New York Neo-Futurists

an indie theater companion profile

This is an Indie Theater Companion Company Profile, written by Case Aiken. The Indie Theater Companion is a dynamic resource written by theater artists about the world of indie theater. It includes bios and profiles of artists.

Since their founding in 1988, the Neo-Futurists have built quite the reputation for experimental theater. Originally conceived of by Greg Allen in Chicago, their flagship show, Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, is a non-stop sprint by a rotating ensemble of performers to squeeze thirty short plays into an hour. Holding to a philosophy that the audience and the actors exist in the here and now, never wrapping themselves up in the protective nature of fiction, the work they produced blurred the line between plays and performance art.

The company has attempted to branch out into New York before, but finally established a permanent offshoot in 2004, first in Brooklyn before settling into the Kraine Theater in the East Village. Currently under the leadership of Brad Rolston as President and Rob Neill as the Managing Director, the group carries on their own version of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. However, the New York Neo-Futurists remind us at each performance that “if you’ve seen the show once, you’ve seen it once,” as each week several pieces (up to 12) are discarded in favor of new original works. As a result, the show begun in the '80s remains as fresh as ever, evolving as new members join the ensemble and new social issues arise to deal with.

From repeated viewings, I can say that it’s an experience. The show’s ever-changing nature, frantic pace, and interactive elements have caused it to develop a cult following that continues to see crowds line up for their late weekend night performances. The offer by the group to order out for pizza should there be a full house further inspires attendees to indoctrinate their friends by dragging them along. These are not people above bribery in the name of art.

Beyond their flagship show, the New York Neo-Futurists also produce new works, such as Laika Dog in Space and Locker#4173b, further cementing their roots as a fixture of the East Village theatre scene, while holding to the tenets of the same philosophy developed in Chicago over two decades ago.

Published on January 14, 2011

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