Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Back to the (Neo)Future

Anyone who knew me in the late 90's would remember my obsession with "Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind." For those of you who are scratching your heads and giving me a quizzical look right now, let me go into more detail.

"Too Much Light" is an ongoing show performed by the Neo-Futurists. It occurs every weekend (except the last two of the year, from what I remember). It's only an hour long, but you get to see 30 short plays during that time. If the time runs out before you get to see all 30 plays, then that's it.

Before the show, everyone waits in a lounge area and there are board games available. Sometimes there are baked goods sold in the kitchen on the way to the lounge. The first step into seeing the actual show is the payment process. You roll a die and the number that comes up gets added to a set number to decide how much you'll pay. I think it was usually an additional $5 after the roll. So you'd pay between $6-11. Then you'd give your name to someone wearing headphones and they'd write something totally different and unusual on a nametag. Afterward, you go to your seat and are handed a menu with the titles of all 30 plays and the actors performing that evening. Before the show starts, the actors assess the crowd and determine whether or not they have sold out. If they sell out, they order pizza for the audience and everyone yells their favorite toppings as they run around the room with the phone. Then the show starts. The audience shouts a number and the actors pick the first one they hear by tearing it off a clothesline and throwing it into the audience. Then they say "Go" and anything that happens after that point is the play. When they say "curtain," the play has ended and the audience has to choose a new number. The plays range from comedic to musical to dramatic. Sometimes they talk about pop culture or current events. Now can you see why I had trouble staying away?!?

The first time I ever saw the show was in 1993 during a theater night for the Thespian troupe I was in from high school. I had never heard of it and right before I saw it, they were featured on "Wild Chicago." It made the experience a lot easier to follow when I actually got to the show. Then I didn't start going again until the summer before my senior year of college, in 1997. That's when the addiction began....

I had an enjoyable time at the Neo-Futurarium during the years I attended TML. I got to know the actors just by being there every weekend and also through the Internet. I even had my 22nd birthday party there and they were very accommodating. I still talk to some of the actors on Facebook and saw one of them again last winter when he came with a group of Neo-Futurists to perform the show in DC. I loved their theme weekends, such as for Pride weekend, Halloween, Mother's Day and Father's Day. I took my parents to the last two and they enjoyed it too. They definitely fed my addiction for the show. I also took a lot of friends there to see it at different times. Some of them came back with me to see it again. I even made a scrapbook with all the menus, the numbers I caught, name tags and some pictures I took (I'll include a few here). I continued to go every so often in 1999-2002, depending on when I made it out to the city. Then I stopped for a while and returned in 2005 when a group of friends wanted to see it. At that time, it didn't have the same feel. There were new actors whom I wasn't familiar with and it felt amateur at the time. However, when I saw it last winter in DC, it regained the feeling I used to experience when I went all the time during my obsessed phase.

"Too Much Light..." still sticks with me in some ways. I set my cell phone ring tone to this whistling tune that reminds me of the music they'd play before the show each week. I also hear songs or certain phrases and those remind me of the show too. If you live in Chicago (or NYC, if they still perform there too), I highly recommend checking it out at least once in your life. And stay for the pizza at the end....

With Lusia at my 22nd birthday party

With Diana, whom I wish would show up on Facebook already!

With Dave, whom I still see on Facebook

With Sean, Phil, "The Clock," and Steve

With John in 1997

With John in 2009...reunion time!

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