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College hosts play on famed theater guru infused with sex, death and violence

MIDDLEBURY — The Rude Mechs, an acclaimed Austin, Texas-based ensemble theater company, will come to Middlebury College for two performances of their play “The Method Gun” on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 18 and 19, at the Mahaney Center for the Arts, Seeler Studio Theatre.
“The Method Gun” is described as a daring play based on the work of theater guru Stella Burden, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” and a high-risk creative process. The Rude Mechs will also participate in a weeklong residency of master classes and workshops with Middlebury College students.
“The Method Gun” is an original, devised-theater piece that explores the life and techniques of Stella Burden, actor-training guru of the ’60s and ’70s, whose sudden emigration to South America still haunts her most fervent followers. Burden’s training technique, The Approach (often referred to as “the most dangerous acting technique in the world”), fused Western acting methods with risk-based rituals in order to infuse even the smallest role with sex, death and violence.
Using found text from the journals and performance reports of Burden’s company, “The Method Gun” reenacts the final months of her company’s rehearsals for Tennessee Williams’ classic drama “A Streetcar Named Desire,” a production nine years in the making. Diaries and letters from actors in the company express a sense of desperation, inadequacy and frustration inherent to the process of creating meaningful work for the stage and in everyday life. Jerry Portwood of the New York Press wrote, “I was left breathless. … Who knew experimental theater could be both daring and sentimental all at once?”
Since 1995, the Rude Mechs — an ensemble-based theater company that operates with a full company of 28 members in Austin, Texas — have created a mercurial slate of original theatrical productions that represent a genre-defying cocktail of big ideas, cheap laughs and dizzying spectacle. What their works hold in common are the use of play to make performance, the use of theaters as meeting places for audiences and artists, and the use of humor as tool for intellectual investigation.
In addition to touring their productions nationally and abroad, the Rude Mechs also maintain The Off Center, a performance venue in Austin for arts groups of every discipline; present nationally recognized artists; and run Grrl Action, a year-round arts mentoring program for teenage girls. The Rude Mechs have received over 180 local and national awards and nominations for their work. They have given two off-Broadway premieres, and have toured to top national venues such as the Walker Arts Center (Minneapolis, Minn.), The Wexner Center (Columbus, Ohio), and Woolly Mammoth (Washington, D.C.). The New York Times has called the Rude Mechs one of three ensemble-theater companies in the country “making theatre that matters.”
As the Rude Mechs create work for adventurous theatergoers, the company works hard to demystify the art-making process, fostering real communication with and responsiveness to patrons by holding workshops, talkbacks and open rehearsals along the way. In Middlebury, the Rude Mechs will work with college acting students throughout the week — thanks to support from the Rothrock Family Fund for Experiential Learning in the Performing Arts — and will offer talkbacks with audiences after each of the performances. Their performances are sponsored by the Middlebury College Performing Arts Series, the Theatre Program, and the Committee on the Arts.
“The Method Gun” is geared for adult audiences, and does include strong content and nudity.
Tickets are $25 for the general public; $20 for Middlebury College faculty, staff, alumni, emeriti and other ID card holders; and $6 for Middlebury College students. For more information, call (802) 443-MIDD (6433) or go to go.middlebury.edu/arts.

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