Music venues close, Bedlam shows the love

By now, regulars to the Times Bar and Cafe in northeast Minneapolis, along with its friendly downstairs cabaret, Jitters, have had to find another place to catch some live music. Both closed, at least temporarily, last week. This isn’t the first time the Times has had to retool, of course. It was famously bumped from Nicollet Mall when Target barged in many years ago. The closings are the latest in a string of other music venues lost to the times, as it were, in the past including Babalu, Rossi’s, Sophia, and La Bodega.

Jazz music, particularly, takes the hit, as noted on the KBEM website. So here’s what you do: you get your cold self over to the Artists’ Quarter tonight and warm up with Debbie Duncan, the fab local singer who probably made the rounds of those places more than anyone. And you make a donation to KBEM, whose fund drive is going on right now. To keep the only jazz station in the region on the air doesn’t cost much, but every year it’s a struggle to get there, so any bit helps.

Now, one of the great success stories of the past  year is Bedlam Theatre, settled into its relatively new, expansive space on the West Bank of Minneapolis. These Macalester kids have been landing grants from all over–the Bush Foundation, General Mills–and making good use, throwing open its doors wider than ever without losing its chaotic edge to create a bonafide social scene, aided in no small part by its excellent, Polish-flavored bar and late-night food. Tonight continues the enigamatic series directed by everyone’s favorite up-and-comer Chantal Pavageaux, The Love Party, which begins interactively off-stage with the kind of low-budget carnival games you find at high-school fundraisers then moves into a sort of interactive group therapy session ab0ut love lost, unrequited, or recently discovered.

A theater friend was recently lamenting to me the lack of a genuine avant-garde scene here. Bedlam’s invitation to interaction, late-night hours, and occasional inscrutability ensures a steady patronage of mostly insiders (who may ironically be outsiders), but it isn’t aiming for avant-garde so much as populism. It’s blowing up a more formal model of theater rather than creating a new one. And yet, in so doing, it’s probably approaching, more than any other theater right now, what my friend really meant: a place for artists to just be themselves.