Stan's Cafe: One looks, marvels and understands

Public Opening

January 8th, 2015


So the team is gathering in New York City. Last night was the opening of Under The Radar, a big party in the foyer of The Public Theatre. In one corner was a screen for people to be photographed in front of, a rope held back the press photographers, four of them, each stood on a sheet of A4 paper with their agency’s name on it. Weirdly Gerard and I weren’t called to pose, so to correct this error when the professionals had gone we stepped in.

Just when we were reflecting on how being abroad means you don’t really know anyone at these events we started to see people we knew, some from England and some we met in New York last time around.

Risk Analysis

January 7th, 2015


The clock is ticking down on the deadline for the final submission of our business plan to Arts Council England. Once this is approved it will confirm our successful application to remain an National Portfolio Organisation, meaning we are given a sum of money to help us pursue and agreed program of arts activity over the next three years. One of the most recent elements added to our plan has been a detailed risk assessment. Ros Robins, who has been helping us shape our business plan, introduced us to a risk weighting matrix that she has recently deployed helping the Everyman in Liverpool to it’s acclaimed reopening. The matrix sets out risks on the left hand column followed by consequences, mitigation Etc. In the centre is a column for weighting the runs from boring “improbable x insignificant impact” combination to the abandon ship “highly probable and catastrophic”. Continue reading “Risk Analysis” »

Osaka Express

January 5th, 2015


There has been rather unreasonable nerdy excitement in the Stan’s Cafe office as we learn that the container ship Osaka Express has just moored in New Jersey on the Hudson River. In theory one of the many many containers on board is the one containing all the set, props and costumes required to perform The Cardinals.

Real time tracking shows a green diamond between two large piers which is the Osaka Express.

It now has to be unloaded, go through customs and I should be able to there to help unload it off the back of a truck on Thursday outside The Public Theatre, 425 Lafayette St, NYC.


Creative Teaching & Learning

December 22nd, 2014


Any Fool Can Start A War continues to attract the interest of the education community. In January the project is to be the cover story for the Creative Teaching and Learning “the most cutting edge curriculum and learning magazine in the country”. Inside there are nine lavishly illustrated pages carrying an essay I wrote for them about the project.

One of the challenges posed by Arts Council England is for companies to substantiate claims of Artistic Excellence / Innovation Etc. being able to point to articles like this helps.

The Value of Research

December 18th, 2014


Through illicit back channels I got temporary access to a volume on the history of the Benshi in early Japanese cinema. I read it fast, taking notes and returned it whence it came before it was missed overdue. Yesterday Craig and I were in the rehearsal room running through early versions of a scene for our new show, A Translation of Shadows, we were discussing the narration we had written for one of the scenes in the film we have made. In search of clues I flicked through my notes from said book and mentioned that the Benshi always narrated their films in the past tense. We had written ours in the present tense. Hasty re-writing proved that past tense is better but being able to flick back and forth between the two is better still. So once again the value of research is proved, even very small observations like this can make a big difference.

Charlotte’s Party

December 17th, 2014

Photo: Jonathan Blackford

On Friday we threw a party for Charlotte our General Manager because she is leaving. It was a good night.
Continue reading “Charlotte’s Party” »

British Values

December 11th, 2014


Yesterday at 08:00 the first joint meeting of the Stan’s Cafe Partner Schools Network was convened at Billesley Primary School. Under discussion were ‘British Values’ as set out by OFSTED and the British Government. Our schools are required to teach these values and give evidence of that teaching. Our gathering of four Headteachers and an Religious Education Teacher spent an hour identifying how they could address this problem and help each other in doing so. It was great to see the Network in action for the first time and to find everyone so galvanized. Watch this space. Action will follow.

In truth action did follow immediately. I immediately retired to a Cafe and bought a full English Breakfast and ruminated on how Stan’s Cafe could help its partners in this tricky field.

(h)experiment Commissions

November 28th, 2014


I love using formal constraints as a means of unlocking unexpected theatrical delights. An example is our attempt in Be Proud of Me to restrict the text to only sentences found in tourist phrase books. Simple Maths and The Cleansing of Constance Brown were physically constrained and The Just Price of Flowers had structural rules for which characters could appear on stage together in any given scene. Continue reading “(h)experiment Commissions” »

Visa Time Again

November 27th, 2014


Yesterday was another triumph for Charlotte in our office. Craig, Rochi and I were at the US Embassy yesterday getting our work visas for The Cardinals tour. Inevitably the process is bureaucratic and each time we go through the process it more requires information to be submitted. When all the information is gathered and the case has been made that there is no one in the US who can do the job we are going there to do then precisely the correct photographs have to be taken and presented in digital and physical form. You need to make an appointment with the embassy and present yourself at the designated time Entertainers, for that is what we claim we are, have an early slot, 8am. Continue reading “Visa Time Again” »

ACE Training

November 20th, 2014


Last week, amid the pouring rain, the game staff of Arts Council England in this region took to the streets of Birmingham on the latest edition of A City Adventure.

Despite the meteorological challenges the staff really got stuck into the activities Craig had set up for them. Change Kitchen provided a predictably delicious lunch before we cracked into an afternoon of reflection.

It was a reassuring day, not only did the adventure deliver the range of experiences we had hoped but the ACE team got stuck into it with commendable enthusiasm and showed a great deal of intelligence, sensitivity and creative thinking in their afternoon session. They showed a strong team spirit, which given the huge upheaval they have experienced in recent months was impressive to see. Obviously the chances of me slagging Arts Council England off on this blog are slim, but here I am genuine in my admiration. Not least for trusting us with a good slice of their pressurized training budget.

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