Will Sonheim could have been one of those people in the “And, it’s in our DNA” Northwestern commercials.
Sonheim is an energetic School of Communication alum who graduated a year early in 2013. He recently became the Communications Manager at The Neo-Futurists, an innovative theater in the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago.
“I initially was just a fan, heard about them growing up in Arkansas from my theater teacher. I was initially attracted by the free pizza,” Sonheim joked.
While on campus, Sonheim wore many hats and still managed to graduate a quarter early (told you "and" was in his DNA). He was a part of the Titanic Players on a group called Sissy Magic, was a 4-year ensemble member of Griffin's Tale and was on NSTV, doing everything from crew to writing to filming and co-directing.
“All of these things rocked my world and pretty much solidified a love of making weird funny stuff with my friends on a regular basis,” said Sonheim.
After freshman year, he became involved with the improv program iO, and eventually became a part of their Harold House teams and began to commute downtown once or twice a week for rehearsals and shows.
“It felt good to break out of the NU bubble on a weekly basis, while still getting to return to the crazy, nurturing and creative environment immediately afterwards. It was a nice reminder that the skills I was learning didn't just exist in a vacuum."
Spending so much time off campus paid off, as it allowed Sonheim to form connections with people working in the entertainment business. He met his connection to the Neos, though, at Northwestern.
Lily Mooney is a current ensemble member at The Neo-Futurists and was Sonhiem’s first major introduction to the Neos. She attended a graduate writing program at Northwestern and was Sonheim's screenwriting teacher, and helped him become a media intern at The Neo-Futurists the summer after his sophomore year. He combined this internship with a research grant that explored how comedy and tragedy performances work together in ensembles. After he graduated, he worked with the Neos in a variety of different ways, doing freelance film work and taking classes.
Just a few months ago, the Neo-Futurists created the position of communications manager in order to help people understand the type of work that they want to do in their company. Sonheim’s passionate nature made him the perfect candidate.
One of the Neo-Futurists' shows that audiences might not immediately understand is the show "Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind," a set of 30 original plays performed in 60 minutes. The longest running show in Chicago, "Too Much Light" happens every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening.
“I wasn’t quite sure what to expect considering I hadn’t heard much. I thought the concept was really creative, but I wasn’t sure how it would actually turn out,” said Shoshana Reich, a freshman in McCormick. This is the usual reaction to "Too Much Light;" first-timers often walk into the space feeling confused and maybe even a little anxious about what is to come.
“I thought the show was terrific. It was honest, funny and thought-provoking,” said Reich. “I thought it was a wonderful way for the actors to express themselves, and I really got a sense of who they are by the end of the show. I just wish they had enough time to finish the last 2 and a half plays!”
Sonheim works every day to harness this energy and get the word out about what the Neo-Futurists do, through fun videos like this one. With a frightening amount of energy, he runs the group’s social media presence and works with audience development/outreach and content creation. He looks at every platform available to see how the Neos can add to how they produce content.
“People leave feeling electrified. It’s that DIY feeling that reminds people that people can do anything, it’s the kind of art that makes people want to create art. My job is to harness that and explain that to people,” says Sonheim. “It’s about creating a space that’s community, ritual and mystery.”