Greg Allen, founder of The Neo-Futurists and creator of the troupe’s show Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind—an ongoing experiment in performing 30 Plays in 60 Minutes that began in December 1988—unexpectedly announced that the show will play its final performance after a 28-year run in Chicago.
Continuing its run in Chicago 50 weeks per year (Friday-Sunday nights), it became the longest-running show in Chicago history. It will play its final performance December 31.
In a press release issued by Allen, the decision was made due to the pending presidential inauguration of Donald J. Trump, so that he can rebrand the show with a “new diverse ensemble that embraces a specifically socially activist mission.” The new Too Much Light ensemble will comprise entirely people of color, LBTQ+, artist/activist women, and other disenfranchised voices in order to combat the tyranny of censorship and oppression.
“I could no longer stand by and let my most effective artistic vehicle be anything but a machine to fight Fascism,” said Allen in a statement. “I was searching for an artistic response to the firestorm to come and realized I had to put my strongest artistic foot forward to combat the Trump administration and all of its cohorts.”
The new ensemble will perform in a variety of theatres and spaces in neighborhoods all over Chicago, giving space and voice to marginalized people in the predominantly white, patriarchal Chicago theatre community. The ensemble will also create and perform fundraisers for organizations fighting for civil rights, a central part of the mission of the new company.
The Neo-Futurists were surprised by the announcement and now plan to present a new late-night show in the New Year.
A statement from artistic director and ensemble member Kurt Chiang reads, “The Neo-Futurists were surprised that Greg Allen chose to announce independently of our company and without collaboration with our Board and staff that he no longer intends to license the trademark Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind at our theatre. For the past year, the company entered into negotiations in good faith about continuing this facet of our work together. While we are disappointed that it has come to this conclusion, throughout our long history with Greg there have been considerable artistic differences and irreconcilable personal conflicts. The company is dedicated to moving forward in 2017 with the full support of our Board of Directors and the enthusiastic commitment of our talented and diverse Ensemble. From our annual Pride performances to our multifaceted accessibility initiatives to our ongoing engagement of distinctly youthful audiences that line up around the block each weekend, The Neo-Futurists will continue to produce new work for the Chicago community, just as we have for the past 28 years. We look forward to opening a new late-night show in the new year and renewing our mission as Neo-Futurists: to create art that embraces those unreached or unmoved by conventional theater – inspiring them to thought, feeling and action.”
Since leaving the Chicago Neo-Futurists’ ensemble four years ago, Allen has continued to teach Neo-Futurism (an updating of Italian Futurism) all over the world, including yearly courses at the University of Chicago, the Theater School at Depaul, the National Theater Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Center in Connecticut, and in residencies at theatres and universities all over North America.
“Radical times call for radical change,” Allen added. “In a country of ‘post-truth’ and #OscarsSoWhite, I decided that closing my home-town Chicago production and rebooting the show with a new diverse ensemble was what was most necessary, promising, and hopeful. Too Much Light has always reached an incredibly young, energized population and doing so with a specifically political message and a fundraising mission is what I think is most important for the future of our country.”
The name of the new production company, the members of the new ensemble, and where to see Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind in 2017 with a new face will be announced.