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SCOTTISH PLAY SCOTT Neo-Futurists on film
by Scott C. Morgan, Windy City Times
2016-04-27

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Sharon Green made a scoffing laugh when asked about a detail in her alumni bio on the The Neo-Futurists' website. It was the parting-shot sentence of: "She currently resides in Los Angeles with her wife, Logan, where the two of them are preparing to embark on a career as a feature film-making power couple."

"I don't know who wrote that profile," said Green, a former artistic director of The Neo-Futurists in Chicago during 2005-07 and an ensemble member during 2003-07.

It was the bio's label of "feature film-making power couple" that caused Green to pause—perhaps out of modesty or from its blatant audacity. Yet it could be argued that Green and her film director wife, Logan Kibens, are truly pursuing that ambitious life-career goal together.

There are two Kibens-Green film collaborations tied to The Neo-Futurists set to make their Chicago debuts in the coming weeks. These projects provide plenty of evidence showing what these former Chicagoans have been up to since their flight to the West Coast in 2007 and 2008 for schooling to pursue work in the film and TV industry.

First up is the world-premiere Neo-Futurist performance piece Mike Mother. Written and performed by Neo-Futurist alumna Jessica Anne, Mike Mother is described on theater's website as drawing from her history with an eccentric mother as a way to "examine theater's reliability as a vessel for truth."

Mike Mother is also billed as "equal parts psychological thriller, live-action film and genre-bending performance." It's the short film where Kibens and Green come in respectively as director and a behind-the-scenes producer and crew member.

"We all took a big road trip together to make the film," said Green, not wanting to give away too much about the potentially disturbing and trippy imagery tied to the peculiar California location picked out by Kibens for her Mike Mother screen contribution.

"The film comes toward the end and reveals a big piece of information," Kibens said. "We wanted to do it in a very visual and emotional way."

The other more substantial Kibens and Green collaboration is their first major feature film called Operator. Kibens directed Operator, with Green and Kibens both credited on the screenplay. The plot explores the creative and marital difficulties between a hetero programmer husband who tries to mold the personality of his theatrically creative wife into his new question-intake customer service software.

"It just premiered at South by Southwest, and a third of the movie is set in the Neo-Futurarium and stars Neo-Futurists," Green said. "So we are still deeply connected to the Chicago experimental late night theater movement."

Both Green and Kibens boast that rising lesbian comedian and Chicago-area native Cameron Esposito has a featured role as a theatrical mentor in Operator. They're also proud that Operator has been picked up by the San Francisco International Film Festival, Geena Davis' second Bentonville Film Festival ( which is dedicated to championing women and diverse voices in media ) and locally as part of The Chicago Critics Film Festival in May.

"Having it at the Music Box Theatre, it's a huge house and we would love to sell all those tickets," Kibens said. "Most of our cast and crew are mostly Chicagoans and they'll all be getting tickets as we bring the film home to honor the people who made it with us."

Green and Kibens said one the major themes of Operator is the desire for control in our lives and in long-term relationships. The husband's experience is contrasted by to his wife who becomes a new ensemble member of The Neo-Futurists' signature show, Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.

"We thought there would be this amazing juxtaposition between the wife's journey—which is not unlike my journey joining The Neo-Futurists—something that is going to introduce chaos into their lives," Green said. "Just as the husband is going to spiral into a cycle where he desires control."

There was a certain desire for more control in Green and Kibens' creative and married lives that prompted them to collaborate together on their own projects like Operator.

"We made a vow early in our marriage that we weren't going to live apart. Lots of modern couples do that from time to time," Green said. "We want to spend most of our life together."

It was initially challenging when the two were finally together in Los Angeles following Green's 2008 Neo-Futurist production of Fake Lake. Green would enter the University of Southern California's writing for screen and television master's program and then go on to work an industry job during the day. Meanwhile, Kibens got a HBO Director's Guild Association year-long director fellowship after graduating with a MFA in film directing from the California Institute of the Arts. This allowed her to shadow acclaimed directors on drama series like True Blood, Hung and Entourage.

Unfortunately, Green and Kibens said their marriage started to suffer since their schedules didn't coincide.

"It was really hard, because we were both really committed to starting out our careers, we loved the work that we were doing, but we were never seeing each other," Green said. "I think that was when we first patched the idea that might be better to work together."

Though they aren't adverse to creative conflicts, both Green and Kibens feel that their work stronger together because there is an enormous trust shared amid the ups and downs of Hollywood. And as a couple who have been together 15 years, Kibens and Green also feel their relationship is more resilient since it was something they had to vigorously fight for in the years before marriage equality became the law of the land.

"Fighting for our relationship and valuing that highly, deciding to always do what's best for the relationship while also serving ourselves as individual artists, gave us a lot of great practice in fighting four our film," Green said.

Jessica Anne's Mike Mother, featuring a short film by Logan Kibens, plays in previews through Saturday, April 30, with an official press opening at 7:30 p.m. May 2, at The Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland Ave. Regular run performances continue through Saturday, June 4, at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. Tickets are $20 and $10 for students and seniors; pay-what-you-can performances are Thursday. Call 773-275-5255 or visit www.neofuturists.org .

The film Operator is screened as part of The Chicago Critics Film Festival, which runs from Friday, May 20, through Thursday, May 26, at the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave. A full festival pass is $150, though tickets to individual screenings are also available. For an exact date and time of Operator, visit www.chicagocriticsfilmfestival.com .


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