Pure Bedlam

BEG, BORROW, AND Steal: The Making of Crime and Punishment: The Musical is the name of a new "mockumentary" video born of the fresh young minds at Bedlam Theatre. A West Bank collective best known for its outdoor happenings featuring macho puppets, Bedlam has hit on a damn clever idea with this tape: A scrounging theater prostitutes itself to corporate and foundation funders alike in order to produce its "dream project," the abovementioned musical embarrassment. The thespians start off clueless--says one, "I heard there's a guy named Jerome, Jerome McKnight. He gives out a lot of money"--but they quickly learn their part in the arcane courtship dance of arts granting. Product placement becomes key: Raskolnikov is to kill the pawnbroker lady and her daughter with Top Flight golf clubs and subscribe to Guns and Ammo, which will be placed conspicuously on a table.

Bedlam, a self-funded six-person collective, didn't expect their video to become a satire. Says Bedlam's Maren Ward, "Two years ago, we'd just finished our biggest show to date (100 Years of Pure Shit: A Centennial Aberration of Ubu Roi), and we decided we should start trying to look into funding. We were also trying to figure out what to do next, so we decided to do a creative project about the process of funding. We wrote our first grant to the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC) for this, and we got it."

The film features earnest interviews from those early days with development directors at Theatre de la Jeune Lune and Penumbra; reps from MRAC and the McKnight Foundation; and a corral of low-budget artists, including director Jay Scheib, director Erica Christ, choreographer Myron Johnson, and many others. Bedlam's cheeky editing produces a narrative setting in which everyone wears varying shades of idiocy and pathos. (The most surreal clips feature a chance encounter with Dave Pirner outside Brit's Pub, in which the unsuspecting rock star is hit up for support: "Send me a script," he mumbles.)

In spite of amateurish production values, the tape is hilarious, and its ultimate victims are artists themselves--at least those who operate with an assumption of entitlement, or those who failed to agitate for the NEA when they had the chance. The opening epigram from playwright Suzan-Lori Parks says it all: "Overweight Southern senators are easy targets. They too easily become the focal point of all evil, allowing the arts community to willfully ignore our own bigotry, our own petty evils, our own intolerance, which--evil senators or no--will be the death of the arts."

FROM THE TOO-weird-to-be-fake files, we received the following press release last week: "C.J., the Star Tribune columnist, will make a special guest performance in the community play entitled Good Kids and Peachy Dancers at the IHM-St. Luke's school... The play is about the relationship of two very different sisters who in the end are at the steps of heaven ready to testify on each other' behalf when up center aisle into heaven walks C.J. to get the real story about what it takes to get into heaven. You go, girl!"

Going, going, gone.

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