Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Category: Cape Town (Page 1 of 85)

What Audiences Want

I know this has been a recurring theme in my work and writing. I asked the question more boldly when I was young. The Return of the Rhino Woman asked it directly, with me as performer refusing to come out of the dressing room until the audience declared their interest and commitment to the performance. I have been posing it differently since then, and more subtly, but I really do want to know this more, and better.

A result of wanting to know this has been me switching from writing about theatre I see, here, in my deeply personal and uncensored way, to writing about theatre in a more official review style for Weekend Special. My writing there has a much broader audience, especially since it isn’t only people who know me and my blog. I believe the WS readers are mostly Capetonians who want to find out about good theatre in the city, and productions who can use positive words and phrases for publicity. But is it? Are they?

I went to see The Cenotaph of Dan Wa Moriri on Monday night and wrote about it immediately when I got home. It was a most beautiful piece of theatre by an incredible performer. I loved everything about it. All I wanted was to do the piece justice and to make people want to see it. My review went live on Wednesday morning and I can see it has been read a fair number of times. But has it made a difference? Have people read my review and gone to see the show?

If you are reading this, and you read my review, did you go? Have you made a plan to see it? Please let me know.

Good News

Today has been a really good day from a creative point of view. There have been a series of signs that I am moving in a positive direction – not totally there yet, but moving certainly. I am working my way through getting funding for my trip to the US so I can be at the reading of my play Lost Property at the end of May, and I am preparing for a reading of it here at home before I leave (watch this space for more news of that). I am gearing up for the first ever proper performances of my piece The Deep Red Sea on the 20, and 21 May at the Alexander Bar and Café, and I am preparing for teaching a series of classes and workshops. Also, my favourite thing happens next week, also at the Alexander Bar – we are improvising from Monday to Friday in The Style High Club, a series of long form improv shows dedicated to style – film noir, SA soap, Austen, movies and musical, all made up on the spot.

But the best news of the day is that my rhyming children’s story has been picked up by a really big publisher and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I will share all the details as they evolve, but right now I am grinning, and giggling and delighted.

What’s in an Election Poster

Every time I see the “Aunty Pat for Premier” election poster I laugh. I see it a lot because it is ubiquitous on my route to and from home in Woodstock. So, I am laughing a lot, which is a good thing to be doing when I think about elections. It is a lot better than crying, which is probably what I should be doing.

There is a very particular reason for my jollity. My sister-in-law Gina Shmukler played a delightful role in Aunty Merle The Musical and my five year old niece loved that show. She loved it with all her being. She saw it three or four times, and absorbed every song and dance, and Marc Lottering as Aunty Merle is her best thing by far.

She spent 10 days in Cape Town recently and wanted to know who the lady, who looked like Aunty Merle, was in the posters on the lamp posts. We tried to explain to her that it was another Aunty, a political one, Aunty Pat, Patricia de Lille not as nice by far as Aunty Merle because she is a politician. All of this was fine by her, but she kept on asking when this Aunty’s show was. When could she see this Aunty perform? And was she as good as Marc Lottering‘s character Aunty Merle? No matter how hard we tried she could not get that Aunty Pat was Aunty Pat in real life. My brother explained that she was a politician and all politicians are bad, but for my niece this just meant that poor Patricia was just not as talented as Marc Lottering.

And so, every time, I laugh.

Textbook White Fragility and White Tears

I spent far too much time on Facebook yesterday, on somebody else’s thread, explaining to a ‘I don’t see colour’ racist why believing that a photo wasn’t true of a white teacher segregating children of colour in her class in a school in the Northern province was exactly the result of his racism. My argument, in which I stayed unusually calm and persistent, followed his textbook one from outrage, through denial, to criticising me for not seeing his point of view, to blaming my tone.

This was his first post, defending the teacher, and supporting the fake news spread after the initial picture went viral. “There’s no racism here, folks!”

He carries on, in total support of the poor, maligned teacher.

Then I get involved. I try. 

I persist.

I stay there. Still trying.

And on and on. (I haven’t put everything here because it is more of the same.)

And on. This is where he engages with somebody else and does my favourite. Talk about me in third person and complain about my tone and style.

This was all on someone else’s (a black person’s) thread. I will not be engaging like this again. Send me your racists. Let’s do the work.

 

White Christmas – Cape Town is Racist 2

I got a comment yesterday on my 2017 post about how Cape Town is racist, almost exactly a year after having written it, confirming that nothing has changed. It is bizarre and surreal to me.

One of the few really integrated spaces in Cape Town is Muizenberg beach. And it is one of the few places I feel totally at home at and my most true self. It is a multicoloured, multi-aged, multi-language space where when it’s crowded you sit cheek by jowl with rich and poor, young and old and every shade of human skin. It is what is possible.

Kalk Bay on the other hand is  a segregated space with black people serving almost exclusively white customers. It’s frightening, especially since the whiteness of the space seems so ‘normal’ to those wandering up and down the streets and seated at the restaurants, bars and coffee shops.

I know I am super aware of these things, but everyone should be. Everyone should notice.

I went with my brother to a spot on Moullie Point’s strip on Friday evening. A friend was playing background music at sundowner time. I was so relieved to see a mixed crowd of middle class jollers there, with kids and dogs added to the mix. I felt like I could breathe a bit. Of course the staff was totally black and mostly Zimbabwean, but at least the patrons were not wall to wall white.

We hung out there for long enough that the people around us changed, and a white and wide couple took up a spot just next to us. And my brother had a moment when the woman, without even looking up at the server when she brought their piled high plates of food, said, “We are going to need more plates.” Not thank you, not please, not when you have a moment. My brother said, “What’s wrong with people? How can anyone be that rude to someone else?”

This woman was unconscious. She didn’t even realise that she was talking to a person. My brother rightly pointed out that nobody needs extra plates. What was happening here was the language of privilege, demand, taking up space and superiority. This woman didn’t even know she was being rude. Just like so many white people don’t even know they are being racist and will deny it and be offended if you point it out.

The truth is, if you are white in Cape Town it is entirely possible to live the old white lifestyle, and many people do. These people moan about a government that has little or no effect on them personally (unless they are complaining about the exchange rate), they have access to cheap labour and private transport, and are fortunate enough to have a buffer zone of the coloured middle class to shield them from the real poor and disenfranchised communities they have no direct contact with except for those that clean their houses.

In Cape Town there are still entirely white neighbourhoods. In Cape Town the white voice is loud. In Cape Town it is entirely possible to sit in a restaurant with only white patrons. In Cape Town you can be an audience of only white skins. And this is mad, hideous, unacceptable but totally true.

 

 

Working on Whiteness

I ran my first ever Working on Whiteness introduction conversation/workshop last night and I want to share many of the details. I want this to be the beginning of much more work of this nature, and so I want to explain it thoroughly so more people will feel compelled to attend, and will invite those who won’t be able to come to the conclusion for themselves.

I have made a deliberate choice to keep this work exclusively white. Ironically, POC are more comfortable and supportive of this. Friends I have spoken to have articulated how being black and having to explain over and over what their pain and anger looks and feels like to white people is exhausting and often futile. It is my opinion that white people need to do a lot of work before entering into the conversation on diversity. White people need better tools and more information to have those conversations. We need to start before those.

Anyway. The lead up to last night’s workshop was an invitation through email and on Facebook and Linked in to all white friends, connections, colleagues, associates and friends of friends, who live (or found themselves) in Cape Town to attend. I think I shared it personally with over 1000 people. Many people contacted me to say that they thought it sounded good but they were previously engaged/out of town and couldn’t make this one but would still like to come if there ever was another one. There will be.

There were eight participants. The evening was divided into improv games, storytelling exercises and facilitated conversation. And it was a gentle start in the right direction. Of course, the people in the room were already conscious that there were issues like racism, white privilege, white guilt, systemic racism and virtue signalling. What we unpacked was some of that.

We are like trapeze artists who could fall into the traps at any time. It is a lot of hard work, constant reflection, and deep listening to hear, see, feel, and stay on it and in it.

An earnest desire helps, but we have to keep pushing ourselves into the uncomfortable place of this work.

Here is some of what participants had to say.

“There is often resistance to having this kind of conversation informally in a group and if the subject of ‘whiteness’ comes up, the conversation can often become quite defensive.

I wondered (worried about) what would be asked of me in a workshop like this. I had been thinking in the privacy of my own mind about myself as a white person. The thought of going to a workshop to unpack whiteness was confronting, but I decided to go.

I am very glad I did. It was hugely worthwhile. Megan held the group expertly and led us though a number of really easy and fun exercises which were designed help us begin this conversation.

Once we began the conversation to look at our/my whiteness, it felt really easy and natural to do so in the environment that had been created. The feeling in the room felt very comfortable to me.

It was amazing to hear the thoughts of others in the group and good to share my own”. – L.S.

“When you finish a two-hour workshop and race conversation with a group of ten white people saying they could continue for another hour and want to sign up for an ongoing course, you know something special has happened. Megan Furniss’ ability to hold uncomfortable spaces gently while firmly pushing into the tough areas that desperately need to be talked about is key to this much-needed work. It was just the tip of a very large iceberg, but the fact that people paid to be in the room and were engaged for two hours with no sign of wanting to leave or stall was testimony to what we need to see so much more of.” B. A

Contact me if you want to start this, or even continue with this work.

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