Too Much Light Is Dead: Long Live The Neo-Futurists, Part II.

posted in: Art, Chicago, Family, Paean, Rant 11
Ensemble photograph of the Neo-Futurists c. 2009. That's me in the scarf — and Greg in green.) Photo: Andrew Collings Photography, Inc.
Ensemble photograph of the Neo-Futurists c. 2009. That’s me in the scarf — and Greg in green.) Photo: Andrew Collings Photography, Inc.

 

If you didn’t read yesterday’s post, definitely catch up first.

Okay, you back? Good. Did you change your hair? You look great. Here’s a tray of light refreshments and a beverage. Where was I? Ah, yes. Hand me the pecans. Okay.

In 2011, the Neo-Futurists suspended Greg from the company. Put more simply: We kicked him out. Remember, this person’s behavior over the decades — decades! — had been destructive and poisonous, but it hit a crisis point that year (and if you want details, just google “neo-futurist greg allen tml closing” and you’ll get all the news stories and at least some of the awful details.) Calmly, firmly, the ensemble informed Greg that he was not allowed to be in Too Much Light for awhile and that if he wanted to play again, he would need to petition the ensemble to come back and then be a better person. He never petitioned.

The show went on. I went “inactive” in 2012 because of Quilty and Love of Quilting, a divorce, more health problems, a move downtown, etc. And while the show was going on and I was doing my thing, it appears that Greg was plotting revenge. This is my theory. This is only speculation. You come to your own conclusions when I tell you what happened next.

One month ago, the Neo-Futurists got a surprise. After being in negotiations with the company about how much they would pay him for the rights to perform Too Much Light, Greg went quiet — and then came a press release.

In the press release, Greg said that he was pulling the rights for the Neos to perform Too Much Light after 28 years running because of Donald Trump. If you’re scratching your head, here are a couple highlights from the press release:

Faced with the pending inauguration of Donald J. Trump, Allen has decided to let the existing Chicago Neo-Futurists’ license come to an end so that he can rebrand the show with a new diverse ensemble that embraces a specifically socially activist mission.”

“[The new Too Much Light ensemble] will be comprised entirely of people of color, LBTQ+, artist/activist women, and other disenfranchised voices in order to combat the tyranny of censorship and oppression.”

“I could no longer stand by and let my most effective artistic vehicle be anything but a machine to fight Fascism.” [Greg quote.]

Oh, the trouble with this. There are almost too many problems to list. But let’s try!

  1. The current Neo-Futurist ensemble is made up of all kinds of folks, many of whom fit the description of the “new diverse” company he wants to build. So this can’t be his main goal.
  2. By doing this with no warning, Greg instantly put around 12 hard-working, low-paid-but-paid artists out of work. How is this being visionary?
  3. There is a New York City company and a San Francisco company, both of which also pay Greg to perform Too Much Light. He did not yank the show from them, only from Chicago. Interesting.
  4. The Neos have always done interesting, highly-political work — and there were a variety of political opinions expressed on the stage, at least when I was around. And all kinds of people who fell on different places on the political spectrum came to the show. To make an ensemble that exclusively makes theater about one perspective on Trump/his cohort, this is not going to create conversation.  This isn’t even going to sell tickets. I hope Greg is shopping for choir robes for his new, uber-progressive ensemble, because whatever show they make is going to be a lot of preaching to the choir.

So that’s all the bad stuff. Guess what? There’s good stuff.

The good stuff is that the Neos have been working so, so hard to get a new show up in the next few weeks. They’ve been raising money and have almost reached their goal of $50k. (I wouldn’t be a good Neo if I didn’t ask you to consider putting a buck or two in the hat; it’s easy and you’ll feel good knowing you’re…fighting fascism?)

And the other amazing thing is that when the news came out, all the alumni from 28 years of Too Much Light and the Neos, we circled the wagons, we lit the flares, we came together in support of the current ensemble and we’re doing a big benefit show for them on New Year’s Day. It’s the most extraordinary thing. You can’t get tickets because they sold out in five hours; I posted a note on Facebook and within minutes, it was too late. There are dozens of Neos, some coming from far away, to be in the show and be together, to remember, to play, to laugh, to cry. All that stuff.

We had a rehearsal on Tuesday and will rehearse all day Sunday leading up to the double-feature that begins at 7 p.m. The oversold house and the enormous cast, we will be proof that you can’t stop art — you can’t even contain it, can’t make it hold still.

By the way: New York and San Francisco? They quit. After hearing about all this, they didn’t opt to renew their rights to do Too Much Light. They’re standing with Chicago. Greg’s plan backfired.

As I said yesterday, being part of that company and being lucky enough to get to do TML for those years was like finishing school for my soul. I worked with people so talented it was almost embarrassing. We were rock stars. We were friends. The best art I’ve ever seen or made for the stage was the art I saw or made for Too Much Light and the Neos.

Too Much Light is dead. Long live the Neo-Futurists.

 

11 Responses

  1. Pat Hicks
    | Reply

    Yes,Yes, Yes you all are doing the right thing. So glad you are a part of something so special.

  2. Lisa Gainey Floyd
    | Reply

    Wish I lived closer and could have gotten tickets. I love doing things to “redirect” the $++'”&(:”& of the world.

  3. Neame
    | Reply

    Sorry to say that Greg is replicated in many places. A friend involved in a non-profit entirely volunteer organization is also struggling with their version of “Greg”. Grasping at whatever weapon comes to hand to wreak the most havoc – such a waste and so unnecessary. Hang in, Mary. Karma eventually turns the wheel.
    Neame

  4. Susan
    | Reply

    STANDING O!

  5. Robin Gabriel
    | Reply

    I only have one word; Karma! Ok, maybe two, Karma Baby! Have a blast!

  6. Wendy T
    | Reply

    There is an article in today’s San Francisco Chronicle about the Neo-Futurists. Thanks to this blog post, I can now relate to it!

  7. Sarah
    | Reply

    HOORAY for all of you for standing up and sticking together.

  8. Kathy
    | Reply

    Artists rock!

  9. Emily
    | Reply

    I was with a company about 10 years ago whose president wanted to close it after 80 years. She did everything she could to do it, including spending money without approval and insulting the board members to the point they all quit during a meeting over a show they chose for the next season.

    I am glad to say this year they are celebrating their 90th season and are performing the very show that started the controversy, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? All of the former board is planning on attending together.

    I am glad the other companies stuck with Chicago and know the Neo Futurists will survive longer than anyone can remember Greg and his shenanigans.

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