Inspired in part by the TV show “Storage Wars,” Denver’s Buntport Theater Company bought the contents of a storage unit at an auction. Most people do this to sell what they find to make a buck. Buntport wanted to use the contents as fodder for their next original play.
A couple of rounds of bidding and $450 later, the creatives at Buntport found themselves with a unit that had some furniture surrounded by boxes, and only a vague idea of what might be inside them. What they found was a ton of everyday items, from a Wonder Horse and books to kitchen utensils and myriad miniatures.
They also pored over piles of personal documents, photos and the belongings of a stranger.
Personal and sentimental items with no resale value, like birth certificates, diaries and photo albums, are required by the storage facility to be returned – just in case the previous owner returns. It’s this bit of voyeurism that triggered a brief existential crisis for the five members of Buntport.
“I feel strangely about making art out of somebody’s abandoned life, considering we don’t know if they abandoned the unit on purpose or if they were just unable to keep paying it,” Erin Rollman says.
What came out of it is a play that explores themes like memory, technology, and the value of possessions. As Rollman says, it’s a show about “the crud in your mind, the crud on the floor, and the crud in your world.”
It’s also about the crud we forget or choose to ignore, like the stuff that piles up in storage.
“Is it a gimmick? Sure,” Rollman says. “But it’s a gimmick that’s genuinely meant to inspire something.”
“The Crud” transforms these things into sets, props, costumes and even characters. Put your crud knowledge to the test and guess what these objects below are before using the slider to reveal the answer.
“As a character, Barely Bear is made up entirely of stuffed animals,” Hannah Duggan says. “It’s something my character takes great pride in – in being the most comfortable thing in the entire land. In a pile of crud, all you can hope for is something comfortable to sit on, a plush, fluffy thing. There’s an idea of play and fantastical things (in the show).”
“My character (Dear Deer) asks (Barely Bear) to sing songs regularly,” Erin Rollman says. “She always asks what kind, and I always give it a title like ‘Waiting For Toast Song.’ But she always sings the same song.”
Spoiler: It’s “Stand” by R.E.M. The chorus for the second single from 1989’s Green album goes like this:
“So stand in the place where you live
Now face north
Think about direction
Wonder why you haven't before”
“Besides the fact that it’s upbeat, there’s a sense of just saying exactly what you’re doing, and that’s very much how the characters talk. They sort of tell you what’s going on, there’s an instructional quality to the way they are.”
“They (used as a gender-neutral pronoun) are a part of the character that I play. We’re both named Broken Baby Doll Detective,” Brian Colonna says. “We are in constant surveillance of the pile of crud. This little one sits on my shoulder and has no arms, this is how we found them in the pile. I spend a lot of the show in conversation with Broken Baby Doll Detective."
Colanna says his character plays around with the name and what makes you broken.
"It’s that sort of feeling where you find an object like this little baby doll and it having no arms would mean it should be discarded, like it isn’t what it’s supposed to be. My character feels like this is exactly what this is supposed to be, and they are broken in a way that you can’t see.”
In making this show spun from stuff in storage they essentially found by random chance, the group had to set some of its own rules: The show had to include 75 percent of the usable stuff they bought; They could only spend an additional $200 on the production (plus any money made from storage items sold); And they could not make a play about the unit’s original owner.
“That’s not even, from our minds, a creative way to think about the project,” Rollman says. “So what we discover about the person is not what we want on stage.”
Buntport Theater’s “The Crud” runs through June 10, 2017
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