Now Reading: ’36 Questions’: The Podcast Love Story You’ll Obsess Over


’36 Questions’: The Podcast Love Story You’ll Obsess Over

March 6, 20185 min read

I discovered the three-part soundtrack to 36 Questions when Spotify suggested it to me after avid listening to the Hamilton soundtrack (the genius of Lin-Manuel Miranda really never gets old). I was immediately enamored with the voices of multidisciplinary artist Jessie Shelton and Jonathan Groff (Glee, Frozen, Hamilton).

But I was slightly confused.

The songs were extremely story driven, leading me on my hunt for what I assumed would be a theater production. But I eventually found myself clicking through a scientific report titled “The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness: A Procedure and Some Preliminary Findings.”

This report outlined an experiment where strangers are paired together and instructed to ask each other 36 questions designed to make them feel compassionate and attached to one another. It has since been regarded by moguls at The New York Times as an ice-breaking activity that ultimately leads to love. I was intrigued but still confused: It this is a scientific experiment, where is the music from? Not surprisingly and perhaps obviously, the answer lied in the About section of 36 Questions on Spotify. The gorgeous music came from a podcast musical.

Never heard of a podcast musical? Neither had I.

So I re-downloaded the Apple’s Podcasted app and downloaded the three episodes of 36 Questions (which were created, written, and composed by Christopher Littler and Ellen Winter). It was produced by Two-Up, a podcast studio that also created Limetown: an investigation into the mysterious disappearance of ordinary townspeople. This studio is delving into the emerging storytelling medium of audio. No visual concessions or follies.

I had never truly appreciated the digital stage of podcasts until I spent an entire night listening to 36 Questions. It is hands-down the best, most inspiring, and equally heartbreaking experience I’ve had since, well, since Hamilton.

The 36 Questions synopsis reads, “a couple attempts to bring their marriage back from the brink of divorce using 36 revealing questions designed to make strangers fall in love.”

The brilliant Jessie Shelton plays Judith Ford, a young woman with a troubled past that has been lying about her identity for two years. Her husband is Jase Connolly (played by Grammy award winner Jonathan Groff). Within the span of one fateful night, the couple struggles to unearth the other’s innermost secrets and painful histories in an attempt to save their marriage.

Courtesy of Alison Grasso for Two-Up

How do they do that?

By asking each other the actual 36 questions outlined in the scientific experiment, which is how they fell in love two years prior.

This podcast was heart-wrenching to say the least, but delightfully so. Hearing a love story unfold, crumble, and erupt into inconclusive flames is so much more unique and immersive than watching. In a little under three hours, 36 Questions poignantly addresses the age-old themes of love, mistakes, and honesty in a smart, modern soundscape. The words both spoken and sung by Shelton and Groff are as equally cutting as they are comforting.

36 Questions brings out some ugly truths, not only about its characters but about every single one of its listeners. We try to ignore the imperfection and insecurity that can sometimes accompany our most sincere relationships. By listening to this podcast, the listener sees themselves — or rather hears themselve — in the heroic and tragic actions of lovers struggling to uncover the one thing that evades us all: the truth.

36 Questions is available on iTunes, Apple Podcasts, and Google Play. Definitely, take a listen to this new innovation in storytelling. Relish in the love story that may sound crazy but also sounds a lot like yours.

Cover Image Courtesy of Two-Up Productions

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