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'Miss Neo Pagaent' Coming to Neo-Futurarium

ANDERSONVILLE — The Neo-Futurists are cutting through the traditional idea of an American beauty pageant with The Miss Neo Pageant, a play with a feminist slant about "fully grown girls stumbling toward adulthood."

The show's creator and one of its performers is Chicago-based writer Megan Mercier, who also serves as artistic director at the Neo Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland Ave. The play has a similar aesthetic to "Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind," the Neo-Futurist's signature presentation of 30 plays in 60 minutes.

The "pageant," features real stories from five unconventional contestants — artists in their late 20s and early 30s — wrestling with a delayed maturation that is increasingly common in that age bracket.

"We respond to that through this pageant format," Mercier said.

The Miss Neo Pageant features a pageant-style opening dance number, a talent segment, and personal narratives and monolog pulled from the lives of the all-woman cast, according to Mercier.

Mercier said the play is primarily concerned with this question: "How do you have to present yourself to be accepted and liked by many people in our society?"

Mercier described the "curious way that girls are taught to engage with one another for the benefit of girls at large: Girl Scouts, sports, dance classes, sororities."

"They all promote competition, rivalry and comparison more than unity," she said.

"We have a generation of women who came of age in the late 80s through the 90s, during prime 'Girl Power!' time. We were told that we could do anything in spite of our gender, that anything was possible, and so we expected it. The problem is that it wasn't true," Mercier said.

The Miss Neo Pageant opens May 16.