The Secret Origin of The State Park!

As many of you know, one of our major summer projects has been to try and upgrade our lobby area, known as the “State Park,” via the power of crowd-funding. If you’ve already tossed even your couch-cushion change our way, we are incredibly grateful for your support. Tell your friends, especially if your friends are theatergoing captains of industry.

“But why is it called the State Park in the first place?” you might ask. And that might lead to other questions you didn’t realize you always had, such as “Who came up with ‘Neo-Futurarium’?”  and “Who had the space before the Neos?”

Alumnus Neo-Futurist Dave Awl–who previously told us all the tale of how Stephen Colbert became our legendary one-rehearsal ensemble member–answers all of these questions and more, below:

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I feel a special little connection to the State Park because I was actually the one who named it, in a sideways kind of way. 

When we inherited the space from Theater Oobleck in 1992, we had a meeting to come up with a name for our new theater. We all submitted possible names and then voted. My idea was to call the theater itself “Neo-Futurist State Park.” Of course the winning entry was Greg Kotis’s brilliant submission, “The Neo-Futurarium.” But Neo-Futurist State Park was the runner-up, and I thought there might still be some life in the name. 

We had originally intended to use the State Park as a secondary performance space, for little poetry nights and things, before we realized that the acoustics aren’t so great in there. So I said, “Hey, why don’t we call this room we’re sitting in right now Neo-Futurist State Park?” That quickly got shortened to just “the State Park” for everyday use, but the name stuck around all these years. It was even painted thematically with trees and park signs at some point after my era in the show — though most of that decor has gone away now. I only wish that Ayun Halliday‘s original ceiling cherubs from 1992 could have somehow been protected from the ravages of time. They belong in the Louvre, damn it.

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Terrible acoustics aside, we have still managed to use the State Park as a performance space–everything from a handful of plays for TML to a segment of the walking tour Fear to the entirety of DRAG. It’s been utilized for significant pre-show experiences, such as the contestant trials for Crisis: A Musical Game Show and the museum exhibits for Burning Bluebeard and Laika Dog in Space. After renovation, we plan to use it for even more art.

Informational sidenote for those who don’t speak Latin: The cherub’s banner translates to “Art is long, life is brief,” which is itself translated into Latin from the writings of ancient Greek physician Hippocrates (best known for the oath that bears his name). It’s a slightly ironic banner for our theater, seeing as how the art we make also tends to brief.

You can do this, too.

Interested in taking a class? Our ensemble members teach Neo-Futurism throughout the year at our home space in Chicago. We can also come to you. Find out more about enrollment, hiring teachers, and scholarships.