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The Neo-Futurarium

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Since 1990, the space at 5153 N Ashland has been The Neo-Futurarium. Formerly, it has been a dance hall, Romanian library, and community center. Now it has been converted into one of the most eclectic and memorable theater spaces in Chicago. Every year, the space is home to: 50 weekends of Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind; Original prime-time productions; Barrel of Monkeys’ That’s Weird, Grandma; workshops and many other events!

About The Neo-Futurarium

Although originally created as an ensemble to perform a specific show, The Neo-Futurists have grown to become one of the most highly regarded experimental theater companies in America. From humble beginnings as the first late-night theater production in Chicago, they have expanded into a company that mounts full seasons of adventurous, smart, interactive theater while still pursuing the ideas that inspired our creation. Although they pride themselves on focusing on the future, below we look at the trail blazed in the past.

Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind opened at Stage Left Theater in Chicago on December 2nd, 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. 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 their namesakes, the Italian Futurists, came the exultation of speed, brevity, compression, dynamism, and the explosion of preconceived notions (although not the warlike fascist tendencies). 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.

Premiering new plays every week, Too Much Light gained momentum with an audience of young adventurous theatergoers as it entered 1989. June 10th, 1989 marked its first sold-out performance which was celebrated by ordering pizza for the audience (a ritual that continues to this day). Their first anniversary shows in December garnered national press which, along with enthusiastic word of mouth, catapulted them into a run of sold-out performances which extended over two years and included a move to Live Bait Theater. During this period, they officially incorporated as a 501(c)3 Not-For-Profit Organization, took TML on its first sold-out tour to New York City, and mounted our second original Neo-Futurist production, Leary (An Expansion of a Deconstruction with Extracontextualization), also premiering at Live Bait. On Valentine’s Day 1992, the Neo-Futurists proudly opened their own space, appropriately dubbed The Neo-Futurarium. Situated over a funeral home in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood, the new permanent space boasted a 150-seat theater, a lobby/rehearsal space of equal size, a kitchen, and a dozen other small, funky rooms. Audiences soon filled the new expanded theater and, in September 1992, they added a weekly third night of Too Much Light on Sundays at 7pm.

Other highlights of the past few years have included a series of years touring to Washington D.C.’s noted Woolly Mammoth Theatre, the growth of our education offerings and ensemble, a series of successful Pride performances that raised thousands of dollars for LGBT-supportive charities, the giant-sized, 10th Anniversary It Came From The Neo-Futurarium!, and, of course, the ongoing success of TML. As they head into their 25th year, they continue to look for ways to push themselves and their audiences by experimenting with the art.

Chicago, IL 60640
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