A rehearsal photo from Threepenny Productions’ production of Fools, Errant. Photo by Scott Gilbert.
This latest installment of the Fringe File series shines a spotlight on Thomas Buan, an actor in Threepenny Productions’ production of Fools, Errant. This spin on the classic novel Don Quixote was written by Amy Seham and engages with themes of environmental justice.
You went to college at Gustavus Adolphus. At what point did you decide to migrate to the Twin Cities?
I’m originally from the Twin Cities, having grown up in Chanhassen, so moving back to the Cities was always in my mind as an option if I decided not to go to grad school. As graduation approached, I realized that continuing my education right after college wasn’t as attractive an option to me as it had once appeared. I decided to move with some friends to Saint Paul and experience all Minneapolis and Saint Paul have to offer.
It helped that many Gustie arts alumni (or, The Black and Yellow Mafia) are up here, which provided a nice in-road and networking opportunity once I had escaped the suburbs the summer following commencement.
How long did it take you to do your first show in the Twin Cities? What was your role and what company was it with?
I self-produced a few Fringe shows in 2015 and 2016 (Under Current -or- The Helium Play, and The Invention of Baseball), but those probably don’t count.
After that, I took a break from auditioning for a while to focus on getting a financial safety net set up, and my first role with an established company in the cities was playing Roland Crabbe in Theatre in the Round Players’ 2017 production of Taking Steps.
When did you first hear about the Minnesota Fringe Festival? When did you do your first Fringe show, and what was it?
I first heard about the MN Fringe from fellow Gusties my first year at Gustavus, and attended my first fringe show in 2014.
I would have attended in 2013, but I was working at a summer camp that overlapped with the festival, so my first Fringe foray felt a bit tardy. My first show that I participated in was in 2015, Under Current -or- The Helium Play. It was, in a phrase I overheard from an audience member leaving after curtain, “Really fucking weird”.
UC was a collaboration with my friend Brady; we were analyzing mental illnesses like schizophrenia and depression through the lens of a 90’s sitcom. We had an opening theme song and everything. In retrospect, I totally agree with that audience member. I’d love to remount it at some point after a few rewrites and a much higher budget. But isn’t that everyone’s reaction to their own Fringe shows?
How did you end up in this show?
Our playwright, Amy Seham, actually wrote this play for Chase Adelsman and I! We found out about it after the lottery, which was a pretty fun surprise. After that, we needed a director; we lucked into working with Scott Gilbert, who has been an absolute joy to collaborate with. 10/10, would recommend.
Your show takes some inspiration from Don Quixote. This is one of those classic works that many more Americans know about than have read. How did you first encounter it?
Believe it or not, before I became involved with this show I was one of those Americans who had really only experienced Don Quixote through the cultural zeitgeist, references, and whatnot (and of course, Man of La Mancha, which is a great musical…but, as I eventually realized, a pretty atrocious adaptation of Cervantes’ novel). Before our rehearsal process started I brushed up on Quixote and read parts of the book.
Many actors work some odd jobs over the years – some onstage, some off. What’s one of your oddest ones?
I guess the oddest job I’ve worked would be as a Segway Tour Guide. I’ve been doing that the last three summers and it has been so. much. fun. I love history, and being able to share the stories of our two cities nearly every day with visitors and locals alike is an absolute delight, to say nothing of the Segways themselves. If you’ve never ridden one you are missing out. Sure, those Birds that debuted earlier this month are a fun way to get around on two electric wheels, but nowhere near the most fun way. Plus, the tour itself is basically an interactive three hour moving play!
What’s a favorite aspect of Fools, Errant?
The people I’m working with. A two-hander is difficult to pull off in the first place, SO MANY LINES, SO FEW BREAKS, and if I don’t enjoy my collaborators then even the most fun script can feel like a depressing slog. Luckily, Chase, Scott, and Amy are all lovely humans and I feel like we’ve had no major issues during the process. I’ve known Chase for 5 years (we both attended Gustavus), but we’ve never played directly opposite each other before, so F,E feels like a real treat.
Tell me about your character in the show.
My character, Don Quinlan, is inspired by Don Quixote (though not a direct Quixote Clone). He’s a passionate and involved, though somewhat self-sabotaging Political Science teacher at a magnet school in an unspecified American city. In a previous life, Don was an inspired environmental activist, though that life left him more than a bit jaded. Don and his brother Sam are very much products of American Popular Culture, so their banter is chock full of references from Laurel and Hardy to Star Trek to Bruce Springsteen. As the play begins, Don has entered an election for a seat on the city council as an exercise for his students. Things don’t necessarily go as planned (and in politics, when do they ever?) and Don ends up in a very different race than anyone anticipated.
How would you describe the experience of seeing Fools, Errant? Who should come see it?
Uff da, that’s a tough one. I hope the experience is a good one. The show is very much a comedy, so hopefully the audience finds it as funny as we do. All good comedies have some depth to them, so I hope the show moves a few people as well. You should come see Errant if you enjoy politics, the environment, Don Quixote, vaudeville routines, superhero movies, Sir Patrick Stewart, laughing, or sandwiches. Not because sandwiches have anything to do with the show, but because I feel that sandwiches are one of humanity’s greatest achievements and that if you enjoy them you’re probably a good person and we should be friends.
What’s coming up for you after Fringe?
After Fringe I’ll be applying to be a guide for few International touring agencies, including Adventures by Disney. I’ve done a fair amount of traveling and it’s one of my favorite things in the world; I feel like I’m at my personal best when I’m living out of a suitcase. Our planet is such an amazing place, and even though society feel a bit dark right now, every time we make a connection with someone different from ourselves, or encounter something unfamiliar, understanding spreads and the world gets just a bit brighter. I want to be a part of making that happen. Also, I’m always on the lookout for a job that would allow me to pursue my performance passion, and like I said earlier, taking a tour is like being involved in a long form interactive play. After all, all the world’s a stage.
Basil was named one of Musical America's 30 Professionals of the Year in 2017.