WNPR

"The Money" Makes American Premiere at Arts and Ideas Festival

Jun 21, 2016

"The Money" isn't about the money. In a way, it's about how we make decisions collectively.

It's 5:00 pm. You're at the Quinnipiack Club in New Haven, where you've been shut up in the library. A big, red, digital clock sits in the corner, counting down from 90 minutes.

You and 14 other people sit around a table. In the middle of the table sits $300. An audience looks on as you and the others try to figure out what to do with this stack of cash before the time runs out.

That's the premise of "The Money," a sort of interactive, immersive, play/performance thing that runs at the International Festival of Arts and Ideas through this Saturday.

Seth Honnor, artistic director of Kaleider -- the studio that puts on The Money -- said that they "tend to call it a kind of 'show game,' rather than a game show." And he's right. It's more of a game than it's theater.

You, the ticket holder, are a kind of contestant in this "show game." And unless you and the rest of the group of "benefactors," as you're called, can agree -- unanimously -- on what to do with the money, it rolls over to the next group, to the following days' performance.

(In fact, the $300 sitting on the table was the benefactors' money to begin with. It's the $20 each of you paid to get in. You can also pay a premium -- $35 instead of $20 -- to be in the audience, to be a "silent witness," to just watch other people struggle with this responsibility.)

Sunday's performance of "The Money" at the Quinnipiack Club in New Haven.
Credit Jonathan McNicol / WNPR

Some groups donate the money to charity. Some groups just take the money and go out for drinks. Some groups devise a sort of lottery and award the money to someone in the room.

"Then they have the dilemma," Honnor said. "They carry the dilemma for the whole group, then, of what to do with this money."

And some groups -- about a third of them -- can't come to a decision at all.

"I love a rollover," Honnor said. "In a way, 'The Money' isn't about the money. In a way, it's about how we make decisions collectively. The point of the show is the process, not really what people decide in the end -- or even whether they decide."

At Sunday’s performance in New Haven, the 15 strangers agreed to split the money, with half going to buy tickets to Kinky Boots for low-income LGBT kids, and half going to buy socks for the homeless.

"When people come to a decision," Honnor said, "they're quite pleased. And then they wake up the next day, and I think the doubt creeps in sometimes. They kind of go, 'What-- What-- Why did we decide that? There were a million other things we could've decided. How did we come to that decision?' "

So at about 6:30, when your 90 minutes runs out, one way or another, you'll have a lot to think about.