It didn't happen overnight. TO SHINING SEA charts the evolution of American Imperialism through 500 years of history using the words of our fearsome leaders alongside centuries of popular wisdom, buried histroy, and oft-fogotten facts in a fast-moving satirical spectacular.
HIT SHOW HITS HOME AGAIN: Back at Bedlam for two weeks only! Originally created in 2002, "To Shining Sea" toured the Midwest and East Coast in 2004, bring a savory taste of Minneapolis political theater to audiences in Chicago, Detroit, Saginaw, Philadelphia, and New York City. Now we're back for a two-week revival on our home turf, as part of Bedlam's Great American History Season 2006. Don't miss your chance to catch this gem.
Featuring John Bueche, Rah Kojis, Tom Snell, Ivan Weiner, Heather Wilson, and, of course, the one and only, eternally innocent AMERIBABY. With Nikki Williams behind the scenes.
OPENING NIGHT, Friday February 24th, is a benefit performance for both Minneapolis' ANTI-WAR COMMITTEE and University of Minnesota's ANTI-WAR ORGANIZING LEAGUE. All ticket sales will be split between these two worthy neighbors.
On Saturday, February 25th, after To SHINING SEA: the Minnesota Spoken Word Association presents SIZZLING SPOKEN WORD artists--Danez Smith & Tish Jones--MN Quest for the Voice Finalists and 2006 Youth Team Members representing MN at the Brave New Voices International Youth Slam Festival in NYC!
After both Sunday matinees, stick around for panel discussions:
* Sunday Feb. 24th - About the Art: Shining Sea as Political Theater for the new millenium - what worked what didn't. With moderator Jim Bovino of Flaneur Productions.
* Sunday Mar. 5th - About the Politics: "The American Global Empire vs. We the People - lessons from the past, where do we go from here."
On Monday, February 27th we welcome a live audience to our special video-shoot performance. Cameras will be rolling and in our faces and we may stop and start. (Who knows, might even be more fun then the regular show.)
"... audacious, adventurous ... this free-wheeling foray into political protest is one of avant-theatre's true shining hours. " Dwight Hobbes, InSight News, Minneapolis on "To Shining Sea" (2002)
Bedlam Theatre: Quality Avant-Garde Dwight Hobbes, Pulse of the Twin Cities, Minneapolis You don’t need to be insane to start a theater company but, of course, it does help. In the case of Bedlam Theatre, it not only helps, but has proven to be essential. For openers, to think avant garde theater—sans PC values or racial or sexual minority status to get in on multi-culti funding—has a snowball’s chance of attracting strong support you have to be nuts. Secondly, avant garde theater—producing absurdist scripts that count not on oddness for the sake of being odd but sound writing instead—calls for a creative mind inherently crazy as an outhouse rat. You have to get weird and make sense at the same time.
Point in case, Bedlam’s next production, “To Shining Sea: The Imperial American History Pageant” by co-artistic director John Francis Bueche and founding company member Julian McFaul. The venue’s flagship production is zany, hard-hitting stuff with outlandish humor that brings home sobering truths. In its travels, being performed at other theaters (including Theater for the New City/NYC, Breadline Theater/Chicago) after initially premiering at Bedlam Studio, “To Shining Sea” has gone through several incarnations—from a one-act, surrealistic game-show format to winding up as a full blown, off-the-wall history pageant. The gist remains: a wry, fact-based script, solid acting and ridiculous antics reveal the absurd horror of America, the self-righteous bastion of freedom, as a greedy, ruthless stronghold of rabid xenophobes with an insatiable hunger for other people’s resources, and an unquenchable thirst for foreign oil. Beautifully, the show delivers an indictment without having to stand on a soapbox. Another wildly effective Bedlam production (the opening for the premiere was packed), “Terminus,” is a supernatural sci-fi story adapted by Bueche and McFaul from Stanislaw Lem’s “Tales of Pilot Pirx.” In an inspired staging move by director McFaul, the stage expands to encompass the audience, whose side of the imaginary fourth wall seats them in outer space, attending goings-on aboard a cargo ship where humankind is pitted against that high-tech testament to hubris, artificial intelligence. Whether making political commentary or social statements, Bueche and cohorts’ consistently artful approach makes the hardest theater genre there is look as easy as falling off a log. While being so strapped for cash, they’re lucky they can pay attention, let alone the bills.
Once in a while good guys win. Come June, the maverick shoe-string outfit gets to rock and roll with a real budget (about triple their usual bankroll) for this season’s finale “West Bank Story,” produced at Mixed Blood Theatre. Success by mere association with Mixed Blood’s high profile could help move Bedlam from the salvage-things-by-the-seat-of-your-pants periphery to overdue recognition, and, if not the kind of bread they’ve always deserved, at least better funding than these daring and resourceful riders of the theatrical range have seen to date.
Two years ago, Mixed Blood artistic director Jack Reuler, whose outfit has been part of the West Bank community for more than a quarter century, got wind of the project and invited Bueche to stage it at Reuler’s shop. “It’s a more than a rental,” Bueche notes. “They put in their season brochure. It’s part of their Ethno-Metro Pass, so you can get, like, sort of season tickets even to guest productions.” He adds, “We want to reach out to more of the community. Doing it at Mixed Blood makes sense for that.” Anything short of robbery or drug-peddling is a step up from relying on the box office take and what company members can spare from their day jobs to augment the occasional and much appreciated Metropolitan Regional Arts Council grant. Established in 1993, Bedlam didn’t get any big-time funding until 2002 brought a taste from the McKnight Foundation. Bagging Mixed Blood as the venue didn’t hurt at all when it came to raising capital to put “West Bank Story” on the boards. Also, Bueche and co-artistic director Maren Ward bent their backs to the wheel, making tough choices to sustain Bedlam Theatre. “Last spring,” Bueche recalls, “we had reality check. It’s been 12 years and wrangling the chaos isn’t as easy as it was when we were 25. Me and Maren are tapped, more and more of other people’s stuff. When we want to do something big that really reaches out ‘West Bank Story,’ there’s no support.” So, they had to stop spreading their energies too thin, rein things in and keenly focus on the home front. “‘West Bank Story’ has been a Noah’s Ark of neighborhood networking; we got some money in the bank—and, dear God I pray—we’re ready to come out of the chutes again.”
The production is a particularly ambitious musical celebrating Minneapolis’ West Bank. Composed by Marya Hart, book & lyrics by Bueche, it’s culled, with the help of University of Minnesota student interns, from tales and histories, including articles, interviews and conversations, to represent West Bank folk, past and present. “It’s been created,” says Bueche, “with community input historical research. And currently through a night class with some Somali students and Second Foundation Students at the Volunteers of America School. Bedlam celebrating its 10 years in the neighborhood by celebrating the neighborhood’s history.”
The funky little shop that could—which began out of what Bueche calls the founding members’ “high-camp sensibility and political inklings”—isn’t doing too bad for itself and is in good shape to do better than ever before.
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To Shining Sea
Big Ole's Theater for Revolutionary Arts: The First 100 Years
Freewheeling in the Attic of Whim
The Bedlam Community Ten Minute Play Festival