“A Beast/A Burden” — Not Your Average Animal

“What is art? I honestly don’t care.”

Chris Burden

By Ernest Kearney   —  If most non-artists know the name Chris Burden (1946-2015), it is for the art installation “Urban Light,” in front of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Wilshire Boulevard, featuring 202 antique street lamps that once provided illumination to neighborhoods scattered throughout the city.


But early on, during the ‘70s and early ‘80s, Burden was the mad man of the art world, with performance pieces that skirted the line between artistry and atrocity.


In 1973 there was “Fire Roll,” in which Burden rolled about in the flames of a pair of pants he had passed among his friends before soaking them with lighter fuel, igniting them just prior to his plunge.


And there was “Trans-fixed” (1974) a performance piece in which Burden had himself crucified on a Volkswagen Beetle with nails driven through both hands.


When asked about these extreme actions and the danger involved, Burden was famous for saying, “I’ll explode rather than evaporate.”


A Beast/A Burden, written and directed by Billy Ray Brewton, follows Burden (Ben Hethcoat) over the course of the ‘70s, focusing on three of his most outrageous performance pieces, including the filming of “Shoot” in 1971 in which a handful of friends gathered to watch him being shot in the arm by a 22-caliber rifle.  (Click HERE to view on YouTube)

It also recounts the breakup of his marriage to Barbara Burden (Jessica Deshaw); the artist managed to make even that event into a performance piece.


The script by Brewton is solid, as is his direction.  Hethcoat and Deshaw are both exceptional in their depiction of a young couple being torn apart by the creative drive that fuels, only, one of them.

Fringe Award-Gold Medal-The TVolution

The rest of the cast Leah Lamarr, Brennan Murray, Anthony Rey Perez and Corsica Wilson fill multiple roles with the ease and distinction that comes of talent.


A Beast/A Burden is a brief and first-rate introduction to one of the contemporary art world’s more perplexing figures.


For that a GOLD MEDAL.



♦      ♦      ♦

A Beast/A Burden

Has Been Extended:

Friday, Saturday June 29, 2018 @ 8:00 pm


Saturday, Sunday June 30, 2018 @ 5:00 pm

 Go To http://hff18.org/4940 for Complete Information, Tickets and Reservations


The Broadwater (Black Box)
6322 Santa Monica Blvd

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Written by

An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. Kearney remains focused on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. His stage reviews and social essays can be found at TheTVolution.com and workingauthor.com. Follow him on Facebook.

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