In a way, theater is a kind of lie. An entertaining fabrication, but a lie nonetheless. By entering a theater, the audience agrees to temporarily suspend their disbelief, fall into the story and believe in its internal logic. People enjoy listening to stories, retelling far fetched tales, passing lessons down through generations and most importantly, escaping. Now more than ever, people rely on stories in film, TV and theater for that familiar escape from a less-than-ideal reality. The Neo-Futurists do the opposite: they still dare to tell the truth, even now.
In The Infinite Wrench, the Neos attempt to perform 30 two-minute plays in 60 minutes. New plays are continually being added to the menu, while others are shuffled out or reimagined, creating an ever-changing show. This flexibility likely helped the jump from real life shows to their current digital format, which is a delight all on its own. Through the use of video editing, screen recordings and other useful tech tricks I wish my professors knew about, the Neo-Futurists continue to put out visceral theatrical work. Their plays still have the ability to affect me emotionally, make me think and teach me things I would never learn otherwise. All this is accomplished virtually, and for their ability to work so well through this virtual barrier they should receive an extra round of applause.
The Neo-Futurists create non-illusory theater. Even in a pandemic, when all people want to do is fall into an illusion, the Neo-Futurists resist. Their fierce dedication to the truth taught me a few things. First, there is always more to the right now. The other day, a friend of mine walked through the freezing cold to deliver me a specific flavor of Pop Tarts because she knew I liked them. It made my entire day. Every day people continue to commit acts of kindness — small truths that bring bursts of joy and laughter still exist, in spite of our grim everyday reality.
Second, it taught me that my truth is enough. Too often, especially at a high pressure institution like Northwestern, it is easy to feel like you aren’t enough. Aren’t smart enough, aren’t interesting enough, the list goes on and on. Yet the Neo-Futurists get up every show and tell real stories from their real lives. They insist that their truths are enough — and they are! Their work informs, inspires and helps explain the ineffable. If they can do it, so can you. Someone out there believes in your truth. You are enough, your best is enough, your truth is enough.
The pandemic has obviously thrown a massive roadblock in the production of new theater. The essential audience-performer connection has been severed, or at least forced to be mediated through a screen and tenuous internet connection. I’m looking forward to having that invigorating relationship with the performer back, but for now am happy to add the Neo-Futurists to my ever-increasing screen time.
The Neo-Futurists are putting out a new show every week! Find their website here to subscribe to their shows and find out more about the workshops they’re running right now.