Don’t expect to see a typical Shakespearean production when Bedlam Theatre Company comes to Bowdoin on Monday, September 28. Avant garde in its approach and unpredictable in its delivery, Bedlam will perform a critically-acclaimed reprisal of “Twelfth Night” that promises to engage all members of the audience in the story.

“In the way that we approach performing a play in front of an audience, we make no attempt to pretend that the audience is not in the room with us,” Producing Director Andrus Nichols said. “We make eye contact with them, we talk to them… You’re not sitting and watching something, you’re in the center of it.”

Founded in 2012 by Nichols and Artistic Director Eric Tucker, Bedlam uses few to no props and only five actors in its performances. In a single performance, each actor plays multiple roles. 

The cast members take such a minimalist approach in order to fully focus on the text of the play and their multitude of roles. They aim to  break down the barrier between the actors and audience.

“We have no idea what they’re doing that makes them so great. We have to go to the theater to find out, and that’s thrilling,”  Assistant Professor of Theater Abigail Killeen said. “When the play’s over we’ll know what it is but we won’t be able to repeat it. It’ll just be what happened in that moment, together— the magic of the live event.”

Called “winningly playful” by Terry Teachout of the Wall Street Journal, the performance is expected to revive Shakespeare’s classic by establishing a direct connection with the audience to create an authentic theatrical experience. 

“To get someone like Terry Teachout, the major critic from the Wall Street Journal, to attend a show and love it the way they have tells us there is something profound that they’re finding in the performance event that is absolutely compelling,” Killeen said. “We won’t know what it is until we see the play. I suspect it’s their relationship to the audience and their acting values—because they don’t use anything else.”

Killeen also notes that part of the appeal of bringing Bedlam to Bowdoin is the opportunity to have a highly acclaimed and unusual group share such an exclusive experience with the Bowdoin community. 

Based in New York City and accustomed to performing in small rooms accommodating approximately fifty people, Bedlam’s visit to Bowdoin will mark the group’s first performance at a college campus, and will provide an opportunity for students to experience theater in a way they otherwise might not have the means to. 

“I’m hoping that people who wouldn’t be exposed to this work are now going to be exposed to this work, Killeen said. “I hope that they will be delighted by new ways of storytelling and how this play is being done in this space, that they are exposed to this play in a way that delights and invigorates them, and that Shakespeare’s words still resonate with them today.”

Fully funded by the Alice Cooper Morse Fund for the Performing Arts, the show will also allow Bowdoin students—theatre and non-theatre inclined alike—to experience the theatre and performance industry.

“There’s something about finding a theatre company at this moment,” Killeen said. “This is the moment when they’re excited about the work they’re doing, they’re getting recognition in the theatre world and yet they aren’t so huge that they don’t have time to connect with students. Because we also really want people who are willing and interested in connecting with students.”
Bedlam will perform Twelfth Night on Monday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available for free of charge at the Smith Union information desk