A few nights ago I went out with some friends to grab some dinner and see a show (my first of the year, finally!). We all very illegally crammed into a friend's car and sat for 30 minutes to find this Asian food place in Evanston. It was in that process that one of my friend's entire leg (including her ass-cheek) fell asleep. It was totally worth it though. This restaurant, Jo Yee's, was incredible! It was a Saturday night, and it's located pretty close to Northwestern, so the place was busting with college students all craving some authentic Asian nom noms.
Now there are certain dishes of Asian food that I absolutely love, but you know, I've been trying to be a little more ambitious with my food choices. So I decided against Pad Thai, Fried Rice, and Red Curry and went with a Seafood Pasta in Meat Sauce. Damn, was it delicious. I'm really sad that I forgot my left overs, but also kind of relieved I didn't have to walk around with a styrofoam box with my name and a bunch of pictures of penises on it.
After dinner, we all squeezed back into the car and drove a little further to get to the Neo-Futurarium. Somebody was a stickler about time, so we got there a full hour before the doors opened for the show and were the first to be waiting in line...outside...in the freezing 15 degree weather. I was not having it. If there's one thing I can't stand, it's being cold for long amounts of time. Seriously, I will bitch and moan about being cold until I get some relief. In this instance, a Starbucks that was a four minute walk from the theater was that relief. More than relief, it was heaven. Praise Jesus and hallelujah for that Starbucks because by the time we got there, my toes felt like needles. Not like they had needles in them, they felt like actual needles. Yeah, take that in. I bought a grande cinnamon dolce latte, my mom's favorite, though I didn't request three pumps, soy, no whip, no foam. Three sips from that and I was revived. It pulsed through my stinging toes and saved their tiny lives.
Now if you've never been to the Neo-Futurarium, I highly recommend it. It's one of the most bizarre, exciting, interactive theater experiences you'll ever see. You really have no idea what to expect, other than a good time, if you're open to it. They have a bunch of interesting traditions that make it a quirky and unique experience.
When you pay to get in, you roll a die and add whatever number you get to nine, so you end up paying anywhere from 10-15 dollars. That night, if you checked yourself in on facebook, you'd get to roll from a five-sided die! Matille, the one whose ass-cheek fell asleep, just happens to check in everywhere, and tag everyone she's with, something I very much love about her. Particularly on this night becase we all got to roll the five-sided die!
Before you're seated, you get a name tag. They politely ask you your name, and when you tell it to them, they write down a completely different name (your incredibly awesome name) on your name tag, of little-to-no significance, other than the fact that they're cool. My name for the night was Apollo. Apollo - god of music, prophecy, medicine, archery, poetry, dance, intellectual inquiry, and light. Sounds about right...I'd say that's pretty incredibly awesome, wouldn't you?
When you're seated, you receive a menu with thirty play titles on it. Each play is supposedly two minutes each, and the point of the night is to have the audience see all thirty plays before the timer goes off at one hour. The incredible thing about these plays is that each of them is written by one of the performers, inspired by incidences in their own lives, and meant to comment on them in some way. Most of them are extremely hilarious and explicit, but they can be meant to force the audience to think about something, impossible to understand, or even terrifying, too. Every week, the performers roll a die to see how many new plays they will write and substitute in the menu.
Numbers 1-30 are printed out on individual sheets of paper and hung on a clothesline from the ceiling. When one play is over, a performer yells "CURTAIN!" and the audience yells out the number of the play they want to see next. Then, a performer jumps into the air and grabs one of the numbers they hear, announce the play, and then that play begins!
This is pretty much the cast we saw on Saturday.
Apparently, our group of friends sat in the perfect spot for the night because we kept being called on to participate! One of us got called onstage to be a contestant on a Japanese Game show. The host made it clear that if he answered the question correctly, he would get a prize, but if he answered it wrong, he'd get a plate full of spaghetti thrown in his face. She then pulled out an apple and asked him the question...in Japanese. She asked it again, and he responded "Red." Apparently, he was the first person to ever answer the question right! And for that, he got a child's cheerleading starter kit. We asked after the show, and if he had gotten it wrong, he most definitely would have gotten a plate full of spaghetti to the face.
Another one of our friends got called up and sat at a restaurant table with other audience members. A performer burst into the room exclaiming that there was the most beautiful rainbow she'd ever seen outside and that everyone should stop what they were doing that very moment and come see it! All the performers and participating audience members left the performance space and ran out into the lobby, leaving the rest of the audience to wait...We could hear shouting and screams and music coming from the lobby. I looked at my friend and asked, "Do you want to go?" He nodded, and we ran into the lobby to join them. The lobby was dimly lit with Christmas lights streaming through a giant sheet that was stretched diagonally across the room. A huge scraggly rainbow was painted on iit. Everyone was jumping around excitedly screaming "Oh my god!! It's a rainbow! Woah! What??! Ahhh! A rainbow!" The music was so blaringly loud that all you could think about in that moment was the hilarity, impossibility, and joy in the surprise of a ginormous rainbow right in front of you, the happiness and sense of fulfillment that follows the success in taking a chance, and the fact that your friends were there to celebrate it with you. It was magnificent.
What I love most about the Neo-Futurarium is that what they do and how they perform seems so much like the way I think theater should be done. They take seemingly insignificant moments and magnify them to expose the beauty, terror, hilarity, and truth located on some deeper intellectual level. There were serious moments watching the performance that I thought to myself, I could do this...I could do the shit out of this. For a brief moment, we really gain access to the human mind. And not through the eyes of some other distant playwright or through the eyes of an idealistic director of a play that is so long that it takes some serious contemplation to figure out. It's through the performer's eyes. And in that sense, it's so much more real and true than any other form of theater. Two minutes! To get your point across. To me, that's all the time you could ever need, and yet, when put into perspective, absolutely no time at all. I was so ridiculously inspired!