By the end of 2014 we will have hosted 98 music and theatre
productions. We sold 11 670 tickets for 407 performances compared to 10 040
for 338 in 2013. We can claim with fair certainty that if you look at the facts
from a very specific perspective then we’re the busiest little venue in the City.
Our highest rated show (based on audience responses) Jemma
Kahn’s Epicene Butcher (which returns in January 2015) and the highest earner
was Oskar Brown’s Between (which recently had a sold-out run at the King’s Head
in London) and highlights were getting to put on our own shows in the theatre,
like Civil Parting, Dirty Words, and Stealing the Show: Bette Midler.
Programming has settled more into a rhythm, so we had fewer
once-off performances than we did in 2013 and longer runs for many shows. We
also cemented our system of having two shows per night – an intense schedule.
We hosted more productions from exotic Joburg than in 2013: Diane
Simpson’s Rose Red, The Epicene Butcher, Mpapa Simo Majola’s The Funeral, Jannes
Erasmus’s Smaarties and Boylesque.
New writing debuting with us included: Jon Keevy’s Dirty
Words, Louis Viljoen’s The Kingmakers, Genna Gardini’s The Swell, Tara Notcutt’s
Last Rounds, Megan Furniss and Lynita Crofford’s adaptation of Violet Online, and
Thoko Masikini’s Modern African.
Play Things and
Our monthly open mic performance evening has settled into an
institution, not necessarily a good thing. While 2014 saw many artists return
to the stage a certain anarchic energy was missing. As an experimental platform
it simply became too safe this year and that is a challenge to be taken up in
2015. Two performances hatched from Play Things to full productions this year:
Jon Keevy’s Dirty Words which was a cult favourite and Thoko Masikini’s Modern
African; Gabriella Pinto and Kelly-Eve Koopman bring their Play Things seedling
Run for Your Life to bloom in January 2015.
Anthology was hatched by Nicholas Spagnoletti and Louis
Viljoen in bar, short plays by different local writers on platform. The first
of these ran in the second week of December and was a resounding success. They
were joined by Candice D’Arcy to create three 20 minute plays performed by
Brendon Daniels, Adrian Collins, and Amy Wilson. The next Anthology is tentatively
scheduled for May.
We ran our second annual pre-National Arts Festival season featuring
12 different shows headed up to the frozen city of Grahamstown. The stay-in-CT
punters got a taste of what they were missing and the producers got to practice
sharing tight get-in times and get some petrol money. Along the festival line
we participated as a venue in the first Cape Town Fringe. It was an exciting
project and we were nervous to run with the big dogs but Nicci Spalding’s
technical and logistical wizardry made it very easy. We hope more independent
venues join us to make the Fringe the festival Cape Town deserves. It was nice
having a wide variety of theatre makers from different backgrounds and forms in
the venue, bringing in a diverse audience.
We eschewed a second mini-festival in December despite the
success of it in 2013, this was a mistake. Looking around there was already so
much excellent theatre in the first week of December: War Horse on the grand Artscape
stage, Louis Viljoen’s The Pervert Laura, Rob van Vuuren’s What What, Chris
Weare’s direction of Grounded by George Brant, graduating students of UCT
presenting UHM… The Cape Town theatre makers are buzzing and Cape Town is
filled with people on holiday.
Nicholas and Ed’s software laboratory Nitric Industries
continued to develop the tools that make Alexander Upstairs run so smoothly.
Audience feedback is slickly collected by email and presented for producers to
look over. No other theatre in the Mother City can come close to the
integration of ticket sales, marketing management and producer transparency
that we have. There is still a lot more to do and this area will be one of the
most exciting in 2015 for us and theatres in South Africa.
Jon was selected to participate in a new project by British
Council Connect ZA, Business Arts South Africa (BASA – yes, the same folks who
gave us a Small Business award in 2013) and the Arts Marketing Association (the
AMA – a UK based network of marketers figuring out how to get artists and
audiences together). This project saw him and three other South Africans travel
to Cambridge and London to take part in arts marketing training and
conferences. This is an ongoing project for 2015 and will be the start of great
opportunities for SA arts administrators.
The fabulous Esthie Hugo became a member of the team as the
night manager of the theatre, moving up from FoH to technician to second in
Looking to 2015
We spent our first year working out the space we occupy in
Cape Town; 2014 found our rhythm, making a firm foundation to build on next
year. 2015 will see us shaking things up again as we push to get more new and
emerging artists into the venue. We’re going to focus on new writing,
resurrecting our play reading program and pushing Play Things and Anthology.