Thursday, February 28, 2008

Example of Tribal Theatre: Neo-Futurists

As many of you know, I have been inspired by Daniel Quinn's Beyond Civilization: Humanity's Next Great Adventure for the idea of a theatre tribe. Quinn uses three examples to illustrate his concept of the occupational tribe: the weekly newspaper he and his wife ran for a while; the small circus; and the Chicago Neo-Futurists. In 1999, when the book was published, he wrote a section called "Another tribal example" on page 155:

The Neo-Futurists are an ensemble of artists who write, direct, and perform their own work dedicated to social, political, and personal enlightenment in the form of audience-interactive conceptual theater. (These words from the group's on-line Statement of Purpose.) Working in a "low/no tech poor theatre format," the group put together a unique postmodern dramatic endeavor that features an ever-changing collection of thirty plays performed in sixty minutes under the umbrella title Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. This signature work has (as of this writing) been running in Chicago since December 1, 1988, and had a successful run at the Joseph Papp Public Theater in New York City in 1993. In 1992 the Neo-Futurists opened their own Neo-Futurarium, boasting a 154-seat theater and art gallery.

As many as thirteen members are active in the company at any one time, though the average performance tends to involve only eight or so. In addition to writing, directing, and performing Too Much Light, these thirteen perform virtually all the chores associated with the theater and the production -- manning the box offcie, cleaning up, recycling, producing the programs, buying the props, and so on.

My Chicago readers may know more about the organization, and more about what has transpired since 1999 (I didn't have time to take a look at the current website). Regardless, what is important here is the example. To Quinn's mind, the Neo-Futurists are a tribe because the different activities of the theatre are spread throughout all members of the tribe.

I think it is a good example, but my model takes it further so as to include the creation of ancillary activities to extend the theatre's income beyond simply ticket income. So I would go further than the Neo-Futurists, but as a starting point it is helpful to look to them through Quinn's eyes.

1 comment:

Devilvet said...

"154-seat theater" ?

uhhhh...not quite. I haven't counted the seats in their space but unless eyes deceive, I'd be surprised if their space had more than half that number.

Regardless, you can not refute Greg's model as a successful one.

Think Again: Funding and Budgets in the Arts

Every once in a while, I think I'll post a link or two to posts written earlier in the life of Theatre Ideas that seem worth revisiting ...