Bedlam closes, it’s curtains for internships

The theater’s lease will be terminated and a new location has not been found.

Mukhtar Ibrahim

When the West Bank’s Bedlam Theatre closes its doors Sept. 7 to make way for a displaced mosque, the community will lose more than a place to see a show.

University of Minnesota theater and dance students will also lose a place to showcase their talents and fine-tune their crafts.

“It’s going to remove a place where I can go outside of school to do theater,” said Willson Borchert, a University theater student. “It’s a removal of opportunity for me.”

Fine Associates, the company that owns the Bedlam’s property, announced it would terminate the theater’s lease Aug. 31 to accommodate a mosque that was displaced due to the Riverside Plaza’s renovation project.

Sonja Kuftinec, University associate professor of theatre arts and dance and director of undergraduate studies, said many students will feel the impact of the theater’s move.

“A lot of our students had been doing external theater work and kind of getting their start as directors and as actors at Bedlam,” she said.

It’s disappointing that the theater is losing the space in that location, Kuftinec said, because of the community-building work that took place there — not only with the University, but with the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood.

The Bedlam Theatre, located within walking distance of the University’s West Bank campus, provides a wealth of opportunities for University theatre arts and dance students.

Some theater students, for example, have done their senior projects at the Bedlam, Kuftinec said. Others choose to attend performances there to meet class requirements.

The Bedlam Theatre moved to its current location in 2007 from its home of 10 years at 504 Cedar Ave.

In early May, a group of University students helped restore a floor that had collapsed in the theater’s lounge room, the result of a plumbing leak that damaged the framework and soaked through the floor joists.

The University’s department of theatre arts and dance has been working to develop even more connections with the Bedlam, such as providing students with the opportunity to intern in different departments at the theater, Kuftinec said.

“We had students who volunteered in the marketing and development office,” she said, “and eventually became the managing or the marketing director for a short period of time.”

John Bueche, the theater’s executive artistic director, said they are still looking for a “good home somewhere else,” and hope to relocate near the University.

Students who have helped out at the Bedlam — either through technical operations, performance or in another capacity — learned a great deal about the inner workings of a theater, Kuftinec said.

While helping out at the theater doing technical work, Borchert said he regularly attended the venue’s shows.

“I am going to miss a lot of the musical performances there,” he said. “They were able to get a lot of local bands to play there … It was a place to see new things.”