Jason is a producer, manager, and designer with 17 years of experience in Chicago, New York, and in the touring market. In 2015, he founded Lotus Theatricals - the publisher of Performink, and an independent commercial producing company - with Abigail Trabue.
Pictured: A crowd shot of THE INFINITE WRENCH. Photo by Evan Hanover.
By Jason Epperson
The Neo-Futurists have announced their 30th season, featuring the company’s signature style fusing sport, poetry and living newspaper.
“People have come to The Neo-Futurist Theater for 30 years because the artists here consistently create theater that delights, challenges and surprises us all,” says Artistic Director Kurt Chiang. “We’re a place for experiments and new work, but we’re also refreshingly reliable. On any given night, audiences understand they can’t anticipate what’s going to happen—but they know they’ll leave profoundly changed. And they want to share that experience with their friends and family. Our ensemble and staff are humbled by the continued support, and we’re pumped to show off what’s coming next.”
The most recent of those 30 years have been fraught with change, as the company shed it’s founder Greg Allen, who later pulled the trademark license to the company’s signature show, TOO MUCH LIGHT MAKES THE BABY GO BLIND, in which members of the ensemble attempted to perform 30 very short plays in 60 minutes. It was Chicago’s longest-running theatrical production at the time that Allen made his decision known via the press. His statement (preposterously) asserted that the Neos weren’t diverse enough, and in the face of Trump’s inauguration, he would “rebrand the show with a new diverse ensemble that embraces a specifically socially activist mission.”
Allen has made no headway in creating said new version of TOO MUCH LIGHT… (in Chicago at least — the show is licensed to colleges and fringe productions around the country). But the Neos haven’t skipped a beat. Their new flagship show, THE INFINITE WRENCH, is by all indicators a success, and the company’s original works residency, Neo-Lab, enters its fourth year, with support from the NEA. The Neo-Futurists are one of the most highly regarded experimental theater companies in the United States (with sister companies in New York and San Francisco), with or without “Neo-Futurist Greg.”
The company’s 2018-19 season is jam-packed, and full of community engagement and partnerships. Two mainstage Neo-Lab commissions will be presented — TANGLES AND PLAQUES, Kirsten Riiber’s attempt to demystify the experience of dementia in the language of theater makes a return appearance, and the world premiere of REMEMBER THE ALAMO, created by Nick Hart will not let audiences leave until they participate in completely re-creating the battle of the Alamo.
Lit Crawl Chicago 2018, co-produced with LitQuake Foundation, will spread through Andersonville and Uptown for one Saturday in September. 60 Songs in 60 Minutes, created by Nick Hart and Andrew Tham, returns after its raucous debut last year. TEDIUM…AND OTHER SENSATIONS by Mickle Maher will be adapted for The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival in January. THE EGG SHOW: 30 Egg Plays in 60 Egg Minutes, will serve as a Mother’s Day fundraiser for the Chicago Women’s Health Center; The Neo-Futurist Kitchen micro-festival on art & performance enters its third year next summer.
All that, combined with Neo-Lab development workshops and, of course, ongoing performances of The Infinite Wrench, which unleashes a barrage of two-minute plays for live audiences 50 weekends per year. It’s all topped off with the “Best of The Infinite Wrench” which performs after Thanksgiving – commemorating the company’s 30th birthday at a special performance on December 2nd. The full season schedule follows.
THE NEO-FUTURISTS’ 30TH ANNIVERSARY SEASON LINEUP (show descriptions from a press release)
All performances are held at The Neo-Futurist Theater, 5153 N. Ashland Avenue (at Foster), unless otherwise noted. To purchase tickets and for more information, visit www.neofuturists.org.
THE INFINITE WRENCH
Ongoing 50 weekends per year
Created and performed by the Neo-Futurist Ensemble
Tickets: $10-15 walkup (cash only); $20 online with a roll-back refund
Schedule: Fridays & Saturdays at 11:30 p.m.; Sundays at 7 p.m.
THE INFINITE WRENCH is The Neo-Futurists’ flagship production that unleashes a barrage of two-minute plays for a live audience, 50 weekends per year. Each play offers something different, be it funny, profound, elegant, disgusting, topical, irreverent, terrifying or a song; all are truthful and tackle the here-and-now, inspired by the lived experiences of the performers. With new plays every week, THE INFINITE WRENCH is The Neo-Futurists’ ongoing and ever-changing attempt to shift the conventions of live performance and speak to those unreached or unmoved by traditional theater.
TANGLES AND PLAQUES
September 13-29, 2018
Created by Neo-Futurist Ensemble Member Kirsten Riiber
Directed by Neo-Futurist Artistic Associate Jen Ellison
Schedule: Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
TANGLES AND PLAQUES is returning to the Neo-Futurist stage for a limited engagement. Neo-Lab’s 2016-17 commission,TANGLES AND PLAQUES attempts to demystify the experience of dementia in the language of theatre—offering a vivid, poignant, participatory experience that is unique to each audience and different every performance. Ensemble Member Kirsten Riiber, Director Jen Ellison and Memory Care Consultant Alex Schwaninger conduct a symphony of impossible tasks and egregious forgery with the help of the audience and a cast including Riiber, Kaitlyn Andrews, Ida Cuttler, Justin Deming, Mike Hamilton, Nick Hart and Dan Kerr-Hobert. The ensemble interrogates the life and death of memories—how they persist, when they depart and the ways they distort over time.
LIT CRAWL CHICAGO 2018
Sept. 22, 2018
3 p.m.-11:30 p.m.
Co-produced by The Neo-Futurists and LitQuake Foundation
Curated by Neo-Futurist Alum Jessica Anne and Lindsay Muscato
Tickets: Free festival with special ticketed events to be announced
Location: Venues throughout Andersonville and Uptown, including The Neo-Futurist Theater, Women & Children First bookstore and the Green Mill
Lit Crawl is the Chicago incarnation of a much-loved literary fest celebrated across the country. The crawl happens from 3 p.m. onward on Saturday, Sept. 22, with events in storefronts and venues throughout Andersonville and Uptown. Many events happen simultaneously: audiences look at their crawl maps and make hard choices about what to see. But that’s the magic of Lit Crawl: stroll down the street and see a special performance of a writer you’ve always loved, stop into a favorite venue for an unexpected literary activity, or stumble upon something completely new in a place you’ve never been.
A Neo-Lab commission in development
Public workshops: Nov. 29, 2018 and March 27, 2019 at 7:30 p.m.
Created by Neo-Futurist Ensemble Member Ida Cuttler
A rigorous storytelling of epic and exhausting proportions, in which Neo-Futurist Ensemble Member Ida Cuttler weds herself to an appreciative but underwhelmed audience, equipped with nothing except size 8.5 running shoes, the narrative structure of One Thousand and One Nights and a bloated sense of self. Ida creates, stars and bursts open in COMFORTABLE SHOES, her debut mainstage production.
BEST OF THE INFINITE WRENCH
Nov. 30-Dec. 9, 2018
Created and performed by the Neo-Futurist Ensemble
Schedule: Fridays and Saturdays at 11:30 p.m.; Sundays at 7 p.m.; special 30th birthday performance on Dec. 2
The Neo-Futurist Ensemble performs the best plays of the year from THE INFINITE WRENCH, the company’s ongoing and ever-changing attempt to shift the conventions of live performance and speak to those unreached or unmoved by traditional theater. Each play offers something different, be it funny, profound, elegant, disgusting, topical, irreverent, terrifying, or a song; all are truthful and tackle the here-and-now, inspired by the lived experiences of the performers. Expect a particularly invigorating evening on Dec. 2, the date of The Neo-Futurists’ official 30th birthday!
60 SONGS IN 60 MINUTES
Dec. 13-15, 2018
Created by Neo-Futurist Ensemble Member Nick Hart and Andrew Tham
Schedule: Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.
A small ensemble of musicians and artists creates a collage of sound and noise, using anything they can find to write and perform 60 original songs in 60 minutes. After their raucous debut last year, the band is back with the quickest and craziest musical celebration of the season. The Neo-Futurists’ latest experiment in new modes of extreme performance,60 SONGS IN 60 MINUTES is created and performed by Neo-Futurist Ensemble Member Nick Hart with Andrew Tham.
TEDIUM…AND OTHER SENSATIONS
January 17-26, 2019
Written by Mickle Maher
Adapted and Performed by Neo-Futurist Ensemble Members Dan Kerr-Hobert, Lily Mooney, Trent Creswell and members of Mocrep
Part of The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival
Co-Produced with Mocrep and Theater Oobleck
Schedule: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.
The Neo-Futurists explore the absurd text of Theater Oobleck’s Mickle Maher with a barrage of puppet forms at a small tabletop inTEDIUM…AND OTHER SENSATIONS. In a multi-disciplinary journey through déjà vu, meta-theatrical successes, and world premiere musical experiments, a small ensemble of puppeteers and musicians soothe the worries and sorrows of the world away. Part of the 2019 Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, TEDIUM…AND OTHER SENSATIONS is The Neo-Futurists’ adaptation of Maher’s original work in collaboration with Mocrep.
REMEMBER THE ALAMO
February 28-April 27, 2019
Created by Neo-Futurist Ensemble Member Nick Hart
Directed by Neo-Futurist Artistic Director Kurt Chiang
Tickets: $10-$25; all Thursdays & previews are “pay what you can”
Schedule: Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.
Previews: February 28-March 2, 2019
Regular run: March 4-April 27, 2019
In this world premiere production, an ensemble will take over The Neo-Futurist Theater, refuse to leave, and obstruct all production in the theater until the audience, actors and management work to recreate the Battle of the Alamo in its entirety, leading to its sad bloody conclusion. Created by Neo-Futurist Ensemble Member Nick Hart, REMEMBER THE ALAMO is Neo-Lab’s 2017-18 commission.
THE EGG SHOW: 30 Egg Plays in 60 Egg Minutes
May 12, 2019
Scrambled by Neo-Futurist Ensemble Member Ida Cuttler
Schedule: Sunday, May 12 at 7 p.m.
This Mother’s Day benefit for the Chicago Women’s Health Center features the Ensemble’s favorite “egg” plays from the past 30 years of The Neo-Futurists’ flagship late-night show The Infinite Wrench. They’re gonna get messy. They’re gonna talk about moms (whatever that means to you). They’re gonna make you look at your breakfast in a whole new way. No matter your relationship to your ma… we all came from an egg!
THE NEO-FUTURIST KITCHEN: A micro-festival on art & performance
July 15-21, 2019
The Neo-Futurists’ micro-festival on ensemble and devised performance takes over The Neo-Futurist Theater July 15-21, showcasing the latest development of Neo-Lab’s Comfortable Shoes and hosting workshops and performances from artists and organizations throughout Chicago and the United States. Launched in 2016 alongside Neo-Lab and with the support of The National Endowment for the Arts, The Neo-Futurist Kitchen welcomes audiences to explore experimental art in its many forms (with food, drink and conversation).
For more information, visit www.neofuturists.org.