Playwriting

Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind

We’re on a theatre trip to Chicago and thought we’d share our thoughts on the plays we’re seeing, along with some ideas from the plays you can use in your own theatre program.

First up is Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, an unusual play with an unusual title.

Click here to see the video.

Transcript

Craig: Hey!

Lindsay: Hello! We are here in Chicago on a little theatre trip, and we thought that we would make some videos and let you know about the shows that we are seeing.

Craig: So the first show we saw last night was called Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. This is our program here. This is a long-long-running show in Chicago. It’s been here for…

Lindsay: Twenty-two.

Craig: …22 years. It’s branched off into a second production in New York that we’ve seen a couple of times. This is our first time seeing the Chicago production.

Lindsay: And it’s a very unique show. It’s not like your regular music or your regular straight play. It’s got a very unique concept. It’s 30 plays in 60 minutes, so the plays, as you can quite guess, are quite short, and there’s a timer onstage, and if you get to the end of the 60 minutes and the 30 plays aren’t done, it doesn’t matter, that’s it. And also…

Craig: And that happened last night, actually.

Lindsay: It did happen last night.

Craig: They got to do 27ish plays.

Lindsay: No, they got to 29.

Craig: Twenty-nine, alright.

Lindsay: So what happens is you come into the theatre and you got a menu. There’s the menu. Or…

Craig: And, yeah, all the titles of the plays are written on the menu. That’s all you get. And when one play is over, you shout out the number of the next play you want.

Lindsay: And the numbers 1 to 30 are on a clothesline at the back of the stage, so when they pull down a number, that’s the play they do. So they don’t go in order. They don’t go 1 to 30 in order. We could go 13, 27, 1. So the order is different every time they do the show, and the plays are different every time they do the show. At the end of each week of shows they roll a dice, and however the number that comes up on the dice, that’s the number of new plays that have to be written.

So you can tell that like this is a very unique theatrical experience, and it’s also important to note that all the plays are original. The cast members write them themselves, perform them themselves, and the key to the plays is that they all have to contain [00:02:05] an element of truth, whether it’s a truth about a particular actor, whether it’s a truth about the world at large, something political or something that’s current in the news…

Craig: Yeah, they’re very clear at the beginning of the play that they’re not playing characters, that they are themselves and “we are not people on some warplane somewhere, we’re the actual people who we brought to the theatre.”

Lindsay: So on top of that being an interesting experience is that when you’re dealing with that kind of theme you walk a tightrope, because it’s either going to be really self-aware and something that you’re going to connect to or it’s going to be really self-indulgent, and it’s either/or sometimes.

Craig: Now, here’s where we come to the review of the play.

Lindsay: Yeah.

Craig: You can’t compare this experience to anything else…

Lindsay: No.

Craig: …apart from other versions of this play that you’ve seen. So I have to compare it to the New York production, and what I have to say about this is that I think I liked the Chicago production more because it was not as successful as the New York production.

Lindsay: And this is actually a compliment. The New York production, I would say they were all better writers. They were better playwrights. They could all craft a play. So what you saw was well-crafted material and well-crafted performance art, and it was a well-rounded good evening of theatre.

The Chicago production, I would say unfortunately none of them could craft a play. The words they used, the monologues, they weren’t well-crafted. However, everyone in the Chicago production can craft a theatrical experience. We had an experience. They were able to really play on emotional truth. And their physical acting, the way they physicalized their plays, were in some cases just brilliant. And the audience interaction was something I’ve never experienced before.

Craig: Yeah. And what they really captured was the sense of danger. Not that, you know, fire was going to come and burn us all alive, but the sense that anything could happen at any time.

Lindsay: In one case, a random member of the audience became part of the play, and that can be a recipe for disaster. It can be success or failure. And they were not afraid to fail.

Craig: And fail they did. But sure, like some scenes just fell apart, but others were magical, and like Lindsay cried three times. [Laughs]

Lindsay: Three times. What’s the number three? Therewe go, three. And that is something that we are…and you know, in the arts these days, we are so conditioned to fear failure. Everything’s got to be perfect right out of the box. And if we’re not perfect, we’re ridiculed, and that is such a detriment to artistic expression and creative expression. There has to be places where we can have an idea and not be sure if it’s going to work and put it out there and get feedback, and then move on from that. You cannot be good unless you have failed.

Craig: Yeah. So what can we learn from this? It’s a great exercise to do in your classroom. Just write a two-minute play. And don’t give them any more than, what, 10 minutes to do this. It doesn’t even need to be two minutes. Two minutes is the maximum time limit for this.

Lindsay: “You know what? Write a one-page play. You have 10 minutes, go. Okay, now you’re going to perform it, go.” And be very, very clear to really try and make your classroom a place where people are free to fail, because that is a skill that is going to really serve them in life. Meet places where we can fail, and learn from that failure, and to know that failure is okay. So, by and large, the Chicago production, they failed gloriously, and then they also succeeded greatly.

Craig: Risk/reward, where there’s big risk, there’s big opportunity for reward.

Lindsay: So, bottom line, we loved our theatrical experience last night and we can’t wait to see what’s next. Buh-bye!

About the author

Craig Mason