Neo-Futurists founder Greg Allen made the surprising announcement today that he’s ending the 28-year Chicago run of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind on December 31. He’s doing so in order to create a new, diverse Chicago theater company that will be entirely dedicated to social activism.
Allen—who left the Chicago company four years ago but owns the rights to the “30-plays-in-60-minutes” show—said the decision was political, spurred by the election of Donald Trump. “I could no longer stand by and let my most effective artistic vehicle be anything but a machine to fight Fascism,” he said in an e-mailed statement.
But on the heels of his announcement came another from Chicago Neo-Futurists artistic director Kurt Chiang (via media consultant James Juliano) expressing surprise and claiming that neither company members nor the board and staff had been consulted about the announcement. Chiang’s statement referred to a background of “considerable artistic differences and irreconcilable personal conflicts” that the company had with Allen over the years.
According to Chiang’s statement, the company had been negotiating a licensing agreement with Allen during the past year, and will “continue to produce new work for the Chicago community” without it.
Too Much Light continues to be produced by Neo-Futurist ensembles in New York and San Francisco and by other companies around the world.
Here are the two statements.
Greg Allen christened The Neo-Futurists with the opening of his show “Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind”® – an ongoing experiment in performing “30 Plays in 60 Minutes”® – on December 2nd 1988 during the last lame days of the Reagan administration. Continuing its run in Chicago 50 weeks per year it became the longest running show in Chicago history. After 28 years that run will come to a close on December 31st, 2016. Faced with the pending inauguration of Donald J. Trump, Allen has decided to let the existing Chicago Neo-Futurists’ license come to an end so that he can rebrand the show with a new diverse ensemble that embraces a specifically socially activist mission. Having always been an ensemble of writer/performers who aim to directly express their lives and their issues on stage without artifice, the new “Too Much Light” ensemble will be comprised entirely of 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 Greg Allen, inventor of “Neo- Futurism” – an updating of Italian Futurism, a movement which, ironically, was created by artists who later supported Mussolini. “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 theaters and spaces in neighborhoods all over Chicago, giving space and voice to marginalized people in the predominately white, patriarchal Chicago theater 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.
Since leaving the Chicago Neo-Futurists’ ensemble four years ago, Allen has continued to teach Neo-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 theaters and universities all over North America. He founded the San Francisco Neo-Futurists who have been performing “Too Much Light” every week since December 2nd, 2013, and just returned last week from holding auditions to create a new ensemble for an ongoing production of “Too Much Light” in London. He also continues to teach and advise the New York Neo-Futurists who are now in their 13th year performing the show at the Kraine Theater in Manhattan. These branches of “Too Much Light” will continue and be unaffected by this change in Chicago. Since the 2015 Playscripts publication of Allen’s book “Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind: 90 Plays from the First 25 Years”, there have been 99 other productions of “Too Much Light” all over the country and internationally in Ireland, Japan, Germany, Australia, Mexico, Scotland, Korea, Italy, Taiwan, Portugal, Canada, China, and Tanzania. Allen hopes to launch other on-going branches of the show soon.
“Radical times call for radical change. 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” said Allen. Stay tuned for future press releases announcing the name of the new production company, the members of the new ensemble, and where you can see “Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind” in 2017 with a new face.
“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 theater. 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.”