The signature show of Chicago’s Neo-Futurists theater company is going elsewhere.
The show’s creator, Greg Allen, announced Wednesday his intention to pull “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind” from the Chicago company he founded and nurtured until leaving its ensemble four years ago.
He said he’ll be forming a new group to present “Too Much Light,” produced on a trademark license that he owns. The hip, popular, fast-paced show features an ever-changing collection of short plays chosen by the audience from numbers hanging from a line over the stage. Each performance promises 30 plays in 60 minutes.
The new incarnation will be more political as a reaction to the imminent inauguration of Donald Trump as president, he said.
“I could no longer stand by and let my most effective artistic vehicle be anything but a machine to fight Fascism,” Allen said in a statement. “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.”
A New Year’s Eve performance at the Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland, will close out the show’s 28-year run, the longest in Chicago theater history.
The decision caught the Chicago Neo-Futurists off guard, current artistic director Kurt Chiang said in a statement of reaction.
“For the past year, the company entered into negotiations in good faith about continuing this facet of our work together,” he said. “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.”
Chiang said the Neo-Futurists will continue to move forward with a replacement late-night show and other initiatives.
As for Allen, he vowed the new “Too Much Light” would incorporate “a specifically socially activist mission.” A cast entirely made up of “people of color, LBTQ+, artist/activist women, and other disenfranchised voices” will perform at spaces in a variety of Chicago neighborhoods, he said.
Allen is active with Neo-Futurist ensembles in San Francisco, New York and London, where he recently auditioned candidates for a new “Too Much Light” ensemble.
“In a country of ‘post-truth’ and #OscarsSoWhite, I decided that closing my hometown Chicago production and rebooting the show with a new diverse ensemble was what was most necessary, promising, and hopeful,” he said. ” ‘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.”
Allen recalled the show’s 1988 genesis in a 2013 Sun-Times interview. “I had the chance to come up with an idea for a late-night show for the old Stage Left space,” recalled Allen. “And because I’d recently been forcing myself to crank out short plays at rapid-fire speed, I thought that might work. It wasn’t really about the rise of short attention spans and MTV, because I’ve always believed a poem or song can contain just as many ideas as a two-hour play.”