Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Magic Bullets

Magic Bullets
By Adam R. Burnett
Directed by Adam R. Burnett & Jud Knudsen
Produced by Buran Theatre Company

Nominations: Magic Bullets is nominated for Outstanding Performance Art Production; The ensemble (Caitlin Bebb, Abigail Blueher, Donna Jewell, Jud Knudsen, Catrin Lloyd-Bollard, Erin Mallon, Michael McKim Karp, Kate Schroeder, Mari Yamamoto) is nominated for Outstanding Ensemble
    Photos by David Pym

About this Production

How do you know you are unwell? How do you know you are better? Is wellness a journey to a new place? Or a return to where you've already been? Can you save yourself by coupling with another? Wait. What are you doing and how did you get here?

Magic Bullets situated itself in a playground of suffering to entertain a trip through mental and physical health. With a cacophonous score of language, dance and live music, the show was an overwhelming theatrical experience utilizing Buran Theatre's joyfully anarchic performance style.

Writer and co-director Adam R. Burnett and performers Michael McKim Karp, Donna Jewell and Mari Yamamoto talk about the process of creating this work that explores physical and mental wellness.


What attracted you to this project?

Adam: We were drawn to developing a show about how a person heals or recovers from pain, loss and suffering. It began as an exploration of "exorcism" as a metaphor and ended with an inquiry into fear and insecurity in light of our health.

Michael: The possibility of working with Buran Theater--a company whose approach to theater integrates the head and the heart in a singular cliche-free and meaningful way...

Donna: The talent of playwright Adam Burnett and co-director Jud Knudsen is what attracted me to doing this show. I work in several theater companies in Europe and I appreciate theater that is experimental, meaningful, and courageous.

Mari: I had worked with Buran Theatre on their previous show Nightmares last year and had really enjoyed their immensely open and dynamic approach to "performance" and the themes they were exploring. I was intrigued by the idea of the exploration of "wellness" and "healing" since we live in a world, and a city on top of that that seems to bombard you with what you should and shouldn't do with your own body...Buran also always manages to bring together a fascinating variety of people in a room and utilize the vast range of qualities that the they bring to the table so I was excited to dive into whatever Adam threw at us with this group of fantastic fellow actors.

What was your favorite part of working on this production?

Adam: We were one of the final companies to present at the now-shuttered Incubator Arts Project. It was an honor to be a part of their legacy.

Michael: Developing the piece... It involved both a sort of free movement improv and a sure directoral hand. It was an extremely supportive way of working, and brought out character elements I never would have thought of... Also, the fact that it was organized like an orchestra: It was truly an ensemble, with actors given the chance to solo... Very cool.

Donna: My favorite part of working on Magic Bullets was the process of seeing the play develop, emerge and unfold. Also in this is watching it come to life in a different way once the audience is present. I loved choreographing for this show because the cast was so open to the movement and the choreographic concepts.

Mari: The process of making this play was like no other production I had ever done. It was roughly a 6 month rehearsal process (although the creation of the foundation had started a few years back in Adam's head) where we met once a week to share our stories and views on the show's theme. We also conducted "experiments" where we prepared each actor's favorite food/something we cannot resist and we all had to sit in front of it for 5 minutes and explore our reactions to suppressing the need to fulfill our desires. My item of choice was music, since I cannot resist dancing when my favorite music is playing and during those 5 minutes while suppressing my physical urge to move I felt so suffocated and deep sadness and even tears at the end. This made us realize how we suppress our urges on a day-to-day basis and that may have a effect on our level of happiness in the long run. The show was deeply personal for everyone involved since we became familiar with each others stories and that was woven into the show. It also made me reflect upon my own wellness and how I did/am healing from different events in my life.

What was the most challenging part of working on this production?

Adam: We had many performers and collaborators working on the production from great distances - Minneapolis, Kansas City, and Albuquerque - and many of them were not integrated until tech week. This was certainly the most challenging aspect of the production as we had to wait till the final week to put everything in place.

Michael: I was the oldest actor in the cast by far. Although it fit the character and the play, it did automatically set me apart from the rest of the cast; it was a good exercise to "blend" as much as possible on stage so my age would not be seen as an anomaly, but as a part of the whole...

Donna: Most challenging is being separate from the directors and cast for most of the time leading up to the performance. I came in ten days before the opening, so getting the ensemble to "gel" had to be quick, and we accomplished it.

Mari: Throughout the show the whole cast comes in and out of these peculiar scenes that are in some ways connected but for the most part not clearly so and as actors we had to play these disconnected scenes as one character so finding a through line, figuring out where my character was coming from and making sense of it to myself was the most challenging and also fun part of it. The big ensemble scene with everybody took a lot of time and effort to find the rhythm and tone and the pauses that seemed just right. But that was also a stimulating challenge, feeling separate but simultaneously completely as one on stage with six other actors.

What was the most interesting part of the production for you?

Adam: Many of the performers in the production doubled as the live band. We also used live blenders and foodstuff, which often flung around the space of the theater in the midst of blending!

Donna: I had an injury that prevented me from dancing in one of the dance sections. It turned out that it was more appropriate for me not to be in that section. I enjoyed the fact that that random happenstance served the work.

Mari: There were outbursts of original music and dance pieces throughout the show and 3 of the actors were onstage musicians as well so we would seamlessly go back and forth from the music and acting.

What do you want the audience to come away with after watching your production?

Adam: Feeling as if they have gotten that itch out from their hand - having gone through something new and inexplicable, feeling rigorously worn out from the exuberance of the performance.

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