“I have never taken theatre seriously,” said Hannah Duggan. “I just do it and enjoy it.”
Duggan, a 1994 graduate of South High School, is one of five co-owners of Buntport Theater located in Denver’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, which is known for its quirky productions and has been featured in The New York Times, the Huffington Post and more.
Her mom, Melody Duggan, a retired East High School theater teacher, said, “I think theatre is the most integrating art of all the arts. I taught that to my students at East and I think Hannah saw that in my work.”
Hannah Duggan, along with Brian Colonna, Samantha Schmitz, Erin Rollman and Erik Edborg, have been co-creating multi award-winning original plays at Buntport Theater since 2000.
Buntport, a nonprofit theater, presents wildly creative productions by the five owners working equally — no one is the star. It has endured and flourished over time, and recently celebrated its 50th original play. Behind the curtain, family and teachers influenced these dedicated creatives. Why has it endured? Mothers know best.
“The Buntport crew aren’t starstruck. They didn’t start this theater as a jump-off to Hollywood or Broadway. And they respect each other’s gifts,” Melody Duggan said. “They stick to their mission statement. Also, they have fun while doing it.”
The theater’s mission statement sits at the core of every production: “Buntport Theater Company believes that it is necessary to create new works. In order to ensure utmost accessibility, we stress affordability, variety, abundance and filtering creations through many minds. We believe that collaboration on every level of operation is a strong and vital model for arts organizations.”
All the members of the company have a story of influence to tell.
Besides her mom, Hannah Duggan remembers her South High drama teacher with gratitude.
“Randy Thomas taught us how to be creative with people of all kinds, shift with the energy of others, and taught us a sense of community in the theater,” Hannah Duggan said. “That set me up really well.”
Rollman’s dad, David Rollman, directed and performed in local productions. Her high school teacher, Rive Collins, from The Colorado Springs School inspired her.
“I started doing theater at a very young age,” she said. “I don’t remember not doing it.”
Edborg was inspired by his brother, David.
“He was always a wonderful mimic,” Edborg said. “When we were young, he would impersonate the Muppets and Inspector Clouseau. He showed me how much fun it could be to perform.”
Dan Haliburton-Link directed plays at Foothills Academy in Wheat Ridge, Schmitz’s high school.
“He inspired me to continue with theater because he made it fun, challenging and a little wild at times. He was a hero,” she said.
For Colonna, it was “a teacher named Linda Case that made the whole thing inclusive, fun and exciting. I think of her as old school, a show person, a triple threat. Every once in a while, if the theater gods allow, I’m definitely a single threat.”
The first time Melody Duggan watched a Buntport production was more than 22 years ago.
“I was blown away at how creative those kids were in their version of Beowulf,” she said.
Melody Duggan retired from East High School in 2015 after teaching drama for 23 years.
“Being a performer is in our bones, I guess,” she said.
In the 1970s, Hannah Duggan’s mom was a musician in the regionally popular Family Jam band. And Melody Duggan’s mom, Harriett Anderson, was a guitarist who performed regularly in the 1940s with bands like Sons of the Pioneers.
Performance is not the only thing Hannah Duggan inherited from her mom.
“I watched my mom at East work with challenging resources sometimes. When we started Buntport, most of what we used was donated, like stage lights from the 1950s. We still use those today. I learned you don’t need fancy stuff if you work it right,” she said.
Melody Duggan added: “Today, I still see the fun Hannah has, and I see myself in her.”