Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Month: August 2014 (Page 1 of 2)

Who has ever been to Newcastle KZN?

My wonderful little road show has brought me to Newcastle. Granted, we drove straight to our designation, a private hospital, where we are hosting another ward hostess Angel party, saying thank you to the usually invisible, but it is my first time in this neck of the woods. I have driven past signs that said Newcastle, but have never taken the turn off and come here.

There is something ‘altered states-ish’ in a new place. My body doesn’t recognise it. Many things are familiar; the usual PEP, Edgar’s, Morkel’s, banks and car dealerships in the main drag, but they are configured differently and the little independent shops make it unique.

We are squatting in the catering manager’s office and she has already been serving us, hand and foot. The total friendliness and hospitality of small town folk. People are friendly and smiley. People are kind and helpful. And excited. We bring the new energy of head office, stranger, out of towner.

We are also here early. Everything is organised. I love my work. Will report back later with photos.

 

My Flash fiction story

This is the story I entered for the first round of the NYC Midnight flash fiction challenge. It needed to be under 1000 words, I was in group 1, which meant the genre was suspense, location was a dark alley and the object to include was chocolate milk.

Mr Trusty

Synopsis: Painters open a door that should have been left closed.

Those fucking bathroom walls. “Mr. Trusty” had come over to the house to give me a quote for painting and re-sealing them. He had tut-tutted and clucked about how badly it had been done before, and promised to do it so much better. It was going to be expensive but he and his team would get it right and I would be delighted, just you wait.

Three strange men arrived at the front door the following week. No Mr. Trusty. They had been sent by him; he was too busy to come himself, but they assured me they knew exactly what they were doing and could be left alone to get on with it.

On day one the spare room became a smelly storeroom for their clothes and shoes, cigarette packets with half-smoked butts, buckets with brushes and rollers, and giant bundles of black plastic sheeting. I crept past them as they pounded through the house, dragging loose chips of old paint on their boot heels. They acknowledged me with surly grunts.

On day two the limping, phlegmy man of about sixty (how the hell was he going to be able to do anything? I thought as he spoke) introduced himself as Johan and demanded access to the back alley. They needed to bring their ladders through the back, across the courtyard and in through the kitchen door. I handed over the key with reluctance. I never opened the back door into that alley which was a dark service lane for all the houses on our side of the street, filled with garbage bins, a lonely and neglected guard dog, and next door neighbor Mr. Hartley’s rotting building material, stacked up for the day he would be adding an extra room. I stayed in my bedroom and heard the men laughing, but they went silent whenever I appeared.

On day three they seemed to be in and out of the back alley every five minutes and I could hear the poor dog bark and growl as they swore at it. I tried to work on my laptop in the lounge but the constant smell of paint fumes and cigarettes made me nauseous.

On day four Johan told me they were almost done but he needed more sealant for the shower door. Would I run down to the hardware store and get some. They couldn’t continue without it.

I left with a vague sense of discomfort, but it was less than the constant unease of being alone in the house with them.

The choice of sealant was baffling. Who knew that there could be so many options for so many different applications? A grumpy, almost still a teenager, shop assistant lumbered over to help me. His handwritten nametag said GEORGE in sloping capitals. He was finishing a carton of Steri Stumpie chocolate milk, slurping the last bit through a tiny straw. It was the kind of carton used by the Cape Town police department to advertise wanted criminals. Johan’s face stared back at me before George crumpled it and the carton in his hand and tossed it into a used paint drum.

I sat in the car in the parking lot in frozen indecision. Go back home and say nothing? Call the police? Call Mr. Trusty? I started the process of convincing myself it hadn’t been Johan staring back from that chocolate milk carton. A trick of the light. My vivid imagination.

I went home. Opened the front door. It was too quiet. The spare room was empty except for a cigarette packet, peeping out from under the bed. I walked into the lounge. My laptop was gone. My mobile phone, the charger it had been plugged into, the microwave, kettle, broken damn toaster and tiny TV were all gone. In my bedroom the drawers were open. My underwear, costume jewelry, the cat bowl for fuck sakes. All gone.

Footprints in paint smudges trailed through the house, leading up to, and then away from the empty spaces where my stuff had been. They gathered up and led to the kitchen door, across the courtyard and through the unlocked and open door, into the alley.

I heard whining. I was too scared to look. They had done something terrible to that miserable dog.

My first urgent thought was to call the police. No phone. They had taken my phone.

I ran into the road. Their van was gone. The front door slammed shut behind me. I screamed. My bag slid from my shoulder into the road. I had my bag. I still had my bag. With my keys, my keys, my keys. I turned back.

At the front door my breath caught in my throat and I allowed myself a tiny sob as I scratched in my bag for the damn house keys and bent a fingernail on something hard and unfamiliar.

I got the door open, stepped inside and allowed it to swing shut behind me. I stood for a moment in the afternoon gloom, getting used to the dim light and the sad, familiar smell of my one-person home. I would never feel safe. Something slithered across the back of my calves, and I jumped, swore and looked down. Jones, the street cat that had adopted my home and then me, had snuck in behind me.

The lounge looked barren when I walked past and headed to the bathroom to pee.

I flicked on the bathroom light and saw my reflection in the mirror, framed by the newly painted walls. I slid the few steps to the toilet bowl and heaved, head down. When I looked up and out through the window, my face flushed and eyes stinging, I saw, with mounting terror, that the back door into the alleyway was gone. Off its hinges and gone.

World of Wonder

This is what wonderful work I have been doing. I have been giving ‘parties of thanks’ to Ukweza Ward Hostesses, the people who work in hospitals, taking food orders and giving food and refreshments to patients. It is a thankless job, and instead of doing ‘hard’ training, we are doing informal gatherings to say thank you, acknowledge the challenges and make sure morale is boosted by showing that the company understands and appreciates them. How brilliant?

Here are some pics from today’s party. I am all emotional.

photo 11 photo 9

Improv world of Wonder

I thought I would reflect on last week’s 3 improv shows that I performed at the Alexander Bar, all by myself, but with Candice D’Arcy in the wings and full houses of fabulous audience. It was called I Could Go On, because I could, and did, and it was a loose enough title for absolutely anything to happen. Which did.

I had been wanting to try out solo improv for a while and I booked the slot ages ago, with no real idea of what I would end up doing and the closer it got the more I wanted to keep it really open, from both a content and format point of view. Of course I also got more and more nervous the less I knew what I was doing.

And in the end it was fantastic. It was three completely different nights of improv with the appearance of the strangest characters, wonderful ideas, bizarre stories and lots and lots of proper laughing and enjoyment. Oh, and awesome feedback from friends, colleagues and complete strangers.

There were also some added benefits. I think that a few people came to see what I would be doing after the success of Drive With me. I know that many people came to show their support of me and my work by being audience instead of ‘aligning’ with me in other ways (and this is the way I appreciate the most). Friends and improv colleagues came and gave and took the love. And we all had such a good time.

I am entering into an incredibly busy phase now, with two huge industrial theatre jobs and a new directing project in the very near future, but I am also seriously on the look out for a small window of opportunity to do more solo and duo and even trio improv. Yee inspiring ha!

Low Resistance

I am having one of those days. Some days the news fills me with a riotous outrage and I end up cursing, writing radical (and often alienating) facebum updates and tweets, starting or signing petitions (even though I know their valuelessness) and looking for places to vent. Today is not one of those days. Today my heart feels like it is going to explode. I was caught vulnerable this morning by my two current (and forever, actually) soft spots, Gaza and animal abuse. Now before you get hysterical, I am not saying they are comparable in any way, they are just my two soft spots.

The first thing I read about today was the Israeli deputy speaker calling for concentration camps in Gaza and I had to stop myself from crying out loud. I was undone by this last assault on my humanity by the Israeli government and powers that be. But the more I thought about it the more depressed I became. You see, as a Jew (in the diaspora) my standpoint is not the popular one. I am on the fringe, and called self-loathing Jew, anti-Semitic Jew, Arab-lover, to name a few. And I do not get it. I do not understand how we are not the main, majority, wave of massive outcry kind of people, instead of the few ‘crazies’ swimming against the tide. It is hideous, depressing and beyond my tolerance right now.

Then there was the picture of “This dog was left in a cage for so long it rusted shut”. And my heart. My fucking heart. I cannot. I can’t walk around with that feeling all day, of that animal. Of that Giraffe who died. Of intelligent pigs and the abject suffering they endure, to be eaten. I know. I know exactly what I sound like. But today my resistance is too low. And I just want to weep.

 

Listening to Eve Ensler

I felt special at the talk Eve Ensler gave at the Baxter yesterday. I felt special that I was part of an invited audience. I felt special that I am very close to the SA producer, my sister-in-law, Gina Shmukler. I felt special because I knew so many of the gorgeous women of every description who were there. (I felt special because many, many industry people were so kind to me and whispered sweet words of solidarity with me in my ear, after my turgid time on the interwebs over the last two weeks.)

I loved sitting in the theatre and listening to the conversation flow between Eve, a most crazily lovable creative activist, playwright, performer and human female person, and Kgomotso Matsuyane, an articulate, charming, funny, warm, intelligent and generous host, who had clearly done great homework and met Eve with love and respect. Cape Town is the perfect place for this type of conversation to happen, with its collection of spirits quite comfortable with tapping into the personal political energetic. (It’s not for everyone, I know, and I have heard that Jozi was a tougher crowd).

It was quite clear during the Q&A afterwards that people had responded to Eve in that deeply personal way, and related to the bits of her story (she was there to promote her book about her cancer and recovery) that had resonance and relevance to them. And it was the same for me, on a completely personal and specific level. I was intrigued and moved by a lot of her story but the thing I hooked onto (and right now I accidentally typed thin instead of thing!) was coming back into my body. She spoke about being disconnected from our bodies and that for her, getting sick brought her back into her body. For me, I have returned to my body after losing 17kgs. I have rediscovered my body after ignoring it and its/my needs. I have fallen in love with my body in a profound and deep way. I have reconnected with my physical self and it has changed my relationship with myself, others, and how I am in the world. I cried a lot during Eve’s chat. Crying is also me being in my body.

So, I had the experience that everyone looks for in a theatre yesterday. Communion with the audience, and with the ‘performers’. Catharsis. Connection with the self. Change. Understanding. Enlightenment. Looking back at all of those gigantic things it seems unrealistic. But it isn’t. Thanks Eve, and all who worked to bring that magical conversation to us.

Eve’s extraordinary play Emotional Creature is on next week. I am urging you to find a young person and take them. It will transform you and them.

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