Unusual theater troupe brings their style to UI


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Three sentences, two minutes, and one object is all UI theater students have to tell their life stories.

This was one of many assignments the ensemble of the Neo-Futurists had to tackle before understanding a new performance theory, taught to them by Professor Greg Allen.

“Neo-Futurism is exploring the idea that the less artifices we have on stage, the more we can connect to an audience,” he said. “We explore ourselves very directly and never pretend to be anywhere other than where we are.”

The cast will perform what they have learned from Allen at 8 p.m. Friday in the Theater Building’s Theater B. Performances will continue through Sept. 15. Admission is free for UI students with valid IDs, $5 for the general public.

Allen, the founder of the Neo-Futurism performance theory, believes that people were not using theater to its fullest capacity. So his motivation was to explore the self-expression of individuals by using the theater.

He created his company in 1988 in Chicago, where his most famous show, Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, opened in December of that year.

The show has run for 22 years, and during that time, Allen also opened companies in New York and Montréal.

When he arrived at the UI, he gave a speech to the students in which he took them through his process and ideas of what theater could and should be.

“The students seem to be very inspired by these ideas, and they are doing some really great work,” he said. “We are devising a number of short pieces that will be performed with an interactive audience in random order.”

One of these includes an exploration of a new actor and audience relationship. However, the one question all cast members have on their mind is, “What is going to be the actual show?”

For many veteran theater students, going to a rehearsal without a read-through and acting out scenes is not only different, it is also scary.

UI senior Daisy McKinlay said that for her, the process has been very linear, and she knows where the show is headed each night.

“With this show, I really have no idea what it will be in a week,” she said. “It’s incredible to think that this process is only two weeks, and it’s still so up in the air. But Greg wants us to think of the work in the present time rather than the end product.”

The theater and dance major said this style allows her to continue to explore as an actor and really learn what it means to be onstage and have a relationship with the audience.

“This process is a constant surprise, and every night going into rehearsal is engaging and exciting,” she said. “We aren’t ever 100 percent sure of what we’re doing.”

Thus far, rehearsals have consisted of creating and discussing work from assignments the students had been given.

UI freshman Frankie Rose approached the assignment by talking about how he hates to see someone texting and driving.

“I related that to a family member who got in an accident and used a metronome to help keep time,” he said. “This assignment was harder for me than the first, because there wasn’t a time limitation.”

Rose has never done anything like Neo-Futurism before, but he said it is a vulnerable process.

“The weirdest thing to me is not being a character,” he said. “If you gave me a role, a script, and a character, I would have no problem being that person, but being myself is when I got a little shy.”
The Neo-Futurists
When: 8 p.m. Friday through Sept. 15
Where: Theater Building Theater B

Admission: Free for UI students with valid IDs, $5 for general public

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