O’Kane Theatre Hits the Boards With Spring Shows
By Sheryl E. Taylor
In case you missed it, or you want to see it, UHD's O’Kane Theatre is presenting “Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind: 30 Plays in 60 Minutes” for the fourth consecutive year, directed by world-renowned playwright Greg Allen.
The play made its debut on the O’Kane Theatre’s stage in the spring of 2018 and has become an annual tradition at UHD.
“Allen’s play continues to hit stages from Chicago, New York, San Francisco to Norway and France,” said Tim Klein, Associate Professor of Drama and Director of O'Kane Theatre. “The play is about diversity and our students’ stories.”
The play features actors using their own names and speaking from their own personal lives and truths. According to Allen, “We create actual interactive events with the audience through contemporary issues—social, political, dreams—a reflection of our actual lives. And we see what happens. It's not this suspension of disbelief of another place, character or another story written by dead white people. We respond to current events … a living newspaper that is constantly changing with the times."
When asked if the students' stories are aligned with the times (COVID, racial tensions, #metoomovement, etc.), Allen said, “This year, we have plays that address gun control, body image, mask-wearing, the veracity and authority of the news, racial identity, sexuality, drug use, social media, gentrification and the potential of war in Ukraine, as well as the usual anxieties of living in a post-Trumpian world. There are a million issues for young Americans today and I hope that by addressing them honestly and directly the students can exorcise some of their demons.”
Due to pandemic protocols, the students performed on Zoom with Allen directing from Chicago. “I LOVE working with all my UHD students! I’m particularly attracted to working with a racially and economically diverse student body to help them express their lives through Neo-Futurism and UHD has this by the truckload,” he emphasized. “I find UHD students have a wide array of backgrounds, experiences, and issues so there’s never a lack of material. In addition, they tend to be very caring and supportive of each other as well as dedicated and enthusiastic! I was thrilled to see some of my students from years past at opening today.”
In a 2018 UHD News article, Allen was quoted: "The most vital thing I want the audience to take away from this production is that everyone life's is viable, exciting and important," said Allen. “Not only do the performers get to express themselves, but I think that the audience will see themselves in the performers' realities and hopefully inspired to activism to: "do something with my life and say something … and speak up for who I am.”
Allen expanded on how his perspective expanded or changed in regard to the aforementioned quote.
"That quote expresses the heart and soul of all my theater work. The aesthetic which I called ‘Neo-Futurism’ is a simple yet radical approach to performance where everyone in the theater is encouraged to be as honest and authentic as possible," he said. "This alone is fairly controversial in a country where truth has become politicized and self-expression is suspect. I’m very proud to have taught my approach to performances all over the world to demonstrate that every single individual has important stories to tell.
"In ‘Too Much Light,’ we share our unique experiences without embellishment, hoping others will find their own lives just as valid." Allen noted. "Rather than pretending and expanding yourself to be ‘stage-worthy,’ I am constantly reminding my students ‘You are enough.’ This year’s ensemble proved to be more than up for that challenge, creating a very moving, amusing, immediate experience for everyone."
Bring your lunch and enjoy! “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind: 30 Plays in 60 Minutes” at the O'Kane Theatre’s lunchtime series is 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Feb. 21 – 25, and 7:30 p.m. (evening performance) on Feb. 26. All performances are free.
The O’Kane Theatre’s final spring production is “The Royale” on April 7 – 15.
Look for more details in an upcoming edition of UHD News.
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.