Breaking the mold takes guts. With a lot of things there’s the Way They Should Be Done. Choosing acting as a profession is already a gutsy move. But it’s even cooler to pursue an acting career and still manage to go about it in a non-traditional way.

Meet Meredith Burns. She’s an actor, the Managing Director of the Glass Bandits Theater Company, a native of Avon, and a graduate of Red Bank Regional. And although she’s done the more traditional go-out-and-audition kind of acting career, ever since she was a kid she’s always been more energized by being involved at every level of putting on a play.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work other places, work regionally, work at theaters in New York that aren’t my own, and it’s always a great experience. But it’s different. You’re just an actor in someone else’s play rather than the actor/creator/producer, ” Burns says.

So after graduating from SUNY Purchase’s intensive acting conservatory, Burns and some of her friends put together the Glass Bandits Theater Company. As a founding member and Managing Director of the Glass Bandits Theater Company, a non-profit company based in Jersey City and performing in the New York City area, she gets to do all that acting/creating/producing, and then some.

“With Glass Bandits I have a hand in everything in order to create this product, this awesome thing we get to share with people. You get to use your creativity in every aspect that’s why I felt I had to pursue this company rather than pursuing a traditional solo career on my own.”

glass_bandits_2011_168Meredith Burns at right

Given their growth, looks like Burns isn’t the only artist who finds that kind of collaboration appealing. Glass Bandits has three full-time staffers, and their wider network extends to about 30-35 artists.

“After five years we’ve met a lot of people, brought in designers, playwrights, directors. There’s sort of a wide net. And now it’s so much more common for people to be writer/actors, writer/directors, even actor/designers. We have a lot of people in the group who wear a ton of different hats, “ Burns says.

Working with both new plays and adapted or modernized classics, Glass Bandits has a kind of nomadic, roaming flair. They’ve put up shows in places as non-traditional as a loft in Brooklyn and the basement of an art gallery on the Lower East Side, and more conventional places like 2010’s Fringe Festival and the Crane Theater in the East Village.

Now coming up on their fifth year, Glass Bandits is taking on their biggest project ever. Their production of “feeling, ” a new play by Paul Cameron Hardy, should go up at the Secret Theater in Queens. They just reached their goal of $35, 000 on Kickstarter.

For those of you who’re behind on this fundraising phenomenon, Kickstarter.com is a place where aspiring creators and innovators can post about their project, product, or idea, and invite others to give them cash so they can make it happen. Each Kickstarter campaign has a set goal over a specific period of time, and contributors are only charged if the goal is met in time. And with Kickstarter, every little bit counts: you can contribute as little as $1 or $5, though the more you give the better (and the better stuff you get in return, since a lot of these campaigns offer incentive gifts in return for donations).

glass_bandits_2011_178Meredith Burns

Before hopping on the Kickstarter bandwagon, the Glass Bandits favored a less high-tech, more boozey form of fundraising. They threw “fun-ragers, ” a party with four kegs, five bands, and a door fee someplace in Brooklyn. Definitely a good time, but not always a reliable way to make the theater company any money.

For ‘feeling, ’ which was written by one of the artists in the Bandits’ network, they decided to go bigger. For Burns, the play’s quality makes it worth the extra effort.

“We’ve never been more excited about a play before, and honestly Emma is the best role I’ve ever read. I’m so excited.” Burns says.

In ‘feeling, ’ Burns will play Emma, a PhD student whose boyfriend of nine years suddenly dumps her. Falling apart academically, physically, and mentally, she starts to become obsessed with serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. So much so that she starts hallucinating him. And then they kind of become drinking buddies.

“In a lot of interviews he talks about his desire to covet, that it wasn’t that he really wanted to do these awfully brutal thing to people, he just didn’t know how to let them go, ” Burns says. “And Emma relates to that idea with her boyfriend leaving her. It’s a really strange relationship.”

“It sounds really bleak, and it is at parts, but it’s so beautiful and it has a great sense of humor. It’s an incredibly well-written play, and it does really touch a wide audience, ” Burns says.

Plus, it’s a gutsy play. One put on by a gutsy theater company, using unconventional means of getting their art out to the public. And by inviting the audience to get involved, Burns and the Bandits are bringing audience participation to a new level. With a deadline of May 30, ‘feeling’ is almost halfway to their fundraising goal. Help them out, and get a taste of what it feels like to break the mold for yourself. Be warned, we hear it’s kind of addictive.

Find out more about ‘feeling’ and at kickstartfeeling.com. Check out more about the Glass Bandits Theater Company at www.gbtheater.com.


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