TRADE PRACTICES is an immersive site-specific experience, which examines the notion of “value” against the backdrop of the booms and busts of the past decade. A fictional currency company’s evolution from family business to publicly ­traded corporation is told through original texts presented simultaneously in competing episodes. The audience doesn’t just watch: they become actors on an economic stage, exploring how we decide what something is worth and what we value.

Project Description

TRADE PRACTICES is created by director Kristin Marting and scenic designer David Evans Morris with writers Erin Courtney, Eisa Davis, Robert Lyons, Qui Nguyen, KJ Sanchez and Chris Wells, designers Liz Bourgeois, Xander Duell, Chris Kuhl, Jared Mezzochi and Jane Shaw, and a diverse 10-person ensemble. The performance examines the notion of “value” by dropping the audience into a living market in the trade of short performances. Six original texts charting the evolution of a fictional currency company from family-owned business to publicly-traded corporation are presented concurrently in serialized installments. Each episode presents the same moment in the life of the company, but told from the perspective of a different group with a stake in the company and sense of its value—the owners, managers, workers, marketers, investors/bankers, and the government. The audience’s actions determine the cost for each play’s next episode, driving prices up and down in response to market forces. TRADE PRACTICES isn’t just about markets; it is a market, where audiences become actors—rational or otherwise—on an economic stage.

Each of the storylines is crafted by a different writer in a distinct style and voice. While Qui Nguyen’s Worker storyline tells the story of the company through the lens of Homer’s Odyssey, Chris Wells’s play about the Owners wraps historical fiction in music-theater pageantry; and Robert Lyons’s Managers’ tale of a competitive, compulsive, sexually obsessive relationship is an analog for managerial striving and organizational behavior. Because all shows run concurrently, the audience—“shareholders” in the show—must each choose whose story they want to hear for each episode. The episodic structure allows them to sample differing viewpoints, finding ones that expand, align, or contrast with their sense of what is valuable.

TRADE PRACTICES seeks to improve citizenship skills by guiding its audience to a consciousness of how they make decisions about what they do or don’t find valuable—be they companies, credos or candidates; knowledge they take with them as they leave the theater and re-enter the market of daily life in our democracy. We feel real urgency to create this work now, in this period of economic upheaval that daily impacts regular citizens, as a contribution to the broader debate about wealth and our society’s values.

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