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The presence of co-founder and owner Simon Cooper looms large at the Kalk Bay Theatre, and not just because he is a big guy. On most opening nights he or wife Helen will welcome people to the new show, but then he somehow manages to disappear.
The production choices, though, are very much a reflection of what he thinks is going to work and, more often than not, he picks a winner.
Think Nicholas Spagnoletti’s London Road, which had its start at Kalk Bay Theatre, or any Gaëtan Schmid comedy, or remember back when Alan Committie used to start his shows there? Now the comedian can attract such a big opening night, Kalk Bay Theatre is too small for him.
If you manage to talk to Cooper for more than just a polite “hello, how are you?” you will hear the funniest and most amazing theatre stories. Over the past 10 years he has made fast friends with some of the best and brightest on the Cape Town theatre circuit with his warm manner, but mostly his business savvy.
The Coopers met in what is now the Kalk Bay Theatre back when it was still an art gallery, and their first serious conversation was about what it would take to create a dinner theatre in the area.
With Nicholas and Liz Ellenbogen, they converted the heritage- protected Dutch Reformed Church (originally built in 1876) into a 78-seater, with a restaurant on the first floor.
Cooper says one of the best decisions they made in the last two years was to take their booking system completely online. The most important aspect of the small theatre though, which artists appreciate the most, is their flexibility when it comes to handling the ticket split and making sure they pay the performers on time.
“That builds a trust, so the good guys keep on coming back,” said Cooper, running down a list of some of the performers who will help them celebrate their 10th birthday this week.
Nicholas opened the theatre in 2004 with Tales of an African Knight and tonight he and Liz will take to the stage, as will long-time Tuesday residents TheatreSports.
Tomorrow night will feature a secret, surprise artist, while Thursday will be about dance from Follow Spot Production with Kalk Bay Theatre co-founder, Helen Cooper, and friends.
Actor and dancer Luke Brown will present excerpts from the dance spectacular Below My Feet, and perform with Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi and Stefan Erasmus in a sneak preview of the forthcoming Undermined, directed by Tara Notcutt.
Kalk Bay Theatre favourite Schmid will take over on Friday night and on Saturday night there will be a grand finale with Rob van Vuuren and James Cairns, who performed together in the highly popular Brother Number, one of Cooper’s favourites.
Last year the Coopers took several shows to Grahamstown and this year he’s cut it down to four, just to be able to handle the logistics. In addition to two Godfrey Johnson shows they will take Same Time Last Year plus The Snow Goose, which will come first to Kalk Bay Theatre in June.
• Visit www.kalkbaytheatre.co.za for ticket prices and schedule details.