Bedlam Lowertown’s final night fittingly featured a Dia de los Muertos theme. With art, music, and an ofrenda alter that had candles, pictures, and notes to loved ones, the evening was imbued with a melancholy mood. Participants weren't just honoring the Mexican celebration of the dead, they were mourning the closing of Lowertown’s funky hot spot as well.
The news of Bedlam losing the space comes less than a year after Patrick’s Cabaret was forced to move out of its. Both spots hosted artists of multiple disciplines, inclusing music, theater, cabaret, and dance. Artists from all kinds of different backgrounds found a home in both spaces, and their absence raises the questions of what might replace them.
“I’m feeling kind of emotional,” says Nora O’Brien of Hot Date, one of the bands that played for the last night of Bedlam. Hot Date has been performing at Bedlam Lowertown since it opened. “I feel like we’ve been kind of the house band. We can be full on rock 'n' roll, or we can just do covers and play with the romp and handle beer cans being lodged at us. We kind of naturally connected with the nature of Bedlam.”
Hot Date plays at music venues like the Fine Line, the Amsterdam, and 7th St. Entry in addition to touring, but O’Brien says they’re on the lookout for a new home for their unique genre-crossing style.
“It’s going to take energy and it’s going to take fortitude and it’s going to take weirdness,” she says of replacing a venue like Bedlam.
Hot Date perform at Bedlam ealier this year.
Erinn Liebhard, who runs Rhythmically Speaking, a dance company that has performed at both Patrick’s Cabaret and Bedlam, says one of the benefits of the Twin Cities, and the reason artists move here, is its affordability. Recent closings, however, are a concern.
“Right now it does seem like a crisis,” Liebhard says. “Earlier in my career, there were more places. The Ritz was available, and the protocol was clear. Patrick’s Cabaret had its protocols for open-call cabarets. Right now is a challenging period of time, and a lot of relatively established companies like Zorongo are examining their resources and asking, 'How we can look outside the box?'”
Liebhard plans to produce her next show at Icehouse. “I’m more interested in social venues,” she says. “I’m really interested in spaces that have understanding of multiple art forms, serve beer, and don't expect people to hold their hands in their laps.”
As for where artists will start looking in the future, Liebhard mentions the Phoenix, on Hennepin in Uptown, as a place that showcases a variety of artists.
Susana di Palma had thought Bedlam would be the perfect place for her upcoming performance of Los Caprichos, which opens this weekend. Her flamenco dance company, Zorongo, has used the space in the past. For this particular show, she wanted to do it in a cabaret style with drinks and the ability to perform scenes all over the space.
When she found out that Bedlam Lowertown was closing, di Palma had to do some quick thinking about where to perform. She went to various venues in St. Paul, and found that people were very helpful and welcoming.
“It was a really good experience, just how they rallied with enthusiasm,” she says. As luck would have it, Park Square had availability on its proscenium space, and gave Zorongo a good deal.
For the dance community in particular, finding space can be tough, especially if you’re not large enough to be able to perform at the Cowles Center. The Ritz, another venue that had been a great place for dance, is now home to Theatre Latte Da, and not available for rentals. There are other larger dance venues in town, such as the O’Shaughnessy, Northrop, and the Lab, but for scrappy local independent artists those aren’t always a possibility. The Southern’s ArtShare model has afforded some opportunities for dance, but still, the need for affordable performance space is great.
“Dance is one of the unsung heroes of the art world,” di Palma says. “We’re the lowest on the priority.” She notes the loss of the Sage Awards for dance as another blow. “There’s no united place where choreographers and dancers can come together to solve problems.”
“It’s hard without a dance alliance,” says choreographer and dance curator Laurie Van Wieren, who is performing a solo show at the Southern later this month. “We don’t have an infrastructure and people working together to help each other.”
However, it’s far from time to completely lose hope. The Twin Cities has a very strong tradition of not only dance, but the multiple types of performances that places like Bedlam and Patrick’s Cabaret supported. What the future holds for those two organizations is one thing, but there is so much energy, creativity, zaniness, and pluck among Twin Cities artists that there’ll always be somewhere to find them.