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Spider Man

David Bunce has tackled quite a few acting challenges in the past, playing everything from the avuncular narrator in Our Town to the homicidal home invader in Wait Until Dark. But there was one challenge he hadn’t faced until recently. Prior to an experience he had last month, the New York State Theatre Institute actor-instructor had never performed opposite a giant spider.

“I don’t think I’ve done anything with this level of terror,” he says. “Like any actor, I’m thinking ‘When have I been terrified, and how can I reach that?’ But when they say ‘Make that face and scream’ for the tenth time, it has more to do with making the face and screaming than searching your soul for what terror means.”

Last month, Bunce spent 12 days in Rutland, Vt., shooting his role in Arachnia, a low-budget horror flick produced by Rutland-based company Edgewood Studios. In it, he plays Professor Murgford, a paleontologist flying to Arizona when a meteor shower downs his plane in an unnamed mountain range. The meteor shower also lures “spiders the size of Volkswagens” from their subterranean domain to the earth’s surface, so Murgford and his fellow passengers become potential snacks. Bunce isn’t sure which of his character’s moments is the defining one, but he’s happy to run through the contenders:

“It could be the moment where I see the goofy graduate assistant ripped apart by the spiders and puke my guts out. It could be the moment where, during the standoff in the barn, the spider comes up through the ground and I push one of the coeds into it to avoid getting killed myself. It could be my death, where I’m surrounded by giant spiders and I run screaming like a girl. I’m sort of the Dr. Smith character from Lost in Space, because I’m almost abusively arrogant at the beginning.”

Bunce says Arachnia has plenty to thrill the exploitation-flick audience, from gore scenes to a vignette of coeds sharing a sponge bath. He adds that director Brett Piper is preparing extensive effects with stop-motion animation—the same technique used to bring King Kong to lifefc in 1933—and that the movie should be out sometime next year.

Aside from the paycheck and the work experience, Bunce says he had specific reasons for wanting to appear in a bargain-basement horror flick. “I wanted to see myself dubbed into Japanese,” he explains. “And I wanted to see the same great look on my son’s face when he talks about my film as when he mentions Bruce Campbell.” Campbell, star of such campy gorefests as Evil Dead II, is a favorite actor of young Ben Bunce, who’s now in his first year of college. “Ben said ‘All my friends are going to want to see this movie.’ ”

As for the giant spiders themselves, Bunce never saw them—because the producers didn’t have enough cash to build the monsters in their entirety. In fact, Bunce’s fellow NYSTI actor John Romeo recorded a voice-over for the Arachnia trailer in which he recited the lines “death on eight legs” and “death on six legs,” just in case budget cuts precluded a full octet of appendages.

Only parts of the monsters were ever on the set with the actors. “They had a variety of heads that could be manipulated,” he says. “One of them was intact. One of them had a removable eye so a black balloon full of chocolate pudding could be put in there—one fof the girls stabs it in the eye, so it squirts goo. And they had two heads that were in various stages of decay. And they had claws—they looked like crab claws—that could be put on people’s arms.”

So how did the actor like working with imaginary monsters? “I thought it was going to be different,” Bunce says. “I haven’t done much acting opposite things that aren’t there. But I realized that every time I rehearse at home and there’s no one there, I’m acting to nothing—so it really wasn’t a whole lot different than just rehearsing. I ended up using pretty much the same tools that I always use.”

—Peter Hanson

Village Verse

Well, it’s National Poetry Month and, fittingly, the program for one of the area’s largest poetry events has been announced. The Woodstock Poetry Festival will take over the Catskill arts village from Aug. 22 to Aug. 25. Festival headliners include beat poet, painter and publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti; U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins; past New York State Poet Sharon Olds; Li-Young Lee; Robert Kelly; and Michael McClure. Venues will include galleries, restaurants, theaters, the town library, the environmental sculpture Opus 40 and even the village streets, where spontaneous happenings will inevitably occur.

The festival had its first run last August. “There was a great response to the festival, much more than any of us working on it dreamed of,” says Laurie Ylvisaker, coordinator of last summer’s event. Ylvisaker and many of the team of organizers from last year’s event are back for another run as the festival solidifies into an annual Woodstock event. “It’s the same weekend, it’s a year later,” says Ylvisaker, who hopes “the poetry festival will become a very important part of the Woodstock cultural community.”

Gallery owner and festival board member Tom Fletcher says the festival is “here to stay—we’re already looking years ahead. I think it’s going to be part of the landscape here.”

Ylvisaker and Fletcher indicate that more emphasis will be placed this summer on enhancing the quality of festival events. According to Ylvisaker, the 2002 festival will also expand beyond last summer’s gathering in a couple of ways: A day has been added to extend the festival across four days, and the festival has forged an important collaborative effort with the nearby Omega Institute. Ferlinghetti, Collins, Lee and Olds will stay over to participate in a five-day poetry conference at Omega during the week immediately following the festival (check out www. eomega.org for details).

Fans of the Beat poets should be particularly excited to see Ferlinghetti on the festival schedule. The octogenarian is one of the few central characters among the Beats still alive and reading. He still runs the City Lights Bookstore and publishing operation in San Francisco, and spends much of his time these days working with paint instead of words. A show of Ferlinghetti’s art will open during the festival at the Kleinert gallery, and his reading at the Bearsville Theater concludes the festival’s events on Aug. 25. McClure, a fellow member of the San Francisco branch of the Beats, will also perform at the festival.

In addition to the headliners, there will be numerous reading by poets from the Ulster County area, and at least three open mikes that organizers guarantee will run well into the night. Those preferring to sleep outdoors will again have the opportunity to camp out among the curving stone walls of Harvey Fite’s Opus 40 environmental sculpture.

Fletcher noted that even though the first run of “the festival just broke even,” there are no big corporate sponsors. “The festival is funded through the sale of tickets,” he says.

According to Ylvisaker, tickets for the festival should be available in June. Tickets will be available for the full festival, individual days and specific events. Limited seating is available for many events, and tickets will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis. To find out more about the Woodstock Poetry Festival, check out their Web site at www.Woodstock poetryfestival.com or write to Woodstock Poetry Festival, Box 450, Woodstock, N.Y., 12498.

—Tom Nattell

ARt BEAT

Just as they’re celebrating their first year of presenting an eclectic assortment of live music, the bookers at the Larkin Lounge are adding poetry to their repertoire. On Sunday (April 14) at 9 PM, the Albany club will host the first installment of a new poetry-reading series; the night’s guests include Paul Felksy, Timothy Pastore and Joseph Mulligan. Want to know more? Call 463-5225. . . . The honchos at the Egg are looking for African-American community members to participate in workshops with choreographer Andrea Woods, who is developing a new dance work titled Love Letters. Woods seeks area African-Americans interested in sharing their stories of family and love, some of which will be integrated into her piece. The workshops will take place from May 7 to May 9, and interested parties should contact the Egg’s executive director, Peter Lesser, at 473-1064. . . . Send Art Beat items to phanson@metroland.net or call 463-2500 ext. 144.

—P.H.

 


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