THE FIFTEENTH CHALLENGE: The Art of Autosuggestion


NOTE: If somehow I didn’t catch it and you’re taking part in this challenge and one of the actors who has yet to participate in An Oak Tree- STOP READING.

Just write something with about a ton of flowers on stage. A metric freaking ton… of flowers.


The rest of you:


Please watch this Tim Crouch TedTalk

AND if you’re super into it also here is a link to our dramaturg’s background for audiences.

Click here for a pdf

Tim Crouch is the playwright of An Oak Tree- the play currently running here at my theater company in Chicago.

 The play is teaching me a lot about the nature of theater, about performed gender roles, about the dual realities between performer and character.


I’m including a sample of the text at the bottom so that you get a feel for how Tim sets it up.


The major premise is this.

Two Actors. One has rehearsed the play. The second has never even read it.  Performed by a different person each night, the second actor will discover the play and their role at the same time as you do.


Now, you could really do this wrong.

You could play a sadistic “get the guest” and take terrible advantage of the power imbalance, but this play doesn’t. The new actor is the hero- innocent, literally pulled from the audience, sympathetic. 


CHALLENGE: The Art of Autosuggestion

Probably best accomplished by: Two actors. One has not rehearsed the play.

You suggest something to a performer or to the audience, and because there is nothing else… the suggestion becomes true. 

Tools: You can hand them parts of the script. You can tell them what to say. You can speak into their ear via a secret microphone.


Advantages: It traps everyone in the moment. They play cannot move forward because it literally can’t. So we all become extremely aware of the present moment. Trapped, perhaps, and not in control.


It’s good for preciousness

It’s good for dealing with pain, because it sits


Don’t make it a yuck yuck we don’t know what we’re doing show.





The actor playing the FATHER is sitting in the audience. The HYPNOTIST

walks on stage.

HYPNOTIST Ladies and gentlemen. Good evening/afternoon. My

name is X  Welcome to the  (name of the theater)

Would you come up and stand here, please?

The HYPNOTIST invites the second actor out of their seat in the

audience and onto the stage.

Ladies and gentlemen. This is X ( the name of the second

actor ). X will be performing in the play this evening. X

has neither seen nor read it.

X and I met up about an hour ago. I have given him/her a

number of suggestions. I’ve suggested that they enjoy


But the story is as new to X as it is to you.


scene 1

The HYPNOTIST hands the FATHER a page of script. “Could we just read

this together you and me?” The second actor reads the part of the

FATHER from the script.




HYPNOTIST Thanks for this.

FATHER It’s a pleasure!




HYPNOTIST How are you feeling?



FATHER A little.

HYPNOTIST It’ll be fine. You’ll be fine.

FATHER I’m sure.

HYPNOTIST Any questions before we start?

FATHER Not really.


FATHER How long is the show?

HYPNOTIST It’s just over an hour.


HYPNOTIST Anything else?

FATHER How free am I?

HYPNOTIST Every word we speak is scripted but otherwise –


HYPNOTIST Anything else?

FATHER Not really.

HYPNOTIST Just say if you feel awkward or confused and we’ll




The HYPNOTIST takes the FATHER’s script from him/her.



Can I ask you just to look at me.

Ask me what I’m being. Say, “What are you being?”

FATHER What are you being?

HYPNOTIST I’m being a hypnotist.


I’m twenty-eight years old. I’ve got brown hair, blue

eyes, and many freckles.


I’m wearing these clothes.

Now ask who you are, say “And me?”


FATHER And me?


HYPNOTIST You’re a father. Your name’s Andy. You’re 46

years old, you’re six foot two. Your lips are cracked.

Your fingernails are dirty. You’re wearing a crumpled North Face jacket. Your pants are muddy, your shoes are muddy. You have tremors.

You’re unshaven. Your hair is greying. You have a

bloodshot eye.

That’s great! You’re doing really well!

Also, you’ll volunteer for my hypnotism act. You’ll

volunteer because I accidentally killed your oldest

daughter with my car and you think I may have

some answers to some questions you’ve been

asking. I won’t recognize you when you volunteer. I

won’t recognize you because, in the three months

since the accident, you’ve changed. We’ve both




That’s about as hard as it gets, I promise.