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March 4, 2015

Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind

30 plays, 60 minutes and, if you’re lucky, pizza. Touring Australia for the first time, the Neo-Futurists are ready to show you theatre as you’ve never seen it before with Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind at the Adelaide Fringe.

  • Words: Emma Waterman

“The legend behind the show title is that Greg Allen, who created all of this in 1988, randomly opened to a page in his college psychology textbook and put his finger down on a line, which happened to be Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind (TMLMTBGB),” says Ryan Good, one member of the Neo-Futurist ensemble. 

While the show’s name mightn’t mean much, the ensemble certainly does. 

The Neo-Futurists have attracted a cult following in America with the long- running show. And, it’s not just audience members who stick with the company; Ryan’s been with them for 10 years now. 

“I think it gets into your blood a little bit and it’s hard to let go,” he explains.

Drawing inspiration from a group of 1920s renegade Italian artists, the Neo-Futurist approach is built upon the removal of the fourth wall. 

“We’re not playing characters or pretending anything on stage. If we’re telling you that we got really drunk last night and we’re hung-over, you better believe it’s true,” Ryan quips. 

Following this truth-telling mantra, the format for TMLMTBGB is 30 plays performed in 60 minutes. The audience is given the power to choose the order of the plays and, with the roll of a dice, how many new ones will be added for the next night’s performance. The
purpose of this, Ryan explains, is to evoke a direct response from the audience. 

“With a traditional theatre experience, you go in, the lights are dimmed, you sit there quietly and then at the end, you clap your hands and leave. We’ve got no time for that.” 

Just as the show itself is a collaborative experience, so too is its creation. All the writers and producers of the plays are also the performers, meaning there’s no dominating voice. As such, the variance in genres is unpredictable, and the work often moves between physical comedy, text-based satire and sombre monologues. 

With ensembles in Chicago, New York and San Francisco, the show has been running for more than 20 years. However it’s the plays, which are written weekly, that allow TMLMTBGB to remain in the zeitgeist. 

“I don’t know anywhere else in American theatre where you can write a play and have it on stage less than 48 hours later,” Ryan says. 

If time’s anything to go by, it certainly seems the Neo-Futurists have created a recipe for success with TMLMTBGB. Indeed, the ever-changing nature of the show, dedicated to holding a mirror up to everyday life is enough to keep you coming back night after night. Plus, we hear that pizza will be ordered for audiences of sell-out shows… which is always good. 

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