Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Month: November 2013 (Page 1 of 2)

Thoughts and realisations

So, last week was a power one for me, mainly because of the completely overwhelming response I got from friends and strangers to Drive With Me. Powerful too was that I was, without too much effort, able to get three little full houses to see my show. Compared to Grahamstown this was a real success, and on a deeply personal level I was able to bury the disaster that the festival was, and rebirth Drive With Me into recognition, being visible and appreciated. I definitely feel more hopeful, proud, encouraged and fulfilled after a magnificent short time at Alexander Bar.

But this triggered another really big deeply personal realisation about me and what I do. And it has to do with this blog. My initial inspiration and motivation (back in 2007, can you believe?) was to write review style posts about the theatre I saw. I was immediately controversial, and this also meant readable. Every time I wrote a review post my readership spiked, people left comments, I was agreed with, passionately disagreed with, fought with and I was even part of a theatre scandal that took me ages to recover from as well as a recipient of a deeply personal dressing down by a friend, for something that I unintentionally did to hurt her. In all this I continued writing about theatre, and defending my position, but I didn’t make the connection, even though I was warned about how inappropriate it was for me to ‘piss where I slept’. People loved reading what I had to say about other theatre, but didn’t want to see the theatre I would make. I was the person people loved to hate. It crept up on me, getting worse and worse every time I tried to rustle up an audience for something I was involved in. My tragic experience in Grahamstown brought all of this into sharp focus, and while there is no doubt I was paranoid, desperate and most invisible, I also felt like I wasn’t doing myself any favours by writing about theatre at the same time as making it. I could manage the contradiction but people in the industry couldn’t, and made it known by actively not supporting me.

It was very hard to decide to stop writing about other people’s work, and I had to wean myself off it. At first I couldn’t resist writing about stuff that I loved, convinced I would be able to help it get an audience.I decided that I would only write about things I loved, but of course it was obvious then what I didn’t love, by the absence of writing. I also had to take responsibility for being on a few opening night invitation lists. I was being invited as if I were a critic. I was much more valuable as part of a publicity campaign for others, than as a producer of my own work. Eina. A hard lesson.

And now the challenge has been to reestablish myself as a player. I write, perform, direct and make theatre. I won’t write about other people’s theatre any more. I am sorry it has taken me so long to get to this place, but I am suddenly so much more at ease. I will heartily recommend stuff I enjoy, and I will also write about my thoughts and experiences of the industry in general. And, so, it is time to get your honest response, reader. What do you think?

The Weirdness of Acting

A very short, erm, run (3 nights) of a play condenses into sharp intensity how weird acting is. Regardless of whether you have done the show ever before, the first night, the opening, is a case of controlling nerves, putting yourself out there, measuring how you are in front of an audience, steering yourself into being totally present, managing the energy and adrenaline and experiencing the intense flood of relief afterwards.

When your second night is also your second last night you get trapped in the weirdest time zone of the whole experience being newish, and not yet entirely comfortable, the different quality of energy compared to the night before, and the forward looking to it being near the end again.

Acting a one-person piece is consuming. It takes up all my headspace, heartspace and bodyspace. I am thinking about the last show tonight, and already almost experiencing the longing I will feel tomorrow, when it is over, even though I find the intensity of actually doing it almost unbearable. Go figure. It is surely a case of “why do we do this?” that runs parallel to “I have to do this”. I am in awe of other performers who sustain this kind of work for most of their lives; I only get to do it once in a blue moon, and my other stage experience with improv is very different.

Acting a piece that I have written too is very complicated. I sometimes don’t know who I am after a performance. Am I more the writer or am I more the actor?

But, when I am on stage nothing else counts but the moment, the relationship with the audience, that electric contract, that sharing of molecular information.

The most lovely Alexander Bar

Lots of you will already know that The Alexander Bar and Cafe (and Upstairs Theatre) is the most fantastic place to have on the list of where to go in CT. It is central, only ever closed on Sundays, quirky and retro comfortable, the staff are awesome, the music eclectic, the furniture excellent and the drinks fabulous. It is also a terrific place to watch theatre. Small enough to be intimate but not compromised by that.

I have directed and performed there before, but doing Drive With Me there now has reminded me how brilliant it is to be a performer there. Nicholas and Edward are the most attentive, caring, active hosts. It also helps that they love theatre. Jono is the best venue manager and a master technician. The tiny space is well kitted out technically, and the stage is a performer’s dream.

It is the kind of place where magical theatre can, and does happen.

10 Reasons why you need a good director

Tomorrow is the first night of a micro run of Drive With Me (3 shows) and Liz Mills and I have been working hard to reshape the piece to squeeze it into the tiny Alexander Bar theatre. I keep saying how lucky I am to have such a brilliant director, and it’s made me realise how important it is. Here are the reasons.

1. A director interprets the writing. This is especially important for me, because I wrote the piece and I am performing it. Often, writers will direct their own work. In general this isn’t a good idea because most theatre needs that layer of interpretation to bring it alive for an audience.

2. Actor/writers are even more insecure than just actors. There are double the things to make you insecure about, and a strong director, with a clear vision, is the best comfort.

3. A good director is in charge of what the audience see and hear, and they remember that all the time. They are the person who guides you into doing what the story means.

4. A good director holds the moment, the section, the arc, and the whole piece. They are the master balancer of meaning and intention. A good performer will be able to do what they ask.

5. A good director will win some battles and then let others go. They will know which ones are winnable.

6. A good director takes production worries away from the performer, (in my case reluctantly, I am so used to being production focussed.)

7. A good director always makes you feel like you are doing a good job, and always makes you feel like you can do better.

8. A good director makes you laugh, and laughing is the magic glue of all work, especially with a serious piece, where jokes are few.

9. A good director makes even the smallest circle of contributors feel like part of a team.

10. A good director shares the triumphs, tribulations, successes and feedback.

Thank you Liz Mills. I have said it before and I say it again. You are an inspiration.

A Gift

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Revisiting a piece of work that is so close to me has been interesting. I have had to drag myself back to the text, and then I’ve been delighted by it again. I have been shocked as how stage fit I need to be. I am surprised at how resistant my brain and body are to change after things get ingrained. And this is really only in a week of work. I am preparing for three shows of Drive With Me at the Alexander Bar next week.

But, the real gift is getting a second chance with the awesome Liz Mills. She is the most exciting, challenging, holding and inspirational director. And I measure the high regard in which I hold her by my desire to please and impress her. Acting is weird.

Every day I feel different emotions as I get closer to this piece we created and now re-create. And I can’t wait for new people to see it.

Voice Boot Camp

Attention all actors in Cape Town. There is no better way than Liz Mills’ extraordinary Voice Boot Camp to lift you up and throw you into a busy season. And, here are the details.

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