Friday, September 3, 2010
West Bank's Loss Of Bedlam Theater Could Be NoMi's Gain...
Photos and blog post by John Hoff
Bedlam Theater, which occupies a former restaurant building near the West Bank light rail transit station, will soon be displaced by a mosque. Click here to read the Star Tribune article, and my apologies in advance if the Star Tribune link goes dead--which is why I loathe using Star Tribune links if I can possibly avoid it.
But, to make a short STrib story even shorter: Bedlam is being kicked out of its current space by its landlord, Fine Associates, because expansion of a parking lot near Riverside Plaza is going to leave a mosque homeless, and the mosque needs the space occupied by Bedlam, which only has a month-to-month lease at the former restaurant. The property management company which is displacing the mosque to build a parking lot--and is, therefore, responsible for creating this double layer of suffering by both the homeless mosque and Bedlam Theater--is a name familiar to citizens of North Minneapolis: Sherman Associates, which also runs the notoriously drug infested Hawthorn (sic) Crossings strip mall.
(To be fair, there is some anecdotal evidence Hawthorn [sic] Crossings is improving, lately)
Some weeks ago, while passing through the West Bank, I had a casual sidewalk conversation with one of the many "Bedlamites" involved in Bedlam Theater, to pick up whatever loose talk I could about where Bedlam might relocate, and to point out how welcome Bedlam would be in North Minneapolis...
First, let me say that anybody who never visited Bedlam Theater in its soon-to-be-former location has missed a real treat. There is/was a delightful bar inside, as well as (oh my word) delicious and hearty Polish cuisine. I am told the Polish food is/was a result of somebody involved in Bedlam being very in touch with his Polish heritage. Bedlam utilizes a relatively small creative space, but they pull it off with panache, presenting a variety of artistic and socially-conscious theatrical productions. Don't be fooled by the name "Bedlam." These are nice folks who run a tight ship, and "bedlam" seems to refer only to the madness of their creative process.
But now Bedlam needs to relocate, and what a shame. Prior to Bedlam occupying the long-vacant restaurant space, the West Bank light rail transit station was SCARY AND ISOLATED, so much so I actually wrote an opinion piece about this issue in the Minnesota Daily, back in the days when I was caught up in "dead tree media." But once Bedlam moved into the space next to the transit station and--after a while, in the course of time--began to utilize their roof as bar space--the scary isolation of the transit station went away. Anybody on that light rail platform who emitted a loud scream would have been heard by numerous bar patrons hanging out on the roof, many if not most of them good citizens of the socially conscious variety, as evidenced by the fact that, well, they were hanging out at Bedlam Theater. God only knows how many crimes on that light rail platform never happened because of the mere civilizing presence of Bedlam Theater.
Note the second photo from the top. This is a view of the light rail platform taken from the roof of Bedlam Theater a couple of weeks ago.
Plus, how many thirsty and hungry light rail users found their way inside for food, drink, and the use of bathrooms which, um, eschewed gender specific labels?
Will the mosque make any use of that roof? Or let folks inside to use the restroom? Will the nearby transit station be as safe with Bedlam gone? I somehow doubt all three. But what can you do? It's all the fault of Sherman Associates. Boo. Hiss. Boo. Maybe a certain theater company should write a play about Sherman Associates. Just a thought. But now for the good news:
According to my "sidewalk informant," North Minneapolis is one of the locations being considered by Bedlam Theater.
This is exciting news. Frankly, I hope Bedlam Theater not only relocates to my neighborhood, but I hope they become vested property owners.
(Raising a glass from Dixieland, where work has taken me for the time being)
"To Bedlam in NoMi!"