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Dispatches from the Moth · Posted On: Nov 10, 2011

The New York Neo-Futurists to Honor The Moth on November 14th!

by Laura Hadden, Media & Communications Manager

The Moth is extraordinarily flattered to be the honoree at The New York Neo-Futurists’ benefit this Monday, November 14th! Tickets are available now and we hope you’ll be able to join us in celebrating the art of storytelling in one of its most innovative forms.

The Neo-Futurists, which began in Chicago in 1998, are best-known for their popular show Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. We asked two of The New York Neo-Futurists, Managing Director Rob Neill and ensemble member Christopher Borg, to talk to us about their work, neo-futurism, and how it all relates to The Moth and storytelling in general.

THE MOTH: First of all, how would you describe “neo-futurism”?

ROB NEILL: As Neo-Futurists, we embrace chance, change and chaos and blend a lot of styles and approaches to create original work that operates under these basic premises:
1. You are who you are.
2. You are where you are.
3. You are doing what you are doing.

Which leads us to storytelling, social commentary and personal observation a lot like The Moth, but then with Neo-Futurism there are the abstractions, the sport, the deconstructions, the dance, the dialogue, music, poetry and sometimes that little bit of chaos that gives our shows a unique & vibrant feel.

THE MOTH: We feel so very flattered to be your honoree. How and why did you select The Moth?

CHRISTOPHER BORG: We Neos like to party – especially with people we like. And we like The Moth a lot. We throw awesome benefits: a very nice crowd, not stuffy, a great auction, entertainment, but a couple of years ago we decided to bump it up a notch and reach beyond our ensemble to recognize and honor artists in the larger community who were doing the type of work we like. There are a lot of amazing artists doing ground-breaking and often underappreciated work who we admire and appreciate, and this was an opportunity to share that with our audiences and supporters. The New York Neo-Futurists operate as a true collective and the entire ensemble makes suggestions and chooses on who we want to recognize. And we got very excited about the idea of honoring The Moth this year.

Every Neo-Futurist is a writer and a performer. Many of us are storytellers and monologists and we discovered that most of us are avid Moth listeners. For us The Moth is a natural choice because our companies have some shared missions and values.

THE MOTH: How does neo-futurism relate to The Moth and storytelling in general?

CHRISTOPHER BORG: A big part of our mission and our aesthetic that guides us is that we are truth-tellers. We produce live theatre that is immediate, interactive, non-illusory and conveys our experiences and ideas as directly and honestly as possibly. In our signature show Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind we do 30 plays in 60 minutes every weekend, 50 weeks of the year. We endeavor to make each 30 play menu as varied and diverse in style and content as possible. Most of what we write is storytelling in one form or another, and one of the most direct and engaging forms we employ is the direct address monologue.

And the New York Neo-Futurists are a company where we tell, among other things, personal stories. As a forum for live storytelling, The Moth’s mission to promote the art of storytelling and celebrate how stories honor the diversity and commonality of human experience really speaks to us. Both of our companies strive to satisfy a vital human need for connection and to reach the unheard or unvoiced masses.

Our mission overlaps too in that through the art of storytelling we create a living-newspaper. We celebrate the diversity and commonality in our ensemble, our audience and our world. And like the “unheard” above, we embrace those unreached or unmoved by conventional theater-inspiring them to thought, feeling, and action.

And, we both embrace truth-telling and non-fiction story telling to present our stories as directly as possible to our audiences. I think for both of us…our audiences appreciate that the stories they are hearing actually, really happened and that immediacy is key to the whole experience. I think that is ultimately what makes both our companies exciting for audiences – that both The Moth and the NYNFs celebrate the human bond that exists between performer and audience. It is electric.

It is for those reasons and because The Moth is “spreading the word” of those values to a MUCH larger audience that we are honoring The Moth…they are teaching the value of storytelling to an audience that we are not able to reach. In a nutshell…the Moth is doing nationally what we are doing locally, and we want to strengthen the whole net that bonds us together.

THE MOTH: How do you select your ensemble members? What sort of qualities and preparation does one need to become a neo-futurist? How are these qualities similar to those of a good storyteller?

ROB NEILL: We have what has become a yearly audition process where we ask artists to come in and do a play that is about them and is 2 minutes or less (which often leads to storytelling & confession). Then the whole ensemble gathers and we have a 2 day weekend workshop where we callback 8-12 artists to collaborate and create new work. We look at writing, responsibility, physicality, diversity and the ability of each writer to take what is happening in the world & his or her life and put it into short hopefully entertaining plays. We ask all ensemble members to write, perform & direct.

Neo-Futurists come from a variety of backgrounds, but we certainly look for an enthusiasm, energy, and the qualities of being relatable and able to activate an audience. I would say ultimately all Neo-Futurists have to be storytellers and willing to dive into the world of our ensemble and crank out new & vital work.

THE MOTH: How do you engage your audiences and community?

ROB NEILL: We want to activate our audience and throughout the show are getting people involved. Plus, as we say toward the end of Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind:

“If you have seen the show once, you’ve seen the show once!”

So we hope, as the show is ever-changing, that people come back, bringing other people with them and see what new plays we have crafted and who else is in the show and how the show is different. Beyond that, we want not only create a community of people who are invested in what we are doing, creating, saying, presenting, but are activated to be more creative and more engaged in their lives and even challenge and communicate back to us. Post show people will often talk with the performers right up on stage, but we try to expand the conversation through our blog, website, Facebook and Twitter (where every Tuesday we have Twitter Play assignments). In addition we do some audience outreach with different community programs and schools to encourage new audiences and grow our community.

THE MOTH: What should people do if they want to learn more of become involved?

ROB NEILL: There are plenty of avenues for people to get involved with the New York Neo-Futurists: besides going to the benefit on the 14th…I suggest people come to Too Much Light… to get a more solidified idea of what we do and how that excites them. Then talk with us, we have volunteers/intern and an active board, other artists collaborate on our mainstage shows and the yearly auditions to become full-time ensemble members.

To learn more about The Neo-Futurists and to get information about their benefit, visit their website at:

Check out the Neo-Futurists in action.

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