Politics and other don’t-chat-about-it-at-the-family-reunion topics are often source materials for the New York City–based company Buran Theatre. The group’s latest work, Magic Bullets, which premieres at the Incubator Arts Project May 2–11, takes on health and wellness in America.
But that doesn’t mean Magic Bullets is about health care. “Above all else, the show is about healing,” says Jud Knudsen, who co-directs with Adam R. Burnett.
Knudsen points out how health and wellness are individualized in the U.S., while healing tends to be shared. “Even if we don’t agree on how we heal as an individual, partnership or group, the shared conversation is what’s important—regardless of the amount of gluten in your rump roast. Semantics are important to us and function in the piece as a major political idea.”
Buran also esteems rambunctious performance aesthetics and rigorous script development. Burnett, who wrote the text, describes how he and Bullets composer Casey Mraz initially read The Dybbuk, but decided to not use it as source material. Instead, they embarked on a six-month exchange of writing prompts. From there the two roped in other Buran collaborators and presented an installation/performance piece at Albuquerque, N.M.’s Tricklock Company last June.
“I don’t write characters per se, but use the performers as instruments in scoring the piece,” says Burnett. Typically the company gathers a core of interdisciplinary artists “to sit, talk, eat, drink, dance, move and read around the central idea and discuss what it is, where it can go and how many tendrils dangle from it,” says Knudsen.
“The text gets worked and reworked in the room up until the last moment,” adds Burnett. “Even when we tour, I may find myself rewriting large sections to fit the personalities we encounter on the road.”
Wellness isn’t just about eating vegetables, though. Burnett brought Cheetos to a recent rehearsal. “Everyone’s fingers were covered in orange dust. They tasted so incredibly good!” From there the group joked that preservatives make Cheetos tasty and lead to a long life. Says Burnett, “It’s this kind of madness that makes sense, and you can make a sort of logic around it. We all laughed. And then moved on to the next thing.”