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Poems evolve into a Rubber Chicken political parody

Barton Sutter didn't set out to write a play in verse about the Bush administration. It started with a poem, then another poem and another. "I suppose it was years of political frustration, grief and anger that finally boiled over and turned into...

Barton Sutter didn't set out to write a play in verse about the Bush administration. It started with a poem, then another poem and another.

"I suppose it was years of political frustration, grief and anger that finally boiled over and turned into poetry," he said.

Sutter's poetry turned into "Bushed: A Poetical, Political, Partly Musical Tragicomedy in Two Acts," which opens tonight in the Harbor City International School Theater in downtown Duluth. Brian Matuszak's Rubber Chicken Theater is staging the production.

Sutter turned to Matuszak when he discovered his poems had the makings of a play. Matuszak now operates Rubber Chicken Theater, but for years he was the guiding force behind Renegade Comedy Theatre.

"Almost no one around here does comedy better," Sutter said about Matuszak. "I have great respect for all of the years he has kept live theater breathing in this small market."

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Sutter also enlisted the help of composer and pianist Marya Hart, a two-time Minnesota Music Award winner, who set some of his poems to music. Hart is a friend who often has performed with his brother, musician Ross Sutter. She also is deeply steeped in theatrical music and the political cabaret scene from Germany in the 1920s and '30s, he said.

"It's a good fit. We had all kinds of fun," he said.

The play is a series of poems in the voices of characters such as President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. There also is singing and dancing and a Greek chorus that comments on the play's action.

Matuszak compared the format to the comedy holiday revues he once did at Renegade but said that in "Bushed," some of the verses are funny and some are serious.

Sutter said he hopes people are entertained by the play, but he also hopes they come away from it thinking about becoming better citizens.

This is first time Matuszak has worked directly with a playwright on a production and he said it's been an exciting process. If he has any questions about what the playwright intended, Sutter can answer them, he said.

Sutter's only experience in theater before "Bushed" was in the early 1980s, when the History Theatre in St. Paul staged some of his poems about small town and rural life in a one-act play.

Before that experience, Sutter wasn't excited about theater because he thought it would be like committee work with so many involved. As a writer, he was used to working alone and having control over every syllable, he said.

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He came away from that play impressed by the talent and energy a cast and crew can bring to a production.

Sutter has been involved in many aspects of the production of "Bushed," from the conception to fundraising to auditions to attending almost every rehearsal.

After seeing the many hours of hard work by Matuszak and the actors, he will never think about theater the same way again, he said.

"It's a profound act of passion on their part," Sutter said.

LINDA HANSON can be reached at (218) 723-5335 or by e-mail at lhanson@duluthnews.com .

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