The 2005 MasterMind winners:
MasterMind, Visual Arts: Lauri Lynnxe Murphy
MasterMind, Literary Arts: Denver Zine Library
MasterMind, Design/Fashion: Brandi Shigley
MasterMind, Film/Video: Emerging Filmmakers Project
MasterMind, Performing Arts: Buntport Theater
MasterMind Award, Performing Arts
Buntport Theater It's no crime to have a good time -- not even at a night of experimental theater.
While some theater companies set out to change the world, Buntport Theater wants to make sure its audiences have a good time in the process. And they do.
This is not to say that Buntport's members are artistic shirkers. They create their own plays, come up with ingeniously designed sets, make intensely creative use of objects and issue profound commentary on public life. At the same time, they're hysterically funny and irreverent. How smart is that? In an era of TiVo, iPods, e-books and HBO, they make theater more relevant than ever.
Since the original group founded the company in 1998, they've put on fifteen original productions and 46 episodes of their biweekly sitcom, Magnets on the Fridge (for a complete schedule, go to www.buntport.com). The members write each show collaboratively, proving again and again the depth of their literary and comedic insights. They explored the hilarity and idiosyncrasies of living under a "benevolent" dictator in 30th of Baydak; in Kafka on Ice, they staged the works of Franz Kafka on, yes, faux ice and with skates. They even took on Shakespeare's bastard-son play Titus Andronicus and turned it into Titus Andronicus: The Musical! In short, they've made even bad material accessible.
"I just like making our own shows," says Buntport co-founder Erin Rollman. "I'm proud of what we do. It's been pretty rewarding. It's been great to have an impact, even though it's a small impact in the community. But it's great to have an impact at all. The embarrassing thing about Buntport is that we're bad theater people. We get so involved in our own stuff that we don't get the newest theater magazine and don't keep up with the latest trends in theater."
But they don't have much time for that, either. They have their own theater to keep up, in a refurbished warehouse off Santa Fe Drive. No trustafarian pays their way; each of the company's members holds down at least one other job in order to fund their dream. "It's one of those things that people really like doing and are willing to do for basically nothing and work ridiculously long hours, or you'd never be interested," Rollman says. Their interest is infectious: People who never believed they could sit still for a night of theater keep coming back for more Buntport.
This cast of characters met while students at Colorado College, studying theater and Eastern European culture. Weighing their options after graduation, they decided to leave Colorado Springs and move north up I-25. "Nobody wanted to be in the Springs," Rollman says. "We had no intention of being there. The ultimate choice was, are we all going to move to New York or Chicago, or are we going to stay in Denver? And we decided to stay where we could have some impact."
We're glad they did. Over the past seven years, Buntport has made Denver a much livelier -- and funnier -- place. While the group's original lineup has changed, its mission has not: to present original, offbeat entertainment with wit and sophistication. The comedic skills of Rollman, Evan Weissman, Brian Colonna, Erik Edborg and Hannah Dugan -- coupled with the set design of Matt Petraglia and Samantha Schmitz -- guarantee that there's rarely an evening of bad theater at Buntport. You don't even need to drink the Kool-Aid to be a fan: The company sells Buntport coffee for true believers.
"I would love for live theater and live performance and other art to be something people are more involved in," Rollman says. "We'd all love to see more people in our space, more people in all performance venues around town. We'd like to be able to do this full-time and bring it to a level that we're always happy with, that we're not always scrounging to buy some wood to build some set. We'd like to be more secure where we are and be able to continue making things we're proud of."
As it stands, they have plenty to be proud of. In fact, they're a company of MasterMinds.
MasterMind Award, Literary Arts
Denver Zine Library "We try to make zines more tangible to people," explains Kristy Fenton, head of the Denver Zine Library. And since December 2003, the DZL, now located at 1644 Platte Street, has done exactly that, pushing the art as both a social and an aesthetic outlet.
Fenton discovered zines as a high school student in Chicago in the late '90s. Self-published, non-conformist and usually highly personal, zines had been around for years; it was one of the stalwarts, the punk bible Maximum Rocknroll, that first fired Fenton's love of the format. When she moved to Denver, the self-described "library geek" quickly fell in with Jamez Terry and Kelly Costello, who'd just opened the DZL in a small shed behind their Baker-neighborhood rental home. Fenton became an ardent volunteer, and when Terry and Costello left Colorado last summer, she assumed leadership of the library.