Neo-Futurists Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go BlindBy David Siegel • Apr 1st, 2014 • Category: Interviews
Alden Theatre, McLean, VA
April 11th at 8pm
$20/$15 McLean Residents
Sarah N. Schallern, Alden Theatre’s Performing Arts Director thought it was an easy call to bring the New York City-based Neo-Futurists and its brand of performance art to audiences in the DC area. She described the group as an “underground New York favorite.” The Neo’s race against the clock to perform 30 miniature plays in 60 “breathless” minutes using vignettes ranging from the zany to the risqué to the profound. It is accomplished in a “a perfect interactive evening” as the audience gets to shout out directions and ideas. Each short playlette is performed in rapid, random order guided in part by the audience members directions.
“Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind is a taste of a late-night, urban show.” said Schallern. “This show is a great way to kick off your weekend with some energy and enthusiasm, not to mention variety…a fun, funny, engaging hour, but since the plays are constantly changing and updated, it’s a good way to process the week that was.” And there will be nothing static about the evening.
According to the Neo’s, the title Too Much Light is a riff off of child psychologist and author about the enchantment of fairy tales, Bruno Bettelheim (1903-1990). The name of the group, the Neo-Futurists, was selected by founder Greg Allen. Too Much Light was first performed in December 1988 in Chicago.
Two members of the Neo-Futurists provided some particulars about the group and its performance.
Neo-Futurist Joey Rizzolo:
Q. What can the Alden audience can expect at the performance of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind?
A. “The basics are this: We attempt to perform 30 original plays in 60 minutes, under the gun of an onstage ticking clock, in a random order as determined by the audience in the moment. The plays themselves are diverse in terms of content – some are funny, some are sad, some are political, some are abstract, some are dance pieces, some are musical, some are good, most are great. The plays you’ll be seeing are 30 plays that we’ve never put together in a single menu before – we’ve written nearly 3,500 to date, these are a mere 30. That, the fact that we’re in a new space, the fact that we perform these plays in random order, and the fact that we incorporate the audience in a lot of our work means that, while we are familiar with the content of the plays themselves, much of what will transpire will be just as much of a surprise to us as it will be to the audience.”
“One of the things that makes our work distinct is that we pretend nothing, ever. We never play characters. The setting of all of the plays is going to be the room in which they are performed. If we tell you something happened, you can be sure it really happened. If we are performing a task, it is a real task that contains the possibility of failure.”
Q. Why do you enjoy interactive, experimental theater and working with different audiences at each performance?
A. “Part of embracing chance, change, and chaos, means that if there’s something that we the artists aren’t supposed to know, we have to make sure we can’t know. We say that we don’t pretend things, but incorporating the audience into our work is how we stay honest. When there are unknown variables in play – like the very order in which the 30 plays are performed – we are without the luxury of being able to plan ahead. If one of our plays features someone in the audience, that person, who presumably is also being themselves, can do anything. We often think of incorporating audience into theater as an act in which the performer has an unfair advantage because presumably they know what is going to transpire, but in such cases we don’t, and we’re empowering the audience in those moments.”
“Part of pretending nothing in a theatrical setting means that there can be little distinction between performer and audience. We’re all just people in a room. The only difference is that we prepared something to show you, and we may ask you to show us something from time to time.”
“As performance artists, our work uses everything at its disposal – media, space, time, whoever happens to be in the room at the time…everything is fair game. Performance art is distinguished from other media in that it is an art of composition, utilizing every tool in the box and some you didn’t know were there.”
Neo-Futurist Marta Rainer:
Q. What can the audience expect at the performance of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind?
A. “They can expect to drive the unique live experience by calling the order of the 30 plays and helping us attempt to finish within 60 minutes by giving us their energy – the show we do for them will never, ever be replicated.”
“This form of theatre enables us all to respond immediately to news about our lives and our world, and invite our audiences to connect with and confront and laugh at ourselves in rapid turnover. Because the evening is made up of so many smaller events based on complete honesty performed in a random order determined by the audience, each audience sees a show absolutely unique to them and have plenty to respond to within. ”
Photos provided by New York Neo-Futurists
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/10305.
David Siegel is a freelance theater reviewer and features writer whose work appears on ShowBizRadio, in the Connection Newspapers and the Fairfax Times. He is a judge in the Helen Hayes Awards program. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and volunteers with the Arts Council of Fairfax County. David has been associated with theater in the Washington, DC area for nearly 30 years. He served as Board President, Alexandria's American Showcase Theater Company (now Metro Stage) and later with Arlington's American Century Theater as both a member of the Executive Board and as Marketing Director. You can follow David's musings on Twitter @pettynibbler.