Upstairs Up and Running

So now for the second time in my life I’m running a theatre. It sometimes feels like I’m splashing around in the ocean shouting at people on the beach to stay out because it’s really too cold and not fun at all. I have to admit that at times it wasn’t very fun, like the morning I spent laying cables through the crawlspace above the theatre. At its highest it’s about 1.2m and at its lowest about 80cm and all through it are crossbeams and air vents. The smallest gap I had to get through was about 40cm high. All caked in a thick layer of dust. I emerged filthy and exulted in my accomplishment. Then I realised I’d laid one cables back to front. A part of me died.

But after all the drilling, painting, banging, sawing, hanging, counting, winding, lifting and carrying done by so many people… it’s done.

And I think she* looks fantastic. I’d stack her up against other theatre in town. Sure, she may not have the most seats and the operator’s view isn’t great, but what an audience gets is premium. An intimate experience… only four rows of seating and raked at 30cm. Ten rigged lights with the option of more and a beautiful sound system. A projector rigged up and a screen so we can do movie nights or add multi-media. Space is the only major problem; we’ve got a lot of excess equipment to store.

I think that’s enough of me raving about great the theatre is. I learned a lot doing this, especially about sound equipment, which has always been a weakness. I’ll hopefully get round to posting some informative pieces about that.

We opened on Thursday the 18th with Stuart Lightbody, master of sleight of hand, doing his show Elegant Deceptions; then we have an awesome party with Pants on Fire! talking shit – the audience were struggling to hold their glasses they were laughing so hard.

On Saturday we had Siya Is Your Anarchist. I didn’t know what to expect – he’s very underground and the show was fascinating. Electronica and pop cut with videography and dance. Small audience though so I’m looking forward to having him back so more people get a chance to check him out.

There are so many projects coming into the space that I’m struggling to market them all. I want to shove the flyers into people’s hands and shout, “Everything! See Everything!” but that is definitely very, very rude.

Big love to everyone who helped make this happen…

JK

* Like a ship, a theatre can take you places. And, gendered-language reformers be damned, I think the neutral is grossly inadequate when applied to something you put so much time and care into. Sure I could have gone with ‘He’ and not doing so can be construed as sexist, or at the very least as indicative of the pervasive power of the patriarchy. But I didn’t.

What’s Upstairs?

I’m really excited. And nervous as the gingerbread man at a weight-watchers meeting.

Smack bang in town, where the cafés and clubs of Long Street meet the soaring office blocks, is Alexander Bar. It’s a two story building in that particular old school Cape Town style; you know what I mean – the kind that could hold an airy design studio or a dingy rock club. It’s seated on the corner of Strand and Loop, coolly sipping a martini on the deck as the city rolls by.

It’s Nicholas Spagnoletti and Edward van Kuik’s bar and they’ve created a sophisticated and funky space filled with old-world charm; serving good wine, classic martinis, whiskies, and classic café fare. The bar is filled with playful touches from the décor through to the games available.

The bar opened in 2011 and is now expanding, and there’s nowhere to go but up.

So what’s Upstairs?

Nick and Ed have recruited me as their theatre hustler to manage their new project, Alexander Upstairs. It’s an intimate and simple space. The playing area 3m deep and 5m wide with a 2.8m ceiling. We’re installing 40 raked seats, black surrounds, a projector and screen, lighting and a sound system.

I’m nervous because I’m in charge of a lot of things, I’m nervous because I’ve given my time and love to running a theatre before. I’m excited because I’m working with genuinely awesome people who are really passionate. OK, I know I just dropped two of the most overused adjectives in there, but I really mean it and couldn’t find my thesaurus. Like the whole bar, Nick and Ed bring energy and love of details to the space. Little things that other people gloss over are taken care of instantly. It’s beautiful.

I’ve put together the first two and half weeks of programming and I’m working on the press releases and material to publicise it. We’re launching next month with a party on the 19th October

One of the most interesting things is that we’re not going to run the venue like a traditional theatre. We’re going for a versatile programming model, scheduling performances in up to three slots per day and avoiding  long runs of shows. This means one off performances and recurring weekly and monthly events. For instance we’ve got Brydon Bolton curating a weekly Tuesday night Jazz session and Stuart Lightbody doing a monthly magic show. The space will be perfect for music, stand up, revues, comedy, readings, storytelling, screenings, book launches, nude beat poetry and a bunch of things that haven’t occurred to me yet. If something popped into your head as soon as you started reading this then you should get in touch with me.

upstairs@alexanderbar.co.za