We’ve all done it, perhaps at a coffee shop, or on an airplane, or at a bookstore. You’re minding your own business, when, out of nowhere, a melodrama begins unfolding right next to you and, before long, you find yourself hitting pause on your MP3 player, or drifting from the book you’re reading and eavesdropping on the people next to you.
It is this natural human instinct to listen in on those around us that is explored in Eavesdrop: The Coffee Shop Show, the innovative audio play from Swallow-a-Bicycle Theatre. Throughout the latter half of April, Calgarians will travel to three coffee shops in the city – Weeds Café in Capitol Hill, Caffe Beano in the Beltline, and Vendome Café in Sunnyside – to don headphones and enter an immersive theatre experience like no other.
“When we first developed Eavesdrop, our central question was, ‘When does the mundane become remarkable?'” explains Mark Hopkins, co-artistic director at Swallow-a-Bicycle Theatre who also wrote the piece. “Coffee shops are really interesting places: they’re a social gathering place where you can be surrounded by people and totally alone at the same time. They walk the line between public and private. You might be sitting there, sipping a latte and reading your book, while something super intense happens at the next table – a break-up, a proposal, a pregnant woman going into labour, a life-changing job offer.”
Amidst the seemingly banal setting of their local coffee shop, audience members will listen on headphones to stories from a variety of characters, from a trio of old friends to a frustrated writer, all pre-recorded and woven into a soundscape created by local musicians, Ryan Von Hagen and Brock Geiger. Together, the stories will explore themes of isolation and connection, uniting the audience in a unique experience, even as they each go through it individually.
“Hopefully, seeing Eavesdrop will give people a new relationship with their neighbourhood coffee shops,” says Hopkins. “The next time they come in for a coffee, maybe they’ll have a longer chat with the barista or take a closer look at the coffee-drinking community that surrounds them! We love to unveil the creative possibilities of everyday spaces, giving audiences the chance to look at familiar places in entirely new ways.”
Eavesdrop: The Coffee Shop Show will play throughout Calgary this month, at Weeds Café April 15-19, Caffe Beano April 20-27, and Vendome Café April 29 – May 2.
By Sara Elizabeth Taylor
Photo: Cassie’s Camera