Cleveland Public Theatre will work to ‘End Poverty in 90 Minutes’ with unusual show

In late January, a production will take the stage at Cleveland Public Theatre that sounds both unusual and potentially thought-provoking.

Presented along with the United Way of Greater Cleveland and created by Sojourn Theatre, “How to End Poverty in 90 Minutes (with 119 people you may or may not know)” is described in a CPT news release as a 90-minute show in which the audience listens, explores and, ultimately, decides how to spend $1,000 from that evening’s box-office sales. It is “an experiment in dialogue, collective decision-making, shared responsibility, and the potential for art to transform our world,” and it is slated to be produced in the Gordon Square Theatre Jan. 24 through 28.

Metro Creative Connection
(Metro Creative Connection)

“This is a truly exciting collaboration between a national theater, a local theater and United Way,” CPT Executive Artistic Director Raymond Bobgan says in the release. “For a long time, I’ve been wanting to bring this play to Cleveland, but I couldn’t quite figure out the right partners. And it was just so exciting to have United Way of Greater Cleveland step up. So many of the challenges we face in our community come back to poverty and basic inequity. Theatre’s role is to help us as a community think deeply about what matters most.”

Adds United Way of Greater Cleveland’s President and CEO August A. Napoli Jr., “People have been talking about the intersection of the arts and social justice to transform lives and communities for a long time. It’s important to move beyond simply talking about it – and this collaboration is actually doing it – and breaking ground.”

Sojourn Theatre, and more specifically Michael Rohd, devised the production to be a community-specific, participatory event that explores poverty and democracy, the release states.

“The play is not a single story, but the journey of strangers (the audience) making a decision about how to best engage with a seemingly intractable and complex public issue,” the release continues.

It was created after year of research and community partner building, the release states, and opened in May 2013 at Northwestern University in Chicago and has since been produced in places including Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Portland, Oregon; and Big Sky, Montana. As of last year, “Sojourn Theatre has repurposed over $65,000 from the arts economy towards the poverty reduction economy across six states where the show has been presented.”

The audience is invited to arrive at 7 p.m. for a pre-show installation that’s part “interactive museum”and part “science fair,” the release states.

“The entire Gordon Square Theatre space will be activated with small performances, interactive displays and opportunities for audience members to ask questions and reflect on values and experiences.”

Tickets are $25. Get them and more information here.

Follow Mark Meszoros on Twitter @MarkMeszoros.

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