Bedlam gets the boot

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July 5, 2010 // UPDATED 2:55 pm - July 15, 2010
By: Gregory J. Scott
Gregory J. Scott

The BOMP!s and the ROMP!s, the Fireside Room and the exquisite roof top patio, those delightfully ambiguous non-gendered bathrooms — better enjoy them while you can. Come Sept. 7, the Bedlam Theater needs to vacate its current West Bank building, at 1501 S. 6th St.

The popular theater has occupied the space, which formerly housed Baja Riverside Café, since early 2007, operating under a month-to-month lease with landlord Fine Associates.

According to a July 15 press release, on June 30 the theater was notified that its lease would be terminated in order to accommodate another community organization, the Darul Quba mosque, displaced by the ongoing Riverside Plaza renovation project. The mosque’s current home will be demolished to ease parking at Riverside Plaza, which is owned by another West Bank developer, Sherman Associates.

“This is Minneapolis’ most dense neighborhood, so space is limited,” said Bedlam’s Executive Artistic Director John Bueche. “And they [Darul Quba] are in such direct proximity to the population in the Plaza. Their entire constituency is right there.

“And we certainly interact with the neighborhood quite a bit, but we draw from all over the city. So I think that’s really the basic calculus. When it came down to who might go six to eight blocks away, it makes more sense that it’s us.”

Still, the timing is bad for the Bedlam, which is gearing up to once again serve as Fringe Central, “the official hangout” for the annual, 10-day experimental theater event. The Bedlam plays host to an opening night party on Aug. 5 and will stay busy through Aug. 14, when they’ll host the announcement of the Fringe Encore.

The theater also has just finished restoring a collapsed floor, with renovations paid for by Fine Associates, which will reopen this weekend.

Bueche said that Bedlam will be moving their offices during Fringe, but the festival programming “is gonna be totally intact.” Scouting missions for a new location have begun, and Bueche cited both Redesign — a Seward-based, nonprofit community development corporation — and the city’s department of Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED) as close allies in the housing hunt.

“Hopefully by the end of July we’ll be having a more precise answer of where we’re going,” said Bueche.

He added that Bedlam wants to stay near the West Bank/Riverside neighborhood, which has been a huge part of the theater’s identity. He mentioned a wish list that includes a permanent outdoor stage and a second indoor stage for longer running shows.

He also wants a green roof.

“Our recent board member, he’s a founding member of the Minnesota Green Roofs Council,” Bueche said. “He said when we moved into this space that we couldn’t have a green roof until we owned a building. That will definitely be the plan.”