'Symphony' sounds more like cowboy show

Ryan Underbakke hopes his parents enjoy "The 7-Shot Symphony," his new play opening April 28 at the Jon Hassler Theater in Plainview. After all, they are his target audience.

"Every artist has an audience in their mind," said Underbakke, a Rochester native and John Marshall High School graduate. "For me, my parents are those people. I want them to understand the show and more importantly, to have a good time."

"The 7-Shot Symphony" was developed by Underbakke for Live Action Set , a Minneapolis-based theater company. The show mixes physical theater, live music, epic myth and cowboys. Seven actors play 47 characters in a high-speed, Spaghetti Western for the stage. It has been described as "avant garde for the masses," but Underbakke said that sounds too high-falutin'.

"The masses I'm interested in, the avant garde not so much," he said. "At the end of the day, it's a cowboy show. That's what I want people to walk away with."

Underbakke, a self-described "delinquent" in high school, was in plays at Rochester Civic Theatre and majored in theater at the University of Minnesota. He did theater and improv in the Twin Cities before moving on to the Stella Adler Academy for Film and Television in Los Angeles.


"I started doing film work and I thought, 'This is fine, but I'm not really enjoying myself," Underbakke said. He moved to London where he earned a master of fine arts from the London International School of Performing Arts.

Back in the Twin Cities, Underbakke got involved with Live Action Set. "I said, 'I've got this cowboy idea, maybe some people will like it,'" he said.

It turns out more than some people like it. "The 7-Shot Symphony" won the 2011 Ivey Award for Best Overall Production and Overall Excellence, and is booked through next February.

"It's incredible," Underbakke said. "We rehearsed most of it in my apartment. It's the underdog show of underdog shows."

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