By Victor Allison/reporter
Four nights of unorthodox theater will be hosted at SE Campus with “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.”
SE drama associate professor and play director Drew Hampton said the title has no actual meaning behind it. But a combination of manifestos, comedy sketches, tragic satires and short plays all jammed into one hour makes the title’s allusion to sensory overload the most fitting metaphor for a show that defies description, Hampton said.
The easiest way to describe it is 30 plays in 60 minutes. Or, at least that’s the goal, he said. The ensemble will be challenged to complete a torrent of plays — some 10 seconds long, some two minutes — in rapid succession against a 60-minute timer in a random order dictated by the audience.
It’s an experience Hampton called a zany, fast and fun night of theater, but unlike traditional plays that revolve around a central conflict, he said the objective here is to work really fast and go from one play to the next.
“It’s all over the place,” he said. “It’s so fast no one can really get bored by it.”
Playwright Greg Allen created the unorthodox style of “Too Much Light” during his coming up on the experimental theater scene of 1980s Chicago. His intent was to invent a new approach to theater that engaged audiences more than traditional theater and incorporated them into the plays rather than just having them immersed in a fantasy world they had no part of. It’s a formula that helped “Too Much Light” become one of Chicago’s longest-running shows.
Hampton said the idea behind Allen’s engaged and rapid-pace theater was to spur a new art movement.
“That long, two-hour structure of a play: Let’s get away from that,” Hampton said of Allen’s thought process. “Let’s make this just actors [and] audience. Let’s go fast, a lot of variety in there.”
Cast member Karrington Davis, who will perform in approximately seven shorts each night, agreed with Hampton’s assessment of “Too Much Light” as more of a concept than a play.
“I don’t think it’s about any one thing,” she said. “Maybe it’s about the way that theater helps us express our beliefs and our social structures and how we satirize them. But overall, it’s a way to engage the audience.”
For the 12 cast members, this is their first foray into theater without traditional structure. And it will be the first for many theatergoers as well, Hampton said.
“If you saw ’A Raisin in the Sun,’ it’s nothing like that,” Hampton said in reference to the last dramatic production SE staged. “It’s very ‘Saturday Night Live’ to me. You’ve got this one clip that lasts for a couple of minutes, and then we’re done. We’re on to something else.”
Davis even goes so far as to forewarn ticket buyers that any expectations for a traditional experience should be left at home.
“Just be prepared to be not prepared,” she said.
But cast member Haley Davila assured theatergoers that the “Too Much Light” cast will be gentle.
“We want to make sure that every audience member has a good time and is comfortable,” she said.
Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind
7:30 p.m. April 17-20
1:30 p.m. matinee April 19
Roberson Theatre on SE Campus
Tickets are free for TCC students and staff; $3 for non-TCC students; and $6 for the general public. Call the box office at 817-515-3599.