Welcome to Stan's Cafe

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!

Publications

September 7th, 2018

Yesterday two very different publications emerged featuring Stan’s Cafe content which, taken together, show the diversity of how writing about theatre is currently distributed.

Marissia Fragkou has authored a book Ecologies of Precarity in Twenty First Century Theatre. It’s always exciting to find a book whose title causes you to reach for a dictionary, especially when that dictionary doesn’t help at all. It seems the term precarity (which presumably prevents you having to get ugly with precariousness), wasn’t massively in use 39 years ago when I started secondary school and my parents gave me the edition of The Little Oxford Dictionary which still sits beside me ameliorating my poor spelling. Marissia’s book is published by Bloomsbury Methuen and currently marketed at University Libraries (RRP £75 but at the time of writing available from the publishers for £52.50) hopefully the paperback will be out ready for people’s Christmas stockings next year. Marissia is a good incisive writer so this volume is certainly worth checking out by those interested in the contemporary theatre scene.

By contrast Tracey Crossley and Niki Woods have edited Making Post Dramatic Theatre: A Handbook of Devising Exercises a couple of which are ours. This publication is exclusively available on the subscription based online platform Digital Theatre. It is targeted at young theatre makers or teachers of theatre to give them ideas for their own practical work. Once again The Little Oxford Dictionary doesn’t help but it is excused as Hans-Thies Lehmann’s seminal Postdramatic Theatre (which cites Of All The People In All The World as piece of such theatre) was only published in 2006.

By way of further contrast Devising Theatre With Stan’s Cafe, written with our collaboration with Mark Crossley (no relation of Tracy as far as we know) remains a massive compromise. There’s no dictionary challenging title, it’s for theory AND practice people, it’s out in old school expensive hardback, new school cheaper paper back and future school e-book with a non-subscription website based supplement.

If you’ve not yet had enough contrasts there are the 21 new Stan’s Cafe titles we are looking to publish in the next 12 months, but they are the subject of a blog post that’s yet to be written.

When Kiln is not Kiln

September 4th, 2018


Photo Credit: Simon Davies

Some of you will know this story, you’re savvy enough to stop reading if you have.

In 2005 a group of students graduated from Birmingham University and decided to form a theatre company. After much fraught discussion they decided to call their company Kindle. I don’t know for a fact that the discussion was ‘much’ and ‘fraught’ but whoever named their enterprise with speedy decisive assurance? Anyway, the point is they called themselves Kindle, they worked hard, started making shows, and became successful.

In parallel with this story is one about a graduate of Princeton University who, in 1994, decided to form an online book retailer. After ‘much fraught discussion’ he decided to call his retailer Amazon. He worked hard, started selling books and became successful.

In 2005 Amazon started work building an electronic book called Fiona. After some time it became clear that the e-reader could be great but that its name was rubbish so after much engaging of branding consultants they decided to call it Kindle.

By the time millions of Kindles were being sold around the world Kindle started to get fed up of sharing their name with an e-reader and all the questions and misunderstandings that involved. They decided to change their name.

Despite very little engaging of branding consultants they still came up with the name Kiln, a neat choice I’m sure we will all agree.

In parallel with this story is one about a graduate of Hull University who in 2012 takes over Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn, London. After working hard, making shows and being successful, the director leads Tricycle Theatre to a major refurbishment. After ‘much fraught discussion’, but possibly not very much ‘web-searching for to see if a theatre company already exists with the name you’d quite like to use for your theatre company’, she/they decide to call it… and here you’re all ahead of me – Kiln.

So poor old Kiln were called Kindle before Kindle and now they’re called Kiln before a much richer, more established and more prominent theatre based in London decide to be Kiln. Where from here?

Well Kindles are still called Kindles. Kiln complained to Kiln about the name Kiln, but Kiln really didn’t seem bothered about it at all – whereas Kiln, as you can imagine, are really quite bothered about it. So Kiln aren’t going to change their name, particularly after an expensive rebranding, despite sniffy columns and comments in The Guardian which also include numerous people saying what a rubbish name Kiln is! This just leaves Kiln who have decided to disband, not because of the whole Kiln thing, but because as a collective they felt they’d run their course and want to continue working in theatre as individuals.

So if Kiln are disbanding does any of this matter? Well, The Tricycle didn’t know Kiln were disbanding when they decided to cohabit their name – maybe Kiln didn’t know they were disbanding at that point, so there is a lack of respect in the decision, which is upsetting, original Kiln are sinking in the search engines swamped by new Kiln.

On 22nd September Kiln are holding a valedictory walk from Birmingham University to a pub somewhere across some hills, I hope to join them and celebrate their achievements and wish them luck with whatever they do next – whatever they may call themselves.

Commentators Calling

August 31st, 2018

We are spending this weekend at Moseley Folk Festival performing as The Commentators, spinning out a Test Match Special style radio sports commentary over folk proceedings for seven hours at a stretch, Saturday and Sunday 11:00 – 18:00. Our innovation for this year is that the whole thing can be heard live online around the festival site, at home, wherever you can connect to the internet.

commentators is on Mixlr

Arty types might call The Commentators ‘long form improvisation’, less arty types might call it ’having a laugh’ and less enlightened types certainly call it “droning on”. We’ve been performing The Commentators in various non or almost sporting settings since 2009. This is our fourth time at this festival and I’m amazed that they keep asking us back; I cling to the fact that they do when beset by self-doubt with hours left to go each day.

It’s easiest to commentate imagining people are listening in an imaginary world. The idea that actual people yards away in this actual world are actually listening is always deeply concerning.

To keep us on track we have a number of unwritten rules and guidelines concerning The Commentators:

– they are endlessly enthusiastic and optimistic.
– they are interested in everything.
– they have hypotheses and speculate.
– they are never nasty, cruel or unpleasant.
– they can be skeptical and are often cautious.
– they are experts but never on the subject they are discussing.
– they understand sport and read most of life as sport.
– there are always ‘listeners at home’.
– you only ever get hints of their lives beyond this moment.
– they are not funny.

It would drive us crazy doing too much of The Commentators but fortunately we have other things on. This coming week we’re in Saltley Academy working on the latest edition of The Steps Series which in an installation we’ve been reinventing since 2008. Next week we’re in Madrid with Of All The People In All The World, a performance we first made in 2003. Last week we revived our first hit theatre show It’s Your Film which we made in 1998 and to balance out all these revivals and reinventions, on 17th September we start rehearsing a brand new theatre show, The Capital which will open on 24th October at The REP in Birmingham before going on tour..

Until any of that we have a whole weekend of minutia to keep the listening public up to date with. Please tune in before we drop out.

Matters Outstanding

July 30th, 2018

This weekend saw the return of Lunar Festival after a year off. Having worked the 2015 as The Commentators it was a pleasure to return not working but as the punters. Although cloud cover prevented us from seeing Friday night’s Blood Moon phenomena in the sky the Lunar stages presented plenty of alternative phenomena to gape at in awe.

Amadou and Mariam were a stirring joyful feelgood revelation to get lost in. They were set up by Basement Jaxx who got and kept a whole field of people jumping with their DJ set. In turn they were set up by zestful fun from The Go! Team

Saturday’s more overcast weather was adroitly mirrored by a darker musical programme that opened with Matters, my pick of the festival. Although I absolutely loved Amadou and Mariam ultimately they are a bit too cheerful and exotic to be my pin-ups, driving epic paranoia from Birmingham has to carry the day for me.

I looked after bags while lots of people went to hear Ed Miliband do whatever he does now. We caught Untied Artists blowing cobwebs from their Acorn Emporium children’s show before it arrives at mac in August. Barbara Nice was audible in the distance running a version of Blind Date. I caught what looked like a dad and two very young sons played a punk set and Ouse Valley Singles club playing a pugnacious skiffle set. We ate Persian food, didn’t feel the need for any of the ‘healing’ or craft activities on offer, slept past the 8am kids cinema showing on offer by Flatpack and sheltered from the rain. Blackash concluded their intense set with cheerleaders and a gorgeously back lit Goldfrapp wrapped Saturday-up with an rich and assured performance.

A triumphal return for Lunar, next up, in early September comes the Moseley Folk Festival for which The Commentators return.

Recruiting a Re-lighter for The Capital

July 4th, 2018

We are recruiting a Re-lighter for the tour of our new show The Capital at the beginning of 2019.

Dates:
To be available for 2 days between 23 -27 October 2018 in Birmingham to learn
the show’s requirements from the lighting designer at Birmingham REP.

The production will undertake a UK tour for 2 or 3 weeks during the period 28 January to 17 February 2019; exact tour dates to be confirmed.

Deadline for Submissions: 24 July 2018 by 5pm

Read more about the requirements and how to apply below:

Continue reading “Recruiting a Re-lighter for The Capital” »


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