The Café Theater Festival (CTF) is where the performing arts and hospitality meet. You’re out on the town, having a drink or a coffee, when your table suddenly becomes a stage and the noisy patron turns out to be an actor. Once a year, over the course of four days, dozens of hospitality establishments across Utrecht turn into stages for up-and-coming performing artists.
The performing artists went through the Café Theater Fabriek, our training program featuring coaching and workshops, in order to develop the ultimate site-specific performance. The broad lineup reflects current themes through a variety of genres, such as dance, opera, circus, musical theater, mime, spoken word, storytelling, spoken word and Hip Hop- and street-dance.
Around 30.000 people attend the festival every year. Next to loyal supporters, the festival reaches a lot of new people (56% of the total crowd, according to research), because the hospitality establishments are always partly filled by unsuspecting patrons.
Aside from the annual festival, the CTF also organizes a variety of smaller events throughout the year.
The CTF believes in the unifying power of the performing arts. They can create understanding in a world that stigmatises and divides. They can create a dialogue between people on seemingly opposite sides. However, to do so, those people need to come in contact with the performing arts in the first place. However, theater attendance continues to decrease, meaning fewer and fewer people come in contact with the performing arts and the stories that are being told. This has to change.
In order to become more relevant, the performing arts need to position themselves in the center of society. By organizing site-specific performances by up-and-coming performing artists in hospitality establishments, the CTF reaches broader, more diverse audiences and proves that everyone can fall in love with the performing arts. For many of the festival’s attendees, it is their first experience with the theater, one that is guaranteed to leave an impression.
To reach a more diverse audience, the performing arts need to reflect our pluralistic society. This is why the CTF continuously aims to further increase diversity in its lineup.
Site-specific performances disrupt public spaces – in the case of the CTF, hospitality establishments – by incorporating them. The audience members, there by accident or by choice, cannot hide behind a fourth wall.
Site-specific performing artists never perform for an audience, but with it. Like the location, the audience becomes part of the performance, simply by being there. The bar owner and the Millennial, the proud parent and the first generation immigrant: they all become one. This is how the CTF builds brigdes.