For three nights last week, Mina Leierwood was a polar bear.
She, along with more than a dozen other individuals and groups, were players in a production at the Bedlam Theatre that encouraged proactive and creative reflection on the contentious and clash-heavy Republican National Convention.
Dressed in a white, furry suit with a painted white face and a black nose, Leierwood acted out what she called a polar bear’s fantasy.
As a big-haired, fur-coat-clad rendition of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin emerged from the tiny Bedlam Theatre backstage, Leierwood — the polar bear — grinned and winked at the audience.
She lured in the caricatured Palin, promising oil, and pounced, surfacing with a bloody arm in her mouth to audience laughter and applause.
Leierwood explained that she’d spent five hot days in the furry white get-up during the RNC, marching in protests and talking to anyone she could about global warming and a dwindling polar bear population.
Bedlam co-artistic director Maren Ward said the project, which ran Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, was a long time coming.
The brainstorming began about six months ago. Ward, from the beginning, had a goal of bringing thoughtful people together post-RNC.
Until about a month ago, the plan was to make a play based on people’s reflections. But when people came to Ward with their RNC stories and experiences, the project’s direction took a turn.
It became “Because We Still Live Here,” a conglomeration of separate skits, readings and songs focused on individuals’ takes on their time at the RNC.
“It’s astounding, the different things people are thinking about,” Ward said. “[I knew] that a lot of people would come, not knowing what to do with this event that just happened.”
People packed the small theater each night to see, hear and support the production’s participants, most of which were protesters, including gay rights advocates and members of Veterans for Peace, among others.
Some acts, like Leierwood’s, were lightheartedly meaningful. Others were more provocative and poignant.
One member of the so-called anarchist group, the RNC Welcoming Committee, had a friend read aloud a letter from him.
Calling himself only “Some Asshole Who Speaks From Hindsight,” he sharply stressed the importance of organization — a key to fighting off pending protest-related charges — and improved media strategy.
But he noted, “Anarchism has now become a household word.”
Jude Ortiz , an affiliate of Coldsnap Legal Collective , which offers counsel and legal advice to RNC arrestees, showed a moving slideshow of his time spent alongside “Funk the War” protesters on Labor Day.
As the slideshow, which had twin titles of “Funked” and “F—-d ,” chronicled Ortiz’s experience that day, ending with his arrest and his camera’s confiscation, he spoke critically of police tactics and praised protester solidarity.
“I feel that it’s important for people to see how [police] acted,” he said. “People need to see exactly how coordinated the police action is.”
Serving as the barrier between police and protesters for the entirety of the convention, Minnesota Peace Team member Carey Heart Borne also spoke.
The Minnesota Peace Team is an independent volunteer group aiming to stave off conflict between police and protesters.
Heart Borne spoke about the fourth-day protest, where police and protesters squared off in an hour-long stalemate. Police threatened to use disabling chemical agents, but protesters didn’t move.
“That was the place I was feeling my trauma the most,” she said. “[We were] a thin, yellow human buffer between opposing forces.”
Following her account, she joined hands with two silent Peace Team colleagues who stood at her side.
“I’m still on that bridge,” she said.