The Neo-Futurists, the nearly 30-year-old North Side performance ensemble best known for its ever-changing late-night show Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, spent much of the winter building a new flagship show.
The story behind Too Much Light’s closing is, by now, well known (and much discussed) in Chicago theater circles. On November 30, Neo-Futurists founder Greg Allen (who hasn’t been directly involved with the company since the ensemble voted to eject him in 2011) announced he was revoking the company’s license to perform Too Much Light. The issue? While the individual authors held the copyrights to their two-minute scripts, Allen maintained the trademark for the show’s title and loose concept.
Allen’s decision blindsided the Chicago ensemble. "We had been in negotiations all year," the Neo-Futurists’ current artistic director, Kurt Chiang, told Time Out Chicago in December.
The Chicago Neo-Futurists were singled out in Allen’s announcement, which stated that the offshoot ensembles in New York City (running continuously since 2004) and San Francisco (established in 2013) would be allowed to continue with Too Much Light—reinforcing the perception that Allen’s motivation was more animus than aesthetic. In mid-December, though, the NYC and SF companies politely declined, announcing in a joint statement with the Chicago company that all three cities’ Neo-Futurists would collaborate on a new format after performing the final Too Much Light shows on December 31.
"We’re modeling that process off the same way we make the plays every week," Chiang said in late January, while the process was still underway. "How do you name a show that has so many different shows underneath it?" The new show, debuting in March, will be called The Infinite Wrench.
Chiang notes that every constant element of the show, from the way the order of plays is chosen to the way audience members are greeted as they enter the theater, has been reconsidered. "It’s almost like we’ve been given 10 more slots to fuck around with."