Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

A First Audience

My body is an amazing machine. I have woken up this morning with an entirely different sensation in my entire body; one of almost relaxation. I had no idea how tightly I have been holding on, with a seriously stiff back and shoulders, taut stomach muscles and even tension in my jaw and face.

But last night we (Chantal Stanfield and I) had our first preview audience for From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach, and it was a test. A hard test because the preview audience, ‘friends of the theatre’ at Auto & General Theatre on the Square are a tough crowd of mainly old, mainly been around the block, mainly Jewish theatre goers, and we had no idea at all about how the show would go down.

As the lights dimmed and the music started I realised that I was clutching my pen so tightly I had broken though the skin on my palm. Chantal came onto stage and started. It was like my body started leaking out the tension with every word she said and every reaction from the audience. By the time she reached what we think of as the turning point there were those in the audience who wanted to clap. I found myself beaming. And then, at the end of the hour I found myself melting completely as many in the audience stood to give her a standing ovation. A Standing Ovation at our first preview.

What a blissful, comforting, lovely relief. My whole body feels it. Ok, I have woken up with a stye in my eye the size and shape of Swaziland, but that is obviously the exact point of tension release.

I can hardly believe I have most of today free. It is a gorgeous, cloudless, perfect Joburg morning. Then tonight it is our second preview and we open tomorrow night for real. Only a few tweakings and fiddlings and we are good to go.

I am finally allowing my body to start thinking about home. Big Friendly, dogs, cats, beach, wind, improv, other work that has been seriously neglected. Deep breaths in and out. Life is good.

 

the best improv fest

I know it hardly makes sense for me to be talking about the next best thing when the best thing of the moment hasn’t even started yet, but I have to. You see, although From Koe’siestes to Kniedlach hasn’t opened yet (it previews on Tuesday and Wednesday and opens on Thursday at the Auto & General Theatre on the Square this week), and that has been my main and most absorbing focus, once it is open I whizz back to Cape Town without a moment to catch my breath and start playing my heart out in ImproGuise‘s fifth annual improv fest.

Starting on Monday 6 March, and with a different format every night until Saturday 11 March, this is the improv festival I cannot stop thinking about. The intimate Alexander Bar theatre hosts us each night at 7pm for an hour long exploration of on the spot creativity, team work, imagination and fun. Nothing thrills me more than a week of improv every night for almost a whole week. And I am playing with Cape Town’s finest improvisers and make-believers. The Alexander theatre is small, with only 42 seats a night, and the different formats we are playing are a combination of audience favourites and ‘brand-new-never-tried-before’. My old favourite is Documentary; a completely made up documentary (think fake news only much more creative) based on a few suggestions from the audience. The format I am the most excited to try out is Tribute, part documentary, part tribute show. We make up the band, the members, the people who influenced them, and then we sing their songs, based on titles given by the audience. There is also Naked Improv, Duos, Westword and Alexander Abbey (our nod to period drama). I am salivating.

tHEARTre

Everybody who loves theatre knows that kind of love. For those of us who make it, it is a tricky affair, especially in South Africa, where we are all fighting for audiences, for support, for resources, for money, for space and time. It’s like being in a relationship with a student who is waiting to hear from NSFAS.

So I am always equal parts excitement and anxiety, delight and despair, generous and jealous.

We open From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach, Chantal Stanfield’s one brownish Cape Town woman’s journey into the mysteries of white, Jewish Joburg, in exactly a week. A week is just enough time to be convinced and doubtful, totally excited and utterly nervous about putting this work in front of an audience.

This is the first time I have premiered a work in Joburg. And even though Jozi is my hometown, and it holds my heart in so many ways, I can’t help but feel a little like a fish out of water here. Who are all these people, and where do they go, and will they come?

I can’t decide if the material is contentious or not. I can’t tell if it is kak funny or terribly sad, or none, or all. But soon, when we have an audience, I will know. And so beats my heart in theatre.

To book for From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach, go to Computicket now.

Joburg Nights

The window is open and the cricket is so loud its like a one cricket band on steroids. I love Jozi at this time of year when everything is lush and green and the summer heat is tempered with rain on most days.

I am up here directing Chantal Stanfield in her one woman show From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach, opening at the Auto & General Theatre on The Square. It previews on 28 Feb and opens on 2 March, and even though we have just started rehearsing this week, I can already tell that it is going to be so lovely. When I suddenly have a waterfall of ideas (most of which will never manifest and be in the final result) I know I am operating in my creative space and it is delicious. It’s also that time when I find things on the rehearsal floor achingly (and repetitively) funny, and my cheeks are sore after every session.

It is interesting working in a space that isn’t my home, and I seem to have lost any small ability to multitask (let’s face it, I don’t have much ability to start with). Everything feels different. Space and travel and timing and food and even the air is different from home. Here I am loving other dogs (missing my dogs), walking the aisles of unfamiliar supermarkets, driving a different car. It’s like I have swopped my life for someone else’s.

This is the second Jew-ish themed piece of work I have done in the last while (I performed Mother in The Finkelsteins are Coming to Dinner; a show I am dying to do in Joburg, hopefully still this year). For someone who is reluctantly Jewish as I am this is hilarious. And we are rehearsing in a pretty Jewish neighbourhood too. All my Jewish radar is on high alert. When you are looking for it, Joburg can be pretty Jewish. I keep having the urge to tap into my ancient Jewish network, to insist they come and see the show.

Whenever I come up to Joburg (my hometown) I am split between wanting to live here and in Cape Town. The urges for both are so strong. This is definitely second prize though; if I can’t live here and in Cape Town at the same time at least I can come up here for a couple of weeks at a time for work.

And, if you are in Jozi you can come and see what I’m doing. Let’s hook up.

 

 

Improv for my life

For those of you who know me you know that I love directing theatre, performing plays and writing them, but my big love, if I were forced to choose, is improvising. I am the happiest and luckiest when I am making things up, especially in front of an audience. I have been very clever about living my dream. For the past 24 years I have been doing this almost every week, in some form or another. I remember thinking, when I was in my 30s that there was an age limit to this form of play, but I haven’t stopped and I love it more all the time.

Last night we practiced a new format that we’ll be ‘premiering’ at ImproGuise‘s fifth annual improv festival (can you believe we have done 5 improv festivals?) that takes place at my favourite Alexander Bar from 6 to 11 March. This new format is called Tribute and how it works (kind of) is that the first half is the back story of the band or musicians we are paying tribute to, and the second half is the tribute band playing their songs. Everything is made up. For those of you who know me, singing is not a strong suit of mine, but I love it nonetheless, and I will be belting it out with the best of us. I cannot wait.

Every single of the five nights is a different format, and the Alexander Bar is teeny, so you should start booking for the ones you definitely want to see.

Also starting in March is our new Improv for Beginners training course. I haven’t been involved in the teaching or running of one of these for a bit, and this year Tandi Buchan and I will be doing it together. It is also another favourite thing of mine to do. If you are keen, please email Tandi on tandibuchan@gmail.com for info on dates, times and costs. This course will change how you do life, and it is for everybody, so come and play.

AWPN, Niqabi Ninja, New Stories

AWPN. African Women Playwrights Network. I don’t even know where to start with this post, and I know I am going to leave out vital parts of what ended up being an extraordinary weekend of African women theatre makers making a very special kind of noise.

About two years ago I signed up to a very basic website/group called AWPN, added a terribly simple bio, visited the site a couple of times, and then forgot about it completely. A lot happened in between, and then Amy Jephta, co-creator of the network, contacted me to find out if we would consider performing Niqabi Ninja at this small symposium that AWPN was hosting. There was an extra edge to it because the playwright of Niqabi Ninja, Sara Shaarawi, was one of the playwrights selected for publication in an anthology of African women’ s plays, and she would be coming to the symposium, from Scotland. This would also be the first time that Sara would see our production of the play (or any production of it). Of course we agreed.

The AWPN took place this weekend, at my other theatre home, the Theatre Arts Admin Collective (without which I would not survive). And it was the most extraordinary weekend. We discussed, we debated, we raged, we committed, we connected, we told stories, we met each other and fell in love, we passed on information and gossip, we networked and shared each others’ stories, and we witnessed Niqabi Ninja all together (a complete brain and heart explosion for me and the ninjas Loren Loubser and Bianca Flanders). We met and joined hands, hearts and voices from Cameroon, Egypt, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, KZN, Gauteng, Free State, Robertson and Cape Town.

I was lucky enough to attend every session and I am richer, wiser and more passionate than ever about my craft as playwright, my job as director, my love as performer, my heart as storyteller. I am also reinvented as a woman at all of these things (although I should have known I was, from the beginning, right?).

Amy and Yvette Hutchinson organised a tiny miracle that took place in Observatory this weekend and I am still glowing.

(I also love this pic I took on my phone of Ayanda watching a performance by Mothertongue Project)

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