After a couple of years as an actor, this is my first time producing a play. What have I learned? It’s hard. I dislike schedules, budgets and especially marketing - I’m allergic to talking about myself on social media. But when you’re part of a team and you want the team to succeed, you owe it to them to talk about yourself and to talk about the work. So here’s how we got here with The Best Cafe In The World.
The Best Cafe started as a short film idea in our writer Dan’s mind. After he saw our incredibly low budget production Boom Shankar last year at the Basement, Dan was inspired to try turn The Best Cafe into a theatre show - it had a few ingredients that would make it great for a play: one location, minimal characters and lots of zombies. He started brainstorming and chucking down ideas and then suddenly, Obstacle #1 - last year’s long lockdown.
After the first few weeks of being locked down, we both were itching to work on something new and exciting, so I suggested we chuck in a submission to the Basement’s Summer Season. Dan and I have known each other for over 10 years at this stage, we’ve been mates since we were sweaty, lanky teenagers. We’d done a few Short + Sweet plays together, so we thought this would be a good opportunity to level up - I could produce a play for the first time and he could write and direct for the first time. Our goals were pretty humble and very clear - bring together a bunch of cool artists that we wanted to work with, put on a fun and entertaining show and most of all, have a good time doing it. If these were our goals, we knew the Basement is the place to get it done.
And so, after multiple phone calls in lockdown in which I threw approximately 873 (mostly crappy, some good) offers in his direction, Dan turned his 3 pages of ideas into a 50-page script that we sent to Basement and we were invited to perform in March 2022. We were so excited!
We pulled together a cast and crew and started rehearsing and then suddenly, Obstacle #2 - Omicron. I’m sure this is a familiar story to artists at this point and you’re probably nodding along sadly as you read this.
All our hard work seemed to have been in vain. Needless to say, we were gutted. So how do you persevere when you’re faced with countless setbacks and a pandemic? You surround yourself with supportive, gracious people and you take a step back to get some perspective, I think.
Months later, Basement gave us our second chance with our second set of dates - cheers team Basement! We scrambled to pull together our cast and crew, booked in some spaces and started rehearsing, again! We were on with a second life! The careful selection of our amazing cast and crew paid off, as everyone was ready to chip in and get stuck in to do what needed to be done. They’ve helped us get this show on the road again and have added so much to the work! Aptly, the show is about community and friendship (and zombies) and pushing on despite extraordinary circumstances - all this seems to be reflected in the making of the work.
After months of applications, administration and preparation, we’re now less than two weeks away from our new Opening Night and we couldn’t be more excited to be jumping in the room to put on some theatre. We definitely seem to be tracking well on our goal of having fun, judging by the photos below.
All that’s left now is for us to set ourselves up once again at the now familiar home that is the Basement and get stuck into the season. Fingers crossed that we never meet with Obstacle #3.
See you in the bar after the show!