PaperStrangers’ National Fringe Tour Fundraiser Saturday

Micheal Burke isn’t your average movie theatre attendant. The inauspicious sometimes scruffy man stands for hours on end next to a popcorn maker as he pours bubbly cola for movie patrons escaping the Summer’s heat. However, his artistic inner life reaches much deeper than the superficial smart phone that keeps his thumbs busy while business is slow. He is, in fact, the director of a new adaptation of Medea planning to take the country by storm in a tour of fringe festivals across the United States. Paper Strangers Performance Group’s Medea, now in its third incarnation directed by Burke, will travel to fringe festivals in Cincinnati, Hollywood and Washington DC over the next two months. A road trip like no other, these passionate theatre artists face a Summer on the interstate as they act as ambassadors of Indianapolis theatre to the rest of the country, but they need your help.

This Saturday May 29 Paper Strangers presents PaperMakers at the indyFringe Theatre in Indianapolis downtown, a fundraiser as they kick off their intense Summer tour. Tickets to this Indianapolis performing arts event are $25.00, which includes free food, a drink ticket, admission to a haunting performance of Medea and a pass to a post show dance party like no other. Proceeds go to help fund Paper Strangers Performance Group’s trans-American tour.

Since graduating from Butler University in 2009, director Michael Burke has been extremely busy. By day he may be a part time employee of the Keystone Art Cinema, but by night he is a full time director, having produced three shows in the past year: Medea, Love Stories and Women of Troy. This Tennessee native came to Butler University as a vocal performance major with dreams of singing opera, but shortly focused his energies in the Butler University Theatre Department, changing his major.

His interest in directing blossomed under the guidance of former chair and noted Indianapolis artist John Green. Burke’s eye for stunning visuals and eliciting moving theatrical performances from his actors soon earned him recognition as a true talent. He has been chasing his dream of directing ever since, committing himself to the true starving artist lifestyle.

In addition to the three shows Burke has mounted in his first post graduate year, he has started his own theatre company with the help of some of his fellow alums. Paper Strangers Performance Group is based on the collaborative efforts of Tommy Lewey (co-artistic director with Burke), Julie Wunderlin (executive director), Katherine Van Wyk (managing director) and Molly Gray (associate artistic director). Together these theatre artists hope to make their audiences truly feel. With a focus on evocation, their work (mostly directed by Burke) “utilizes the effectual liveness of performances, provides imaginative and provocative presentation and remains committed to the investigation of [their] own humanity in order to most effectively engage and involve [their] audiences.”

I had a chance to sit down with Burke and his co-founder Lewey in their house near Butler’s campus. In half a duplex apartment, seven roommates share two bathrooms. That is, of course, only until Burke and a few of his fellow flat mates set out making the open road their home for two months. Burke, whose focus on his art often leaves him hungry, works minimal hours at the Keystone Arts Cinema, barely making ends meet on a meager wage. As we sat down to speak, Lewey (who had just arrived) casually handed Burke a sandwich, ever aware of Burke’s reputation for simply forgetting to eat in the thick of his artistic endeavours (a helpful habit when committed to living the complete bohemian existence).

Burke and Lewey, who is in town from Chicago to help with the PaperMakers fundraiser, shared information about the upcoming tour of Medea. The pair spoke briefly about their artistic ambitions for Paper Strangers, with Burke mentioning the “humanness of art” and Lewey talking to the “value of reflection upon yourself that movies and music and things like that can’t do. . . There’s still value in going to see live performance.”

In fact, the pair recognize the value of their work in the origin story of Burke’s Medea, which started as his senior project at Butler. After mounting the show for a grade, the cast received an invitation from a high school teacher and audience member to remount the show for Broad Ripple High School in the nearby Indianapolis cultural district, Broad Ripple Village. From there, another audience member felt the value of this live performance, introducing Michael to a free space on Indianapolis’ east side that welcomed the piece with open arms. After recasting the show for production in late Summer 2009 at the Irving Theatre in Irvington, Burke also presented the show in indyFringe’s Fringe Next. It was at Fringe Next that Burke first received encouragement to travel the production around the United States.

Video: Fun City Finder exclusive interview with Paper Strangers Artistic Directors Michael Burke and Tommy Lewey,
Indianapolis, Indiana


Burke points to the support he received from the Indianapolis community as the major motivating factor for taking this risky Fringe tour this Summer. Burke is the first to credit the support he received and continues to receive from his growing audience base in Indianapolis arts for the artistic success he is starting to enjoy.

Its this kind of support that Burke is looking for at this weekend’s PaperMakers fundraiser at the indyFringe Theatre. A few more dollars for gas money will help this Indianapolis theatre troupe trapse triumphantly from coast to coast as they represent the art that Indiana has to offer. Burke truly believes in the artistic and cultural community he has been working for and in during the past year. As they ask for the support of Indianapolis people at their upcoming fundraiser, Burke and Lewey point to Indy as an artistic stomping ground that helped form them as artists.

“We are very much a part of this community, that gave us our education, that gave us our attitudes toward art. We are very much a product of this city. Indy is very good about supporting its local artists and anything that’s community based. So support something that this city did create. It helped foster Medea, so let’s help it grow further,” said Lewey.

Burke immediately chimed in with, “The reason we decided to take the show on tour was because of how well it was received here and how much support we got in indyFringe. So many people came up to me and said ‘You should really take this on the road. People will really enjoy it in other places.’ The Indianapolis community has given us our start. I appreciate that. And we would appreciate your continued support. You gave us our start, and we are still starting.”

Don’t miss PaperMakers at the indyFringe Theatre this Saturday, May 28. Doors open at 7:00 pm for cocktails and appetizers, while the show starts at 8:00 pm, followed by a dance party that only Paper Strangers could bring you. Tickets are $25.00 cash only, sold at the door. Support these Hoosier ambassadors of art as they begin a voyage of Grecian proportions.

After the show, enjoy the Indianapolis restaurants and Indianapolis bars on Mass Ave. Stay tuned to Indianapolis News, Events and Information on Fun City for all the latest on fun things to do in Indianapolis. We cover Indianapolis attractions to Indianapolis sports and more! Get out in Indy and find some fun!

Paper Strangers Website

Saturday, May 29, 2010

IndyFringe Theatre Festival
The IndyFringe Building
719 E St. Clair St
Indianapolis, IN46202