by Lynn on November 6, 2020

in The Passionate Playgoer

Performed by a phone call between two strangers and a computer-generated voice.

Written and created by Abigail Browde and Michael Silverstone (600 Highwaymen)

Cast: A, B and a computer-generated female voice.

This initiative was created by the two-person collective known as 600 Highwaymen. It’s a hugely creative, edgy company that focuses on creating theatre that connects people in different ways. A Thousand Ways is one example of their creativity.

From the press release:

“In a time when we’re accustomed to division, when isolation is required, A Thousand Ways offers a chance to experience new ways of coming together. This quietly radical experiment is a three-part journey that takes place over several months, with each distinct installment presenting a new chance at making simple contact with a stranger. This is a path toward finding our way again. Something will be broken. Something will be built. 600 Highwaymen provides the instructions, the map, the recipe. All we need is you.

Part One / A Phone Call
Using a carefully crafted set of directives relayed over a simple phone call, you and another audience member – both strangers – take a journey together over the course of an hour.”

Details of Parts 2 and 3 will be released in the coming months.

Guided by a score of instructions, questions, prompts, and physical directives, people who have never met build a series of performances for one another. 

The first installment in the triptych is calleda Phone Call. Pick up the phone. Someone is on the line. You don’t know their name and you still won’t when the hour is over, but as you follow the recorded instructions, a portrait of your partner will emerge through fleeting moments of exposure.
In the future, on dates to-be-announced,  An Encounter and An Assembly (parts 2 and 3) will be presented. The pieces have been created to work collectively or independently. You can attend only one or be a part of any two, or all three
A Thousand Ways (Part One): A Phone Call runs November 4 – 22, Tuesday to Saturday at 6:00pm, 7:30pm, and 9:00pm and Sundays at 2:00pm, 3:30pm, and 5:00pm.  Tickets can be purchased at or by calling the box-office at 416-368-3110.”

Actually it’s the participant that makes the phone call. We are given a phone number to call. Initially I was asked to call a phone number in Massachusetts. Odd I thought as the company producing it is Canadian Stage in Toronto and 600 Highwaymen is in residence with Canadian Stage for several months.  I enquired of the box office. I was then sent another phone number to call, this time in Canada (?!), in Calgary. Also, I had to enter an access code and a security code.

The flat, colourless female ‘voice’ created by a computer welcomed me and noted that my performing partner-stranger had joined the call. We were asked to say hello to each other. We did. My partner on the other line was a woman.  We were asked to decide who would be ‘A’ and who would be ‘B’. My partner wanted to be ‘B’. The ‘voice’ asked us many questions in turn. I was asked the year I was born (I did hesitate a bit….hmmm personal). Did I have tattoos? (no). Why not? We both were asked about the colour of our eyes and hair. Name a person we loved? We were asked to imagine we were driving in the desert and the car broke down. (I’m hyperventilating here). Do we stay in the car or leave to walk to the next ‘town.’

I found that ‘B’ was asked more questions than ‘A’. I didn’t mind that. We found out many things about the other. We were asked to pick out a thing that impressed  us about the other. In retrospect I wish I had picked out more things because there were many impressive things about my stranger-partner. (Stuff to keep in mind when we meet a stranger again).

The creators, 600 Highwaymen, gave the ‘voice’ a sense of humour. At one point in the process the flat voice said, “Oh shit, fuck, I forgot to ask a question” and then asked the forgotten question. At another point the “voice” repeated a question, contradicting the statement at the beginning it would not repeat a question.

At the end the questions concluded and the ‘voice’ said it was finished and said good bye. I wished that we were given the opportunity to say good-bye directly to our stranger. I would love to have thanked “B” for a lovely experience and laughing at my humour—I, in turn, marveled at things she said and experienced. She in fact had been born in Calgary and only recently moved to Toronto—why then did I need to call Calgary? Stuff to ponder.  

A Thousand Ways (perhaps representative of how we find out about the life and thoughts of a stranger) is a fascinating experience. I so love the creative thinking and artistic endeavours of 600 Highwaymen. Check them out.

Presented by Canadian Stage and 600 Highwaymen.

Runs Nov. 4-22  


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