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At Twenty, Buntport Revives Favorites While Planning New Shows

From left: Erin Rollman, Erik Ekborg, Brian Colonna and Hannah Duggan in Moby Dick Unread.
From left: Erin Rollman, Erik Ekborg, Brian Colonna and Hannah Duggan in Moby Dick Unread. Buntport Theater Company
The folks at Buntport Theater have their own way of doing things — and that includes how they set up their seasonal roster of shows. We’re accustomed to the company’s usual routine — three or so major productions created by Buntport's members working together to create a script based on an eccentric but fruitful and usually hilarious idea, interspersed with various crowd-pleasing weeknight offerings, such as satiric TED Talks and the running sitcom Magnets on the Fridge. The full productions — all world premieres — are often profound in unexpected ways, though never pretentious. And this is true of the three remounts that Buntport has chosen to show between now and the start of its 21st season, which begins in 2021. All of them are audience favorites, all chosen by votes taken online and in person.

The company’s next original work is Cabaret De Profundis, or How to Sing While Ugly Crying, which opens March 13 and runs until April 4 at Buntport Theater, 717 Lipan Street. Local composer Nathan Hall will accompany the production on piano. After that come the repeats.

The first remount, Moby Dick Unread, has been produced twice before, in 2007 and in 2010. You don’t need to have read Melville’s lengthy tome to enjoy a version in which the giant white whale is represented by a chalk drawing and the ocean by many buckets of water. As always, though, the Buntport troupe feels free to make fun of a classic while also clearly respecting  and understanding it. So while you’re cracking up in the audience, you’ll also discover unexpected echoes and meanings. Moby Dick runs from May 29 through June 20.

Then there’s Titus Andronicus! The Musical! which opens Buntport's twentieth season next fall. It’s a truly brilliant take-off on Shakespeare’s crazily blood-soaked play. You really haven’t experienced comedy until you’ve seen Hannah Duggan as poor mutilated Lavinia, frantically trying to respond to her father’s insistent questions on who did this to her with the stub of her cut-out tongue. The Buntport crew is faithful to the insane plot, so after seeing this Titus, you’re up to speed and need never attend a regular, serious production. If you’ve already experienced this version, go again: It’ll be just as funny as the first time. And if you’re a complete stranger to Buntport, Titus makes for a great introduction.

Tommy Lee Jones Goes to Opera Alone was created after two Buntporters spotted the tough-guy movie star standing in line for tickets to La Bohème at the Santa Fe Opera. It uses a giant puppet, animated by four actors, and explores Jones’s relationship to music, art, cowboy boots and an argumentative waitress who brings the coffee at his favorite coffee shop and likes singing along to the arias he plays on his gold watch. After this show, which opens in early 2021, comes the debut of the company’s fiftieth full-length play, which ends the twentieth season.

Some of us remember when Buntport’s productions were attended by only six to ten people, the theater was freezing cold, and the rattling heater so loud you couldn’t hear the action. Over the years, grants have been earned, the tech — which has always been inventive — has become skilled and ingenious, there have been many awards and other signs of recognition, and audience seats tend to be filled for every performance.

It's an astonishing success for a small company. Here’s to another twenty years!
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Juliet Wittman is an investigative reporter and critic with a passion for theater, literature, social justice and food. She has reviewed theater for Westword for over a decade; for many years, she also reviewed memoirs for the Washington Post. She has won several journalism awards and published essays and short stories in literary magazines. Her novel, Stocker's Kitchen, can be obtained at select local bookstores and on Amazon.
Contact: Juliet Wittman