Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Uber, and kindness as a way of operating

Last night I did a pretty idiotic but all too common thing. I was in a rush to meet my friend (but I hadn’t concentrated properly and ended up going to a completely different opening night to her, that’s how bad it was), and I jumped out of the Uber leaving my house and car keys on the passenger seat. I sat happily through the long show and then reached into my pockets afterwards and discovered that my keys were not on me. Uber makes it easy to contact the driver, call him and arrange the hook up to get your lost property back, and, after getting home and having Big Friendly on hand to open up, I waited for Colin to come to my front door with my keys. And, of course, he absolutely did.

This way of operating is what sets Uber apart. It is what I have grown to love about Uber, and most of its drivers. There is kindness there, and care, and honesty and proper service. I feel safe using an Uber. I feel special. It is why I would always use an Uber instead of metered taxis. My friends and I have lost phones and wallets and jackets and handbags in metered taxis, and I don’t remember anyone ever getting anything back. Most of the Uber drivers I have met seem to have my best interests at heart. They are kind.

Kindness seems to be less and less available these days, so when it is, the benefits are striking. Stories of kindness reach hero status, because they are rarer and rarer. A helping hand during a catastrophe, an instinct to reach out and offer support, or just an opportunity to do a moment of goodness and help someone in a fix should be the order of the day. It should be what we do, as a matter of course. And it is a way of doing things that we can learn from Uber drivers.

Confession Sessions

I want to introduce you all to some new people in my life. They are four young, fresh and talented people and I am so excited that I am getting to know them now, at this important stage of their young careers. Rendani Mufamadi, Motheo Madisa, Melanie Aiff and Trent Rowe are their names. All four of them are Honours students in Live Performance at AFDA and I have been working with them on their workshopped production that they will take to the NAF this year (sadly the student festival is no more).

We started with nothing. I asked them what they would like to do on stage and each one of them gave me a different goal and desire. So we started to play, and play, and play. We improvised, we told each other stories, we made up stories, we shared interesting moments from our complicated lives, we played out moments in each other’s stories and we laughed, hard and often.

And slowly, not always easily, but over time, our play emerged. There is so much that is cutting edge about this production that we have all been struggling to describe it. It is called Confession Sessions, a name we were hurried into choosing because the NAF forms needed to be filled out. Luckily the name is still valid (even if the student festival itself isn’t, sadly).

Our play is about 3 superheroes and a side kick (currently out of work), and it revolves around who they are and what they do. It is set in a parallel, dystopian South Africa. These guys have big problems; like we all do. In a series of monologues and scenes, we meet them, discover their super powers, the people they have helped, some of their parents, and we attend the funeral of a fallen superhero. This gives each performer a chance to play their main character and a bunch of subsidiary characters, to much delight.

Very influenced by the style and genre of mockumentary films, we decided to see if we could translate this form into a stage performance. What this has ended up being is a series of snapshot scenes and monologues that don’t tell a linear story, but, rather, introduce us to the characters and the world they inhabit.

The result is this strange, charming, moving and hilarious piece of completely original theatre. It has been difficult to trust it all the time, because it is so new and different. But I am so proud of it. We open in exactly two weeks, as part of AFDA’s Experimental Fest. We have shows on Thursday 16 June at 2100, Saturday 18 June at 1700, and a matinee on Sunday 19 June at 1300.

Please come. I would love this work to be seen.

The birthing of a new production

Yesterday was a rollercoaster. I held auditions. I find it as hard holding them as doing them. I have to put out an enormous amount of energy to get people to be their best selves and to have a good time. That’s important to me. I was lucky yesterday. I allowed my instincts to speak loudly and I had no doubts about the two people I cast for a fantastic play I will be directing really soon. Now that the decision is made, and my offer has been accepted, I am allowing my imagination to soar. I am in the space of possibility and dreaming into the ideas, the vision, the meaning, the flow. And I am so terribly excited to be directing somebody else’s writing.

Last year I met an extraordinary young woman, Sara Shaarawi, at the WPIC (Women Playwrights International Conference) held in Cape Town. I was assigned to her as a director to work on a staged reading of an excerpt of her play Niqabi Ninja, and I got very excited. I knew I wanted to put the piece on, but timing and other stuff and life got in the way, until the Rhodes Reference List protests reminded me of how relevant and important this piece is. I wrote to Sara and told her I was ready to try and put it on, and she sent me the latest draft. It is radical.

So, on 18, 19, 20 July we will be doing a showcase of the play at The Alexander Bar. I will be inviting some VIPs of the theatre world (in Cape Town) because this piece must be seen, and appreciated, by as many young people as possible. And I am so, so excited. Save the dates, and come and have a look.

The mind-blowing, moving Sillage

1047_sillagenafsqrI must confess to having been equally intrigued and irritated by the title. Sillage. (Actually, not even spell check likes it, and tried to change it to Village.) I had no idea how to say it. Once I understood what the word meant – the degree to which a perfume’s fragrance lingers in the air when worn – I loved the idea of it, but I did find it pretentiously oblique. This can be dangerous for a title of a theatre piece. If people don’t understand it, they might not want to see it. It is pretty risky. But I am a hardened theatre goer. I put my big theatre pants on and off I went to the Alexander Bar to see this piece written and directed by Penny Youngelson and performed by Rebecca Makin-Taylor and Michelle Belknap.

And I was undone by it. It is the only expression that describes the quiet emotional landslide that this piece took me on. The plot is simple; a daughter comes back to her parents’ home to help her mother pack up and organise the move to downscale. The play is their relationship.

Now, it is no secret that I have a deeply complicated story with my mother, and this play was no reflection of it, but I was so engrossed in this dynamic, and felt so completely for both characters, it was like being the third person in the room; the one that was them both. As personal becomes political becomes personal the emotional ripples are both inward and outward, and I kept on wondering who I was, here in this world, in this country, in this city, in this suburb, in this age, in this house. I was taken.

The writing is superb, the direction is clever and beautiful and the performances are electric, magnetic, truthful and huge. I felt everything. Always. It was an hour of me being there, in it.

I have not loved much theatre this year. I have been the irritation of others because I have remained mostly unmoved by the work that has been raved about. But this. This Sillage, is the kind of theatre that moves me.

As far as I know it is on for three more shows this run, but it is going to the Gtown fest. Do not miss it.

A funny thing happened on the way to the theatre

This is a post written with a particular friend of mine in mind. Rudy has been a major influence in my life, not only because he has been in it since I was 18, but also because he has had a prescient knowledge of me, and my abilities, loves, hates and talents.

When I was at drama school he told me that I would make a good director. I was furious. I wanted to act. Nothing else would do. He told me to have this conversation with him again when I turned 40. I did. He was right. When I was 40 he asked me when I would become the teacher I needed to be. I was furious. I hate teaching. I only teach when I absolutely have to. It is my worst. He told me we would have this conversation again.

And yesterday, when I bumped into a student of mine from 12 years ago, I realised I had been doing this thing I hate, and loving it in secret, for a very, very long time. Granted, in the same free-lance style that is my usual life, but still, teaching, on and off for more than 20 years. I have also been realising, slowly, like a spreading blush, that I adore my current students (AFDA Live Performance honours students) even though I am not officially teacher, but more coach, facilitator, and kind of director. I am working with them on their workshopped production for the Grahamstown festival, and even though I do more than my fair share of complaining, I love them, and the work we are doing. Who would have thought?

So, I guess, as long as we don’t call it teaching, and it is all part of everything to do with theatre, and drama, I pretty much love it, along with everything else I love about theatre.It is scary how right you have been all along Rudy.

 

White 2

These last few days have, since the discovery of vile racist judge Mabel Jansen’s Facebook rant,  been particularly challenging for those of us who are trying very hard to negotiate this stuff. Twice today I had to physically turn off the radio because I couldn’t listen to first Redi Tlhabi and then John Maytham deal with the tempered voices of white racists who had absolutely no self awareness or even idea that they were that.

And what I am struggling with is the boldness of the declarations of these racists. Somehow, suddenly they are out there, proudly spewing this stuff, as if something has changed, and they are allowed to. Something has definitely shifted, and all those closet racists that were more private and careful, and got themselves into trouble accidentally, and were told off by family members at dinner tables, those racists have become louder, more shameless, more visible. They are all over social media like a cancer. They are on talk shows of every subject, tediously spewing their twisted vision of what needs to happen to whom, and demanding that they should be agreed with by the exhausted and desperate hosts.

It feels like we have tipped over. I had no idea that there were so many of them out there. So, so many that it makes the voices of likeminded friends a piss in the ocean. More than anything I realise how little we have achieved and how unsuccessful any transformation has been. Whites (in the main) are not budging, and worse, don’t see why they should.

And this terrifies me beyond imagining. I don’t know what to do. I am sick and shocked and scared.

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