“A Thousand Ways: An Assembly," the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston. Photos by Liza Voll Photography.

I had a surreal and intimate conversation with a stranger on the phone about a year-and-a-half ago, during the lull before our first wintertime COVID spike. (Remember our "darkest winter"? I try to forget.) I say intimate because I hadn't spoken with a stranger in a long time, and also because we asked each other personal questions, like how we saw ourselves, who we loved, what our family history was like. And I say surreal because a robot facilitated the whole experience, serving us prompts and pushing along the conversation.

The conversation was the first part of A Thousand Ways, a now years-long performance collaboration between Obie Award-winning theater-makers 600 HIGHWAYMEN and Seattle's On the Boards. They designed this experience to play out in three parts, starting with this little bit of auto theater and gradually evolving into an in-person "return to togetherness," which happens this week.

After my phone call during the show's first part, I told Stranger staffer Jas Keimig how "I could run into that person" I spoke with on the phone "at a grocery store in 2022, and we’d have no idea that we had an hour-long intimate conversation, just us and a robot, during the coronavirus pandemic." Now, I can't even recall details of that woman's voice. If I ran into her today or this weekend, I'd have no idea. But I think I'll keep remembering how that conversation made me feel.

This great big project will conclude this week at On the Boards. Participating in the first two parts isn't required. Just go, trust the strangers around you, and I bet they'll move you.

600 HIGHWAYMEN's A Thousand Ways wraps up this Thursday through Saturday. Tickets are limited, so act fast. See more top picks from The Stranger here.