Welcome to Stan's Cafe

Touring Theatre

January 29th, 2019

So we have two vans booked. We have borrowed an extra workshop space from our landlord and marked out the Jacksons Lane stage on its floor. We have rethought how our set is constructed so that actual human beings can build it without mechanical assistance. We have replaced a no longer available Stage Manager with an available Stage Manager. Elements of the soundtrack have been tweaked and we have hired some fancy baton lights that were used in the original performances but which it is unreasonable to expect venues to have in their stock. We have collated venue details, printed new fliers and posters. We have rewritten promotional text to bespoke lengths, updated program notes and conducted interviews on the radio. We have conversed with technical and marketing departments checking that the show will work on each stage and that people will turn up to see it. Accommodation has been booked and per diems withdrawn from the bank. We are nearly ready to take The Capital on tour – why are we bothering?

I love the principle of touring. You’ve made a show you are proud of and so you want to show it to as many people as possible, everyone should have a chance to see the show if they wish. I love how difficult it is, the amount of bloodyminded obstinacy it requires to fill a Luton Van full of set and a Transit Van full of props, drive them across the country and spend eight hours preparing in order to perform a ninety minute show before taking everything down again and packing it back into the vans. To me it is special that this is done just for the people who choose to be there that night and no one else, how can this act of commitment be denied and if the show is good, so much the better.

Touring theatre is how we find out what people in other places are thinking and doing. If theatre doesn’t tour then inspiration and influence don’t spread. I want people to be inspired and influenced by Stan’s Cafe whether it’s aesthetically, motivationally or simply fuelling up artists who cry ‘we can do better than that!’

Touring is also a means through which we learn about our shows. After four performances we know The Capital a little, but having gone away and come back and remembered and performed it again we will know more and each new performance and venue will bring new knowledge. Different audiences and different physical spaces will stretch the show in different ways. Repetition will give the actors more chances to explore how they perform and what is possible.

Taking theatre from place to place is to gather people round a shared experience that is made by all of us: the visiting company, the resident technicians and theatre staff plus that night’s audience. I love this gathering, if it’s huge then the moment feels celebratory and if it’s tiny then it feels impossibly intense.

Who knows what lies ahead in the next couple of weeks – the uncertainty is all part of it as well.

Almost Secret Art

December 17th, 2018

Last Wednesday Laura, Roisin and I jumped on a train from Jewellery Quarter station and took the 14 minute ride to Acocks Green where we found our way to the mostly hidden Archbishop Ilsley Catholic School where Craig had come to the conclusion of a modest new edition of the Echo Eternal series commemorating the Holocaust in schools across Birmingham this year. Back in the spring he worked with students from Jewellery Quarter Academy creating Zigi Doesn’t Hate (see video above), inspired by the testimony of Zigi Shipper. On this occasion it was Hedi Frankl who provided the inspiration. Continue reading “Almost Secret Art” »

TEDx Bonn talks are on-line

November 30th, 2018

A few weeks ago I took a train to Bonn at the invitation of Save The World to give a TEDx talk and now here it is in its ghostly on-line form. Mostly it’s about Of All The People In All The World. The best bit about my trip was meeting the other speakers and then hearing their talks.

Alanus Von Radecki kicks off his talk with a brilliant example of how cars have shaped the shape of cities, then weaves this with an explanation of why us all just buying electric cars is not enough to ‘save the world’ before giving examples of what a truly smart eco-city could be like. Tec and the city

Sander Chan from GDI sows hope where there could easily be despair explaining how even if national promises are broken smaller units of action can add up to big change. Spoiler alert: within this talk he gives away how Finding Nemo ends. How climate actions can realize a climate safe and fair future for all.

Connie Runner continues the theme of espousing activism by relating a series of politically provocative pranks designed to provoke change.
The power of naievetie to overcome fear

Elma Dervic introduces to her grandfather and how she has come to help him care for his bees through her tech skills, then she contests firm distinctions between ‘city’ and ‘nature’
The bee and me

It’s all good stuff.

The Nutcracker live from 19:00GMT

November 29th, 2018

commentators is on Mixlr

Tonight from 19:00GMT The Commentators bring you LIVE AND EXCLUSIVE coverage of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker, just click on the player above.

Craig and James will be positioned in the Royal Box to cover every twist and turn of events as they unfold. Pre-show build up will start from 19:00 prior to curtain up at 19:30. The team hope to be joined at half-time by David Bintley Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet for opinion and analysis – unless he is throwing tea cups and giving this team the hair-dryer treatment in the changing room.

This is a live only event, there will be no opportunity to ‘listen again’, so please tell all your friends and join us here at 19:00 for Ballet on the Radio.

Ballet on the Radio.

November 26th, 2018

It’s taken a few years to finally sort out but at last we are proud to announce that this Thursday, 29th November from 19:00GMT The Commentators will be bringing you live and exclusive radio commentary of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker. Coverage will be streamed life from this website and there will be no ‘listen again’ facility so make sure are near a computer/smart phone on Thursday to hear Ballet on the Radio.

We approached BRB director David Bintley with our proposal a number of years ago. There had been some schepticism about my chances of persuading the esteemed choreographer to let our washed up sports radio commentators loose on one of his cherished company’s productions, but as soon as I saw an Aston Villa mug on his desk I knew it would be a breeze and so it proved, no persuasion was necessary. David immediately understood the idea and seemed delighted by it, we agreed it had to happen.

The Nutcracker has been chosen as, being one of the world’s most famous ballets a proportion of the audience will be able to picture it in their minds-eye and compare that image with The Commentator’s description of it. Being such a canonical work The Nutcracker is a robust enough cultural object to survive further processing, even if this an audio only version.

Back in June we had a test commentary during a piano rehearsal of Romeo and Juliette. We set up in the Hippodrome’s Royal Box, using some perspex sound baffles to keep us from distracting audience members seated nearby. The Royal Box has an ante-room which, conveniently, is kitted out with a Ethernet socket. Streaming our commentary out over the internet wasn’t a problem, no one could hear us in the auditorium a few admin details had to be sorted out and we’re ready to go on Thursday. This is David Bintley’s last season at BRB so Thursday will probably be a one-off, we hope you can tune in.

Mr. Custard Factory

November 12th, 2018


THIS GREAT VIDEO IS RELATED TO THIS POST BUT ONLY IF YOU READ RIGHT TO THE END.

Back at the beginning of time, when Graeme and I were deciding where Stan’s Cafe should be based, we were shown around a big, empty old space in the Digbeth area of Birmingham by a young architect called Glynn Howells. This space was to become The Custard Factory, a building in which a community of artists and creative industry professionals would come together in a symbiotic way to support, cross-pollinate and cross-subsidise each other for the benefit of one and all. Continue reading “Mr. Custard Factory” »

Congratulations Stan and Michelle

November 6th, 2018

Today we were delighted to read in The River Reporter, Narrowsburg, NY that over in Honesdale, Stan and Michelle Rembish are celebrating the third anniversary of their cafe.

The research we’ve done suggests we would be regulars in Stan’s Cafe if we lived nearby as it looks like our kind of place. Further research tells us that Stan and Michelle were able to launch their business in part thanks to a $2,000 raffle win. We wish them well and hope their luck holds.

Eye of the beholder

October 27th, 2018

We racked up two performances of The Capital yesterday and I had two contrasting conversations stood on the same spot as audiences lingered post-show.

After the matinee I was approached someone who quizzed me on the title. I explained that it is intended to refer both to a big city and Karl Marx’s famous book. To this he protested that the show did not take on capitalism, that it merely depicted scenes from city life and could equally have been describing a communist city in the 1980s. I wasn’t at my most resilient so didn’t put up much of a defence, rather than pointing out all the ways I thought he was wrong I muttering about how we’d have chosen different scenes of city life if the show hadn’t been concentrating on financial inequalities.

Later.

After the 7.45 performance I was approached by someone who explained to me that he was an “extreme left wing socialist” and that our show was brilliant and had “absolutely skewered capitalism”.

Truly beauty and searing critiques of capitalism are in the eye of the beholder.

(Photo Credit: Graeme Braidwood)

The Capital – Post Show Talk

October 12th, 2018

How do we best share this city?

Those of you who have been paying attention will know that we are premiering our new show The Capital at the end of this month. Staged on twin moving walkways, it is a fast paced journey through the big city, following the lives of 5 people from different backgrounds and how their differing circumstances affect their interactions with the city and with each other. The production was originally inspired by discussions about economic inequality with economists at the University of Warwick.

On Friday 26 October we are going to explore the themes of the production even further with a post-show talk : How do we best share this city? Experts from a range of fields will come together to discuss their views on this question, and how it relates to the city of Birmingham today.

We would love you to join us in this conversation, which is free along with the purchase of a ticket to see the evening’s performance of The Capital at Birmingham Repertory Theatre.

You can book online: HERE, or by calling the ticket office on 0121 236 4455.

Our panellists are:

Professor Kiran Trehan

Kiran Trehan is Professor of Leadership and Enterprise Development, and Director of the Centre for Women’s Enterprise, Leadership, Economy & Diversity at Birmingham University. Kiran is a key contributor to debates on leadership, Enterprise development and diversity. Kiran has led a number of leadership, enterprise and business support initiatives and extensively published a number of journal articles, policy reports, books and book chapters in the field. Professor Trehan has also taken up national advisory roles that shape debates and policy in leadership Diversity.

Marc Reeves

Marc Reeves is West Midlands editor-in-chief for Reach plc, and editor of the Birmingham Mail and its website, BirminghamLive.In a 30-year career in regional media, he has held senior positions across the country, but in 2006 returned to his home town as editor of the Birmingham Post. Since then, he has led the company’s transformation into a digital-first business, and BirminghamLive, with 38 million monthly page views, is now one of the largest regional news sites in the UK. BirminghamLive was launched from the foundations of the Mail’s previous site, and its digital-only approach is built on a raft of innovations from podcasting to video journalism.The site has also continued the Mail’s campaigning heritage, with an appeal for the city’s foodbanks on target to collect 100 tonnes of food.

Professor Kathyrn Moore

Kathryn Moore, Immediate Past President of the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) and Professor of Landscape Architecture at Birmingham City University, Kathryn has taken a lead role in redefining the relationship between landscape, culture and governance, finance, health and community engagement within the context of a radical proposal for a West Midlands National Park, launched in a major conference held in BCU in June 2018. She is a member of the Independent National Design Review Panel for HS2 as well as the recently formed Enfield Borough Council Place and Design Quality Panel.

Tru Powell

Truchio aka Tru was born in Birmingham and grew up in a single parent household with his six siblings.He learnt at a very early age he had a passion for enterprise, the arts and events, something that would later in life give him a career. Tru is the Founder & Managing Director for The Alternative Events & Wedding Company, a company that specialises in coordinating high quality corporate, youth events and weddings. In addition, Tru is the Creative & Events Director for Aston Performing Arts Academy, a community interest organisation that exists to empower young people through performing and creative arts and a visiting lecturer for University College Birmingham. Tru is also a Trustee for Creative Academies, and a NED for TAG Network and more recently has assumed a Non Executive Director post for the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) as the Marketing and Events Champion. Over the years Tru has been awarded with numerous accolades for enterprise and his contribution to the arts. In 2014 he was recognised as one of Birmingham’s most inspirational young leaders and in 2018 was crowned Birmingham’s Young Professional of the Year – Marketing and Communications. In addition Tru is a finalist in the both the Phoenix and Natwest Entrepreneur Awards as ‘Entrepreneur of the Year 2018′.

How to watch theatre.

October 11th, 2018

The Capital – Trailer from Stans Cafe on Vimeo.

Watching theatre is no great challenge, the seats are helpfully bolted to the floor facing the correct direction so why do I occasionally feel compelled to write a program note giving tips on ‘How to watch theatre’?

There is a famous psychology experiment in which subjects are asked to watch two teams throwing two basket balls between them, they are challenged to count the number of passes made between the teammates in white t-shirts and those in black. So intent are the subjects on this counting that they fail to spot someone dressed as a gorilla walking into frame, waving at the camera and walking out of frame.

Experience from the early days of Stan’s Cafe taught me that if someone comes to one of our shows looking too hard for a story with a beginning, middle and end, or a single simple ‘message’, they tend to miss the show waving at them from centre stage.

The Capital is designed to be easy to watch and impossible to exhaust. It should teach its audience how to watch as it unfolds. It should feel like gliding through the city looking from the window of a bus but also traveling through houses and flats and colleges and shops and nightclubs.

As we slide through life we witness fleeting episodes from thousands of stories, which swirl around us every day. Each day we play endless roles: I’m father, husband, brother, friend, boss, colleague, customer, student, neighbour, jogger, cyclist, pedestrian.

Capital built this city. The Capital is built by us. The city never stops. We slip through time even as we stand still. This is The Capital and its seats aren’t bolted down.

To discover what’s written in the programme notes come to The REP 24 – 27 October (the tickets cost but the programme is free).

Tickets can be bought here from The REP or there is a RIDICULOUSLY GOOD OFFER if you’d like to be part of Culture Feast. Culture Fest is a kind of tasting menu for contemporary art in Birmingham, for just £20 you can see the Friday performance of The Capital, a dance piece at DanceXchange, a concert by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and Javaad Alipoor’s The Believers Are But Brothers at The Hippodrome/Patrick Centre. Do the maths, that’s £5 per show. It’s like being back in the early ’90s!


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