Actors Theatre

The Off-Broadway of Grandrapids

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Production Underwriting by

RUST by Austin Bunn with Working Group Theatre *WORLD PREMIERE*
September 29-October 8, 2011 - 8:00PM

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In October 2008, General Motors announced it would shutter a 75 year-old stamping plant on 36th street in Wyoming, Michigan. Over 1,500 people, including the former Wyoming mayor, would be out of work, displaced, or forcibly retired. The plant, the largest taxpayer in the city, would be razed to the ground.

RUST follows a young playwright on a voyage of discovery - and re-discovery - as he attempts to portray those affected by the close of the plant — the “GM gypsies” on their 8th transfer, tool and die third shifters watching their skills become obsolete, the corporate “ax men” who select which plants for closure.  Along the way, this Ivy-League academic begins to understand the experience of job loss, the history of the "Rust Belt", and just what happens to the people who make things...when we stop making things.

"This is one of the most powerful pieces of art to debut in our region in a very long time, and my hope is it will not be lost in the buzz and shuffle of ArtPrize. Please don't miss Rust."
-Tommy Allen, Rapid Growth Media



The Artists

Austin Bunn, Playwright/Ethnographer/Actor
Austin Bunn  PhotoAustin Bunn has worked as a boat carpenter, game designer for reality television, book ghostwriter, magazine journalist. His fiction and nonfiction has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The Pushcart Prize Anthology, Best American Science and Nature Writing, The New York Times Magazine, Wired, The Advocate and other magazines now dead to him. His plays have been developed at The New Harmony Project, The Playwrights' Center (MN), Playwright's Theatre of New Jersey (NJ), and The Lark (NYC). RUST is supported by grants from the Center for Scholarly and Creative Excellence at Grand Valley State University and the National Performance Network. He is an Asst. Professor of Writing at Grand Valley State University.

Scott Mellema, Director
Scott Mellema PhotoThough RUST marks his first directing effort for Actors', his local directing credits include Circle Theatre’s productions of Smokey Joe’s Café (Grand Award - Best Production of Musical), The Nerd, and Camping with Henry and Tom. Scott has also been working with Grand Rapids Civic Theatre’s SRT program over the past three years directing productions of Fame, The Pirates of Penzance, and Sleeping Beauty.  Scott is also known locally as a performer, appearing in many GRCT, Circle Theatre and Actors' productions, as well as past and present television credits. He was last seen at Actors' as Michael in 2006's Tick,Tick... BOOM!. Scott currently teaches Theatre and American Literature at East Kentwood High School.
Paul Arnold (Actor)
Paul Arnold photoRUST is Paul Arnold's 21st production in 20 years. He's done several musicals at Civic Theater, and a variety of roles for the Heritage, Jewish, and Circle theater companies. He has had minor roles in locally produced feature films and a TV commercial (Hot 'n Now). RUST is his first production for Actors Theater and Paul is thrilled to be working with the playwright and the very talented cast and crew Thank you Scott for being so persistent and thank you Marty for being the very understanding "theater widow." When not on stage, Paul owns Paul Arnold Design, doing advertising and graphic design for fun and profit.
Rena Dam (Actor)
Rena Dam photoRena acted her way through high school in Hong Kong and four years at Calvin College (favorite roles: Doktor von Zahnd in The Physicists, and SHE in Arlene Hutton's I Dream before I take the Stand.) Rena returned to the stage in LINES: The Lived Experience of Race at Actor's Theatre last season. When she's not in the theater Rena is raising her family, writing/editing radio programs and cooking from scratch. She's addicted to running and South Asian food.
Bernice Houseward (Actor)
Bernice Houseward photoBernie has performed most recently at Actors' Theatre in Well and The Clean House. Other favorite roles include; Mornings at Seven (Circle Theatre), The Cemetery Club (Jewish Theatre of Grand Rapids) and A Man For All Seasons (Muskegon Civic Theatre). Bernie is excited to be working with this talented group of actors, designers, playwright and director on the process of giving dramatic life to taped interviews. She is thankful to those interviewed for sharing their stories and perspectives about and industry that she knew little about. She thanks her patient husband for being her biggest fan and most severe critic.
Chris Nye (Actor)
Chris Nye photoThis is Chris' first appearance at Actors' Theatre. He has appeared in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat as Reuben, 1776 as Thomas Jefferson, Peter Pan and Wizard of Oz; all at Grand Rapids Civic Theater. He is very excited to be back on stage, in his first non-musical. "Thank you Nye girls for your inspiration and encouragement. You are the best!"
Torrence O'Haire (Actor)
Tory O'Haire photoThis is Torrence's first production with Actors Theatre Grand Rapids, and he's excited to be a part of this important event. His recent stage credits include Rumors at Grand Rapids Circle Theatre, Manon Lescaut, with Opera Grand Rapids. He also danced in the Flat River Dance Academy's ballet production of The Toy Shop, and will be appearing in Opera Grand Rapids' presentation of Il Trovatore this October. Additionally, he directs the theatre program at Wyoming Rogers High School, and teaches dance at Grand Valley State University. Outside of the theatre-scene, he works as a private chef and heads The Full Moon Supper Club. He would very much like to thank the mountains of work that Austin, Scott, and his fellow cast- and crew-members have put into this piece, and is grateful for the opportunity to work with such a talented group. He dedicates this show to his father, the union-man. To his family, his secret other family, Tigerlily, the Queen of Wands, the Hive Mind, his students, and his team of superheroes: "You are what matters."
Kieran Smith (Actor)
Kieran Smith photoKieran is excited to be back on stage again having been working mostly backstage at local theaters for over ten years on shows including RENT, Little Shop of Horrors, Into the Woods, Annie, and Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat. Other local favorites include Sweeney Todd, Rocky Horror Show, and Reefer Madness. Most recently, Kieran was found off-stage assistant stage managing Same Time Next Year at Circle Theatre and was found on-stage having a blast being a pirate in Peter Pan at Civic Theatre. Kieran was the first annual recipient of Circle Theatre's Best Technical Volunteer Award. "Much love and thanks to my wife, Jen."
Wayne Swezey (Actor)
Wayne Swezey photoThis is Wayne's first appearance on the Actor's Theatre stage, but he has performed on stage at the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre in 1776, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Peter Pan. He has also appeared in the Circle Theatre production of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying in May of this year. In the past, he has appeared in musical productions of Gypsy, Oklahoma, Bye Bye Birdie, Godspell, The Sound of Music, The Music Man, and Pippin; as well as the comedies M*A*S*H and The Odd Couple. Wayne would like to thank his family for the opportunity to work with Actor's Theatre.
Ella Swift (Actor)
Ella Swift photoAppears on stage for the first time in Grand Rapids with RUST. She has previously performed in Washington State's San Juan Islands as Elaine in Arsenic & Old Lace, and as multiple characters in The Vagina Monologues. Ella fulfilled a life's dream last year in also playing a Krennon Amazon General (using her own steel sword) in Dan Falicki's Sci-Fi film GR30K. Growing up bouncing around in various Irish dance troupes provoked Ella to earn a Master degree in Anglo-Irish Literature from the Univ. of Dublin, Trinity College, specializing in the work of Lady Gregory and the early Abbey Theatre.
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