Local writer Austin Bunn spends time on Catalyst Radio this week to talk about his documentary project “Rust.”
Playwright Austin Bunn (left), with actors Paul Walsh, Chris Nye, Rena Dam and Ella Swift, on the set of "Rust" /Photo credit: Eryn Kovach-Sprenger
When Bunn moved to Grand Rapids to become Assistant Professor of Writing at Grand Valley State University, he was shocked as a newcomer to Michigan over how hard the state has been hit by the shrinking of the manufacturing industry. The closing of a local GM plant, eliminating 1,500 jobs, prompted Bunn to undertake the documentary project, which began its first run as a play at Actors’ Theatre this past fall.
Bunn used the medium of a documentary play to actually bring to life the voices of those hit hardest by the auto industry’s demise — the workers who made a living working in the factories. “Rust” draws from actual interviews Bunn conducted with workers, following the shut-down of that local plant.
Rust is a play by Austin Bunn that chronicles the fallout after the closure of the GM plant in Wyoming, Michigan — just one event in the gradual loss of manufacturing jobs in the region. The play, developed with a “Creation Fund” grant from the National Performance Network, recently concluded its run at the Actors’ Theatre of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Plans for a fall 2012 tour of other sites in Michigan are already underway. Wake interviewed Austin Bunn shortly after the Grand Rapids run.
Wake: Rust is a documentary play. What does that mean, and why or how did it take that shape?
AB: The “documentary play” form has become as a successful new genre in American theatre — here, I think of The Laramie Project (about the murder of Matthew Shepard), The Exonerated (about the experiences of exonerated inmates), This Beautiful City (about the rise of the New Life Christian Church), or Anna Deveare Smith’s plays Let Me Down Easy and Fires in the Mirror. I’ve been interested in the form for years. Back when I was working as a magazine journalist, I looked at these powerful, immersive theatrical experiences with envy, since they seemed to accomplish what journalism was struggling to do: move people and make them think about an issue through storytelling. (…)
ArtPrize needs to move beyond popular venues, pandering art
By: Tommy Allen
Published: Monday, October 03, 2011, 10:41 AM
I have spent my entire life looking at art, not studying it in the classroom or looking at on museum walls and then moving on to other topics.
Tommy Allen Photo Credit: Rex Larsen | The Grand Rapids Press
It was my father who taught me to look at my world and record it as a photographer. He encouraged me to use his camera and look at things from a different perspective. Unbeknownst to me at the time, his advice taught me to find my own voice and not mimic what had come before.
He is not a man who studied art either but he crafted a photography business that he later ended to pursue a skilled trade for GM in Flint. He abandoned his photographic studio and moved north for a better life.
My mother also made sure art was a part of her kids’ lives. She’d purchase classical music LP recordings offered weekly as a promotion at Meijer Thrifty Acres and we listened.
Business and art easily intersected in my life.
So, what does this have to do with ArtPrize’s Top 10 announcement? Plenty.
On Thursday night before the big announcement, scores of people gathered outside the Grand Rapids Art Museum, scores more sat around the glow of their televisions in living rooms and area pubs to see what art had made the Top 10. The people of Grand Rapids listened while ArtPrize’s Founder Rick DeVos read off the Top 10 names.
As the works were read off, people began to light up my phone and Twitter feed with reactions. I must admit, even I got into the mix with reactions sometimes best left unstated for now.
While I would end up visiting two other presentations, I would experience something truly remarkable, a feeling that gave me hope beyond the results of the most recent Top 10. The first stop was the world debut of “Rust” – a touching but never trite play by GVSU professor Austin Bunn about the closing of the GM plants in Wyoming. The second stop was to see the live creative-fueled art-meets-business event: Style Battle. (…)