Workhouse Theatre presents Starved


The Workhouse Theatre Company (WTC) continues its popular play reading series from the Greenhouse Project, their script development program for playwrights with ties to Minnesota. The readings are free and open to the public, and held on the second Monday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Capri Theater, 2027 W Broadway Ave. The March 14 reading will be Richard Chin’s Starved. There will be a discussion after the reading with the cast and playwright. If you haven’t attended one of the readings before, the discussions can be the most fascinating part of the evening, allowing the audience to give feedback to the playwright.

Synopsis: How much can a scientist ask someone to suffer even if the result could potentially help millions? How much can a person endure to stand up for his beliefs? Those are the questions posed in Starved, a play based on an actual event: the Minnesota Starvation Experiment. During World War II, Ancel Keys, a University of Minnesota scientist, recruited a group of conscientious objectors for an experiment in which they would be starved for six months to see how they would respond to recovery diets. The test was supported by the U.S. government which anticipated having to feed millions of starving people in war-torn Europe and Asia once the war was won. The guinea pigs were pacifists who refused to kill for their country.  But they volunteered to sacrifice themselves to help others, even while they were regarded during the war as cowards and slackers. Kept in a laboratory underneath the U-M football stadium, the young men are put on diets replicating famine conditions in Europe. They became emaciated to the point where they resembled concentration camp survivors. And they go a little crazy. Keys’ experiment, which can’t be repeated today because of ethical considerations, reveals what hunger can do to a person’s body and his mind.

Richard Chin is a new playwright but a longtime Twin Cities journalist. As a features reporter with the St. Paul Pioneer Press, he’s covered everything from the Pillsbury Bake-Off to U.S. Army convoys in Iraq. For a story about the 70th anniversary of the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, he interviewed the few remaining test subjects still alive. He’s also written freelance articles for the Wall Street Journal,, and Next Avenue