Grinch to answer for being a mean one in Modesto

jfarrow@modbee.comDecember 21, 2013 

For his Christmastime crimes, the Grinch goes on trial today in Modesto.

The green guy’s fate will be decided in “The Grinch vs. the People,” a play being staged at The Seasons event center on McHenry Avenue. It’s a production by BU Universal Group, a new Modesto company specializing in social media projects and marketing to aid small businesses.

A play, from a social media business? Not so odd considering that the chief executive officer of the business, 37-year-old Dewey Bedford Jr., is a University of California at Santa Barbara grad with a degree in theater. And, really, the play was meant to be a follow-up to a social media scavenger hunt Saturday in which participants were to follow clues to find the Grinch lurking in a McHenry Avenue business. The hunt didn’t happen, but the show will go on.

Bedford, who was raised in Los Angeles but spent a lot of time with family in Modesto and moved here after college, wrote the play. Growing up, he said, the Grinch was such a familiar character, and Bedford wanted to add a dimension to the story. “This is the first time he’s ever gone on trial for his crimes of being a grinch – kidnapping, ID theft, fraud and menacing throughout the city of Modesto.”

In his play, Bedford is the Grinch’s defense attorney. “I’m Johnnie Cochran come back from the dead to represent him,” he said. He’ll make the case that the Dr. Seuss villain – whose heart, after all, did end up growing three sizes – was an outsider who just wanted to belong. And as the residents of Whoville kept making merrier and merrier, he got more down in the dumps until he just “wigged out,” Bedford said.

As the playwright, did Bedford give his character the more eloquent argument? “Absolutely,” he said, laughing, “but she (Cristina Mixon, BU Universal’s vice president of operations who plays the prosecutor) has the more compelling evidence” – stolen property, receipts that show the Grinch used Santa’s credit cards, etc.

Proceeds from today’s play will be shared with Make-a-Wish, the charity BU Universal has selected to benefit from its social media events over the next year, Bedford said. Those events will include monthly themed scavenger hunts whose aim is to increase small businesses’ social media presence, which can increase foot traffic, boost business and ultimately create jobs, he said.

The way the hunts work is that participants use smartphones to scan QR codes, those square matrix bar codes that are seemingly everywhere in advertising and marketing these days. They unscramble a series of letters to provide a clue directing them to a local business. They “like” and “check in” with the business on Facebook, then visit it in person to get their next clue. And so on. Businesses and entrants pay to participate, and the winner gets a cash prize.

BU Universal Group started in Modesto about two months ago. Bedford initially established the company when he was in Denver, where he did PR work for the Nuggets NBA team, he said. Bedford lived in Modesto for about 12 years after college, but found the Denver opportunity because the job market here was so poor, he said. After starting the social media company, he came back to Modesto because he believes the city “needs inventive ideas” to help businesses and the community.

Bedford said he means the “universal” part of his business’s name: He ultimately hopes to create a theater program, promote independent films and keep building social media events to support business clients.

“He has something unique going on, and that’s why I’m trying to support him,” said Youra Tarverdi, owner and CEO of The Seasons. He said Bedford could provide a valuable service to small businesses that don’t have any real budget for advertising. Social media gives businesses a way – through “site bites” – to gauge consumer interest. Of “likes,” “check-ins” and other online measurements, Tarverdi said, it’s similar to radio advertising, “but instead of hearing it, you see it. And the history is there on the feed trail.”

“He’s at the humble beginnings,” Tarverdi said of Bedford, “and (established) businesses must support the young ones, give them a chance. Not everyone is a Microsoft or Apple.”

The Seasons is at 945 McHenry Ave. and today’s showtime is 2 p.m. Tickets are $10. To learn more about BU Universal, visit www.buuniversalgroup.com.

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