Monday, November 23, 2015

Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind

by Pa Rock
King of the Road

(Note:  This blog entry is being posted from onboard an Amtrak passenger train near Bloomington-Normal, Illinois.  Who would have thought that there would be Wi-Fi service on a train - and electric outlets by every seat!  Heaven, I'm in heaven!)

Our final night in Chicago found us at a very unique small theatre just a few blocks from the Pfetcher’s home.     The venue houses the Chicago area’s longest running play – one that has been going on for years – called “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.”

The production is actually more of a concept piece than it is a dramatic effort based on a standard and set script.    In the performance thirty “plays” (actually skits) are played out in one hour.  A clock with a timer is set, and at the end of the hour a timer goes off and the performance is over whether all of the material has been produced that evening or not. 

The plays (skits) are performed by a cast of five – the same people who authored the material.  They are presented in a random order – with numbers of skits being called out by audience members – causing cast members to have to rush to drag out the right props and remember their lines from the highly distinctive and unusual scripts.  Then, to ensure that things remain really dicey, some plays exit the performance each week while others are added – the number of replacements being dependent on the roll of a die by an audience member.

The overall performance is rushed, chaotic, and lots of fun.  It’s easy to see why the show remains so popular.  Heidi and Jason had last attended a performance nine years ago.

One of my favorite plays of the evening centered on a young man of mixed Korean-American heritage who only got to see his Korean father one day a year when the old man would come to America for the briefest of visits.   The young man and his father always had a hard time making conversation during those visits.  In the play the fellow told about the visit in which he struggled to let his father know that he was gay.

Others were more farcical.  One was about a young man who hoarded and hid cans of Tab cola.   The bit was called “Keeping Tabs.”   Another, “Mike Check” had one of the cast members setting up and then testing a microphone.  After he successfully completed that task, he asked, over the now-functioning microphone if there was anyone in the house named Michael.  When one person acknowledged that was his name, the person at the microphone inquired at to how he (Mike) was.

Lots of fun stuff – and some of it very touching.

Funding of the production is also worth a mention.  Tickets were fifteen dollars in advance or nine at the door.   No, that’s not a misstatement.   People who paid nine dollars for a ticket at the door were required to roll a die and add the amount of the roll to the price of a ticket – meaning the ultimate purchase price was between ten and fifteen dollars.  People who paid the fifteen in advance also rolled a die and got cash back for the amount of their roll – meaning tickets would ultimately be between nine and fourteen dollars – a slight advantage for buying tickets in advance.  A further quirk to pricing, however, was that ticket-buyers could forgo money saved through the dice-rolling by loudly declaring “Keep the change!” as they stepped through the door and into the darkened theatre.  Many chose the “Keep the Change!” option – thus providing more funds to keep the unique theatre experience alive.

“Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind” is an extremely unique theatrical experience, one that any visitor to the Chicago area should make an effort to see.  The theatre, a small establishment that seats less than one hundred – affording everyone a great view and easy participation – is located in downtown Andersonville.

And when you’re there, let them “Keep the change!”  Those young people work very hard at plying their craft and keeping us entertained.

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