Photo by Farrington Starnes
The gang at Bedlam Theatre is taking over Lowertown this weekend for The Big Lowdown: Lowertown Playground, an evening of games and performances presented in collaboration with Placebase Productions. Audiences will wander to different spots around the neighborhood where they'll participate in an interactive experience of theater and play, learning about the history of the area as a bonus.
Photo by Farrington Starnes
The event takes place around a six-square-block area, focusing its theme on the idea of Lowertown as a playground. "The context of the whole project is a summer evening where night games are used as a performative activity," says director Andrew Gaylord, from Placebase Productions. Drawing on people's memories of after-dinner children's games outside, the Big Lowdown uses games as a starting point for the performances.
It's the second year that Bedlam is producing the Big Lowdown, but Gaylord says this year there will be a little bit more of a narrative throughline, with the majority of the pieces taking place outdoors. While there isn't one story that carries from piece to piece, they each grow out of the spaces in which they take place. Performers use alleyways, cobblestones, pillars, loading docks, and old brick buildings as the foundations for new adventures that deconstruct familiar children's games such as Capture the Flag and Red Light Green Light.
While games act as the starting point for the performances, Gaylord says the performers don't only play games. "It's also a performance," he says. That being said, you're encouraged to wear comfortable shoes and clothing.
There are eight stages that the performers inhabit, with guides who lead six audience groups through the journey. The guides are larger-than-life characters who will engage the audience in the history of the neighborhood.
"I think a big part of the show is getting to know the neighborhood," Gaylord says.
Before it was hipster capital of the world
, Lowertown had a history of being an industrial and transportation center. In the 1800s, Lowertown grew around Lowertown Landing, where steamboats connected to St. Paul. Eventually factories and warehouses popped up, and in the late 1870s trains started coming through as well. In 1881, the first Union Depot was built, which burned down, and was rebuilt in the 1920s.
The project is similar to the work of Placebase Productions, which Gaylord runs with Ashley Hanson, who acts as producer for The Big Lowdown. Typically, the company is invited into a community to collect stories about a significant place and create a play in that space with the people of the community. They've created shows in Granite Falls and Fergus Falls, and are currently working on a show in New Ulm and New London.
Since Bedlam just opened its new space a couple of months ago, Gaylord says the Big Lowdown is a chance to introduce the neighborhood to what Bedlam is all about. "Bedlam has shown so much interest in getting out into the neighborhood and exploring its identity with the performing arts," he says.
The Big Lowdown: Lowertown Playground
7 p.m. (there's a happy hour before from 4-7 p.m.) Friday through Sunday
$12, $8 for Bedlam members (which also gets you happy hour deals). No one turned away for lack of funds.