Last week the Student Experimental Theater Organization (SETO) presented a chaotic frenzy of audience participation, dangerous cans, and absent oranges with their production of the Neo-Futurist play, “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.”
Originally performed by the Neo-Futurist in Chicago on December 2, 1988 the play today is the longest running play in the city’s history. The work is an ever growing and changing piece that relies heavily on audience participation, actor flexibility, and very little in the form of props or or scenery. The show begins in the lobby where upon buying the ticket the audience members are assigned a new name for the duration of the evening. Upon entering the theater the audience can see the two key set pieces that will be carried through the performance, a timer and a clothesline with a series of numbers hanging from it. Each number refers to a specific two minute play that the actors must perform when the audience shouts them out, the goal for the actors is to complete all the plays on the clothesline before the timer reaches zero. Originally the play was performed on a sixty minute timer with thirty plays, however for the SIUE performance students opted for an eighty minute version with forty potential plays.
“We went though about 800 scenes to narrow it down to fourty,” actor Ryan Wiechmann shared, “We had to find scenes that related to us.”
The mini plays range greatly in subject matter from off the wall comedy to serious drama. Constructive audience participation is heavily relied upon both in calling out the next play and within the plays themselves. For two of the plays performed at the SIUE presentation audience members were asked to come on stage and remain there for the duration of the performance, one as an annoying house guest who’s duty was the interrupt and inconvenience the actors, and two others who were set up on a mock date.
“Number 38 (Poor Taste Striptease) is a big one that people tend to call out,” actress Emily Speight shared, “I like number 12 which is danger can the musical, it’s a really fun one.”
Designed to be performed at a barely achievable pace the actors frantically try to make their way through the pieces before the timer runs out. The SIUE cast didn’t manage to make it through the work in the predetermined eighty minutes, however like many things in the play the decision to push on through the rest after the time ran out was left up to an audience member and in every case they were encouraged to finish out the forty.
Filed Under: Theater & Dance