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Audio Play / 36 Questions

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"I am going on the record here to make this right."

Well, it’s definitely a poetic gesture. You and I fell in love when we did the 36 Questions two years ago. Why wouldn't it work twice?

36 Questions — The Podcast Musical is a 3-Act Audio Play created by Ellen Winter and Chris Littler, starring Jessie Shelton and Jonathan Groff.

The musical follows the story of Judith Ford, who is trying to fix her relationship with her estranged husband after he found out her life was a lie. Her plan to do so involves getting him to answer the "36 Questions" that are designed to bring two strangers closer together.

The story does not have a traditional narrator - instead, the musical is framed as if it's all just being recorded on Judith's mobile phone, and characters will occasionally start Narrating the Present for the sake of the recording.

The show can be listened to on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or, as well as the official website, where sheet music and transcripts can be found.


  • All Animals Are Domesticated: Jase just finds a duck outside his house, and proceeds to keep it as a pet. Some of the last scenes imply that Henry is still Jase's pet after almost a decade.
  • The Alleged House: Jase's childhood home does not stand up well to the storm. One Thing explains how Jase's list of things to fix just keeps growing.
    Judith: What was that?
    Jase: That was the sound of the shelf I just installed, buckling under the weight of a hundred books. Knew I was -
    *crashing noise*
    Jase: And, there goes my grandmother's urn.
    *popping noises*
    Jase: And - uh, I actually have no idea what that is...
  • Ambiguous Ending: The story ends with Jase and Judith finishing the 36 questions in person after spending years apart, but there is no explanation as to if they got back together eventually.
  • Arc Words:
    • "That's not the question".
    • "For the Record" is usually said whenever someone is narrating for the sake of the recording.
  • Ashes to Crashes: Jase's grandmother's urn breaks when one of the shelves he installed fails.
  • Beach Kiss: Jase and Judith have one suddenly at the end of A Better Version.
  • Burn Baby Burn: Judith gets Jase to burn all of her fake documents as the first stage of erasing her past life.
  • Caught in the Rain: Happens to Jase and Judith near the end of Act 1. Played for laughs when Jase asks if Judith was invoking the trope.
    Jase: Wait. Was this part of your plan?
    Judith: Yeah, Jase. I made this storm happen, because I’m an X-Man now.
  • Chocolate of Romance: Jase and Judith enjoy some Toblerone during the motel scene. Subverted in that this is where Jase leaves Judith.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Judith's life flashed before her eyes when Jase left her, but not when she was dead for three minutes.
    Jase: Okay, Question 18: "What is your most terrible memory?"
    Judith: Uh, dying. That was pretty bad. [...] Finding out you skipped town without telling me where you were going super sucked.
    Jase: Okay, gotta pick one.
    Judith: You leaving, then.
  • "Fawlty Towers" Plot: Judith only intended that live a lie for the span of "one cup of coffee"... only to end up continuing to lie once it was "Too late to backpedal, too good not to keep going."
  • Foil: While Judith and Jase initially don't seem that different, it gradually becomes apparent that Jase Will Not Tell a Lie (as opposed to Judith's life of an Invented Individual), and Judith refuses to give up on trying to fix her relationship with Jase (whereas Jase declared Screw This, I'm Outta Here at the beginning). Averted later in the story, when Judith and Jase both get a better grip of their lives.
  • First-Episode Twist: It starts with a few quick voice memos that establish that the main character is named Natalie, she is engaged to her fiancé Jase, and she occasionally uses her phone to record audio from moments of her life she wants to remember. Then we get a time-skip, followed by "Natalie" revealing that her name is actually Judith Ford, and she has been lying to Jase about her identity from the moment they met.
  • Freudian Excuse: Subverted - Judith explains that her parents explicitly showed her you could tell lies to get out of most situations, but in spite of this, she never tries to blame her lying nature on them.
  • Hollywood Fire: Averted - after burning "Natalie's" fake IDs, you can hear Judith and Jase coughing due to the smoke.
  • Hope Spot: Everything seemed to be going so well at the motel scene...and then Jase admits that he still can't forgive her.
  • I Hate Past Me: Judith's explanation for why she invented "Natalie" is that she was ashamed of who she was, and wished to be someone different. In For The Record, Judith says that she hates her past so much, she'd rather stick knives into her eyes than tell Jase too much about her past.
  • In Medias Res: The songs in the second act mostly focus on Judith's past, whereas the songs in the first and third acts only focus on the present.
  • Invented Individual: The plot starts when Jase learns that "Natalie Cook" is nothing but a lie.
  • Ironic Name: Judith, who spends two years living a lie, does so under the fake name Natalie (Not-a-lie).
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In A Better Version, Judith claims she heard "Music in the words you were saying/Melodies with no band playing", possibly a nod to the show being a musical.
  • Left the Background Music On: At the end of One Thing, the music continues until Jase asks Judith to stop the record player.
  • Liar Revealed: The plot gets into motion when Natalie is forced to admit that everything she's told her husband for the past two years, including her name, is a lie.
  • Like Mother, Like Daughter: The fact that Judith spent two years living a lie makes a lot more sense after she explains that her mother literally taught her to lie to get out of trouble.
  • List Song: One Thing gradually becomes this as the list of things Jase needs to do grows.
  • Make Up or Break Up: Effectively the whole musical, as Judith tries to fix their relationship while Jase tries to assert that it is over.
  • Maybe Ever After: Jase and Judith meet up after spending years apart, they finish The 36 Questions in person, follow through with the final step of staring into each other's eyes, and then we're left with no real hint as to what happened afterwards.
  • Musical World Hypothesis: The show fits the Adaptation hypothesis, as the songs they sing are clearly part of their conversations, but neither person includes the songs they've sung when answering the 36 questions.
  • Mysterious Past: It's implied that Judith's past involved bluffing her way out of some sort criminal allegations.
  • Narrating the Present: One of the main ways the show portrays visual elements is to just have someone say "For The Record", and describe whatever is happening.
  • The Nothing After Death: At the end of Our Word, Judith is rendered dead for three minutes. She claims that death is "An endless void of nothingness".
  • Opposites Attract:
    • Jase tells the truth even when he has no real obligation, e.g. explaining that the dog he was walking didn't belong to him, even though Judith didn't ask if it was his. Judith, on the other hand, spends two years telling total lies.
    • Judith refuses to give up when it comes to repairing her relationship, even if she has to drive for 27 hours or walk 10 miles. Jase, on the other hand, tried to give up on the relationship, and continues to do so for the second half of the musical.
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder:
    Jase: Do you know what you’ve done? [...]
    Judith: Let's see if I remember. If I recall correctly, I gave you a fake name when we met and I continued to use that name while we dated and then as we got married-
    Jase: More than just a fake name. You think I care about a fake name!?
    Judith: Yes.
    Jase: ...Well, you're right. I do.
  • Romantic Candlelit Dinner: Invoked by Judith, in an attempt to create a "hopeful" mood.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Jase's reaction to finding out Judith had been lying to him for years was to leave without saying goodbye. He ends up leaving twice more later in the musical.
  • Sexy Soaked Shirt: Judith's shirt gets soaked as a result of the storm.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Judith says the noise from the storm sounded like "some Cloverfield shit".
    • Upon seeing a duck in Jase's house, Judith asks if they are in the fourth season of Friends.
    • Jase spends the beginning of the motel scene trying to prove that Frasier is playing on TV.
    • When asked "What is your greatest accomplishment", Judith responds "winning two episodes of Wheel of Fortune".
    • In We Both, Judith sings that she and Jase both are "Great at Settlers of Catan", and that they both "check Twitter for our news."
    • When Judith uses the phone charger in Jase's closet, she briefly sings Trapped in the Closet by R. Kelly.
    • Jase has a Trainspotting poster in his childhood bedroom.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: In spite of everything, Jase admits at the end of Act 2 that he simply cannot trust Judith after she lied for so long.
  • Too Much Alike: Lisa and Jase end up separating because they're too similar, and this meant that their arguments just went around in circles.
  • Two-Act Structure: In the first half, Judith's plan to stop her husband leaving seems to go well, with Jase agreeing to answer the 36 Questions, learning more about Judith's past, getting Distracted by the Sexy, sharing a Beach Kiss, before finally ending up at a motel...where the fall happens, as Jase still doesn't forgive Judith for lying to him. The second half of the musical proceeds to depict Judith and Jase learning to handle their split.
  • Unexplained Recovery: It's never explained who or what saved Judith when she drowned.