Bedlam Theatre support fills hole

The theater teaches students to take chances in performing arts.

Maren Ward, host of the Hole-a-thon, speaks into a camera Thursday at the Bedlam Theater.

Image by Matt Mead

Maren Ward, host of the ‘Hole-a-thon’, speaks into a camera Thursday at the Bedlam Theater.

by Ashley Bray

On May 4, Bedlam TheatreâÄôs tech director noticed cracks in the floor of the theatreâÄôs lounge room. While investigating the cracks, the floor caved in around him. The culprit was a plumbing leak that destroyed the roomâÄôs framework and soaked through the floor joists. By May 6, the entire floor had been removed, and the non-profit theater began wondering how to fill the hole. An outpouring of support from volunteers, artist, students and community members led Bedlam staff to address a bigger question: âÄúWhat hole does Bedlam Theatre fill for the community and the University of Minnesota?âÄù To many students in the UniversityâÄôs theater program, Bedlam is more than just a place to perform. âÄúFor me, it is an artistic home that is close to the University,âÄù said George McConnell, a University Ph.D. student in theater historiography. One of BedlamâÄôs missions is encouraging risk-taking and experimentation in theater beyond what students are taught in the classroom. Students value the idea of trying new things in theater and taking a chance instead of performing a show that is a guaranteed money-maker, said theater senior Billy Mullaney. âÄúI think it is really refreshing to have an arts organization in our community which vehemently supports experimentation and risk,âÄù Mullaney said. Mullaney became involved with Bedlam last summer after attending several plays there. He said it is very rare to find an organization that supports creative values, especially as arts organizations are more concerned about staying afloat by putting on what he called âÄúsafe showsâÄù than encouraging actors to try new things. Bedlam is also a place where community members organize for political causes and discuss community issues. Many activists and artists spend time on the West Bank and come to Bedlam for those reasons, Ben Marcy, a recent graduate of the UniversityâÄôs theater program said. During the Republican National Convention, Bedlam became a congregating place. âÄúIt was a place to gather and have a discussion,âÄù McConnell said, not just for anti-Republicans or anti-democrats. All political affiliations are welcome to come and talk about what is going on. âÄúWhether you agree or disagree with whatâÄôs going on, this is a place to have a dialogue,âÄù McConnell said. BedlamâÄôs monthly dance party BOMP! is also popular among students. The dance party features popular music and is highly attended, especially by students on the West Bank, Marcy said. Bedlam also features a restaurant and bar where students gather to relax or spend time together. âÄúSome people come here just for plays, some people come for the BOMP!. Some people come here to organize, and some people just come for a beer,âÄù McConnell said. âÄúAnd besides, you canâÄôt find a view of downtown this great anywhere on campus.âÄù