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OK, so I've got a birthday coming up next week. And it's a milestone -- the big 4-0 -- so people tend to buy you stuff for those birthdays. But I've already got plenty of stuff, so if you or someone you love is tempted to buy me something to celebrate the fact that I'm still among the living, give some money to your favorite nonprofit instead.

Or give some money to MY favorite nonprofit, The Neo-Futurists. Because times are tough for the arts, especially the arts that are determined to keep themselves affordable and accessible to us normal people.

I first saw Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind shortly after I moved to Chicago in 1994 and immediately saw it again the next weekend because I was so utterly gobsmacked by it. I've probably seen Too Much Light about 100 times since, not to mention their Prime Time shows, the summer Film Fest (staged readings of really bad movies scripts), and loads of other special events over the years. Something about their work just clicked with me. It's funny and frantic, but also thoroughly honest. Their performances continually challenge not only the way I think about "things" (politics, religion, sex, relationships, clowns), but the way I think about art. I've laughed until my lungs ached, I've been thoroughly confused, I've been moved to tears and pushed to fury. But I've rarely left that theater unmoved. All that, and it's only 10-15 bucks a show!

So send a little scratch to the Neos. Or better yet, see a show! Experience Chicago's coolest theater company for yourself. Their latest Prime Time show opens next week. Or if you haven't seen Too Much Light in a while, see it again -- you know what they say: if you've seen the show once, you've seen the show once! (If you haven't even seen the show once, I just don't even know how to respond. Except to say: Go see it! What are you waiting for?)

You'll thank me later.

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