Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Author: megan (Page 1 of 257)

Deeply Personal reflections on The Jewish Literature Festival

I came home early; undone, dismantled and teary. I would have been stronger, held it together better if I had seen it coming but I never do. And I should have trusted my instincts.

When I was invited to participate in the first festival last year (by the amazing, driven, talented and deeply caring Caryn Gootkin – of Souper Troopers) I said an outright no. I still bear the keloid scars of my personal horror story at one Limmud once, and I know that these spaces are a deeply challenging one for me. So, what changed my mind this year? Did I bring this onto myself?

There are probably a few reasons why I agreed. The first and main one was a general softening in me towards the Jewish community of Cape Town after the way From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach was received here. It was a great success. Our play was understood, appreciated and enjoyed. The second was that I had agreed to be in conversation with someone, who then wanted to do their own thing, and I think the inclusion of me in the programme as a speaker in my own right was an afterthought. I knew. My body told me that this was true and I didn’t listen. And the third was, ever since Tali’s Wedding Diary I have been getting genuinely kind recognition from many Jewish Capetonians (and South Africans) for my tiny cameo in it. I thought I may have developed a little traction. And also, I always want to share my knowledge. I love talking about the stuff I do.

I Ubered to the festival. Shafiek was nervous as he stopped to let me out. Suspicious glances from the guards outside the Jewish museum gate turned to recognition once I climbed out and waved him on. I got my presenter’s pack, dashed inside and joined a packed and rapt audience in a warm seminar room for Stephen Sidley’s talk on Science, Jazz and Stories. Then, in the same space I listened to Lisa Chait in conversation with my old friend and hero Mark Gevisser. Then I went downstairs to find out where the Book Lounge venue was for me to present my interactive ‘workshop’ on scriptwriting.

Baffled by the poor woman on a microphone who was struggling to read to an audience in the main outside thoroughfare, I made my way to the info table to find out where the venue was. That was it. I was going to be running my session there, in that main thoroughfare. At lunch time. It is fair to say I lost my shit. A main organiser tried to tell me that the space was perfect. A volunteer was dismantled. A woman was trying to run a mindfulness session while people ate their lunch wraps and ordered coffee.

Phillip Todres (and a few others) saw me at my hysterical worst and jumped in to help me. At last my venue was changed to a boardroom that had been reserved for the slightly bigger kids. I cleaned up the room, removed tomato saucy plates and sweet wrappers, piled paper and pencils into heaps on the table and then ran my interactive workshop. For 6 people. Husband and son of an organiser, my cousin, two teenage girls and a man who wasn’t sure he was in the right place.

It was clear that Henry, the man, had been sent by the gods. He needed my workshop and I needed him. The other five were sweet and kind and cooperative, and I do hope they got something out of it, but I don’t know.

I wanted to stay and listen to Gus Silber. I wanted to hear Sugar Segerman (whose wife kicked in to high gear to help me while I sobbed). But my roast vegetable wrap got lodged in my throat and I couldn’t swallow. Alan Glass tried to lighten my burden with jokes but I couldn’t. I came home with my tail firmly between my legs.

Did I bring this onto myself? Am I delusional and hysterical when I believe I need better consideration? Why is this struggle with this particular community always so fraught for me?

And then there is the self loathing. I was the only one who made a fuss. Who refused to do it there. I watched others suffer, but they pushed through with greater fortitude than I, a performer who should have been able to, was even prepared to try.

 

 

SA life #snapshot

I had such a beautiful uplifting and heartwarming night last night at the second opening of From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach at the Auto & General Theatre on The Square. Honestly, I could not be prouder of this work that has evolved and grown into something I am so aligned with; magical theatre and storytelling with a human message.

It was with a bittersweet heartache that I woke up, ready to get back to my home, partner, animals, other pressing work and Cape winter storms, knowing I was leaving this show, and Chantal, in Jozi, as well as my hometown and city that I long for, love and hate in equal measure. The only way to describe my feelings for both of these cities is in the SASL sign for ‘it’s complicated – a frowning face with wormlike fingers moving from out to in front of the signer’s face.

Lucky, my Uber driver, was chatty and we spoke about how ridiculous the SA banking system is. He needs a loan to buy his own car, but the bank won’t give him one because his previous loan is paid up; something he did way before the time, even paying penalties for early payment. How will someone like him get ahead, he asked.

I had a tiny epiphany. We have to take a risk. Individuals, groups, corporates, banks, governments, friends, neighbours. We have to help each other. Build trust. Have something to lose and risk anyway. Help someone with their education. Help someone take out a loan instead of saying no. I don’t know how, but I know it is so, so necessary. Let’s do this thing. Let’s help each other.

I was going to write more, but I boarded my flight, felt sad about the homeless and vulnerable in stormy Cape Town, and lost my gees a little bit. Still, one thing I know is that I am going to try and help more, do more, be more.

Edit: I bought a bed for 5 nights for a homeless person from The Haven. It cost R60. It is the easiest thing to do. Go to The Haven and buy one. If you do, let me know.

 

From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach and beyond

Let’s hear it for learning from each other, building bridges, understanding tolerance, respecting differences, trying out funny food, celebrating culture, singing each others’ songs, enjoying a turn of phrase.

Auto & General Theatre on the Square. Chantal Stanfield. Megan Furniss. Jew-ish. Coloured.

In a little side note observation navel gaze: I am often quite hostile about my own Jewishness. This play allows me to access it in the warmest and most non-judgemental way. It gives me the space to be kind and critical. I am able to see the funny side and enjoy my Jew-ishness without getting caught up in the fraught and political. I have watched this play evolve, and honestly, it only gets better. I am still moved and delighted by it.

Jozi Musings

I am up in Jozi to put From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach into the Auto & General Theatre on the Square and I am working very gently so I have a bit of time. Here are some random musings about Jozi; my hometown.

I get off the plane just before 9am and it’s cold. I can feel the cold through the soles of my takkies. The sky is crystal blue. It is one colour. The whole sky is that blue. Everything else is still golden. But the air. Where is it? It is so thin. I take big breaths but they feel shallow. The inside of my nose dries out.

My Uber driver Lwezi is chatty. He lives in Berea. I tell him I used to live on the border of Berea, just up from Abel Road. We discuss housing. He tells me there are some flats in Hilbrow where 12 people are paying R2 500 a person to live in one flat. I say I am sure you could rent a flat in Sandton for that amount of money. He says black people would never think about that. And besides, nobody would rent their flat in Sandton to 12 people. He tells me that he has been taking and fetching travellers from the airport for four years now but he has never been on a plane. That’s his goal this year.

I decide to walk to the Spar. There are no pavements in the suburbs. People have spread their house property right up to the street here. The people who walk are invisible to the people who live here. People who live here drive. A woman is blocking the road in her 4×4. She is hooting like a lunatic and she is talking on the phone. Her electric garage door is half open. Brown arms grab the underside of the door from the inside. Worn slippers, a faded housecoat, bare legs. The arms start pushing the garage door up. The car woman hoots. I glare. She is unconscious.

I stop to watch a gardening/tree felling team. A man on a rope is at the top of a long palm tree with a chain saw. I watch him with bated breath.

I stand at the till at the Spar. There are a range of chocolates with messages on them. Happy Birthday. Get Well Soon. I love you. Wishing you a good Shabbos.

We go to a restaurant at Sandton Square before going to the theatre. It is a Thursday night and the restaurants are heaving. The whole of old rich, emerging rich and wannabe rich is dining out. Even though I come from most expensive Cape Town I am taken aback by the prices. It is seriously expensive.

The play is Visiting Mr Green. It is an old play, with timeless relevance. An old Jewish man is visited by a young man doing community service in New York City. It is a beautiful, poignant play about love, loss and prejudice. The audience were 90% Jewish.

The sun starts going down from 5pm. The light is golden. Mossies, Starlings, Mousebirds and Hadedas perch on bare branched trees. The air is still. The sun goes. It gets cold in an instant.

 

Koala Dave and Baby

So, I have joined a weekly writing group, and I have been twice. It is the most fun I have had in ages. We do writing exercises with prompts and play writing games. Tonight’s exercise was about structure in 5 bouts of 5 minute writing spurts, but we had to include suggestions, drawn from piles, for two characters, a setting, an event and an object, as well as 5 random prompts for each five minute session. Intense. And really hard. But I was thrilled with my effort, which took about 25 minutes of writing. Here it is, in its raw, unedited form. Let me know what you think.

Koala Dave and Baby

The Koala ran. Down the path with the pink baby bag slung over his shoulder and his big bobble head bouncing up and down on his chest and chin with every clumsy step. In his arms was the baby, swaddled so tightly and silent.

Koala opened the car door and flung the bag onto the passenger seat. He heard a voice. “I am a cactus. Cactus.”

A goddamn soft toy with a voice, activated by the force of the flinging. Koala jumped into the car and his giant koala head squeezed up against the roof and sun visor, the baby held up and towards the steering wheel. It was a disaster.

What first? Koala put the baby on top of the passenger seat and took off his head.

Koala breathed in and took stock. He had been a committed couch potato, getting by on the barest minimum until his neighbours Ed and Eileen had immigrated and Z had moved into their flat which shared walls with his. Before he had been Koala, Dave had just been IT guy Dave. And then he had seen that Facebook post, and the accompanying video. The turnaround had been massive. Dave became a vegan overnight and had joined Voice of the Animals, a guerrilla vegan movement dedicated to upsetting and destabilising the status quo, and publicising the abuse and slaughter of animals. Each one of this small group of extreme activists had a costume, and Dave had inherited the Koala suit because of his size.

Koala Dave checked himself the rear-view mirror. His pupils were dilated. He had no way of knowing when Z would be coming home and was panicked about sitting there for too long. Tiny, gentle snores were coming from the cuddly blanket. Where were the car keys? He had a moment of doubt and fear. What the actual fuck was he doing, especially since it was Survivor night on TV, and he had saved all of The Handmaid’s Tale on his hard drive for binge watching. He felt the sharp prick of the keys under his bum.

The damn car wouldn’t start. He tried again, pumping the accelerator and puffing out in little ‘come on, come on’ breaths. It jumped into life and jerked forward, almost stalling. He heard an intake of breath from the blanket and held his own before putting the car into gear and driving away. Twenty minutes later he arrived at the disused wine cellar at the back of the Green Hotel, HQ of the VoA. He parked the car, turned off the headlights and blinked. Bodies came out of the shadows. Someone opened his door. Someone opened the passenger door. “Be careful” said Koala Dave weakly.

Inside the small crowd of ten people gathered around the table.

The tightly wrapped blanket bundle took centre stage. “Which way is up?” whispered the gentle voice of Ferret Sandy. Koala Dave shrugged. Ferret Sandy moved towards the bundle and gently peeled away the corner. Tiny black eyes in a soft, pink face stared back. “She had left him alone all day again. I couldn’t stand the whimpering. I stole him. Oh god, thank you for helping me, him. Meet Ollie the baby pig.” Ollie’s snout emerged and snuffled Ferret Sandy’s outstretched hand.

 

An open letter to Facebook

I am finally done. I cannot both support my Facebook addiction and leave myself open to the kind of horror I experienced today. Today, while doing a Facebook-on-my-phone-on-the-loo session I saw a thing that I will never unsee and I don’t know how to stop crying, or to even carry on living in this world. I saw a dog being held down and blowtorched in its mouth. I did not even let myself properly register what I had seen and have no idea which of my ‘friends’ posted it, or why, but I cannot. I cannot live and work and be in my positive world of genuine interaction knowing I come from this human race. I must forgo the trite, funny, warm, loving, newsy, idealistic, passionate and even sad posts and interactions. I must find another way of marketing myself and my shows, I must find another distraction/procrastination space.

Recently I was flagged on Facebook because I had left a comment on someone’s post that had the words ‘white’ and ‘die’ in the same sentence. The meaning was something to do with white people in denial and dying before admitting something. Facebook deleted my comment as hate speech.

Today I saw this. Facebook allowed me to see this. I cannot. No. I cannot. Please, real friends, colleagues, connections, I adore you, and do want to stay in contact, but Facebook is not a safe space for me.

This has broken me. This is what it took.

 

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