Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Advice for recent Drama Graduates

This is an open letter to all recent drama school graduates who are trying to enter the profession, from a very experienced, not always successful, long time fighter in the field.

Dear almost made it,

Firstly, congratulations on completing the introduction to what will be a lifetime of learning, practicing, hoping, developing and waiting. Drama school (I include all of them) is the very beginning of your journey and, if you are anything like I was when I finished my diploma and degree at UCT, you have only just started to understand this world. Yes, it is a great start, but that is what it is – an introduction.

What next? Some of you will wait to get work, hope to get an an agent, go to castings, become bar tenders while you wait. Some of you will tech for other shows, stay part of a theatrical community, do courses, get drunk with your friends, or give up entirely and make a different choice for your life. One or two of you will land that job, make a name for yourself, fill your calendars, win awards and glow and succeed.

Some of you will be bold and take the initiative to create your own work. You will be both praised for this and warned; it is so tough on every level. It is tough to work with no money, and to get others to work for no money, it is tough to publicise a show with no resources, no name to go on, no past history to rely on. It is heart breaking to perform for tiny audiences. All of this is true. So, if you do decide to put on your own work, even with all these things conspiring to make it the hardest thing to achieve, you need to make sure you do the work.

Learn your lines. Rehearse. Rehearse more than you ever did at school. Make sure that you respect the space, the playwright, the director and most importantly, the audience, because there will be people like me, who have been there and done that, who will be sitting in the audience and who will know. We will know that you just haven’t done the work and you are trying to get away with it. Your raw talent, and recent knowledge of voice warm-ups will give you false confidence, but it isn’t enough to pull the wool over our eyes, and you do yourselves a terrible disservice.

Honour the theatrical space by giving it the respect it deserves. Honour your education by knowing that all those things you learned need to be put into practice. Make a commitment to putting on great work, and failing, rather than trying to get away with shit work, or no work.

Whatever you do, do not present shit work, half-baked work, work that shows you up as a chancer, as someone who doesn’t really take their craft seriously. I recognise talent, but I can tell you right now, I have only once ever casted someone because they were talented, even though I was concerned about their reliability and commitment, and I made the biggest mistake.

We see you, those of us in the tiny audience who know how it works, and we know exactly what you are doing. And your friends and family might not tell you the truth, so I am going to. Do not do the barest minimum of work and try to get away with it. It will not serve you.

I hope you know that I have your best interests at heart. I want you to succeed, make beautiful theatre and be brilliant. That is what I want to watch.

Megan

 

 

Accidentally delicious Vegan Salad

Sometimes I’ve just got to blog about it. I am currently eating and blogging at the same time because I have to tell you about this morning’s accidental salad.

Quinoa left over salad (quinoa – my special recipe, diced cucumber, snap peas, spring onion, blanched green beans, basil, flat leaf parsley), shredded cabbage (my new obsession), diced avo, tablespoons of chia seeds, goji berries, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, tahini, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar. So completely delicious.

The Tiniest World of Song and threads of History

When my brother and I were tiny our family would come to Cape Town some December holidays to stay with my paternal grandparents who lived in the last house in the road in Oranjezicht. Across the road was a rugby field and then the mountain. We would wake up in the morning and head across the road to play in the stream that came off the mountain, catching tadpoles and wetting our feet, until the rest of the household woke up.

My grandfather had a giant Valiant; the worst size of a car for his tiny height. Driving with him was hilarious for us kids and terrifying for my parents because my zaida Israel would let go of the steering wheel and tap on it as he sang Yiddish songs. “Yum Tsiki dai dai” he would sing, or “Chiri Bim, Chiri Bom”.

Last night I snuck into The Labia to see the second screening of Philip Todres’ documentary Leah, Teddy and The Mandolin – Cape Town Embraces Yiddish Song. The movie house was filled to the brim with white haired Jewish moaners; I overheard how this lady had all her jewellery stolen by that maid and all she got from insurance was R21000, not enough for a single choker. I heard snippets of the ‘Jewish report’ of how many Jewish Capetonians had been forced to leave the country – things are so bad. I had to cough and splutter to get the woman next to me (who had come late) to shut up and stop using her cellphone. The usual. The kind of audience I had grown used to with From Koe’siestes To Kneidlach.

So imagine my surprise when I found myself utterly moved and connected to this little piece of history, celebrating Philip Todres’ 10 years of The Cape Town Yiddish Song Festival. This tiny movie, with interviews and recordings of songs from the concerts, tells the story of the rebirth of interest in Yiddish, and through it all I felt the longing and nostalgia for my grandparents’ home, up the hill from The Labia, and my zaida killing himself laughing at that “knakker on a nun”, and my granny Sophie (born in SA and less fluent in Yiddish) telling him to shush; he was letting the world know how unsophisticated he was.

I was taken back to my late father’s record collection and I remember those deadly boring Sundays of my youth when the Nationalist government wouldn’t allow anything to happen on the day of rest. We would lie on the carpet and listen to Connie Francis and Eartha Kitt, and even Harry Belafonte, singing Yiddish songs and my father would join in. Sometimes my maternal zaida Louis would come by, and a game of Klaberjas would happen and my zaida would curse in Yiddish (a chaleria zols du chappen) if he lost, tease and boast if he won, call my father a ganef, and he would tell us again about how strong uncle Izzy’s Yiddish accent was when he complained about the dog showing ‘vite tiet’.

I lost my critical voice and professional opinion last night. This is very unusual. I put it down to what Klezmer musician band leader Matthew Reid said about all the Yiddish songs being in a minor key, so even if they are happy and jolly songs they are still sad. Those minor keys got me, and even though I would never in a million years go for the terrible shtetl stereotypical scarf and suitcase Fiddler styling and direction, I found myself humming along and tapping, with the rest of the audience in the movie house.

Well done, Philip Todres. I don’t know how you have managed to make Cape Town’s Yiddish Song Festival a thing, and now even a little movie, but you have, and it is its own special kind of wonderful.

Poem for Water

It is raining as we get on the plane

Raindrops trail on the outside double window

A taunt.

The tarmac is wet and slick

And sounds are water muted

Our showered bodies smell clean

But we feel somehow unprepared for our return

To the dry land

The panic land

The brown land

The bone sand dam

The hollow dry bed

The withered pot plant

The turned off tap

The unused pipes

The dirty sheets

The threat of fires.

Our throats dry in the pressurised cabin

And our tiny bottles of bought sparkling water

Are drops in the sky from up here

They will pass through our bodies before we leave the air.

This last week of swimming

And summer thunderstorms

And pink centred bromeliads holding minature worlds of water

For frogs and bugs

And taps for feet washing

And balconies dripping rainwater onto the balconies below

And gathering more and then dripping onto the balconies below

Has felt so tropical and abundant.

I am drying up and out

As I head home.

The Privilege of Water

I am sitting on the couch with wet hair dripping onto my shoulders after the longest shower to wash sea salt and sand off my body after a vigorous swim in the Indian Ocean.

It’s the final day of a week-long holiday for us. We were invited by my family to join them for a week at timeshare in Umhlanga, and mostly it has been a break from the devastating reality of the drought in Cape Town. We left our animals and house in the care of a house sitter who had to negotiate our makeshift grey water storage in the bathtub for toilet flushing, a courtyard full of plants clinging to life with only dishwater to sustain them and boxes of bought water for human and animal consumption.

We left Cape Town but took the paranoia and panic with us, and it has slowly crept up the scale again today, as we think about our return home tomorrow. Never before have I considered so deeply my privilege. I have had a week of proper escape from my real life. There are working taps on pathways for holidaymakers to wash their sandy feet. There are working fresh water showers on the beach. Our resort towels may be exchanged for fresh ones whenever we want to, and if we leave shower towels on the floor that means we want fresh ones. Drinks are served with tons of ice. Lawns around us are watered. I heard the forgotten sound of sprinklers watering the plants on the promenade.

Whenever anyone finds out that we are from Cape Town they start talking about the drought. Holiday makers from inland (Jozi and Pretoria mainly) tell stories of friends and family who visited Cape Town in December and who were shocked by the severity of the drought. Cape Town’s status as a ‘premier destination’ has taken a huge knock, and the general opinion is that huge events like the cycle tour should be cancelled because of the strain they place on water usage. My Jozi friends are part of water collection drives, and I am moved when I get whatsapp updates about water being sent to animal shelters.

I am turning my head to what I return to tomorrow. I haven’t been online much, but every time I have stuck my nose onto Facebum I have seen friends posting about water fights at Newlands, shelves at shops being empty, hand sanitiser and wet wipes being sold out, and tips for further reducing consumption. I am frightened, and it is the fear of both what we have done, what we have ignored, and how we honestly believed it could never happen.

 

Powerful Nostalgia

I spent last weekend in Jozi, running around and celebrating my niece’s 4th birthday and my aunt and uncle’s 50th wedding anniversary, and showering twice a day. On the morning of my departure I had to go through a big cardboard box that had been lying in my brother’s storeroom since my mother’s passing. I needed to try and find copies of my university certificate, otherwise I would never have gone through the daunting task.

My brother left me with strict instructions. Take, leave stuff to do with him, bomb the rest. I picked up a letter at random. It was a letter to me from my mother during my first week at UCT, Feb 1983. I held the thin blue airmail paper between my fingers. I looked at her curly writing. I started to read. I stopped. This was never going to work. I tossed the letter into my suitcase. Next I held up a yellowed, musty smelling piece of newspaper – the classifieds. Two sentences underneath the headline CHORITZ announced my birth. Next was a photograph of my grandfather and my father and his sister; both small children in home made Tarzanesque swimming costumes.

A love letter from my boyfriend who was on the border. At least a hundred letters from a Cape Town friend writing to me in Joburg after we met at Habonim camp. A review of the first play I was in after graduating in 1987. A script of The Dibbuk, a play we performed at the beginning of my second year at UCT, when I met my long time bestie Rudy Nadler-Nir – we have been friends for 34 years now. Two photostats (at least I found them) of my university certificate. (No idea where the original is).

Photos of me as a child in swimming costume and hat on a Seapoint beach. My brother and I with swollen mumps cheeks. 

Me and a friend in a school toilet, smoking. Me smoking in lots of university and after photos. The boy I lost my virginity to. Pictures in tents, on hikes, at school, on stage, with friends, at matric dances. Pictures of The Harbour Cafe, where I was the bouncer. Me in costume, often in costume.

I dumped everything I could into the suitcase. I was feeling lightheaded and upside down.

With every spare moment this week, since being back home, I have gone through the stuff. Reading the letters, looking at pictures of nothing but veld taken out of a car window and searching for the where, when, how of it, and sharing one or two with the people who are still in my life. I am still feeling funny. In a way sad, and in a way relieved. I don’t know why.

 

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