Ask Erin Rollman her title at the Buntport Theater Company, and she won’t specify.
“We are collaborative company members who all write, perform, do tech, write grants, take out the trash,” the co-founder says. “We pitch in together in an ensemble way, relying on the strengths of individuals and the group.”
Currently a seven-person staff, the group has operated out of its home near West 7th Avenue and Lipan Street in Denver's Santa Fe arts district since 2001.
Now in its 13th season, Buntport recently revived its 2010 musical comedy “Jugged Rabbit Stew.” The production centers on Alec the Amazing and All-Powerful Magician, his assistant Mystical Marla and their magical rabbit Snowball. Suffering from depression and unwilling to perform, Snowball copes by carrying out tricks of his own.
Rollman plays the part of Woman, a cheery fan of live magic shows who suddenly finds herself involuntarily present among various items collected by the rogue rabbit.
It all gets stranger from there. And that offbeat nature is a hallmark of Buntport.
“We assume that the audience’s palate is as broad as ours,” Rollman says. “It’s not that we’re always successful when taking that leap of faith, but you have to make stuff that invigorates and excites you.”
Colorado Public Radio caught up with Rollman to find out more about the production, which runs through March 1.
CPR: How do Buntport’s stories typically originate and was that the case with “Jugged Rabbit Stew”?
Erin Rollman: Every show starts with a usually painfully slow brainstorming session. We toss stuff around, sometimes things we can adapt, sometimes all original ideas. “Jugged Rabbit Stew” is in the latter category, although when we were developing the characters and their relationships with one another, both “The Tempest” and “Alice in Wonderland” came up.
CPR: What prompted the revival of this production?
Erin Rollman: We like to do a remount every so often. We choose the shows based on both our desire to re-do them as well as feedback from our regulars. When we start to hear "When are you going to bring such-and-such back?" enough times, we start to take notice.
This was the perfect season to bring this show back to the stage because it is the first season that we are sharing the space with Screw Tooth. And since it was created with Screw Tooth's artistic director, it is a great representation of the mutual interest, support and excitement we have for one another.
CPR: Why did you decide to collaborate with Adam Stone of Screw Tooth and what does he bring to the table?
Erin Rollman: We had created a musical titled “Seal. Stamp. Send. Bang.” with Adam once before, and the experience was so positive that doing it again was a no-brainer. Good collaboration is not a given no matter how well you may get along with someone, so stumbling across Adam was pretty incredible. He was a student of ours during a month-long class at Colorado College.
When making the musicals, he brainstorms along with the rest of us and then does all the music and lyrics himself. He has a very similar voice and sense of humor, so it blends right in. In terms of why we invited Screw Tooth to share our performance space, there are a lot of reasons. So suffice it to say that we're excited by his energy, creativity and skillset.
CPR: What do you hope audiences take away from this dense, offbeat production?
Erin Rollman: If they have given themselves over to the strange ride for the duration of the show, we're happy. If it sticks with them when they walk away, that's a great bonus. We never really have a specific take-home in mind. We just have stories we want to tell, ones that we hope resonate for people on some level.
CPR: The word “absurd” has been used to describe various Buntport productions, including “Jugged Rabbit Stew.” Do you shy away or embrace this descriptor?
Erin Rollman: We absolutely embrace it. We are fans of the absurd. Life is full of absurdities. While we don't set out to deliberately create strange things, sometimes we even look at our own work and think it's crazy.