The New York Neo-Futurists Ruminate “On the Future”

Written by Doug Strassler on . Posted in NY Press Exclusive.


L-R: Adam Smith, Meg Bashwiner, Daniel McCoy, and Christopher Loar in the New York Neo-Futurists production of On The Future. Photo by Anton Nickel.

The New York Neo-Futurists, the beloved downtown performance collective perhaps best known for their long-running hit Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, are currently peering into the future. Literally – their current show, On the Future, presents a sextet of diverse scenes that all somehow tackle the subject of the future. New York Press spoke with director Rob Neill as well as performers Meg Bashwiner, Dan McCoy, and Adam Smith about what inspired this forward-thinking show.

 

NYP: How did the idea for an evening of plays dealing with the future come about?

RN: It has been a while since the New York Neo-Futurists have done an evening of plays longer than the 2-minute plays we crank out weekly for Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind. So we decided as a company to experiment with shows of slightly longer plays. 2012 is fairly fertile for speculating on the future, particularly if you give credit to certain interpretations of the Mayan Calendar or look at the global climate shifts.  Ultimately, I feel there is a good amount of uncertainty and change in general, in addition to basic synchronicity of having Neo-Futurists ponder the future.

 

NYP: Were they all written at the same time?

RN: In February, the New York Neo-Futurist ensemble of co-artistic directors selected On the Future as our fall main stage show. Once that happened, the authors had a few weeks to propose how they wanted to approach the Future. Then June through September we wrote, workshopped, re-wrote & rehearsed the plays.

 

NYP: Were the playwrights told to have any common theme or variables?

RN: They were told to focus on the future and shoot for a ten-minute play on the timing side. They were asked to consider how the world as we know it is currently changing exponentially, compounded with the current survivalist, end of times, dystopian, retro-futurist and Mayan 2012 calendar movements and concerns. But the great thing with Neo-Futurists is that you get a variety of style, interpretations and surprises.
NYP: Is it hard to perform pieces about the future theatrically? Or easy?

AS: The challenge for me is to remain honest and present. It’s easy to get caught up in the silliness or gloom that exists in each piece. The performance calls for a deeper grounding in each play. In the end we’re telling stories and for me nothing is more engaging than someone sharing their unique perspective.
MB: It’s not hard to perform. It is challenging to write especially in our aesthetic because it forces you  to identify what you feel about the future (which can be a bit scary, jarring, nauseating, exciting, and introspective). Then you have to confront those feelings and turn that into something captivating enough to hold the attention of an audience.

NYP: What is your favorite future-related theatrical work?

AS: Urinetown, without a doubt. I saw it on Broadway while still in college and loved how it addressed serious issues of environmentalism and the abuse of government power while also hilariously spoofing our society and the musical genre. Its effectiveness, for me, is that it avoided self-righteous indignation for a potential future without water and aimed to entertain with a strong message.

MB:  My favorite future play: What the Time Traveler Will Tell Us by Jeffrey Cranor and Joseph Fink.

 

DM: I really loved Arias with a Twist, a drag puppet show collaboration between Joey Arias and Basil Twist.  I don’t know if it was strictly futuristic, but the show featured alien abduction, extreme growth a la Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, and other sci-fi tropes.  All on a tiny stage, campy as hell, with wonderful puppetry and music.

 

NYP: Is it hard to perform pieces about the future theatrically? Or easy?

 

DM:  No harder than performing about any other subject.  Because we write and perform in the Neo-Futurist aesthetic (non-illusory, no fourth wall, etc.), there’s no pressure to convince the audience that they’re seeing anything they’re not.  The subject matter of this show happens to be the future, and the plays within it are our various takes on that subject, but it’s still us doing what we do.  The challenge lies in making those plays as exciting, interesting and fun as possible.

 

Tickets for On the Future can be purchased online at http://www.nyneofuturists.org/site/

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