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Students take on “30 Neo-Futurist Plays” with force

Norton Clapp Theatre’s stage will be graced with a talented 15-person company performing “30 Neo-Futurist Plays From Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind,” on Nov. 16 and 17
The Neo-Futurist movement, in the simplest of terms, is one in which the actors resign from their roles as performers and simply portray themselves in an effort to convey honest, real life. Much of the performance is not set in stone, the ticket price and show order included.
A roll of the dice at the door will determine ticket prices. The 30 plays mentioned in the title of the show are all listed on a “menu” that audience members receive as the show begins. Each item is numbered and corresponds with another number on a clothesline on-stage. The actors then request the audience to yell out a number, and the loudest number heard is chosen. An actor or “jumper” of the time will pick the number off the clothesline and read the title. Then the actors perform the piece.
“It’s something completely different, you’re prepared but still unprepared,” Andrea Becker, an actor and also stage manager, under the title of “tech gal,” said.
To help in preparation, one of the Neo-Futurist founders, Greg Allen, came in and worked with the students and clarified Neo-Futurism.
In the Neo-Futurist movement, the greatest goal is to create, “the other side of theater that is based in real human presence,” Allen said.
Allen and other Neo-Futurists strive to remove the divide that is established between the actor and the audience in other forms of theatre.
“None of this fourth-wall-darkness separation of audience and performer,” Allen said, dismissing the concept.
“This is a performance style that really integrates an audience and is dependent on this kind of honesty,” Allen said, further clarifying the Neo-Futurist movement.
The integration with the audience provides a more unique task for actors used to the fourth wall between them and the audience.
“It is hard to do with the heightened sense of vulnerability,” Hayley Hilmes, a company-member of the upcoming show, said.
Yet Neo-Futurism goes beyond unique performance; it is also pervasive in the process of writing, directing and staging.
“All the Neo-Futurist work is written by Neo-Futurists. It is all self-generated,” Allen said.
The Puget Sound Neo-Futurist performance drew 30 plays out of the over 600 pieces that were produced from “Too Much Light Makes Baby Go Blind” performances.
“There are plays that are emblematic and would be true for anyone. There’s a lot of personal material,” Allen said describing the material with which the students are working.
In the beginning of the search for material the actors expressed some difficulty, yet found the sweet spot of self-discovery in time.
“I was having a bit of an existential crisis because we’re supposed to be ourselves, but how are we supposed to be ourselves when we are using other people’s work? I had to find something in the play that spoke to me,” Kelley Sener said.
“What I really experienced in the process was finding plays that spoke to me and what I wanted to say,” Derek Rainey said.
While each part of the process is all very much geared to exploring the Neo-Futurist movement and putting it to stage, in a larger scope, it is much more to the actors involved.
“Everyone in this room is a multi-disciplined artist,” Hilmes said, “A process like this helps us define what sort of artist we want to be.”
No person in the 15-part company is wearing one hat, so to speak. They are all involved in different ways and engage with each facet of theater. This time, the audience also gets to be a part of the exploration of artistry.
“30 Neo-Futurist Plays From Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind” promises to be a rousing evening for the audience, as they hold nearly as much of the power as the players do. It surely is not an event to be missed.
Performances are Friday, Nov. 16 and Saturday, Nov. 17 at 10:30 p.m. in Norton Clapp Theatre.