Created by the Neo-Futurists
. The show
is an ever-changing attempt to perform
30 plays in 60 minutes
. The experience
of the audience
is designed to approximate
of the real world
. Here's how it works, in their words:
- You wake up in the morning. At some point in your day, you decided to see Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind. You manage to get to the theater by show time.
- You roll a single six-sided die, letting fate determine your admission cost. The number you roll on the die times $1 plus an additional $4 is what you are asked to pay. You do so, or they won't let you in.
- Before you can enter the theater, a Walkman-wearing host in dark glasses asks you for your name. You reply and are given a "Hello My Name Is" tag with an alternate moniker. You slap it on, leaving your previous name at the door.
- You enter the theater and meet other people. Some of them are performers, some of them aren't. You're not sure which are which.
- Someone gives you a program and a "menu". The menu is a list of tonight's play titles, numbered 1 through 30. You notice a clothesline strung across the stage, with pieces of paper hanging on it, numbered 1 through 30. Some say they correspond.
- Someone shouts "When we sell out, we order out!", and, in fact, if there is at least one person for every seat, someone appears on stage with a telephone and calls a pizza place. You are asked what you'd like on it. An extra large is ordered. You wonder if it will feed 66 (or 154 in Chicago).
- Another person on stage encourages you to order plays by number from your menu. What you and others sitting around you select will determine the random order in which the plays will appear. The performers ask for a play to start with. You say "five", but realize it was drowned out by the shouts of others. Next time you will say it louder.
- In order to start the darkroom timer on stage, which will tick off the 60 minutes, the audience is led through a countdown that has little to do with numbers. The clock is started and the first play commences with the word "go!". At the end of the play you hear the word "curtain!" and you say "five" again, a little louder than before. You realize that timing, as well as volume, is involved.
- You are barraged by a random display of tragic, comic, personal, political, experimental two minute plays over the course of the hour. At one point the clock is stopped to let the pizza delivery person fulfill their duty. The pizza smells good.
- The thirtieth play concludes with a "CURTAIN!", and hopefully the darkroom timer has not yet buzzed. Someone in the audience rolls a die on stage to determine how many new plays will be created for next week. You eat some pizza, you talk to the performers. You go home and sleep. The next day things are different.
Source: 100 Neo-Futurist Plays from Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind (Chicago Plays, 1993)
Gimmicky? You betcha. But as theatre, the show is one of the most exciting dramatic spectacles I've ever seen. "Why doesn't live theatre generate the excitement of live sports?" Professor Keith Johnstone (Impro) wondered, and he went and created TheatreSports. But in my fifteen years of watching improv, rarely have TheatreSports shows ever reach the level of audience frenzy of a professional sporting event... although performances of TMLMTBGB that I've seen (Chicago, circa 1990 and 1993, and once in San Francisco circa 1994) in each case electrified the audience in the room. There was shouting, there was raucous laughter, there was an adrenalin rush in the crowd... and in San Francisco, due to the small performing space, there was an intense connection between each of the performers and the audience. At the end of the show, there was nonstop talking about what we'd just witnessed. It was the kind of show you had to tell other people about too.
As to the plays, they can hit or miss. They are rarely longer than two minutes, so the bad ones are quickly forgotten, but it is surprising how many of these small plays can pack an emotional wallop. Some of the "plays" I saw came across as choral poetry rather than any kind of narrative, but I do not claim to understand the implications of the Neo-Futurist manifesto when it comes to generating material.
The show premiered in Chicago December 2, 1988 at the Stage Left Theatre, and is still running at the Neo-Futurarium. Made its Off-Broadway premiere at the Joseph Papp Public Theatre in New York in 1993.