Neo-Futurist performance group TBD tells the truth in unique ways


Photo courtesy of Jay Towns

TBD puts on one mainstage Neo-Futurist-inspired performance each quarter.

Kara Peeler, Assistant Copy Editor

Emotional whiplash and utter honesty is what TBD, a Neo-Futurist-inspired performance group, promises its audience.

Since 2015, TBD has held a quarterly mainstage show along with occasional special events like open mics or speed dating games. Each show boasts a series of short plays written by the performers. The twist? The plays are performed in a random order that changes with each show. Each play is assigned a number, and then the audience selects the order with notecards.

This creates what TBD calls emotional whiplash. Communication senior Bennett Petersen said the plays range from chaotic screaming and sprinkling toy bed bugs onto the audience from the balcony to processing deep emotional experiences.

“It’s going to be something that you’ve probably never seen before,” said Lola Bodé, a Communication freshman and TBD ensemble member. “It was something that I had never seen before until I saw TBD. And there’ll be a lot of things that are unexpected. There’ll be a lot of spectacle.”

TBD will perform “TBD Presents: Portrait of a Student Group on Fire” 10 p.m. Friday, and 7 p.m. and 10 p.m Saturday in Fisk Hall 217.

All TBD plays are nonfiction and non-illusory, meaning there is no traditional acting.

“The single rule we hold ourselves to is that at no point on that stage are we lying,” Petersen said. “We are always playing ourselves. We are always putting ourselves in that moment in that space.”

The tenant allows TBD to write stories with messages they want to express and also reflect the community’s needs.

Communication senior and ensemble member Rick Hilscher, a member of the group since his freshman year, noticed TBD plays became increasingly absurd after the pandemic — likely as a way to take a break from the world.

“It’s like a living newspaper, so that every single play we write and every single thing we share is a reflection of the modern times and what our and what Northwestern students at this time are thinking about,” Hilscher said.

Bodé said the unconventional formatting and topics are like “a breath of fresh air” compared to fully staged productions.

Bienen and Communication freshman Mya Vandegrift said TBD transformed her writing and has brought her out of her comfort zone in both the silly and serious works.

“It’s just constant creativity,” Vandegrift said. “It’s like being a kid again. I hope (the audience) appreciates the chaos and also the really personal quiet moments.”

The team of 15 members has formed a close-knit environment with one another, but also with the NU community. TBD frequently gets the audience involved with interactive plays, something that blurs the line between audience and performers according to Hilscher.

Though TBD shows are far from standard theatre, they have the audience hooked. In fact, Bodé and Petersen decided to join after watching a TBD performance for the first time.

“You’re getting sort of the full spectrum of human emotion and the human truth, in such a short period of time,” Hilscher said. “That can be a little disorienting, but in a way that I think our audience enjoys, and it’s a big reason why people keep coming back.”

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Lola Bodé’s name and misstated the dates of the performances. The Daily regrets the errors.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @karapeeler

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