Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind
|This article relies on references to primary sources. (February 2009)|
Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind: 30 Plays in 60 Minutes (TMLMTBGB) is the longest running show in Chicago and the only open-run Off-Off-Broadway show in New York. Starting in 1988, the show has run 50 weekends of the year since then. As its subtitle states, the show consists of 30 short plays performed in a 60 minute space, written, directed, and performed by a small ensemble called the Neo-Futurists. The plays tend to be a mixture of autobiography and performance art, as with much of the Neo-Futurists' work.
Neo-Futurism as an aesthetic, as well as the format of TMLMTBGB, are both creations of founder Greg Allen, although, due to the changing roster of plays in TMLMTBGB, Allen has not actually had a play in the show at all times during its run. Greg Allen came up with the name Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, from a young autistic child who would smash light bulbs and say, "Too much light makes the baby go blind". Later, when he was creating this show, the saying came back to his mind.
To date, three volumes of plays from the show have been published.
Tone of the show
The show is the work of the Neo-Futurists movement, and reflects their aesthetic of non-illusory theater, where, as they describe it, "all of our plays are 'set' on the stage on front of the audience. All of our 'characters' are ourselves... We do not aim to 'suspend the audience's disbelief' but to create a world where the stage is a continuation of daily life" (Allen 3).
The ticket price for the show is random, with a fixed number (currently $9 for the Chicago show and $12 for the New York Show) being added to the roll of a six-sided die for each person. Upon payment, a member of the cast shouts "What's your name?" at the audience member before giving him or her a nametag with a random and unrelated "name." Audience members are given a "menu" of play titles, and plays are selected by audience members shouting their number, with the first number heard being the play performed. Many of the plays contain elements of randomness and audience interaction; plays end when a member of the cast shouts "curtain!"
The list of plays is perpetually rotating. Every week between two and twelve plays (determined by two rolls of a die by someone in the audience) are removed from the "menu" and replaced with new plays, written in the course of the week.
As part of a lighthearted tradition, when a particular evening sells out, the cast orders pizza from a local restaurant, allowing the audience to shout out toppings. Only a single pizza is ordered, however, which the entire audience must share.
New York Troupe
A second Neo-Futurist company was founded in New York City in April 2004. The New York Neo-Futurists perform TMLMTBGB at the Kraine Theater in the East Village. This production has its own ensemble members, and thus contains different short plays from the Chicago show. In 2006, the New York Neo-Futurists were the recipients of the New York Innovative Theatre Awards Outstanding Performance Art Production.
Allen, Greg. 100 Neo-Futurist Plays from Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. Chicago: Chicago Plays, 2002.