Civilians’ R&D In Process: THIS SHOW IS MONEY

Over the next several weeks, members of our 2019-20 R&D Group will take us behind-the-scenes of their projects in development. Today, Crystal Skillman and Gaby Alter share about "This Show Is Money." It will receive a work-in-progress showing on June 15.

We trust each other every day with what we can’t see.

But when that trust is threatened or broken, internal and external conflicts erupt between friends, family, and whole civilizations.

Trouble is, whether we hold it on our hands or transfer that trust now digitally, that thing … doesn’t actually exist. Or it didn’t until we made it up.

What is this powerful, mythical thing?

Money sculpture from Kidrobot X Jeremy Ville.

You saw that coming, didn’t you? After all, that is the title of our show show. And of course the show itself will need money at some point to be put on and seen, by you, the reader, the audience, who is just as affected by this “imaginary” concept that affects your life every day. Even images of money seems to worship this fictional idea we have all grown accustomed too every day — it surrounds us globally — in art, song, T-shirts …

But why? And how did money get created? And what effect has trusting in the all mighty dollar done?

A “Cyrus” coin made during the election with Trump. Courtesy of Anne Nelson.

Prologue

“Two Ensemble Members enter, nod ‘Good Morning’ to each other, and acknowledge the audience. It’s another day, another beginning.

But then they suddenly open their hands. They are empty.  But one ‘sees’ something in her hand. She plucks this thing in the shape of a coin from her hands. Looks and examines it. It’s clearly precious and to be handled with care.

One by one, they pass it to each other. So clearly, so concisely that we begin to see it.”

This Show is Money is a theatrical event that, through text and song, investigates with an audience how and why we place our trust in something that is itself actually fictional. Why and how we are caught in this system, and how it affects us in ways we can see and can’t see. The show unpacks larger concepts of how money works as well (a la The Big Short), and includes timely examinations of WeWork, and the current state of our economy, currently under enormous strain.

Our first interviews have dealt with those who deal, or write about, money itself and its systems: a financial journalist who has gone after big business, a professor who chronicled the history of banking dominated by men in the twentieth century, a writer whose recent non-fiction novel followed “dark money” used by the religious right in the 2016 election, and those on the ground for Occupy Wall Street.

Our second round of interviews is now exploring the idea of the 1 percent. Ultimately, we are looking to see how those interviews and emotions speak to one another. Even as we sit in the theater, the economy itself seems to be a ticking clock for the show, adding urgency to these scenes unfolding before us.

As we dove further into our writing, we found that a musical number about the history of money was necessary.

Gaby Alter (Music/Lyrics) has shared the song which you can listen to as a sneak peek — lyrics below.

A sneak peek of “I Believe.”

ENSEMBLE

I BELIEVE 

Promise me…

I’ll promise you…

Promise me…

I promise, promise

Trust in me

I’ll trust in you

Trust in me

I promise, promise

In 9000 BC we used to barter

It was all concrete, there was nothing abstract

I took the surplus goods in my larder

And traded them for the ones that I lacked

But as societies grew ever more complicated

Job specialization made it hard to agree

On the exchange value of our goods, so then we traded

Things that everyone needed, like grain, cattle and tea.

But these were hard to transport–

Hey, these cows are heavy!

And there were problems with storage:

Grains easily spoil!

So people started using things like cowrie shells

And later on useless metals that they found in the soil

And we were like, a-ha, these are lightweight and durable

Plus they’re insurable by the emperor’s seal

So though it’s true that these things are just arbitrary

& their value is imaginary, we’ll make it real

‘Cause I believe, I believe

And you believe, you believe

And we put our trust in the emperor

If you believe, I believe

Then we agree, we agree

And we can put our trust in a stranger

Now there was cooperation

Across borders and nations

Between Greeks and Thracians

With no hesitation

‘Cause no matter what your diety

Or your country of birth

Everybody could agree on what these coins were worth

And they converted anything into anything else

Like apples into cattle, like shoes into wine

Because of this system

Everybody could trust in

You could get what you wanted and you could get it on time

‘Cause I believe, I believe

And you believe, you believe

Then we make this dream a reality

If you believe, I believe

Then we agree, we agree

No matter our God or nationality

If the bank loans me a dollar

For my business

It’s because they believe in my future profits

Though the dollars I will make do not yet exist

They believe, and I believe

We believe in the future

My profits will increase

If my profits increase

Everybody gets a piece

‘Cause I reinvest my profits

And my staff gets bigger

And as my business gets bigger

Everybody’s piece is bigger

The economy keeps growing and growing

And there’s no slowin’ down

We reinvest the profits

Benefits go flowin’ down

From top to bottom

Everybody’s got ’em, holy cow-rie

Isn’t that how it works? Just look around you, now!

‘Cause I believe I believe

And you believe, you believe

And so we put our trust in the future

What’s up ahead, we don’t dread it

We create lines of credit

And we reinvest in the future

Overseas colonies

New technologies

And the cycle never ceases

We all get bigger pieces

Slowin’ down, we will never, we’ll keep growin’ forever!

We’ll keep goin’ forever!

We’ll keep growin’ forever!

We’ll keep goin’ forever!

We’ll keep growin’ forever!

Isn’t that how it works?

Just look around you now!

Just look around you now!

Just look around you now!

Just look around you now!

As we continue to develop the show, you can see some of what we’re working on in the R&D Findings Series on June 15th at 8pm. You can RSVP here.

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