What is Neo-Futurism?
Neo-Futurism in a Nutshell: Neo-Futurism is a new approach to performance which advocates the complete awareness and inclusion of the actual world within the theater in order to achieve a goal: to bring people to a greater understanding of themselves and each other. Rather than upholding contemporary theatrical conventions of character, setting, plot, and the separation of audience and performer, Neo-Futurism aims to present actual life on stage by creating a world in the theater which has no pretense or illusion. This means that:
1) You are who you are. Your name is your name. Your age is your age. Your appearance, physical condition, and way of speaking, as well as your personal history and life experiences are none other than your own. You grew up in your hometown. You’re gay, you’re straight, you’re married. You’ve never been to Seattle. You know who you are and what you’ve done. Use it.
2) You are where you are. In most cases this means on a “stage” in front of an audience. Currently, specifically, this means you are sitting in front of a computer screen, reading this document. That’s not a T.V. you’re watching. This isn’t a castle in the Alps. The gun is fake. If you need a prop, get it. If the ambience is wrong, change it.
3) You are doing what you are doing. All tasks are actual challenges. If you can’t do something, you must be actually physically unable to do it. If you’re pulling, really pull. If you’re eating, really eat. If you go up on your lines, you’ve gone up on your lines. If you’re not supposed to know what’s going to happen next, make sure as hell you can’t know. You’re not sleeping on stage, you’re lying there with your eyes closed. No need to “act” tired as you enter the stage with an empty suitcase. Fill it up with rocks, run around the block three times. You’ll be tired. No need to dredge up a lot of emotion to endow that sheet of paper you’re holding with all the seriousness and poignance of your father’s death certificate. Bring it in. If your father’s alive, what are you doing saying he’s not?
4) The time is now. Deal with real events in your current life in your current world. If you broke up with your boyfriend on Tuesday, don’t say you’re still together on Friday. If a politician pissed you off by what they said six months ago, don’t complain about it now. It’s history. Write about how it affects you today. Theater is the medium to reflect what is going on now, because theater is going on now. Theater takes place in real time and space. The audience is right in front of you right now. Deal with that.
The bottom line is that Neo-Futurism does not buy into “the suspension of disbelief” – it does not attempt to take the audience anywhere else at any other time with any other people. The idea is to deal with what is going on right here and now. These guidelines are not set forth as “rules and regulations” but more as a jumping off point with which, it is hoped, people can find a greater meaning in their everyday lives. The aim is to empower and affirm not just the lives of the performers, but the lives of the audience members as well.
~ Greg Allen, 2004
The NY Neo-Futurists are…
2014 Drama Desk Nominees
2013 NYIT Nominees
2012 Drama Desk Nominees
2011 Recipients of the NYIT Outstanding Performance Art Award
2010 Recipients of the NYIT Caffe Cino Award
2009 NYTheatre People of the Year!
2009 Winners of the Village Voice Readers’ Choice for Performance Art!
Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind opened at Stage Left Theater in Chicago on December 2, 1988. Conceived and directed by Greg Allen, the show was written and performed with an eight-person ensemble and billed as “an ever-changing attempt to perform 30 Plays in 60 Minutes.” The show promised an emotional and intellectual roller-coaster of ideas and images ridden at break-neck speed by a participating audience. Greg Allen created the formula for Too Much Light… from an amalgam of different influences. In typical postmodern fashion, a theory was borrowed from here, a form was stolen from there. From our namesakes, the Italian Futurists, came the exultation of speed, brevity, compression, dynamism, and the explosion of preconceived notions. From Dada and Surrealism came the joy of randomness and the thrill of the unconscious. From the theatrical experiments of the 1960’s came audience interaction, breaking down all notions of distance, character, setting, and illusion. Finally, from the political turmoil of the 1980’s came a socially conscious voice and a low-tech, “poor theater” format. This aesthetic, embraced by an ensemble of highly dedicated, talented writer/performers, became Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.
The original New York Neo-Futurist ensemble in Brooklyn.
In the spring of 1995, three one-time Chicago Neo-Futurists and two brand new recruits ventured to Manhattan to perform T.M.L.M.T.B.G.B. They opened first at the emerging H.E.R.E Theater, and then moved to the raw energy of Ludlow Street’s Todo con Nada. A sixth member was added to the New York company, and Greg Kotis premiered his play Jobey and Katherine. This New York run of Too Much Light lasted just over two years until the supplies ran low and the ensemble was scattered to the winds (the ‘winds’ being various other remarkable projects too numerous to mention here).
In 2004, the Neo-Futurists broadened their horizons yet again from the Second City to the City That Never Sleeps (or at least, to its neighboring borough). On April 8, 2004, an almost entirely new cast of ten ripped into our first performance of Too Much Light at the Brooklyn Lyceum in Park Slope. On October 9, we, like the Muppets, took Manhattan, launching an acclaimed run of Too Much Light at the Belt Theater.
Since opening in Brooklyn in 2004, the New York Neo-Futurists have performed at Sarah Lawrence, Fordham, Six Figures’ Artists of Tomorrow Festival, the Providence Improv Festival, and Ladyfest. We have appeared on the Joey Reynolds Show and the Derek and Romaine Show, and have been featured in The New York Post, Pinque Magazine, and Comedy Magazine, to name a few. In January 2005, The New York Times published a feature article on Too Much Light.
In New York, Chicago, and beyond, The Neo-Futurists continue to expose and explore new artistic territory, all consistent with the original mission to create interactive, highly personal, emotionally and intellectually challenging art for the general public.
Portions of this text have been used with permission from The Neo-Futurists
We are a collective of wildly productive writer/director/performers who create:
~ Theater that is fusion of sport, poetry, and living-newspaper.
~ Non-illusory, interactive performance that conveys our experiences and ideas as directly and honestly as possible.
~ Immediate, unreproducable events at headslappingly affordable prices.
~ We embrace those unreached or unmoved by conventional theater-inspiring them to thought, feeling, and action.
As a group, we are dedicated to:
~ Strengthening the human bond between performer and audience. We feel that the more sincere and genuine we can be on stage, the greater the audiences identification with the unadorned people and issues before them.
~ Embracing a form of non-illusory theater in order to present our lives and ideas as directly as possible. All of our plays are set on the stage in front of the audience. All of our characters are ourselves. All of our stories really happened. All of our tasks are actual challenges. We do not aim to “suspend the audience’s disbelief,” but to create a world where the stage is a continuation of daily life.
~Embracing the moment through audience interaction and planned obsolescence. In order to keep ourselves as alive on stage as possible, we interweave elements of chance and change — contradicting the expected and eliminating the permanent.
~Presenting inexpensive art for the general public. We aim to influence the widest audience possible by keeping our ticket prices affordable and our productions intellectually and emotionally challenging yet accessible.
The New York Neo-Futurists fully embrace the same artistic principles as the Neo-Futurists in Chicago.