that and created a powerful piece performed (and that’s not quite the right word, “experienced with”, sounds better) two complete strangers on the phone. When you attend, you are both the audience and the performer/creator.

In the comfort of my own home, a few minutes before my allotted time I was emailed a phone number to call and a code to punch in. I waited for precisely the exact moment and placed the call.
A woman’s voice came on the line, ”Please be in a quiet room and alone. Please hold until the other joins. There will be music.”

Then the other arrives. Another ticket holder. A complete stranger who, by the end of the hour phone conversation, will have become a friend, a comrade, someone I want to meet face to face and whom I already feel I know from this encounter.

“This is a way to see one another. Words are all we have,” says the electronic voice who will be our guide for the next hour.

We are asked to say hello and then to pick if we are either A or B. I was A. She was B. Questions are asked of both of us. Have you ever been to Pensacola, Florida? To Dublin? Dubai? Do you have a child? Do you bite your nails? Do you like to dance? Why? What is in the room you are in? Describe it. And more. So many more.

We both heard and answered with words that brought gasps and laughs from the other. I cannot explain it, but this stranger and I, this other audience member/performer, connected through questions about our lives. Things were said and described that deepened the building bond making it richer as we went along.

The voice, asking us at one point, “One tiny detail that someone might not see about you.” Wow, to share that with a friend, much less a stranger on the phone. The details of our lives, our memories, and experiences the prompt voice said, “This is your luggage. What is in your pockets.” How true. Luggage does not have to be bad. It can be the clothes and favorite pieces we pull out to put on that show us at our best, that display the stories of our lives. They create who we are and how we think and feel. It was so surprisingly wonderful to create this bond! Isn’t that what great theater seeks to do?

You have to do this, call in. The end.

I cannot say enough about the evening, the short 60-minute performance. I ended it with tears. My B was also crying. Tears of connection, human connection that was so intimate and beautiful. We ended with shouts of, “I love you!” to each other as we hung up the phone never to see or speak to each other again. It was a magical evening, a marvelous experience, and all on the phone with a stranger.

The words, the questions, so carefully chosen at each turn in the evening. Abigail Browde and Michael Silverstone have created what looks on the page, a simple call and response, questions and answers, but what happens breaks through words and goes deeper than the sound of a voice.

Written and created by Abigail Browde and Michael Silverstone
Executive Producer: Thomas O. Kriegsmann / ArKtype

A THOUSAND WAYS (PART ONE): A PHONE CALL is the first of an eventual three-part series
December 21, 2020-January 17, 2021

The show is sold out here in New York, HOWEVER, you can participate at any of the other “performances” just go HERE to the website and get a ticket for California or Oregon. Go!