Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Improv Inspiration

Not that I need it, but yesterday is living proof that improv is the most extraordinary tool and philosophy in the corporate environment.

A few weeks ago I was approached by an international company who wanted to find out about the possibility of doing some industrial theatre at a conference. They had a product (a data system) that needed to be launched, and they wanted us to spice up the launch and make it fun and exciting. After a lovely chat, they were broad minded enough to consider my suggestion that we run an improv workshop/show shop with the delegates (instead of doing rehearsed sketches), and then pepper the presentation with some improvised interventions. (I must add here that the terrifying idea of trying to understand the product and then deliver accurate content around it was the main reason why I wanted to avoid writing a script and then rehearsing the stuff).

Only after I had sold the idea to them did I hear that there were going to be 200 delegates. 200! That is 200 people in a room, 10 at a table, 20 tables.

So when we (three veteran improvisers) arrived at the venue yesterday and started setting up while everyone was at lunch I felt like an imposter. How were we going to pull this off? I shouldn’t have worried. It was magnificent, and energising, and hilarious and potent and unbelievably barrier breaking. It worked. It was amazing. My fellow improvisers Tandi Buchan and Brett Anderson were superb, and we managed to change and charge the room.

Now this is all I want to do, for the rest of my life. So, if you need us, let me know. Send me a line on megan@improvision.co.za

 

Burkini Brain Short Circuit

I just had a deep, physical reaction to another article about the burkini ban in France. It felt like a heartburn eruption in my middle and exploding out of my face. I keep checking to see if it is real. France has actually, really, truly, officially banned the burkini.  This is totally insane. It is insane and childish and illogical and mental and mad. It is not a joke. Women are being FINED for wearing burkinis. Women are being asked to take them off. Men are paying women’s fines in court.

People in France find the burkini offensive. People in France think that women should be forced to not wear  burkinis. My brain cannot even start to compute. And not only is it offensive to French authorities (and other paranoid, racist, Islamophobes) that some women should cover up in this way, it is now also illegal.

My brain hurts too much to even try and take this thought further. What in the name of actual fuckery are they busy doing?

Edit: It is a man’s war, fought with a hidden enemy, on women’s bodies.

An ImproGuise Letter

Many of you know me as an improviser. I have been improvising, teaching improv, and involved in all shapes and sizes of improv in Cape Town for close to 25 years. It is my first love. Our group was originally popularly known as TheatreSports, and then it became ImproGuise, and we are proud to call ourselves the longest running live show in South Africa. This letter that follows is a letter to all that know, love and support us.

A Letter from the Improguise improvisers

To all our fans, friends, supporters, patrons, reviewers, fellow improvisers, suggestion givers, audiences, and those who have laughed along with us for 23 years,

As you know, Improguise is Cape Town’s (and South Africa’s) longest running, most loved and creative improv company. We have been performing continuously in Cape Town and around the country for the last 23 years, bringing you our well known brand of TheatreSports, and introducing you to other fabulous improv formats; some that we learned from fellow improvisers across the globe, and some that we invented all by ourselves. We have entertained schools, corporates, performed at festivals and overseas improv celebrations, performed our own week long improv festivals, improv marathons and of course, carried on performing our weekly shows to our faithful audiences.

We think it’s time to start doing things differently.

We have gotten better and better and we want to be able to bring the best of what we do to different stages and audiences, new and old. So this is what we are going to be doing in order to change the way we bring improv to you. We have decided to focus on little runs of improv at various venues around Cape Town, and even South Africa, where we will focus on a particular style, or format of improv. Occasionally we have done these very successful improv shows in the past, and now it is going to be the way we move forward.

So, what’s up next? Where can you see us? On the 1, 2, and 3 of September we will be performing three nights of Word Play at The Alexander Bar. This is an exciting new format using words as improv inspiration. The Alexander Bar is an intimate venue with only 44 seats, so make sure you book soon, and online to get your booking discount.

Then, later on in October Improguise will be participating in the Mama City International Improv festival, that is being held in Cape Town, and the details are still being finalised for that.

We are in talks for a series of three shows in November in our old stomping ground in the Southern Peninsula, and will let you know about this the minute dates have firmed up. And we can announce that those dates have firmed up as 27, 28, 29 November at the Masque Theatre in Muizenberg

 

The best way to find out about where we are and what we’ll be doing is on social media. Check out our website www.improguise.co.za, like our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ImproGuise/, and follow our twitter account @ImproGuiseSA for all our latest news.

 

We want to continue to bring the best improv to you.

 

With much love and respect

 

The Improguise Guys

CT Fringe Revisited

Yesterday the full programme of the 3rd CT Fringe was announced to media and theatre lovers at my favourite theatre and second home The Alexander Bar. I wasn’t there, but I was invested. I am involved in two shows on this year’s fringe. I am performing in the premier of a brand new play, The Finkelsteins are Coming to Dinner, and Niqabi Ninja, Sara Shaarawi’s play that I have directed, will also have five performances at this year’s fringe.

For those of you who know me, my participation may be quite a surprise, and even a radical turn around. Believe me, I am still trying to get my head around it too. So much about what I find problematic about the CT Fringe still holds true. Actually, all still holds true. Once again, the festival model puts all financial risk on the artist, with very little possibility of proper financial return. The financial outlay is big if a production is not sponsored, like Niqabi Ninja, where I have to shoulder the financial burden of registration, venue hire, publicity and actual production costs. Then I have to do big maths to hope that we have audience numbers that will not only cover costs but still be able to give the performers a decent cut. To be fair, this model only works in an artist’s favour if there is producer money, or proper sponsorship. But I am not sure how many productions go into the festival with donor money.

The other big thing about the CT Fringe is, who is it for? Who is its target audience? Is it another exclusive, elite Cape Town experience that further alienates those creating work in challenging conditions without helping them get the work out to the audiences it deserves? Why does the Fringe not serve the greater community of Cape Town? And the answer here is, it can’t. And that still remains terribly problematic for me.

So why am I doing it? Well, with The Finkelsteins are Coming to Dinner, the decision of being part of the festival was taken out of my hands, and as a performer I was happy to go with the consensus of the company. It was how it was, and I, like most not very famous actors, was delighted at the opportunity to be on stage regardless. I still am. So excited.

With Niqabi Ninja I have a deep commitment to getting the message of the piece out to a wider audience, and the CT Fringe seemed like a good place to start. I am so proud of the work, the actors, and the impact it has already had on the small audiences we attracted at the Alexander Bar, but I know that it needs to speak to a much bigger, broader audience, and this is just the start. We have made the work to be absolutely portable and festival friendly. And this will be our first festival outing, to test its waters, and gauge its response.

But, the main reason I signed Niqabi Ninja up was because of the gentle persuasion, encouragement, support and genuine engagement I had from the festival’s new guest Artistic Director Rob Murray. (Some of you will remember my experiences with the past one in not such genial circumstances.) I trust Rob (enough to shake a stick at him and know he will not bite). I believe in him. I believe he has, in as much as his position allows, a genuine understanding of the challenges faced by those who are creating theatre and trying to get it out to an audience.

So, for those of you who missed our tiny run at Alexander Bar, please come and support Niqabi Ninja at the CT Fringe. We have made the tickets as cheap as we can, to improve accessibility and affordability. We are in the City Hall 3. Here are our dates. 22/09 20:30, 23/09 18:30, 24/09 22:30, 25/09 20:30, 26/09 18:30

And then, come and laugh with (and at) me on stage at City Hall 2 in The Finkelsteins are Coming To Dinner. There are 11 shows spread over the whole of the festival. This one is going to be a winner.

Rude Awakening – Women’s Day

My father was that incredible being; a true example of how a man should bring up a daughter. Of course he had his faults, some of them big, and some of them strange, but the one thing he did with magnificence was bring me up as a person, and not as a girl.

He was only mildly interested in girly stuff, and tolerated those phases that I went through with kindness and bemusement. But mostly he was interested in developing my brain and thoughts, my talents and skills, and I didn’t feel like foremost a girl when I was with him. I felt seen and heard and understood, and I was criticised and encouraged and scolded and guided as a person.

The main result of the way my father treated me was that I expected all boys and men to treat me that way. I was shocked and angered when they didn’t and was lucky enough to be confident in my confrontation of them and their inappropriate behaviour. I was also lucky enough that nothing really bad happened to me when I was growing up.

When I was about 15 a friend’s father tried to kiss me before I entered his house. I remember laughing in his face. As a school girl, when I was catcalled at I remember swearing like a trooper (my father swore creatively and colourfully in a few languages) and it working beautifully to embarrass the catcaller. When I felt the unwanted physical attention of boys it seemed like the most natural thing to tell them to stop and to expect them to.

My father was also my confidant. I told him about my first sexual encounter and his response was perfect; concerned, practical (protection was a big deal) and terribly adult. I can only now imagine the restraint he had to have to pull off that conversation.

My father never ever made me feel the disadvantages of being a woman. And, in a weird way, maybe he should have. Because it has come upon me over the years with such force, and such distaste and even disbelief, that his way is not the way of the world. And this makes me deeply, achingly sad. Because it damn well should be.

(This musing is written for Sara Shaarawi, playwright of Niqabi Ninja, actresses Bianca Flanders and Loren Loubser, and the 4 silent Khwezi protesters)

Khwezi Ninjas

NN by Nicky Newman - WEB-12I had no idea how perfect the timing of Niqabi Ninja was going to be, but on the eve of the announcement of South Africa’s election results, in front of the whole country, four young female ninjas performed a silent, poetic, theatrical protest that was somehow more meaningful than the election results themselves.

Four young women invoked the buried tragedy of Khwezi, Zuma’s rape victim, as he stood behind a podium, oblivious. And then they were violently removed.

In our short run of Niqabi Ninja (a play that deals with sexual harassment and mob rape in Egypt, but reflects on it everywhere in the world) we became more and more aware of how men were largely ignorant of the prevalence and impact of sexual harassment and even rape itself. We realised that all women who ever have to walk somewhere or share public space at some point, have to prepare themselves for the inevitability of harassment. Women are exhausted by the relentlessness of this constant and ubiquitous targeting.

It is Women’s month (hilarious), and Women’s day on Tuesday (a whole day!) and there are programmes and discussions and even adverts about what this means. But those four ninjas ‘said’ it perfectly, and they were shut down immediately. I know for certain that the time is absolutely now for everybody to see and experience our play Niqabi Ninja. I need help to get it out there. Anyone know who can produce a nationwide tour? Every campus, high school, organisation, government building, police station, boardroom needs to host a performance. Now.

Call me with your ideas. 0834403961.

(Above photo by Nicky Newman)

 

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