One-woman show: 'The Money Conversation' 

click to enlarge Sara Juli
  • Sara Juli

Sara Juli, a performance artist/dancer/comic gives away her life savings — literally — in The Money Conversation, at the Studio Theatre at the Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday.

This will be her 35th performance of the piece, over six years and she keeps learning about people and money each time she performs it. She's performed her one-man show, The Money Conversation, over the U.S. and also in Holland, Russia, New Zealand, and Australia.

In this 60-minute performance, Juli draws on monologue, dance, and audience participation. She's cashed in her life's savings and brings it to the performance each evening, in cash. And with every performance, something different happens.

Juli says that people react differently depending on geographic location, but that generally, when people talk about money, they talk about it as a burden.

When people think about money, they tend to think about student loans and bills, rather than donations or random gifts. And thus, people's reaction to the performance piece tends to be their reaction to money: it makes them uncomfortable.

"In Holland," Juli noted in a recent phone conversation, "all of the items that people were talking about in terms of assigning value, were used things: used computers, a jacket from a secondhand store, etc. That's very different from the U.S., where people are always thinking about the value of new things; obsessed with buying new."

Juli literally asks the audience to participate in the conversation by commenting on the value of the things that they own.

Juli says that the origin of the show stems from real life. "My husband and I began The Money Conversation when we got engaged (6 years ago) and began discussing what it would mean to combine our finances. The dialogue always made me incredibly tense and anxious. It was then that I knew I needed to make a dance about money as a way to reassess my relationship to it."

She says that the show, no matter how many times she's performed it, continues to be grounded in fear. She's still afraid of losing the money that she offers to the audience — because, much greater than the value of the cash, it holds the value of performing the show.

Early on, Juli recalls, she would look at people and think, 'they won't take my money,' but then they would.

"Looking at people is never an indication of how they will treat money."

And the show really comes to life after the performance is over: the conversations that continue — no matter if people take money or leave it. It becomes an ongoing conversation and an ongoing thought process — for Juli and for the audience.

"Performing and touring this piece as much as I have is a constant reminder of the power of money. The piece brings out the best and the worst in people and I love that about the show. People do and say strange things during the show. People judge me as a person as a way to justify their behavior. I hear things like, 'I need the money more than she does.' Really?"

Expect to experience the gambit of emotion. You'll get to participate and make decisions — and you might just get to know yourself a little better.

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Micah Ling

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