Shows: Past Productions: The Method Gun

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created by Rude Mechs

directed by Shawn Sides

written by Kirk Lynn

featuring: Thomas Graves, Hannah Kenah, Lana Lesley, Jason Liebrecht, Shawn Sides / Heather Hanna

design: Lowell Bartholomee (video), Graham Reynolds (sound/composition), Brian Scott (lighting), Leilah Stewart (scenic)

The Method Gun is currently touring.


The Method Gun explores the life and techniques of Stella Burden, actor-training guru of the 60s and 70s, whose sudden emigration to South America still haunts her most fervent followers. Ms. Burden’s training technique, The Approach (often referred to as "the most dangerous acting technique in the world"), fused Western acting methods with risk-based rituals in order to infuse even the smallest role with sex, death and violence. A play about the ecstasy and excesses of performing, the dangers of public intimacy and the incompatibility of truth on stage and sanity in real life.

Using found text from the journals and performance reports of Stella Burden’s company, “The Method Gun” re-enacts the final months of her company’s rehearsals for their nine-years-in-the-making production of “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Stella left the company under mysterious circumstances in 1972. Diaries and letters from actors in the company express a sense of desperation, inadequacy, and frustration inherent to the process of creating meaningful work for the stage and in everyday life. Set amid swinging pendulums and talking tigers, “The Method Gun” bounces between interior monologues, rehearsal sequences of “Streetcar,” and group interactions - all gleaned from historical documents - to express a longing for the return of inspiration and a more believable presentation of self in everyday life.



Production Support
The Method Gun has received creation and development support from Creative Capital Foundation, MAP Fund, The Orchard Project Theatre Residency Program, The National Endowment for the Arts, The Humanities Institute and The Harry Ransom Center. Rude Mechs is supported by the Texas Commission on the Arts and the City of Austin through the Cultural Arts Division


filmed as part of, a contemporary performance on-demand site, where you view the full-length film



Production Stills from 2010 at Actors Theatre of Louisville



The Method Gun was published in Issue #4 of Play: A Journal of Plays, and Humana Festival 2010 The Complete Plays.

Feature Article by Joan Anderman, New York Times, 2011

Interview on NPR, Elizabeth Kramer, NPR, 2010

American Theatre Magazine

Feature Article - January 2008

Theatre Forum

Feature Article - July 2007

Austin Chronicle Cover Photo

Austin Chronicle Cover Feature

April 2008

XLent Cover Photo

Ausitn-American Statesman

XLent Cover Feature - April 2008 - sorry, they moved their stupid link. lost forever. it was really good.



Awards / Citations:

"Top 10 Creative Things I Lucked Into in 2014" - The Austin Chronicle

"What We Loved & More (2014/2015)" - arts+ culture magazine

"16 Standouts of the Fall 2014 Season" - arts + culture magazine

"Best of 2011" - Los Angeles Times

"Best of 2011" - Time Out New York

"2011 Culture Award" - Scott Brown, New York Magazine

"Best Touring Show of 2011" - Columbus Alive

"Top 9 Creative Arts, Ah, Things I Was Lucky Enough to Experience This Year" - Austin Chronicle

"Top 10 Theatrical Treasures and Pleasures of 2008" - Austin Chronicle

"In the arts, the Eight from '08" - Austin-American Statesman

"In this immensely funny, abruptly touching physical-theater work... They keep taking perilous theatrical leaps, but we are the ones to feel sweaty-palmed, nearly vertiginous exhilaration." – Helen Shaw, Time Out New York Review 2011

"The Method Gun: Our own Helen Shaw raves about the Rude Mechs' "intensely funny, abruptly touching" play in her review in this week's issue, and having seen the show last night, I couldn't agree more. This is a special piece of work that will leave you thinking about theater, people, theater people, teachers, students, nostalgia, kisses, perfection, balloons and tigers. As of this writing, a few tickets remain to the show's last three performances at Dance Theater Workshop, tonight at 7:30pm and 10:30pm and tomorrow at 7:30pm. Buy them."– Upstaged Blog Post - Time Out New York  2011

"This weekend sees the closing of several of my favorite shows, so this edition of Critic's Picks is less a case of "run, don't walk" than a "stand in line, don't take no for an answer" set of recommendations." – Critics' Picks - Time Out New York 2011

Photo from The Method Gun   Photo from The Method Gun

"All I can say is get tickets to this show. It is not to be missed." – Jeremy M. Barker, Culturebot 2011

"I was left breathless... Who knew experimental theater could be both daring and sentimental all at once?" – Jerry Portwood, New York Press 2011

"...a fiendish piece of post-ideological work. And like any great piece of theater — or theory — it lies shamelessly to tell the truth."
– Scott Brown, New York Magazine Critics Pick 2011

"...a tender, smart play." – Jason Fitzgerald, Backstage Review 2011

"Coming off the 2010 Humana Festival (and no doubt on its way to a theater near you), "The Method Gun" is a choice example of Rude Mechs' satirical wit and inventive performance style."Variety Review 2011

"It’s nice to finally see a company from Texas that I’ve been hearing and reading about for years, and to find that they’re as good as the advance word suggested... The Method Gun is funny, bleak, satirical and serious in equal parts, so well-balanced and timed that you trust it implicitly and just follow along without questioning its intentions."
- New Haven Advocate Review 2011

"...relentlessly inventive... "Beneath its zany, passionate surfaces lie some fierce investigations into the nature of art... brilliantly orchestrated" – John Beer, Time Out Chicago 2010

"'The Method Gun'’ creates some arresting stage images, particularly at the end, and the cast — Thomas Graves, Hannah Kenah, Lana Lesley, E. Jason Liebrecht, and Shawn Sides, who also directs — acquit themselves well." Don Aucoin, The Boston Globe

"Rude Mechanicals hit their target with 'The Method Gun'" – Jenna Scherer, The Boston Herald

"charming... gorgeously rendered... both stunning and haunting." Eliza Bent, American Theatre Magazine 2010 (print only)

"If you only have time to see one show between now and March 28, make it The Rude Mechanicals' 'The Method Gun.'"  Erin Keane, Louisville Courier-Journal 2010

"Honest, brave and often hilarious exploration of the creative process...absurd and awe-inspiring." Erin Keane, Louisville Courier-Journal 2010

"It’s both fascinating and terrifying, in a bizarre sort of way." - Lewis Lazare, Chicago Sun-Times

"Rude Mechanicals cultivate a stunning virtuosity that... is essential viewing for anyone interested in theater." - Louisville Leo

"Somebody had better bring this show to Seattle." – Brendan Kiley, The Stranger

"...make your way out to the Off Center and get ready to have your mind blown." – Ryan E. Johnson, 2009

"The Rudes craft compelling theater... 'The Method Gun' packs more intensity and more poignancy... And the Rudes' tweaks have made it much more intimate and immediate... And the final scene... emerges as one of the most polished, gorgeous, breathtaking and riveting moments on an Austin stage. To this critic, 'The Method Gun' still ranks as one of the best productions to grace the Austin stage."
– Jeanne Claire van Ryzin, Austin-American Statesman 2009

”Nothing short of the best work this theater collective has done in its 13 years as it has carved out its well-respected reputation on the international indie theater scene...This is the Rude Mechanicals doing what they do best: crafting a rich series of stunning and surprising visual moments, lacing those moments with kinetic physical movement and wrapping it all together with a script both lyrical and cheeky.” Austin American-Statesman 2008

“The ‘final performance’ of Burden’s Streetcar features a characteristically Rude-ish blend of physicality and audaciousness... so precisely timed, so crisply executed... almost hypnotic.” Austin Chronicle 2008



The creation process for The Method Gun is perhaps the best reflection of our company's collaborative nature. Thomas Graves drew a diagram that very accurately depicts artist contributions to the production.

The Method Gun is an investigation lies, truth and the art of the actor using salvaged film clips, rediscovered interviews, and live re-enactments Burden’s Approach. If you have any information about Stella Burden, please contribute at:


Click on the dates to for more info and to see stllls from the performances.

March 2010 - The 34th Annual Humana Festival of New American Plays (Louisville, KY)

April  2009 - The Off Center (Austin, TX)

April 2008 - The Long Center for the Performing Arts at the Rollins Studio Theater (Austin, TX)

December 2007 - The Off center (Austin, TX)

Touring History

The University of Texas - September 10 - 14, 2014

Miami-Dade College - February 8-9, 2013

Vanderbilt University - February 1, 2013

Middlebury College - January 18-19, 2013

Walker Art Center - January 10-12, 2013

Brisbane Powerhouse World Theatre Festival (Brisbane, AUS) - February 22-26, 2012

Philadelphia Live Arts Festival  - September 2011

Portland Institute for Contemporary Art's TBA Festival - September 2011

Center Theatre Group's Kirk Douglas Theater as part of RADAR LA - June 14-26, 2011

New York Live Arts - March 2-11, 2011

Yale University's No Boundaries festival - February 23-26, 2011

Emerson College - October 2010

Wexner Center for the Arts - October 2010

March 16 - 28, 2010

World Premiere at the 34th Annual Humana Festival of New American Plays

co-produced by Rude Mechs and Actors Theatre of Louisville

Ensemble: Thomas Graves, Hannah Kenah, Lana Lesley, Jason Liebrecht, Shawn Sides

Technical Director - Madge Darlington

Dramaturg - Adrien-Alice Hansel

Assistant Dramaturg - Zach Chotzen-Freund

Stage Manager - Lowell Bartholomee

Lighting Designer - Brian Scott

Scenic Designer - Leilah Stewart

Sound Designer/Composer - Graham Reynolds

Projection Consultant: Lowell Bartholomee

April 9 - May 2, 2009

Second Full-Length Draft Premiered at The Off Center (Austin, TX)


Photo Gallery

Production Stills from 2009 at The Off Center


Production Team

Ensemble: Thomas Graves, Heather Hanna, Jude Hickey, Hannah Kenah, Lana Lesley

Production Manager / Technical Director - Madge Darlington

Stage Manager - Jazz Miller

Assistant Stage Manager - Jared Oberholtzer

Lighting Designer - Brian Scott

Master Electrician - Natalie George

Costume Design - Katey Gilligan

Scenic Designer - Leilah Stewart

Sound Designer/Composer - Graham Reynolds

Sound Engineer / Op - Robert Fisher

Projection Design: Lowell Bartholomee, Michael Mergen

April 2 - 12, 2008

First Full-Legnth Version Premiered at The Long Center for the Performing Arts Rollins Studio Theater

presented by The Long Center for the Performing Arts


Photo Gallery

Production Stills from 2008 at The Long Center

Production Team

Ensemble: Laura Cannon, Thomas Graves, Lana Lesley, Jason Liebrecht, Shawn Sides

Production Manager - Meg Sullivan

Production Manager - Madge Darlington

Stage Manager - Jazz Miller

Dramaturg - Ellie McBride

Lighting Designer - Brian Scott

Scenic Designer - Leilah Stewart

Sound Designer/Composer - Graham Reynolds

Costume Designer - Laura Cannon

Video Designers: Michael Mergen & Lowell Bartholomee

Sound Engineer/Operator - Robert S. Fisher

Technical Director - Douglas Gessaman

Properties Assistant - Holly Jackson

Backstage Crew: Jared Oberholtzer

Creation Intern - Brendan Shea

December 6 - 15, 2007

Work-in-Progress presentation at The Off Center (Austin, TX)

About the creation process for the 2007 workshop production

What you witnessed was a work-in-progress. Because one of the many themes running through this play centered on process and collaboration, we hoped to bring you along for the ride in a way that would inform the project, our process and the way you absorb Rude Mechs work as it is developed toward eventual premier.

We have been thinking about this play since 2005. We began work in earnest in Fall 2006 with a trip to South America to research the elusive Stella Burden. In Spring 2007 we conceived a new way of working together (new to us) and began meeting weekly with the full company to brainstorm ideas, work on our feet, and follow our interests in a loosely structured format. The work ranged from watching Cassevettes to creating work based on Susan Sontag’s essays on photography. We were lucky enough to be invited for a week of play development at The Orchard Project (in upstate NY) that Summer. There, in one short week, we drafted many of the ideas you saw tonight and so much credit goes to the people listed as collaborators. We took the 2007 summer/fall off to tour Get Your War On and hit the rehearsal room in late October to begin this draft. It was truly a draft - a way to test ideas and notice the rabbit holes in preparation for continuing work toward premier. And that is true for all the elements, writing, direction, design, performance.

The Method Gun was inspired by the life and tragic death of Stella Burden, the actress and actor-training guru who created “The Approach.” “The Approach” is a suite of actor training exercises made popular in the late Sixties and early Seventies that fused Western naturalistic techniques with exercises that Ms. Burden gleaned from all over the globe. These exercises were physically-based and often very dangerous. One exercise in particular – The Method Gun – was extremely dangerous and, in fact, was the eventual cause of Stella Burden’s death. Whether her death was an accident, a suicide, or murder at the hands of one or more of her students is a matter of conjecture, innuendo, and debate. Stella asked prospective students one question: Truth or Beauty? From 1964-1984 Stella took only students who answered Truth. Then in 1985 for some unknown reason, she switched and took her first class of students who answered Beauty. In 1986 Stella was dead after participating in a round of The Method Gun. Our performance culminated in a live re-enactment of the very exercise that took Ms. Burden’s life.

Photo Gallery

Candids from Rude Mechs time at The Orchard Project (Hunter, NY)


Production Team

Ensemble: Lowell Bartholomee, Thomas Graves, Lana Lesley, Michael Mergen, Shawn Sides

Production Manager - Madge Darlington

Stage Manager - Jazz Miller

Dramaturg/Assistant Director - Ellie McBride

Lighting Designer - Brian Scott

Scenic Designer - Leilah Stewart

Sound Designer/Composer - Graham Reynolds

Costume Designer - Laura Cannon / Thomas Graves

Video Designers: Michael Mergen & Lowell Bartholomee

Sound Engineer/Operator - Buzz Moran / Ensemble

Technical Director - Douglas Gessaman

Properties Assistant - Holly Jackson

Master Carpenters - Connor Hopkins & Michael Gessaaman

Front of House Manager - Meg Sullivan

Box Office Manager - Maureen Cross

Creation Collaborators: Lowell Bartholomee, Laura Cannon, Madge Darlington, Thomas Graves, Harvey Guion, Heather Hanna, Jodi Jinks, Lana Lesley, Jason Liebrecht, Kirk Lynn, Ellie McBride, Michael Mergen, Jazz Miller, Graham Reynolds, Brian Scott, Shawn Sides, Leilah Stewart



For their help on the 2009 version of The Method Gun , we are grateful to:

Innu Salon • Alamo Welding Supply Co. • Room Service Vintage • Stephen Pruitt of Fluxion Scenic and Light • The Magician Black Bert • The estate of Col. Robert E. Darlington • Paul Soileau • Luke Savisky • the dirigo group • Sunny Haralson of Ruby Pearl • Steve Wiman of Uncommon Objects • Lisa Byrd of ProArts Collective • Margaret Hejny • Andrew Dolan • Kathryn Blackbird • James & Hester Magnuson

For their help on the 2008 version of The Method Gun , we are grateful to:

Dr. Beckel, Scott Bussey, Charlotte Canning, Travis Dean, Celeste DeBardelaben, Nelson Diaz, Olga Garay, Harvey Guion, Stephen Pruitt, Luke Savisky, Chase Staggs, Jeff Sugg, Amicus, Inc., Austin Technical Theatre Cooperative, the dirigo group, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, Humanizarte, The Longbranch Inn, Mary Moody Northen Theatre, Long Center for the Performing Arts, Austin Playhouse

For their help on the 2007 version of The Method Gun , we are grateful to:

We would like to thank every single one of you that attended the December 2007 workshop production and those that stayed for the talkback, and those who took the extra time to send us an email with your thoughts. We value deeply your participation in the creation of this new play.

Copyright © 2005 Rude Mechanicals. All rights reserved.
Updated 07/01/2005
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