Neo Futurist theatre performance closes out University of Iowa Department of Theatre Arts’ fall 2020 Gallery Season

Seven Neos on the Brink of Mediocracy takes to the University of Iowa Department of Theatre Arts’ virtual stage. The seven member cast collaborated together to write and perform the piece.


Tate Hildyard

The University of Iowa Theater Building is seen on Monday, May 6, 2019.

Tatiana Plowman, Arts Reporter

Neo-Futurist theater has made its way to Iowa City and will be showcased in the latest University of Iowa play to hit the stage premiering on Nov. 13, Seven Neos on the Brink of Mediocracy. The art form only allows for the actors to play themselves.

Director Deven Alejandro Vera came up with the idea for the play based on the Chicago-based performance company, The Neo-Futurists.

“I was in a [Neo-Futurist] club in high school, I was able to learn the style, and I was super excited to bring the idea to Iowa where it is known for its playwriting,” Vera said. “I was suggested to pitch it as a show for the fall 2020 semester and was excited when it was selected.”

When rehearsals began, cast and crew turned on their computers at 7 p.m. each weekday for four-hour practices via Zoom. Unlike most plays where a script is already created, this cast and crew were challenged with the task of writing the piece themselves.

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Cullen Asbery, a first-year student, is making his University of Iowa theatrical debut in Seven Neos on the Brink of Mediocracy. The actor said he had previous experience playwriting before, so that helped ease him into the rehearsal process for this specific show.

“Our rehearsals in the beginning consisted of fleshing out the script and holding various workshops on the script material,” Asbery said. “It was interesting and amazing to see everything come together.”

A dizzying 30 plays are packed into an hour-long performance, some segments last 30 seconds while others last 3 minutes. All of the plays are written, performed, and directed by Aaron Kruger, Alex Adams, Alex Granfield, Braxten Jones, Cullen Asbery, Dani Werner, and Lauren Macke with guidance and assistance from Vera. The show covers a variety of themes and messages but aims to spread hope for people to remain creative.

Macke is a second-year theater arts and dance major, so she is no stranger to the stage. She attended all of the virtual and in-person rehearsals to help with the creative process. The in-person rehearsals began during their tech week.

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“This show is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before due to its unique context,” Macke said. “The first time seeing everyone in person was exciting.”

The UI Theatre Arts Department required all cast and crew members to be tested for COVID-19 before entering the performance facilities. Production was almost halted due to potential exposures, but all of the tests came back negative and they were able to move forward with the in-person rehearsals and recording of the performance.

“Our transition from Zoom to on the stage was easy,” Vera said. “However, we were prepared to record everything online if we weren’t able to record together in-person.”

Seven Neos on the Brink of Mediocracy will premiere online at 8 p.m. on the Theatre Department website, beginning Nov. 13. The play is free to watch, and will be uploaded on the department’s YouTube channel available to watch until December 15.

Said Vera: “I would love to make a Neo Futurists club at the university, I hope that after watching the show that people would be willing to try it out.”