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Exploring the Rules of Theatre

An obsession of mine has been a list of rules outlining the critical elements of creating a 'good' theatrical experience. I am speaking about Greg Allen, the Founding Director of the Neo-Futurists in Chicago, IL, and his '26 Rules for Creating Good Theatre' as published in 2012. You can experience the full article at the link below.

The Neo-Futurists have been running a show entitled Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind for over 20 years, which they have deemed, "the longest-running in Chicago today." Though, the show itself is not the same every time it is performed. Actually, it is the program or format that has been the unifying factor throughout the many years and a single idea that theatre should be "performed from a perspective of absolute honesty." The show rambunctiously offers 30 plays in 60 minutes (That's 30 two-minute plays if you'd like the arithmetic).

How do you create a successful, long-running show in one of America's largest cities? It is Allen's 'rules' that perhaps can shed the most light. In this blog I would like to dissect each of these rules individually to decipher their merit and perhaps discover possibilities of practical application. I will begin with...

"Rule #1: Don't create good theater. You must intend to create GREAT theater. We don't need any more perfectly good productions of perfectly good scripts. You are setting out to do something great or it's not worth doing."

In the first sentence we have a blatant contradiction with the title of the article itself. Allen gives us a 'shoot for the moon' approach to the end goal of creating 'good' theatre.

It is the cynicism in the lines, "We don't need any more perfectly good productions," that strike a chord. Most of what is considered 'normal' theatre follows a format that is uninteresting and tedious, and many of what is consumed by theatre-goers are regurgitated remakes of the same plays in an endless cycle. The hope to create great work has to stem from taking some sort of artistic risk in a project. The secret is new works and new ideas. We see from Allen's Futurists that they are continually at the genesis of the plays they create.

Allen's closing remark in Rule 1 is dependent on one's intentions. There are certainly those in the community who are more about the commercial side of the business. These, predominantly, are those in power positions more so than performers of playwrights. The fact remains that if we want to create the type of works that Allen describes, we have to be willing to challenge the trends that we see in our theatre companies. We must support the experimental and new productions whenever it is possible and be up for creating them ourselves.

The take home point from Rule #1 create the art that you want to see.

Please, see the link below to view the full 26 rules as written by Greg Allen of the Neo-Futurists in Chicago, IL, and be on the look out for more blog posts from yours truly.


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