Chicago Neo-Futurists get presidential in 44 Plays for 44 Presidents
The Chicago Neo-Futurists get presidential in 44 Plays for 44 Presidents. The show opens Saturday, October 6 at 7:30 p.m. at The Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland.
44 Plays for 44 Presidents is a chronological, biographical survey of the lives and presidencies of each of the 44 men who have held the office so far. The 2012 production is a remount of one of the biggest prime-time blockbusters in Neo history, 43 Plays for 43 Presidents, originally produced in 2002. This year’s incarnation comes with a shiny new cast, live musicians and video under the direction of Halena Kays, Artistic Director of The Hypocrites. In 44 Plays… mistakes and successes of our presidents are celebrated by a company of performers who take turns donning a star-spangled coat that symbolizes the presidency. Beginning with George Washington’s almost Eden-like perfection, the scenes shift frequently between the comic and the tragic, from Ben Franklin giving Thomas Jefferson a Borscht Belt-style roast, to a polarized America in both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama plays. 44 Plays for 44 Presidents not only gives a second chance to audiences who missed the first production, but it gives existing fans an opportunity to experience the show in a new way after the original has been produced around the country and is now a part of the Plays for Presidents Festival 2012. Arrive early to shoot hoops and flex your political savvy in the “Electoral College Prep Academy”, where The Neo-Futurarium’s State Park is transformed into a basketball court, complete with political trivia and tributes to the current POTUS.
The Plays for Presidents Festival 2012 is a national collaboration of theatre and educational artists interested in elevating political discourse and highlighting the impact of history through the production of 44 Plays for 44 Presidents. The Festival team has met its goal, set by Neo-Futurist alumnus, Andy Bayiates, to see that no fewer than 44 theatres, colleges, and high schools are producing the play in conjunction with the 2012 Presidential Election. Each participating group selects a different presidential play to perform on video, with the Chicago Neo-Futurists taping their piece on President Barack Obama. The festival culminates in simultaneous election night events and an online composite video production of 44 Plays for 44 Presidents made up of contributions from all 44 productions. More information can be found at www.playsforpresidents.com.
Andy Bayiates states, “With no director, no designer, and five over-worked writers performing their own material with no objectivity, our production of 43 Plays for 43 Presidents in 2002 should have been a train wreck. What excites me the most about this year’s production is that it has been brought home to The Neo-Futurists, who know how to perform this material better than anyone. Also, this time the show has an amazing director, objective performers, a design team with incredible vision and a TON of history and hindsight to draw upon to make this the best possible realization of a vision we couldn’t have achieved with our original approach. ”
Andy Bayiates (Creator/Co-writer/Founder & Project Director of the Plays for Presidents Festival) is a Chicago-based playwright, Neo-Futurist alumnus and a former contributing writer for Time Out Chicago. Bayiates wrote and performed in Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind (30 Plays in 60 Minutes) from 1999 – 2004, also appearing in seven other Neo-Futurist productions, including 43 Plays for 43 Presidents and the gratifying hit, Daredevils! (as writer/performer.) His plays have been produced throughout the country, most notably at The Actor’s Theater of Louisville. A 60-Minute History of Humankind, mounted in 2003, appeared briefly on the NBC reality TV show Starting Over. His play, A History of Human Stupidity, previewed in American Theatre Magazine, was produced by Rough & Tumble of Berkeley in 2010. In addition to Playscripts, Inc., Bayiates’ work has been published in Humana Festival 2001: The Complete Plays, 200 More Neo-Futurist Plays (Hope and Nonthings Publishing, 2004); and The Absolutely Worst Places to Live in America (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2006). Little known fact: Andy is the voice of Trip on the award-winning, interactive, artificial intelligence-based drama, Facade.
Halena Kays (Director)is the artistic director of The Hypocrites where she both performs and directs. She is the co-founder and former artistic director of Barrel of Monkeys. She is a UT-Austin and Northwestern grad and a former member of the Big Apple Circus Clown Care unit. With the Neo-Futurists she directed Burning Bluebeard, co-created and directed Daredevils and Daredevils Hamlet and the sight specific extravaganza, Fake Lake. Halena is equally proud to have worked with many other respectable and disreputable theater companies in Chicago over the years; some memorable acting credits include: The Kid Thing (About Face/ Chicago Dramatists), The Fall of the House of Usher, Oedipus, Mud and 4.48 Psychosis (The Hypocrites), The Children’s Hour (Timeline), The Golden Truffle (Redmoon), and Fair Use and Theatrical Essays (Steppenwolf). Halena has been nominated for a Jefferson Citation for Best Supporting Actress and Best Direction, named one of “30 under 30” to watch by SixOSix magazine.
The cast includes: Joe Dempsey who is a Neo-Futurist alumnus whose credits include The Last Two Minutes of the Complete Works of Henrik Ibsen, Contraption, and Strange Interlude which was a part of the Goodman’s Eugene O’Neill Festival; Bilal Dardai who is a Neo-Futurist ensemble member whose credits include Contraption, A Very Neo-Futurist Christmas Carol, and CRISIS: A Musical Game Show; Rawson Vint who returns to The Neo-Futurarium after performing in Fear and has also performed with Griffin Theatre and Barrel of Monkeys; Dina Marie Walters who is a Neo-Futurist alumnus whose credits include Contraption, The Last Two Minutes of the Complete Works of Henrik Ibsen and Neo Solo and has also co-curated It Came From the Neo-Futurarium; Ryan Walters who is a Neo-Futurist ensemble member whose credits include Daredevils, Daredevils Hamlet, Picked Up, Patriots, Roustabout: The Great Circus Train Wreck, The Fool (Returns to his Chair), Fake Lake, Beer and Burning Bluebeard; and Rani Waterman who was seen in the Neo-Futurist production of Fake Lake and has also performed with Steppenwolf, Lookingglass, Goodman, Remy Bumppo and The Hypocrites.
The production staff includes: Lizzie Bracken (Production Designer); Maggie Fullilove-Nugent (Lighting Designer/Production Manager); Michael Fernandez (Video Designer); Mike Tutaj (JFK Video Designer); Mike Przygoda (Musical Director); Curtis Williams (Musician); Claudette Perez (Sound Designer); Genevra Gallo-Bayiates (Choreographer); Cait Fergus (Technical Director) and Victoria Johnson (Assistant Director/Production Assistant). Taylor Fenderbosch serves as Stage Manager.
The Neo-Futurists, performers of Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind and creators of over 60 other original, full-length productions, are a collective of wildly productive writer/director/performers who create immediate, non-illusory, interactive performance presented at head-slappingly affordable prices.
The Neo-Futurists are partially supported by the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, Alphawood Foundation, Arts Work Fund for Organizational Development, Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelly Foundation, The MacArthur Fund for Arts and Culture at The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation and a CityArts grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.