The politically-charged play “Spinning into Butter,” which is being directed by CSU professor Morris Burns, challenges viewers to think beyond social norms.
“(‘Spinning into Butter’) deals with an issue, racism, which is an everyday problem on every predominantly white campus today,” Burns said. “This is a play written for a university community.”
Burns, who is a professor in the department of music, theatre and dance, has been directing at CSU since 1970. Yet he still loves to tackle new and challenging works-especially those dealing with human nature.
“They are the most fulfilling. They explore the human condition in a probing, intense and sensitive way,” he said, adding that he most enjoys directing plays that speak intimately to social issues.
“Spinning into Butter,” written by Rebecca Gilman, is just the kind of play that kindles Burns’ directing passion.
It is a work charged with emotion and critical questions about human nature, and one’s interactions with others.
“Hopefully your conscience will be pricked to do some very deep thinking,” Burns said. “Gilman is interested in exposing the hypocrisy of political correctness, where what really needs to be recognized is the equality of all people.”
Burns if currently working with a cast of seven members, and the play is already experiencing success. Six of the seven shows have already oversold at the Bas Bleu Theatre, which has a mere 49 seats.
“It’s very encouraging,” Burns said of the turnout.
With only three weeks into the production, and three weeks of shows remaining, “Spinning into Butter” is showing incredible promise as an influential play. “Spinning into Butter” has had runs in the Lincoln Center New York, as well as in Colorado at the Denver Center, and Burns is excited about bringing the play to Fort Collins.
“Gilman is painting a realistic picture of what people of color face,” he said. “It’s going to stimulate you to look at (racism). I always get a special sense of fulfillment doing a play like ‘Spinning into Butter.’ The play prompts you to go over your own conscience system.”
Burns delves into the human psyche at any chance he gets.
“Spend five minutes a day with your imaginations,” Burns said. “The imagination is an endless pool.”
Collaboration between actors and the director is the backbone of a good play, and Burns calls that cooperation and imagination, “a very fluid art form.”
Actor Chip Winn Wells drives four hours from Glenwood Springs to make rehearsal and shows because it provides us an opportunity to learn.
“Morris Burns is a very generous director,” Wells said. “He allows for a lot of input from his actors and assistant director. The atmosphere is cooperative and collective from the very beginning. It’s been nothing but a pleasant experience.”
Wells feels very close to the other cast members as well.
“It’s wonderful to walk into the dressing room and feel like you’re going home,” he said. “You cheer for each other. It’s very much like a family, a very effective family group. Morris is the most positively supportive director I’ve ever worked with. (His) only motivation is love, and it is reciprocated. He has a velvet touch.”
Burns strives to make each new production better than the last, and doesn’t let failure stand in his way.
“You can’t be an actor or a director until you’ve failed on the stage,” he said in reference to some past productions of which he was part.
Out of seven cast members, Burns went searching for three of them. “Eighty percent of the success of the play will be in the casting,” he said. “I just didn’t hear anyone that could do the part, I had to find them myself.”
In the end
“When the day comes when I say I’ve done the best that I can do, then I will find something else to do,” he said. “I hope the best is yet to come.”
Spinning into Butter is showing at the Bas Bleu Theater every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, and on Sunday’s for a matinee. September 22 and 25 are special showings, with tickets only $7 for students. Call Bas Bleu Theatre 498-8949 for ticket information and show times.