A few weeks back we told you about The Man Burns, a new play set at Burning Man. The author, David Vernon, has given us an update on his vision:
At first it was just a play—a serious play with Burning Man as the backdrop. I’ve been a professional writer for years and I study and adore the work of Tennessee Williams, Christopher Durang, Terrence McNally and Jane Anderson. All of these writers use a very strong sense of place. “A Streetcar Named Desire” isn’t a play about New Orleans and “Peter Pan” isn’t a play about London, but because the locations fit so well thematically, you know those plays couldn’t take place anywhere else. Then, one day about a year ago, I fell into the Burning Man rabbit hole. My partner and I were seeing a play at the Music Center in downtown L.A. After being held captive by the spell that a good play can cast, we ended up walking the streets of downtown. My partner, Crespin mentioned on the way to our car, “Wouldn’t it be great if your play could be like an evening at Burning Man?” That thought changed everything.
Why should a play set inside a Mongolian yurt at Burning Man be like a regular night at the theater? Shouldn’t there be music and art cars and playa drinks and clothing exchanges…and grilled cheese sandwiches? Why couldn’t a theater piece extend the story or the world of the story? I know that this isn’t a revolutionary idea—there has been site-specific theater and immersive theater events going on for decades, but it seemed like a perfect fit for my play.
“The Man Burns” is about a group of strangers that take refuge inside a Mongolian yurt during a four-hour whiteout at Burning Man. Their interaction, their shared stories of what brought them to the playa, and their conflict about what Burning Man is about and what it means makes up the bulk of the plot. I wanted to emulate one of those great nights on the playa where you share your heart and soul with a group of strangers.
Every Burner I’ve met has someone that they’d like to bring to Burning Man. They look at the photos and listen to all of our crazy stories, but they have their own reasons for not being able to attend. This idea of extending the play and making the whole evening like a night at Burning man seemed like a great way to introduce the experience and the principals of Burning Man to these people.
The biggest challenge is bringing these two pieces together—the play and the event that surrounds the play. Initially, my worry was that the ‘night at Burning Man’ would overwhelm the play. But ‘story’ is most important to me—so much so that I found a way that the elements of the event could become a part of the play. The MakiMaki bar is talked about in the play by one of the characters. And now it is also the bar that is in the lobby—and it will even have its own Facebook page.
We are in the last few days of a Kickstarter right now. It is a very difficult climate out there for new theater pieces. My hope is that the community will want to become a part of this and make this their own. And after it premieres in San Francisco and Los Angeles I could travel with it and bring it to some cool cities across the U.S, like Lexington, Kentucky has a huge Burner contingent and is cutting edge on the arts scene. Every night in every city could be a completely different evening, depending on what people bring—a marching band, their own art cars—a new experience every night, just like Burning Man
Here are some audio files of short scenes from the play: