Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind: 30 Plays in 60 Minutes (Too Much Light or TML) was the longest running show in Chicagoand the only open-run Off-Off-Broadway show in New York. Starting in 1988, the show ran 50 weekends of the year until 2016. As its subtitle states, the show consists of 30 short plays performed in 60-minutes. All were written, directed, and performed by a small ensemble called the Neo-Futurists. The plays tend to be a mixture of autobiography and performance art, as with much of the Neo-Futurists' work. The Neo-Futurists continued their 50 weekend a year performing streak with a new show titled The Infinite Wrench in 2017.
Neo-Futurism as an aesthetic, as well as the format of TML, are both creations of founder Greg Allen. Although, due to the changing roster of plays in TML, Allen did not actually have a play in the show at all times during its run. In 2003, Allen ceased to be a member of the performing ensemble.The Neo-Futurism aesthetic is a variant of the early 20th century Italian Futurism movement. Greg Allen came up with the name from a young autistic child who would smash light bulbs and say, "Too much light makes the baby go blind". Later, when he was creating this show, the saying came back to his mind.
To date, three volumes of plays from the show have been published. With over 200 'plays.'
In November 2016, Allen revoked the Chicago Neo-Futurists' rights to perform TML in a surprise announcement.
On February 28, 2017,the Neo-Futurists in New York and San Francisco in addition to, and in solidarity with, the Chicago Neo-Futurists all launched an ongoing run of a new show titled The Infinite Wrench.
The show is the work of the Neo-Futurism movement, a variant of the Italian Futurism movementand reflects their aesthetic of non-illusory theater, where, as they describe it, "all of our plays are 'set' on the stage in front of the audience. All of our 'characters' are ourselves... We do not aim to 'suspend the audience's disbelief' but to create a world where the stage is a continuation of daily life."
The ticket price for the show is random, with a fixed number (currently $9 for the Chicago show, $14 for the New York show, and $10 for the San Francisco show) being added to the roll of a six-sided die for each person. Upon payment, a member of the cast shouts, either in noise canceling headphones or with earbuds in, "What's your name?" at the audience member before giving him or her a name tag with a random and unrelated "name". Audience members are given a "menu" of play titles, and plays are selected by audience members shouting their number, with the first number heard being the play performed. Many of the plays contain elements of randomness and audience interaction; plays end when a member of the cast shouts "curtain!"
The list of plays is perpetually rotating. Every week between two and twelve plays (determined by two rolls of a die by someone in the audience) are removed from the "menu" and replaced with new plays, written in the course of the week.
As part of a lighthearted tradition, when a particular evening sells out, the cast orders pizza from a local restaurant, allowing the audience to shout out toppings. Only a single pizza is ordered, however, which the entire audience must share.
A second Neo-Futurist company was founded in New York City in April 2004. The New York Neo-Futurists perform TML at the Kraine Theater in the East Village. This production has its own ensemble members, and thus contains different short plays from the Chicago show. In 2006, the New York Neo-Futurists were the recipients of the New York Innovative Theatre Awards Outstanding Performance Art Production.
In 2014, a third Neo-Futurist company was founded in San Francisco by producer Lucy Tafler and New York Neo-Futurist alum Adam Smith, performing in various venues in San Francisco's Theatre District. In 2016, they were voted San Francisco's Best Theater Company in the SF Bay Guardian's "Best of the Bay" Reader's Poll.Like the New York Neo-Futurists, the troupe has their own ensemble members and plays. As of July 2015, they perform at SAFEhouse for the Performing Arts.
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Allen, Greg. 100 Neo-Futurist Plays from Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. Chicago: Chicago Plays, 2002.