Post-apocalyptic ‘Bunkerville’

The fascination with the post-apocalyptic just doesn’t seem to go away. “I Am Legend.” “The Road.” We’ve been there. Done that. But put together two friends, a party and an idea, and you may end up with something far more intriguing. Brendan Ternus ’12 and Mark Sonnenblick’s ’12 co-written “Bunkerville” promises to deliver loads of laughs.

It all began their freshman year, when Ternus and Sonnenblick thought about making a musical parody of the video game “Zelda.”

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David Demres
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David Demres
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When that fell through, they mostly forgot about it. Until one post-party walk, where the post-apocalyptic theme was born.

Being at Yale helps the student effort as well. The production managed to get a Trumbull Sudler fund as well as the J. Oppenheimer Fund.

“You get the opportunity here to get money to do whatever you want in theater,” Sonnenblick said. “If you’re interested in writing here at all, not doing a show is crazy.”

The script was plotted through the end of October and November during lunches, though it has been in the process of revision all the way up to the first show.

“We didn’t write the end until right before spring break,” Ternus said. “We had already started rehearsals.”

Originally, the plot was to have a nuclear war. “The world’s been devastated. There’s this underground city. We called it Bunkerville, a placeholder name for the city,” Sonnenblick said.

“Originally, I wanted it to be Bunkerville with an umlaut,” Ternus said.

The explosion has already occurred when the play opens. The city even has a newspaper, the Bunkerville Bulletin. The story begins when the main lead, Steve, leaves the underground city and goes above ground. They considered some crazy ideas, including Steve bringing back Internet or music, Ternus and Sonnenblick said.

Steve is supported by an ensemble in which members play anywhere from two to four characters each. Ad Walker ’10 plays both a younger kid and a character more appropriate to his age. Unfortunately, Ternus could not convince him to shave off the beard so the role was rewritten.

The musical seems to have a lot to offer. Emma Barash ’11 will be directing for the first time at Yale. Though she had directed a lot in high school, Barash felt “directing at Yale was a whole other ball of wax.”

What convinced her? “The thing that really got me was that it was a new project,” she said. “Brendan and Mark are two of the funniest people I know.”

“The hardest thing about directing any play at Yale,” Barash said, “is that it’s all you want to do. It’s frustrating to go to class when you want to go to rehearsal.”

The feel of the play comes from the 1950s. During the Cold War, Britain built an underground city to fit about 2,000 people, Ternus said. Both Ternus and Sonneblick proceeded to watch every episode of “Leave it to Beaver” and “The Andy Griffith Show” they could lay their hands on.

Ternus and Sonnenblick have created something new in “Bunkerville,” but both have done theater before. Ternus has acted in four shows and thinks he might not return to acting after “Bunkerville.” He traces his first playwriting experience to third grade, when he wrote a one-act about Watergate.

Things to watch out for in “Bunkerville” include Sonnenblick’s Gregorian music, an obscure style of music-making dating back to the Middle Ages, a set piece (that I cannot name) that was salvaged from the former Winchester factory up Science Hill and Tom Sanchez’s hand.

“The hand is a story telling the story,” Sonnenblick said. “Watch the show twice. Watch it once and then come back and watch Tom’s hand.”

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