You're at the Walker Art Center, doing something there's a good chance you have not done for 13 months: meeting someone new.
The Walker is hosting 600 Highwaymen's thought-provoking "A Thousand Ways, Part Two (An Encounter)," which tries to get at essential elements of how we connect. The first part — which you needn't have participated in to enjoy this "sequel" — involved a phone call, a voice prompting your interactions with a stranger.
The second, at the Walker through May 2, brings you on stage at the McGuire Theater to sit at a table, across from a masked stranger with a glass panel dividing you. Between you is a pile of cards that will guide both of you through what feels like a combination of theater and one of those getting-to-know-you games designed to generate conversation. (Part Three will be a party of sorts.)
The cards are the same for everyone who sees the show (I think) but "A Thousand Ways" is going to be different every time because the people are different.
Certain moments require one of you to take the lead. Who will do that? Certain questions ask you to dig into your memory. Will be you be able to? Certain scenarios want you to use your imagination to envision your partner in a setting somewhere else. Are you good at that?
I don't want to make "A Thousand Ways" sound like a chore that forces you to "put on a performance." Designed by theatermakers Abigail Browde and Michael Silverstone, it gently alternates between prosaic topics ("Can you drive a stick shift?") to thornier ones (Does tussling with a sibling count as a "physical fight"?) to some that are open-ended, such as describing when you last felt joy. Honestly, it's joyful just to be asked to consider a variety of questions and take the time to think: Wait, is that really how I feel?
I suspect most people will find unique resonance with the questions. Just that morning, for instance, I had complained to co-workers about my desire for a printer, and one question seemed to be mocking that desire. Also, I had just seen a lovely movie called "Limbo," in which one character amuses another by covering the bottom of his face and asking his buddy to guess whether he's smiling. It felt like a metaphor, since my partner's expressive voice offered clues but I could not see her masked mouth.
I liked her a lot. But I also know almost nothing about her. I have no clue for whom she voted, where she lives or what she's planning for the baby I could see she'll give birth to soon.
"A Thousand Ways" suggests that might not be a bad way to get to know people in this divisive and isolated time. What if we were able to get to know people before we discover things about them that might seem to disqualify them from our friendship?
I'm not even sure "A Thousand Ways" is about my partner and I bet she feels the same way. Maybe it's not about getting to know who they are. Maybe it's about getting to know who we are when we meet them.
chris.hewitt@startribune. com • 612-673-4367 • Twitter: @HewittStrib
A Thousand Ways, Part Two (An Encounter)
When: April 24-25 & 29-May 2.
Where: Walker Art Center, Mpls. (use 1750 Hennepin Av. S. entrance).
Tickets: $25, walkerart.org.