This weekend Bedlam and Open Eye Figure Theatre continue their month-long Brecht-acle Festival with a cabaret featuring works inspired by Brecht, adapted from Brecht's texts, or somehow related to avant-garde theater or Germany. The heart and inspiration of the ongoing event is of course Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children, produced by Chicago's Bricklayers Theatre and Paris's Collectif Masque, starring Barbra Berlovitz. (See here for Ed Huyck's favorable review.) The festival was launched last weekend with both the play and an event called Barbra's Sausage Party, featuring kielbasa and a whole bunch of new tunes by Dreamland Faces based on Brecht lyrics. Another social event is set to take place at Club Jager following the show on February 11.
Maren Ward, the producing artistic director of Bedlam Theatre, says that last year Bricklayers Theatre Company approached Bedlam as a possible co-presenter and venue for the production. Part of the reason was that Bricklayers, which is based in Chicago, were hoping to reach Berlovitz's audience, since she is a board member and has worked at Bedlam. "The Bricklayers are very inspired by the Theatre de la Jeune Lune," Ward says. They asked Berlovitz, a founding member of Jeune Lune, to take the lead in the role in Mother Courage, and also hoped to connect with Open Eye Figure Theatre.
When talk of Bedlam co-presenting Mother Courage was first discussed last year, Bedlam staff tried to find ways to build social events around the production, as they do for many shows. However, it was decided that their space was too small (and now, of course, Bedlam is without a permanent home).
However, Ward was still excited about the show, and thought that maybe there was a way that the folks at Bedlam could still create social events around the production without being the hosting venue.
The Brecht-acle Cabaret, which performs February 12 at 10:30 p.m. and February 13 at 7:30 p.m., includes a short play by Brecht put together by the folks at Bedlam. A new play by Lisa Channer and Novi Most, Brecht's Brain uses text from Brecht's testimony before the House on Un-American Activities Committee in 1947, and features work by Mixed Precipitation, Live Action Set, Sandbox, Soozin Hirschmugl, Dreamland Faces, Marya Heart, and the Bricklayers.
Ward says that part of the goal of the Brecht-acle Festival is to establish a connection with artists from Chicago, creating a Minneapolis-Chicago pipeline, so to speak, of artists. Open Eye Figure Theatre will be using Chicago artists for their upcoming festivals Toy Theatre After Dark 2011 and Two Chairs Telling, a storytelling series. Bedlam is also interested in nurturing relationships with Chicago artists and organizations. "Really great theater is happening in both places," she says. "Instinctually, it seems like a natural collaboration."
Also, another part of the Brecht-acle experiment for Bedlam is that it is an investigation of different venues in different neighborhoods. "For this show, it's our chance to experience the Lab," Ward says. "So that we can look and see how it is for our artists and audiences to come to this part of town." Bedlam is also experimenting with how to create the social framework that was so prevalent at their old space without having a venue.
As Bedlam continues to build infrastructure while seeking a new theater (which may take a few years), they will proceed in establishing ways to create a "Bedlam context" in new venues. This spring, for example, they are co-presenting The Devil and Mr. Punch by the Improbable Theatre as part of the Walker's Adventures in Puppetry series. Originally planned to perform at the Bedlam, they will now attempt to create a "Bedlam context" within a contemporary art museum.
The Brecht-acle Cabaret takes place February 12 at 10:30 p.m. and February 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the Lab Theater (700 N. First St., Minneapolis). Tickets are $7 at the door. For more info, see bedlamtheatre.org.