Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Art as Life

As an artist who plays in many different forms – performance, writing, directing, marketing, facilitating, teaching, I am always preoccupied with whether the work of the arts can make a real and powerful difference, and can bring about fundamental, systemic change.

Art, especially theatre, can be a potent way to deliver commentary on the human condition. The arts change, often with the use of emotion, how audiences think and feel about many things. It’s what happens to those thoughts and feelings afterwards that I am interested in.

This current version of the world is full of distracting fake everything. It is a rigmarole to find out who really said what, and when a thing happened if it, in fact, ever did. It is distraction of the highest order and it makes us feel bogged down, immobile, and also unable – dis-abled. In art we are unburdened by whether something is a fact; we are made to believe the ‘what if it were true?’ notion of things, and then we see the consequences of it, as if it were true.

We test things out in this artist space. We examine these ideas – and they can be anything, from how to rise above childhood trauma, to the apocalypse, to politics and their intersection into community. We rewrite the common view of history, we invent people to go through hell on our behalf, and we make radical choices and ask our audiences to make decisions based on what feels right. The theatre, the gallery, the darkened cinema is an emotional dissection space where politics, science, history, psychology, and the deeply personal are portrayed in a such a way to elicit a response.

This is powerful stuff. This stuff is the emotional juice of any revolution. It is the potential glue of genuine uprising. It is how Vaclav Havel rewrote the history of the Czech Republic. It is how Woodstock was the expression of a shift in the new world order and a total discarding of the old narrative.

Right now fake news on social media, manipulated by big business politics, is our greatest distraction because it keeps us locked into an outrage that feels both helpless and impotent, and then we suffer outrage fatigue. I believe ostrich head in the sand or even true despair and depression come next. We don’t see the point of voting, participating, or even telling people to pick up their litter. In this state they have us where they want us; we are consumers. We consume their information and their products.

This is where art – theatre, film, literature, stories can be the great shifter. Art can introduce a new possibility. It is the least we can do.

 

What Audiences Want

I know this has been a recurring theme in my work and writing. I asked the question more boldly when I was young. The Return of the Rhino Woman asked it directly, with me as performer refusing to come out of the dressing room until the audience declared their interest and commitment to the performance. I have been posing it differently since then, and more subtly, but I really do want to know this more, and better.

A result of wanting to know this has been me switching from writing about theatre I see, here, in my deeply personal and uncensored way, to writing about theatre in a more official review style for Weekend Special. My writing there has a much broader audience, especially since it isn’t only people who know me and my blog. I believe the WS readers are mostly Capetonians who want to find out about good theatre in the city, and productions who can use positive words and phrases for publicity. But is it? Are they?

I went to see The Cenotaph of Dan Wa Moriri on Monday night and wrote about it immediately when I got home. It was a most beautiful piece of theatre by an incredible performer. I loved everything about it. All I wanted was to do the piece justice and to make people want to see it. My review went live on Wednesday morning and I can see it has been read a fair number of times. But has it made a difference? Have people read my review and gone to see the show?

If you are reading this, and you read my review, did you go? Have you made a plan to see it? Please let me know.

Lost Property in Jersey City

Lost Property found a home last night, at the Jersey City Theater Center and I am exhausted, happy, proud, excited and hopeful about this play. Olga Levina, Catalina Florescu, and your team you were so welcoming, encouraging and supportive. It was also a privilege to be in great company with the other writers.

This is the thank you post. Every single person who gave $ for me to get here, both through Thundafund and around it. Each $ and R made it possible, and it was so worth it. Can’t list you, but I know who you are. Love you all madly.

Jaci de Villiers. Thank you for living in NYC and for being my prize fighter, gang leader, battle planner, bodyguard, inspiration, activator and friend. I am only saying the fewest of the things you do here. You are flippen awesome and I love you.

Gys. Brilliant teacher, friend, accommodator, joke maker, theatre blood pumper. Thank you. Your involvement makes me feel like a real writer and performer.

Zane Gillion. You are the most amazing scene partner and a brilliant performer. You brought the words to life with passion and deep understanding and feeling. Thank you. What a great support, energy and electricity you brought. Forever indebted to you.

And then, my friends, old and new who came with arms wide, love pouring out and the best support to watch my work. Thank you.

 

A dive in to Lost Property

Yesterday afternoon we jumped on the PATH train and exited into a thunderstorm in Jersey City. I kept on thinking about my Thundafund that brought me here. We were drenched by the time we reached the JCTC for the first night of this tiny curated festival of work.

The unassuming door to the space leads off a parking lot so there is no hint to the loveliness that is inside: A gorgeous intimate theatre.

Last night’s piece was an 80 minute monologue called Unbossed and Unbowed, written and performed by Ingrid Griffith and it tells the story of Shirley Chisholm a black woman who became a local politician, a congress woman and a wannabe president of the US, in the 60’s and 70’s. This is herstory I know nothing about. And it is rather extraordinary that the US is still waiting to have a female president.

Tonight’s plays are two 10 minute ones and Lost Property. I am overwhelmingly excited to be part of this, and I can’t wait to get feedback on the work. What an opportunity.

Thank you Thundafunders. Look at me go!

Feral

When the company is called Tortoise in a Nutshell you know what you are about to see will be different.

59E59 is a gorgeous theatre complex that highlights British work, often before it goes to Edinburgh. And Tortoise in a Nutshell is an Edinburgh based visual theatre company.

I have never seen anything quite like Feral. 5 cast members. Three mover/filmers, one sound man and another live vision mixer. A complex and technical, white, mostly board and putty set, with teeny, tiny details and Pixar lamps moved and turned on and off in a fluid dance. Live foleys and looped percussion and voice over an expansive and evocative soundtrack.

How it works. A town is built before our eyes as a man draws it. We are introduced to Joe (the man) and his sister. Buildings are brought onto this round, grooved, tilted table and a whole little town and all its characters are populated, and then filmed. Really close up.

Feral is a tiny story about a tiny town that is destroyed when a Supercade (a massive mall) is built where the park used to be. It is a story that moves from the deeply personal to the political and back to the harrowing, devastating personal. And the whole thing happens with minute, magnificent puppetry.

I loved it. I was transported, moved, shifted and completely in awe.

 

 

All My Sons on Broadway


Watching a play on Broadway for this South African meisie is always an other worldly experience.

Picture this. A completely full, huge theatre where tickets are sold at an absolute premium. A show that has been running for months. A classic. Arthur Miller’s All My Sons, starring Annette Bening and Tracy Letts. A full, three act play. With a full, proper cast.

The set. A sepia storm on a front screen sets the just-post war tone. A garden. A double story house. Lawn. Trees. A view of the neighbours’ houses. Huge. Magnificent. Detailed. Wisteria on the little gazebo. The set at an angle. Feeling the whole suburb. This dominant house. This house we can see into.

The cast. Aside from the fact that Annette Bening, Tracy Letts and Benjamin Walker are huge. Huge. These actors WERE NOT MIC’ed. These actors projected. These actors. These actors who were allowed to pause for almost a minute because they had earned it. And they had.

The focus, commitment, style, direction, the detail the pace, the choices, the decisions. The time. Almost 2.5 hours of theatre.

The text. Arthur Miller’s text is exquisite. And American. It is hard work. And agonising. Our world has minimised these ethical, moral struggles about conscience, and business and corruption and war. Our world on social media and our unaccountable, corrupt leaders are taking us back to a pre-war place. I was frightened.

This Tony nominated production is glorious. Important. Proper. And I am so privileged to have seen it.

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