Tweaking Twain 

Buntport Theater crash-creates show with CC students

click to enlarge Wait, are we watching Buntports A Rumination on - Twains Mysterious Stranger, or the movie - Secretary? - 2006 BRUCE ELLIOTT
  • 2006 Bruce Elliott
  • Wait, are we watching Buntports A Rumination on Twains Mysterious Stranger, or the movie Secretary?

It was less than a decade ago that Denver's award-winning Buntport thespians roamed Colorado College's black-boxes and drama classes as students. Now, they've returned to their old haunt. But something is different: This time, they're the ones behind the desks.

Buntport Theater has set out to create a collaborative, original production with 11 current CC students in only three and a half weeks' time. The college and drama department Chair Tom Lindblade invited the creative theater company to instruct a round-the-clock course and coach students in all aspects of bringing a uniquely formatted show to life. The final product will be billed as A Rumination on Twain's "Mysterious Stranger.'

"We're basically teaching our Buntport formula," says guest professor Brian Colonna. "We pre-selected an unfinished, posthumously published Mark Twain story to work from, so we wouldn't end up with a show about nothing. From there, the students were ultimately in charge of the writing, acting and production. We just worked with them and made suggestions."

As seasoned veterans of the monthly, live sitcom Magnets on the Fridge and a handful of running and traveling performances, the Buntportians are no strangers to absurd time constraints and improvisational development. They thrive in the environment.

"This isn't any crazier than most of the stuff we do normally," says guest professor Erin Rollman. "We just have to be adaptable. [As teachers,] everything takes exponentially more time. In our theater, we're familiar with one another, know each other's strengths and weaknesses, and we don't have to be polite. Down here, it became its own process a different process."

Part of the imaginative faculty's difficulty stemmed from trying to be hands-on and hands-off simultaneously. The group didn't want to approach what's being called a "laboratory" and an "experiment" with too many decisions already formulated. The class structure needed to remain loose. The inherent irony lay in attempting to prepare for something that, in essence, cannot be prepared for.

"It's been a weird, tall order and really tricky process from the onset," confirms Rollman. "But I think it's the only thing we're qualified to teach. I wouldn't normally suggest a collaborative with a group of people that don't know one another well. But sometimes, it just jells."

Colonna also appreciates the finer nuances and subtleties fundamental to making everything come together successfully by showtime. To his and his cohorts' delight, they have received a willing, hardworking batch of students. The class literally has devoted mornings, afternoons and evenings to the performance.

"We don't always have set style, in terms of portraying a piece," says Colonna. "We don't exactly do adaptations our work is more mixed, and like a collage. Experience makes a big difference, and we've learned a lot in the past few years that we've been able to relate to the students."


A Rumination on Twain's

'Mysterious Stranger'

Colorado College's Armstrong Hall, 14 E. Cache La Poudre St., Room 32

Friday, Feb. 10 through Sunday, Feb. 12, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $5, or $2 with a CC ID; call 389-6607 for more information.


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