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Faculty member's play appears in New York Times magazine

  • Austin Bunn

Posted on January 09, 2012

An adaptation of the documentary play “Rust,” by Austin Bunn, assistant professor of writing, was published in the January 8 issue of the New York Times magazine:

Bunn collaborated with the Iowa-based Working Group Theatre to develop the play, which focuses on the General Motors metal-stamping plant in Wyoming, Mich. The plant closed in 2008, putting 1,500 people out of work. He spent two years recording conversations with factory workers – some who had been at the plant for 30 years, as well as historians, bartenders and others to help develop the play. “Rust” premiered at the Actors’ Theatre of Grand Rapids in September and was well received. Working Group Theatre is planning to tour the show later this year.

“We’re hoping that this gives the play a chance to reach new audiences and speak to communities across the country,” said Bunn. “In a way, the New York Times magazine publication is bittersweet. I learned Friday that one of GM workers I had interviewed and who was instrumental in my education about the life and work of the plant, had died.

“He had cancer, and his struggle to go back to work was one the most vivid interviews I did. I’m not sure he liked me, but I think the publication of this article would have made him feel like he hadn’t wasted his time speaking to me.”

The cast of characters, and some historic projections onstage, portray what happened at the plant and the aftereffects its closing had on the town and on the people. Bunn was part of that cast, portraying himself as the interviewer. Another character, James, is a composite of two former Grand Valley writing majors who have since graduated:  James Walsh and Thomas Mervenne. As students, they spent many hours with Bunn doing interviews and transcribing them to gather information for the play.


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