Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Category: inspiration (Page 1 of 37)

OY! Theatre and DNA

Things have been happening at the Theatre Arts Admin Collective, in Observatory. Twice a week young people from all over Cape Town have gathered, under the inspiration of Caroline Calburn, and the direction of Jaqueline Dommisse, and they have been rehearsing a play.

Last night I went to the opening performance of DNA written by Dennis Kelly and performed by the company of (almost totally) school goers, and I was absolutely blown away.

Every single aspect of this extraordinary production was completely professional, and mindbogglingly good. So good, in fact, that they deserve a proper review.

The plot. A group of teenagers do something bad, really bad, then panic and cover the whole thing up. But when they find that the cover-up unites them and brings harmony to their otherwise fractious lives, where’s the incentive to put things right? A modern Lord of the Flies, with more swearing, introspection and added horror. It is really, really scary.

Jaqueline Dommisse has worked magic with these young performers who have fully developed characters, stage presence and a deep understanding of the material. What they lack in stage experience and technique they totally make up for in commitment and presence, and they work gloriously as a team to create powerful, emotional, meaningful work.

Jaqueline’s set is inspirational. A jungle gym is skeleton, structure, status and school ground. The use of the space is amazing, allowing the children to pound across the distance. Music and superb lighting (Frans) add to the charged atmosphere, and even details like prosthetic make-up are perfect.

There are things that make me happy and proud to live in this city (not often, but sometimes) and a youth theatre company down the road from where I live, is my newest happy making thing.

I am so excited that I am going to be working with this extraordinary company next. They are going to be exploring improv with me, and we will aim to perform some traditional TheatreSports shows at the end of the term. Watch this space.

Vegan Lasagna Supreme

I spent the day cooking – a rare occurrence, but very successful. I made vegan kneidlach (matzo balls) in non-chicken soup, and then I made my first ever and definitely the best vegan lasagna. I scoured vegan lasagna recipes online and loved parts of them, but not the whole ones, and so I took the bits I liked from the recipes, adapted them, and combined them, and it was a total success.

I am going to try and write up the whole thing, and all the parts.

The parts

Italian tomato sauce, made from scratch, mushroom and spinach filling, cashew ‘cheese’, bechamel, lasagna sheets

  1. Tomato sauce

Ingredients – half onion chopped, clove of garlic, 1 fresh chilli, olive oil, dried thyme, sweet basil, oregano, 1 tin tomato puree, a small tub of tomato paste, water, a handful of fresh basil, balsamic vinegar, salt, black pepper

Fry the onion and garlic in a splash of olive oil, adding the dried herbs and chilli. Then add the tomato paste and stir before adding the tin of tomato puree (you can use a tin of whole tomatoes too), balsamic vinegar, half a tin of water, salt, pepper to taste. Cook on a medium heat until the sauce thickens slightly and bubbles. Then add chopped fresh basil and mix in.

2.  Mushroom and spinach filling

Ingredients – half a punnet of button mushrooms, a bunch (or packet) of spinach – washed, de-stemmed and shredded, half an onion, Italian dried herbs, clove of garlic, salt, pepper and lemon juice.

Fry the onion, garlic and herbs. Add the finely chopped mushrooms, and when golden, add the spinach, salt, pepper and lemon juice.

3. Cashew cheese

Ingredients  – 1 cup pre-soaked cashews, clove of garlic mashed, 3 tbsp olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice, 6 tbsp water and 3 tbsp nutritional yeast.

Blitz everything in a food processor until smooth.

4. Bechamel

Ingredients – 1.5 cups soya milk, 2 tbsp flour, 3 tbsp olive oil, salt pepper

Heat the olive oil and add the flour, whisking fast until smooth. Add the milk slowly, whisking all the time, over a medium heat. Stir until sauce thickens, adding salt and pepper to taste. When sauce is thick take it off the heat.

Build the lasagna by putting dry lasagna sheets down first, then layering mushroom and spinach, tomato sauce, bechamel and blobs of cashew cheese. Do this three times in this order, ending up with a béchamel and cheese top.

Bang into a preheated (180°) oven. I used a casserole dish with a lid, and I baked it for 40 minutes.

I have made myself a bit sick. I have eaten half that dish. So good. So amazingly good.

 

 

The Tiniest World of Song and threads of History

When my brother and I were tiny our family would come to Cape Town some December holidays to stay with my paternal grandparents who lived in the last house in the road in Oranjezicht. Across the road was a rugby field and then the mountain. We would wake up in the morning and head across the road to play in the stream that came off the mountain, catching tadpoles and wetting our feet, until the rest of the household woke up.

My grandfather had a giant Valiant; the worst size of a car for his tiny height. Driving with him was hilarious for us kids and terrifying for my parents because my zaida Israel would let go of the steering wheel and tap on it as he sang Yiddish songs. “Yum Tsiki dai dai” he would sing, or “Chiri Bim, Chiri Bom”.

Last night I snuck into The Labia to see the second screening of Philip Todres’ documentary Leah, Teddy and The Mandolin – Cape Town Embraces Yiddish Song. The movie house was filled to the brim with white haired Jewish moaners; I overheard how this lady had all her jewellery stolen by that maid and all she got from insurance was R21000, not enough for a single choker. I heard snippets of the ‘Jewish report’ of how many Jewish Capetonians had been forced to leave the country – things are so bad. I had to cough and splutter to get the woman next to me (who had come late) to shut up and stop using her cellphone. The usual. The kind of audience I had grown used to with From Koe’siestes To Kneidlach.

So imagine my surprise when I found myself utterly moved and connected to this little piece of history, celebrating Philip Todres’ 10 years of The Cape Town Yiddish Song Festival. This tiny movie, with interviews and recordings of songs from the concerts, tells the story of the rebirth of interest in Yiddish, and through it all I felt the longing and nostalgia for my grandparents’ home, up the hill from The Labia, and my zaida killing himself laughing at that “knakker on a nun”, and my granny Sophie (born in SA and less fluent in Yiddish) telling him to shush; he was letting the world know how unsophisticated he was.

I was taken back to my late father’s record collection and I remember those deadly boring Sundays of my youth when the Nationalist government wouldn’t allow anything to happen on the day of rest. We would lie on the carpet and listen to Connie Francis and Eartha Kitt, and even Harry Belafonte, singing Yiddish songs and my father would join in. Sometimes my maternal zaida Louis would come by, and a game of Klaberjas would happen and my zaida would curse in Yiddish (a chaleria zols du chappen) if he lost, tease and boast if he won, call my father a ganef, and he would tell us again about how strong uncle Izzy’s Yiddish accent was when he complained about the dog showing ‘vite tiet’.

I lost my critical voice and professional opinion last night. This is very unusual. I put it down to what Klezmer musician band leader Matthew Reid said about all the Yiddish songs being in a minor key, so even if they are happy and jolly songs they are still sad. Those minor keys got me, and even though I would never in a million years go for the terrible shtetl stereotypical scarf and suitcase Fiddler styling and direction, I found myself humming along and tapping, with the rest of the audience in the movie house.

Well done, Philip Todres. I don’t know how you have managed to make Cape Town’s Yiddish Song Festival a thing, and now even a little movie, but you have, and it is its own special kind of wonderful.

How to say it

From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach, Chantal Stanfield’s one-woman piece that I directed has just been extended for a week at The Baxter. Nothing could give me more ‘naches’ or joyful pride. This joy is brought home by me not having to beg, coerce or Chinese bangle (is that horribly un PC now?) anyone into going to see it. Crowds (mostly my abandoned tribe) of people have been flocking to see it, and have been doing the word of mouth thing that is more powerful than any advertising.

Although my job of directing and even ‘getting in’ to a new space is long over, I find myself drawn to the show every couple of nights, mainly to check in with Chantal because I know how lonely a one-woman show can be, but also to witness first hand the audience response to the work.

One of the benefits of directing work like this is that someone else is able to put across more subtly, kindly and persuasively, some of the strong opinions I have about being Jewish. Also, because Chantal tackles the subject from the outside looking in, she is able to make light of her observations, and it is this that the audience loves. Non Jewish audiences find the show a hilarious learning curve, while Jewish audiences are given an opportunity to laugh at themselves and see themselves a little more critically through an outsider’s eyes.

All of this in  great, true life, storytelling tradition. I am beyond delighted that this work is being so well received, thanks in part to Daphne Khun who began the journey with Chantal, and then to Nicolette Moses, who fought hard to have us at The Baxter.

You have one more week SlaapStad. Get your tickets now.

Thoughts on going into this year

I know I want to reinvent this blog. It is a kind of new year’s resolution without the fanatical resolve. I am already in the not fanatical stage. Maybe it’s because meganshead is 11 years old this month. That’s long for a blog I think.

Anyway.

What do we want to share in a blog? It has to be something longer than a Facebum status update, or a new, double length tweet. It has to be something that readers will come here for. Especially. Deliberately. On purpose.

Do people still read blogposts? I do, but very rarely. I usually get directed there by an announcement on social media.

I have decided that today I won’t announce this on social media and then see whether anyone swings by to look at it.

Please leave comments with thoughts. Love ya, mean it, bye.

In the Presence of

Last night I went to see something quite transformational and spiritually injectifying. My ex student Melanie Aiff organised a sort of concert/gathering/jam/witnessing of creative live performance and music in which she was the thread, voice, word, move with all these other amazing people in the space (the totally transformed Theatre Arts Admin Collective).

She advertised it as Mel Mwevi Shares, and there was a lot of sharing. It was like being in her crazy lounge and reading her diaries (entries of which were played as a slide show on the big screen), while sitting on cushions on the floor.

She sang, performed poetry, spoke rambling personal stories, got outraged, introduced us to her friends (and some fellow performers) from Breaking Bread, a one woman organisation who takes care of and feeds the homeless and helpless of Salt River, Woodstock and Obz, and we ate delicious vegan food, and fell in love with Mel and her friends.

Mel is the easiest and most charming person to watch. Somehow she combines the deepest emotion with the lightness of touch, and sheer enjoyment, indulgence, arrow sharp point slash of intention, trivial tantrum are all combined to make everything she does real and meaningful.

We sat transfixed for two sets that lasted almost three hours and I (who can barely manage a 55 minute play) was happy to be there until the full moon rose again.

Now here is the thing. Mel Mwevi is a true artist. She is a goddess of the word, a siren of sound and a wizard witch of the performance space. She needs to be able to make and share in every crevice, corner and stadium of the world. She is unique and inspirational. She needs to be given lots of hard cash to do what she does, and to pay the troupes of people that will work with her. I know there are people who have managed to get this right, with patrons and crowd funding. So, people who have, or who know of people who have, please let her know how. I will connect you up.

PS. Photo stolen from Facebook. Taken by Jono Tait.

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