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The Neo-Futurists are an experimental theater troupe founded by Greg Allen (an alum of the National Theater Institute at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center) in 1988, based on an aesthetics of honesty, speed and brevity. Neo-Futurists in theatre were inspired by the Italian Futurist movement from the early 20th century.
The Neo-Futurist architects, designers and artists believe in eco-sustainable cities cross-pollinated by arts and technology to provide a better quality of life; the definition of Neo-Futurism in art and architecture came from the reference to the United Nations’ report Our Common Future.
The Neo-Futurist aesthetic demands that everything that transpires in their theater be non-illusory, which is to say that they pretend nothing; actors only play themselves. All plays take place on a stage, specifically, the stage on which they are performed, in the present. If one of the performers reports that something has happened, you can bet that it really happened. Much of their work contains the possibility of failure, a unique theatrical component that keeps them and the audience honest. Their plays are wildly eclectic, touching on all genres and tones; plays may be political, satirical, personal, tragic, comic, abstract, musical, surreal, poetic, and so on.
The bottom line is that Neo-Futurism does not buy into the "suspension of disbelief"—it does not attempt to take the audience anywhere else at any other time with any other people. The idea is to deal with what is going on right here and now.
The Neo-Futurists began with the show Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind: 30 Plays in 60 Minutes, often abbreviated as TMLMTBGB (though many refer to it simply as TML). For the first few years, the Neo-Futurist movement consisted entirely of TMLMTBGB, but then expanded to include "prime time productions." These productions began late evening, as opposed to TMLMTBGB's late-night starting time (11:30 in Chicago, 10:30 in New York).
The Neo-Futurists have published three books of plays from TMLMTBGB - two books of regular plays, and one of plays that use only one actor. They've also released one CD recording of plays from Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, one video, and a recording of Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious, a play described as an attempt to destroy comedy by analyzing it to death.
In 2008 the New York Neo-Futurists put on (Not) Just a Day Like Any Other, four autobiographical stories woven together with accompanying Bollywood music videos, relationships charted via PowerPoint, and margaritas for all.
In 2011, the New York Neo-Futurists produced an original piece, "Locker 4173b," wherein Neo-Futurists Joey Rizzolo and Christopher Borg purchased a foreclosed storage locker and, as amateur archaeologists, excavated, catalogued, and chronicled their findings. The show received critical acclaim and received a New York Innovative Theater Award for Outstanding Performance Art Production in 2011.
The New York Neo-Futurists were also New York Innovative Theatre Awards recipients for 'Best Performance Art Production' in 2006, 'Outstanding Ensemble' in 2009, and Caffe Cino Award 2010. They have ventured into producing short films under the umbrella of the Neo-Futurist aesthetic. In 2009 the New York company won the Village Voice Readers’ Choice poll for Best Performance Art and was named one of the nytheatre.com People of the Year.
In November 2016, Greg Allen delivered a surprise announcement that he intended to revoke the Chicago company's rights to perform TMLMTBGB. Allen had ceased to be a member of the performing ensemble four years prior, and in his announcement he stated his intention to form a new company to perform the show as a way to "combat the Trump administration." In a response statement, the Neo-Futurists stated that they were "disappointed that it has come to this conclusion," but that "throughout our long history with Greg there have been considerable artistic differences and irreconcilable personal conflicts." Additionally, a former artistic director and ensemble member disputes Allen's claim that the split is motivated by external politics, citing instead ongoing personality conflicts. The Neo-Futurists developed and opened a new weekly late-night show in 2017 titled The Infinite Wrench to continue to showcase their two-minute plays, with the Chicago production notably reaching their 10,000th play on September 29th, 2017.
In art and architecture: Neo-Futurism
Coleridge’s suspension of disbelief in the limitations of a wide-scale urbanization has been denied by urbanists, architects, designers and artists who believe in cities releasing emotions, driven by eco-sustainability, values and implementing new materials and new technologies to provide a better quality of life. Inspired by Futurist architect Antonio Sant'Elia and pioneered from early 1960s and late 1970s by thought leader Hal Foster, French architect Denis Laming, American architects William Pereira  and Charles Luckman and Danish architects Henning Larsen and Jørn Utzon. The neo-futurist avant-garde movement has been relaunched in 2007 by Expo 2015 Innovation Designer Vito Di Bari. Neo-Futurist architecture and art have been creatively inspired by Iraqi-British Pritzker Prize architect Zaha Hadid, and Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava; Indian sculptor Anish Kapoor and Dutch kinetic sculptor Theo Jansen. Italian Innovation Designer Vito Di Bari is considered the thought leader of the movement, his vision of the “cross-pollination of art and technology for a better world” has been defined by Steve Jobs as the "post-PC DNA" and it is shared by acclaimed architects, designers and artists such as the youngest recipient ever of the Pritzker Prize Japanese architect Ryue Nishizawa, architect of Ecoville in Curitiba and of the first rotating residential buildings Bruno de Franco, Design for Asia Award 2004-7-9 recipient Hong Kong Architect Gary Chang, Brazilian architect Rodrigo Ohtake, Lubetkin Prize Winner British designer Thomas Heatherwick, Design for Asia 2008 Award recipient Japanese artist Tokujin Yoshioka, Italian artist Mario Arlati, Polish artist Karina Smigla-Bobinski.
Academy Award nominee (and eventual Academy Award winner) Chris Landreth made an animated short of Greg Kotis's "Disregard this Play" entitled "Bingo." In the short, a man sits in the middle of a circus ring where he is accosted by carnival music and disturbing, clown-like characters. Each character greets the man as Bingo. At first he resists the name, arguing that he, in fact, is not Bingo. By the end of the five-minute animation, the man believes he is Bingo/Bingo the Clown/Bingo the Clown-o. The animation's ending of, "Thank you. Next," from a voice over a loud speaker and the subsequent pause in darkness gives almost the same feel as the "Curtain!" the Neo-Futurists yell at the end of each play.
Since 1988, the ranks of the Neo-Futurists have included the following individuals (listed alphabetically):
- Stephen Colbert (now famous for his television persona in The Colbert Report) auditioned for the Neo-Futurists, and was cast as part of the ensemble, but never got an opportunity to perform with them.
- Chicago: 5153 N. Ashland Avenue (The Neo-Futurarium)
- New York: 85 E. 4th St., near 2nd Ave. (The Kraine)
- San Francisco: 144 Taylor Street (PianoFight)
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