Monday, September 06, 2010

Bedlam: Love Well, Loft Well

I walked out of Bedlam Theatre at 1501 for the last time while it was still rocking - people dancing their hearts out, like they might not dance again, to intense percussive power tools rock of Savage Aural Hotbed. I couldn't bear to see the bittersweet end, saying goodbyes as everyone left the building. I preferred to have my last memory of that place be what I remembered it most as - a place of revelry, wild abandon, a plethora of friends gathering and planning new creative endeavors, having heartfelt conversations, experiencing absurdist hilarity driving us to tears and well-timed beer can "lofts," as co-director Maren Ward instructed us - "Love well, loft well!" before tearing into a Broadway musical song gone awry such as "The Impossible Dream," and "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina."

And, as always, the best part about the building itself - the ability to offer something exciting and different happening in various rooms. Because Bedlam Theatre and Bedlam social were always so big in vision, possessing such largess in creativity, they could never be contained in just one room.

Which is why the recent space at 1501 was the best to date. From the mindblowing, hilarious and thought-provoking "Terminus," (2002, in old space) based on Sci-fi work by Polish writer Stanislaw Lem, I was hooked in. Or perhaps better, spun, as the cardboard spaceship whirled around us making us feel we were inside it - it was dizzying like a carnival ride. That's when I knew, I could never experience theatre the same again. Bedlam set new high (and low) levels of expectation from me in my theatrical entertainment - the brilliant mix of humor - from absurdist to outrageous, low-brow to high art, Bedlam was theatre that hit the heart (or kicked you in the gut) about what it means to be human.

Over the five years up till Bedlam's 2007 move to their recent space, I experienced countless Romps, cabarets with a dazzling array of skits and music, good, bad and ugly - with the nugget we'd always wait for with highest anticipation - the 5-minute movie. These were movies, usually with a cheese factor, ripe for satorization, condensed into 5 minutes. From Footloose to Top Gun, the 5 minute movies were action-packed with the highpoints of the original squished together with madness and mayhem - you could hardly follow the plot you would laugh so hard. Often the actors could barely act, they were laughing so hard.

Apropo of the maudlin, rebellious spirit of the final night, the 51st 5-minute movie was "The Empire Strikes Back," with the entire cast going pants-less by the end, the culmination of many calls to "take your pants off!!!" requests from the audience every time a male actor got on stage - which they'd readily, instantly fulfill. (However, when Jon Mac Cole was requested "take off your mustache!" he responded "take off YOUR mustache," to the mustache-less cat-caller.)

March 20, 2007: the Bedlam came in with fire performances, much as they left. The first performance in their new building featured Rah Kojis, Bedlam events coordinator and puppet master Dhann Polnau's newest fire performance, "Infiamato: An Incendiary Opera." As became their signature, the theatrical performances were followed by music, such as Spider John Koerner, Skoal Kodiak and Dreamland Faces. Dreamland Faces would go on to perform Wednesdays for a very long time - I'm not sure how long, but I do know it was a highlight of my week I looked forward to often, chilling out in my favorite bar/music venue/theatre. It was entertainment of the highest calibre, and often most unusual! offered in the coziest of spaces with great food, cheap drinks, and pretty much guaranteed you'd see friends or make new ones.

Music offered over the years at Bedlam shaped what inspires me today in our live local music scene. From the gypsy punk of the Knotwells, to the orchestral, chamber-folk of Dark Dark Dark, to the indescribable dreamy, eerie music of Dreamland Faces replete with saw and accordion of Andy and Karen and the sweet vocals of Randall Throckmorten . . . from the raucous East-Euro-styled folk of girl-bands Old Man Orville and Carpscale Orchester and more recently the grunge-punk of bands such as the Goondas and Tornado, with bands visiting while in town such as NYC's "porch-techno" the Quavers, and Alaskans Ode to the Rhodes and Spirits of the Red City. Too many to mention, suffice it to say, I now bring much of my Bedlam-tinged musical tastes to my "Spin with Cyn" radio show, and booking musical events at various venues.

Nights on the patio, watching films under the stars, then heading downstairs to dance to old-time music or djs. Planning and celebrating new creative endeavors, forming new friendships, catching up with friends from out of town, achieving solace during times of loss and heartbreak, celebrating life and good times. Countless phenomenal memories, but not enough. Unlike the addage, you never know what you've got till its gone, I always knew and appreciated what we had in Bedlam, knew its days in that location would inevitably have to end there someday. Now the time is here for a new era, hopefully one that is as good, or even better fit for this organization, unlike any other in the TCs, leaving a hole in our hearts. Today I feel like the cast of four in Last Romp skit, "Eat Cake," crying while eating the last chocolate cake, or like Miss Puss Puss, experiencing the 7 stages of grief. Yet I remain hopeful - The Bedlam is a thriving creative force that can't be contained. They will do well with a building hopefully found soon, to allow us to experience the radical beauty of Bedlam for years to come.

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