News Column

Bedlam Lowertown celebrates grand opening Saturday

May 29, 2014

By Kathy Berdan, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.



May 29--Bedlam has seen its share of chaos.

The theater company, which lost its performance space in Minneapolis' Cedar Riverside neighborhood in 2010, announced in late 2011 it would be moving into a space on Fourth Street in Lowertown St. Paul. Union Depot across the street was still undergoing its massive makeover. The light-rail stop outside the front door was just a mess on Fourth.

Now, trains are running at the depot, light-rail service begins in a couple of weeks and Bedlam Lowertown celebrates its grand opening Saturday.

While Bedlam Lowertown already has been hosting some performances, founder and chief artistic director John Bueche said this weekend's grand opening marks the start of food and drinks at the location.

Plans changed plenty of times as Bedlam took over the space, which formerly housed Rumors & Innuendos bar and nightclub.

"We weren't able to use anything that was here before," Bueche said. "The upside is we were able to make the space do what we wanted it to do."

That means flexible stages with separate lighting and sound systems -- one at the front of the building and one along the wall -- that will be used for everything from live theater and readings to music and dance.

"Live music is really important to our programming," Bueche said.

The Bedlam Lowertown bar has 12 beer taps and plans are for the full kitchen to serve from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week. "We're calling the menu 'plants and animals,' " Bueche said, "aiming for lots of local and made-from scratch." Expect salads and sandwiches, hotdogs from Heartland restaurant and a dinner menu with fish and ribs.

And, to Bueche's dismay, the kitchen re-do added a fryer, after Bedlam staff convinced him a late-night menu needs french fries.

Bedlam Theatre was started in 1993. The company also has a design and warehouse space in Minneapolis.

At Bedlam Lowertown, exposed brick walls, art graffiti on the bathroom walls and wood plank floors (that were buried under 5 inches of concrete) give the space a casual, hipster vibe.

New funding has come from ArtPlace and the Minnesota Philanthropy Partners, according to the Bedlam website. Bedlam received a $150,000Cultural Star grant from the city of St. Paul over two years, said Joe Spencer, St. Paul's director of arts and culture.

Spencer said Bedlam Lowertown is "a great way to fortify the artist district in Lowertown." Development (including the new St. Paul Saints ballpark) in Lowertown has some artists concerned about a changing neighborhood.

"Bedlam is a signal to them that Lowertown will remain a strong, vibrant arts community," said Spencer, who called the performances at Bedlam Lowertown adventurous and radical.

One thing that didn't change since work started on Bedlam Lowertown was the vision for the space to connect Union Depot out front with an alleyway to Mears Park out the back door. And step into the alley to see the St. Paul Farmers' Market.

"It's like a corridor," Bueche said.

Kathy Berdan can be reached at 651-228-2096. Follow her on Twitter @KathyBerdan.

IF YOU GO

What: Bedlam Lowertown

Where: 213 Fourth St., St. Paul

Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week

Info: lowertown@bedlamtheatre.org or bedlamtheatre.org/bedlam-lowertown/

Grand opening festivities: Sample food, tour the new space from noon to 2 a.m. Saturday. The schedule includes kid- and adult-friendly puppet workshops, cabaret, live music and an official ribbon cutting with St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

On the calendar: "The Beast" by Ryan Underbakke opens June 13 at Bedlam Lowertown. It's described as "a haunting tragic tale of Northern Minnesota blending dance and physical theater." Underbakke conceived, directed and co-wrote the Ivey Award-winning "7-Shot Symphony." After "The Beast," he will be creating an immersive theatrical event of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" at Children's Theatre Company in the summer of 2015.

___

(c)2014 the Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.)

Visit the Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.) at www.twincities.com

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Source: Saint Paul Pioneer Press (MN)


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