Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Month: August 2013 (Page 1 of 2)

Why I am lucky – an improviser’s note

I love what I do, and I get to do it a lot. Most weeks, twice a week I get to improvise live in front of an audience. Sometimes I emcee a show and sometimes I play. Both of those jobs are completely ace. Last night’s show is a case in point. It is a love story on so many levels. Here’s what happened, and who and how I loved.

Last night we did something a little different from our regular Tuesday short form improv show at The Kalk Bay Theatre. We did what we came to call a ‘half and half’. Half the show was dedicated to some fun short form games. Then, after a tiny interval to reset the stage, we did a 25 minute long homage to Chekhov. I emceed the short form games and directed the Chekhov, giving me a brilliant opportunity to kick back and watch the magic happen from the sidelines. I was particularly invested in the Chekhov piece, after seeing 3 beautiful examples of Chekhov by The Mechanicals in the last two weeks, and also because I had run a short workshop on the themes and styles of Chekhov; adapting them to an improv situation. I promised the improvisers that I would intervene where necessary, to guide the piece, but I didn’t. Not once. It all unfolded absolutely beautifully, hilariously, confidently and touchingly and all I had to do was watch. I loved each and every member of the team and was glowingly proud of them.

But before that. The short form games. When I saw the three gorgeous pre-teen boys and a mum coming into the theatre I was delighted that we were doing a first half of short games that the boys would love. And when I came out in front of the audience for the first time and there were quite a lot of ‘never-seen-improv-before’ members, and I was pleased to take them through short form before the long form. The cast did not disappoint. Each game was delicious, culminating in an Opera called The Finger Puppets of Geometry. Yes. Our audience was in raptures. And I loved them back. They were perfectly primed for the completely made-up Chekhov, which they loved.

There was a lot of love going around. After the show I had a glass of wine at the bar with a big table of fans. They were also half and half; half veterans who had seen us before, and half first timers. They could hardly believe that we had made it all up, but what sold them on the idea was that we had taken up some of the strange suggestions from them. This was proof that we weren’t faking it.

I left, into the rain and cold with the biggest, warmest grin. Full of improv love. And, I get to do it twice next week, and then begin to teach it, in our brand new improv training course starting next Thursday. Lots more love. Keep up to date on our ImproGuise website for news, info about performances, courses and our 15 hour improvised Soap-A-Thon in October.

Expectant

Last night I went to see Expectant at Alexander Bar, created and directed by Penny Youngelson (part of Rust Co-Operative) and performed by Rebecca Makin-Taylor. It was the final performance there, but they have a tiny run at TAAC soon (just so you know).

I was pretty taken up with this quite extraordinary  piece of theatre. This is not a review of Expectant. At this stage of its showing I doubt that it needs that. This is me trying to explain why I liked it so very much, in the best possible way.

I really liked this piece of work because it is entirely itself. What that is, is complex, funny, challenging, self absorbed, self conscious, indulgent, clever, critical, big, slow, crazy, full of promise, washed with disappointment, lots of beauty, and articulation, and sound, and pointlessness, and wacky character and carapace/constriction/period dress, and weird big hair, and glass cups and red tampon-like string things. It is South African, and a clue to what young clever people are thinking and feeling, and it nods to my past, and indulges my whiteness and it made me feel again how I don’t have children (a deeply personal moment of powerful and unintended connection). It is long and complicated and verbose and full, and try as I might, I missed stuff and laughed and missed the next thing and then was taken by surprise by the next thing.

This piece made me excited for another big reason. It is made for itself. It is made to speak its own special stuff, with its own voice. It has not been made with an audience in mind, because if it had been it would have been very different. It is theatre that reminded me that theatre can be made without imagining who will see it, and pandering to them. And there will be people who will get it, or at least enough of it to count. This is brave theatre. It is probably full of its own heartache, but my sense is that the young women who have made it are pretty strong.

Best Winter Barley Soup Recipe

All my soups are one-offs because I make them up. Big friendly always says to write them down, but I don’t, and then when he asks for the ‘one like the last time’ I have no idea what I did. But yesterday’s barley soup was too good not to make a note of, so here goes. I made a nice big pot, but it is almost done!

Ingredients

2 leeks, sliced

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic

2 chopped celery sticks

3 diced carrots

2 diced parsnips

5 skinned fresh tomatoes, chopped

1 cup pearl barley

A kettle of boiling water

1 Knorr veg stock pot

crushed cumin, turmeric, chili flakes, crushed coriander, salt, pepper

1 tsp tom yum paste

Worcestershire sauce

Sweat off onions, garlic, leeks and celery in a splash of olive oil. Add all spices, salt and pepper and cook until onions and leeks are tender and glassy. Add carrots and parsnips, stir and add water and the stock pot and the barley. Then add the tomatoes. Finally, add the tom yum paste and Worcestershire sauce. Let it cook gently for a good hour or so and add more water if the barley absorbs too much. It is delicious. And even better the next day.

Sorry. No pic. All eaten.

 

 

New improv (of)course

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I cannot believe we are barreling towards the end of the year already. I haven’t even got all my mascara off from last year. Of course, what this means is that it is time for us to be putting together our new improv workshop, which will be starting on Thursday 5 Sept and will run every Thurs until the 24 October from 630pm to 930pm at The Waterfront Theatre School. This course is for anyone with some performing experience, ranging from professional actors, to comedians, to part time performers with a knack.

This blog post is to encourage you to sign up. I know a lot of performers who have expressed an interest in doing the course and then have shut down, for many reasons, but the biggest and most common one is fear. This is something we spend time working on, and it is very liberating. It is also very safe, and very funny. And even if you discover that you never want to improvise on stage again, you will have had fun discovering it.

We are excited for new blood, and are specifically on the hunt for new Improguise company members, since we have expanded what we do, from the usual twice a week TheatreSports shows, to include monthly experimental adults-only improv at Alexander Bar, our very successful long form improv shows (that include period drama, Westerns and musicals), our yearly 2 week improv fest, and our long, long fundraiser Soap-a-thon, taking place this year on 26 October. You’ll notice that that is 2 days after we complete the new course and we are going to be inviting course graduates to make cameo performances in the Soap-a-thon.

So, there are a lot of good reasons to sign up now to do the course. Email me, megan@improguise.co.za and I’ll put your name on the Yes I’m In list.

Hayani – going home, in so many ways

Two in a row, on two consecutive nights. Once again I am back here on meganshead, writing about a show I absolutely loved. This decision to only write about the stuff I love seems to have paid off in buckets.

Hayani means ‘home’ in Venda. It is also the name of a totally beautiful production that opened at The Baxter last night. Directed by Warren Nebe, Atandwa Kani and Nat Ramabulana tell the stories of their growing up; their two very different, yet at times converging stories. The two move from telling how they would travel, as children, from Joburg back to the Eastern Cape and Venda during the holidays, to how their respective parents met, to playing those parents and each other, and each other’s friends in the most delightful and absorbing hour and a half in a theatre shared with them.

It also had a deeply personal ring for me, particularly the scenes that took place in Jozi, because that was where I grew up. References to times and dates as well as landmarks brought back my own memories too, and the most powerful one was listening to the beautiful, round and lilting sounds of Venda being spoken, reminding me without me understanding, but hearing with such familiarity.

The content means story telling, and the pieces are beautifully written and directed, but it is the performers who take it to a whole new level. They are gorgeous. Tight, energetic, passionate, emotional, sensitive, powerful, gentle, funny, cheeky, and deeply committed performance make Hayani the easy peasy standing ovation piece it is. Again, I am writing this to urge you to see theatre that can change your heart from the inside.

Chekhov makes me go back on my word (it is that good)

I know. I know what I said about writing ‘review’ style posts on meganshead. I know I made a declaration about how I wouldn’t, but I have to. I am compelled to write about last night because I don’t know how else to let you know how special Die Kersieboord, by The Mechanicals, is.

It was absolutely icy, and totally wet last night, the second night of the first Chekhov offering (The Cherry Orchard in Afrikaans) that The Mechanicals are doing, in rep with the double bill of The Bear and The Proposal. To be honest, the last thing I felt like was dragging my sorry arse outside, away from the fire and warm dogs. But I am so completely glad I did.

Sandra Temmingh directs this gorgeous translation, with an ensemble cast that are stunning. Every single one of them are so perfect and gorgeous that I feel bad selecting Oscar Petersen out, but he does have the most mind blowing moment of the show.

It runs for an hour and twenty minutes (short for Chekhov). I last saw the original, unabridged version over twenty years ago. My Afrikaans is nowhere near fluent so I am not sure how much is completely different from that version, but this is the new, improved one for sure, and it makes for the most riveting, moving, entertaining, satisfying and delightful theatre.

But there is more. Somehow, Sandra and her cast have turned this production into the most relevant piece of theatre for South Africa (white South Africans in particular) and the connections are direct and totally electrifying. It is a massive achievement. It is not commentary, or satire, or protest. It is a gentle, horrifying and hilarious story of loss and change and human ridiculousness. It is beautiful and I urge you to go and see it.

Die Kersieboord runs 6 – 17 Aug and 28 – 31 August Tuesday – Saturday at 20:00
The Proposal (20:00) and The Bear (21:15) run Tuesday to Sunday 22 – 27 August and 1 – 12 September.

As a side note, we will be performing a long form, Chekhov style improv show on Tuesday 27 August at The Kalk Bay Theatre called Chekhov’s Women, in honour of Women’s Month.

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