Some eighteen years ago, six actor-writers who had met as students at Colorado College got together to create Buntport Theater, an innovative company housed in a coldly echoing Denver warehouse. They were Erin Rollman, Brian Colonna, Hannah Duggan, Erik Edborg, SamAnTha Schmitz and Evan Weissman. All of the collaborators are still involved, though Weissman spends more time on his equally innovative experimental civics group Warm Cookies of the Revolution.
Buntport is one of the few acting companies in Denver whose members actually make a living and can devote themselves entirely to their work. Donations make up roughly a third of Buntport’s operating budget; the rest comes from ticket sales and grants.
This Saturday, June 29, the nonprofit will be holding An Evening With Scott Bakula (Without Scott Bakula), one of two fundraisers to be held this year. The group is also soliciting donations, which can be made on its website; those are tax-deductible and will be matched by the Olson-Vander Heyden Foundation.
No doubt, Buntport is a good cause, and Denver theater would be a lot less interesting without the troupe. The group's members work together to create their scripts, which are based on whatever one of them happens to be reading at the time, someone’s haunting obsession, or a quirky fact that’s caught the group’s attention.
Rollman may be pondering Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and the result is a beautifully haunting production called Wake. Two Buntporters catch Tommy Lee Jones in line at the Santa Fe Opera, and their next production becomes Tommy Lee Jones Goes to the Opera Alone, with a giant puppet standing in for the actor. A fairly obscure satirical essay proposes a service for making rich people seem literate by mutilating their books so they look read — breaking the spines, dog-earing the pages. Some time later, The Book Handlers seems to spring full-fledged from the company’s melded brain.
You never get the feeling that the group is straining to capture a younger, hipper audience like so many other Front Range companies, because over the years the collaborators have developed a devoted following that tends to be clever, creative and, yes, young and hip, and those people are talking about Buntport all over town, in comedy clubs, coffee shops, bars, classes and galleries.
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Saturday’s entertainment includes an episode of Quantum Leap, enriched by live performances. “Think Quantum Leap mixed with Rocky Horror mixed with Mystery Science Theater,” says the invitation. “The episode comes complete with silly commercial breaks and an interview with not Scott Bakula.”
There will be food (which at Buntport tends to be delicious and often includes homemade cookies), along with drinks and prizes. The money raised will support the upcoming nineteenth season, which kicks off with varied monthly programming before the debut of the next original play, Universe 92.
Asked what keeps the company together, Colonna has a ready answer: “We’re inspired by so many things. But really, it’s easier to keep going because we get to lean on each other. After so many years together, we’re good at lifting one another up when needed.”
An Evening With Scott Bakula (Without Scott Bakula), 8 p.m. Saturday, June 29, Buntport Theater, 719 Lipan Street, tickets are $25. To buy them and see the upcoming schedule, go to buntport.com; for more information, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 720-946-1388.