How many plays can fit into a half hour? Most would say barely half of a play could take place in such a short window. Maria Dixon, a senior theater major with a concentration in acting, might say 15.
Dixon put on a shortened production of Greg Allen’s “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind: 30 Plays in 60 Minutes” for her senior project, cutting the project in half and directing 15 neo-futurist plays in just 30 minutes.
“Neo-futurism in itself is a kind of hyperrealism. It’s emphasizing the realisticness that you’re in this space that you chose with people playing themselves and including the audience in that experience,” Dixon said.
The show did not follow a single storyline and didn’t include typical storytelling elements such as costumes, backdrops, intricate sets or developed characters.
“We tried to keep everything very real, very truthful and authentic. Playing with the different genres was really interesting and fun,” Dixon said.
When entering the theater, audience members were asked to select a colored name tag indicating their willingness to participate in the show during interactive scenes.
Once the lights dimmed, a group of 10 plainly dressed student actors came out on stage and introduced themselves by their real names to the audience.
Above the stage there were 15 pieces of paper hung on a clothesline, each paper had the name of a different short neo-futurist play. All of the plays were listed with only their titles and the number assigned on the “menu” handed out to audience members as they walked in. Dixon explained that when she called out “curtain,” the previous scene was over and the audience should shout out the number of the play they wanted to see. Whatever the actors heard first was the play that would go on next.
A stopwatch was placed in the audience’s view to see if the group could really get through all 15 plays in the allotted 30-minute window.
After Dixon’s opening, the “Star Spangled Banner” played and everyone sang — the cast, crew and even the audience. Then the show began with the first play, No. 6 “These Things are True,” in which the cast made an array of confessions to the audience ranging from vulnerable statements to guilty pleasures.
This play accurately set the tone for the rest of the show. The audience never knew what to expect or what they were going to see next. The plays varied between genres, levels of seriousness and topics.
Some plays were comedies like No. 7 “Give and Take.” The play was a mock game show in which a student named Dave was asked ridiculously hard questions while the other contestants were given super easy ones. This resulted in Dave becoming overwhelmed and in an attempt to keep up with the game, sharing the details of how he masturbates.
Some, while meant to be somewhat comedic, poked fun at more serious issues. No. 4 ” Lip Readers” recreated a presidential debate where the candidates avoided the questions given and instead focused on hurling insults and personal attacks back and forth. The play ended in a screaming match between the candidates, not even remotely related to the content of the questions.
No. 3 “How to War” replicated a tutorial on how to start a war by identifying differences and inciting fear and hate towards outsider groups. The actors presented these directions and ideas in a light-hearted and nonchalant way as if the topic of discussion was something as simple as changing a tire or tying a shoe.
A large part of the show was also the audience interaction. In No. 12 “30 Second Tag,” the actors played a 30-second game of tag with each other and the audience members. Similarly, during No. 10 “Honestly,” ensemble member Connor Shields stood on the stage and answered whatever yes or no questions the audience asked truthfully for two whole minutes.
The show was a mental and emotional rollercoaster constantly pulling the audience’s hearts in different directions, from deep thought and sadness to laughter and joy. This effect was no coincidence and is one of the main goals of works like “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind,” to mimic life truthfully displaying all of its ups and downs.
The cast was able to successfully pull off all 15 plays in under 30 minutes — with just one second to spare.
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