Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Category: theatre stuff (Page 1 of 68)

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.

 

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.

Oh the Humanity

I was being chatted to by an actor the other night, and he was shooting the breeze, complaining about chancers in the industry who give the ‘real deal’ a bad name, and bitching about the Cape Town Joburg separation of power and ideology. He spoke about how the Fleur du Cap Awards are hamstrung by old thoughts, how certain directors have fallen into bad habits, and how most actors of a certain age are only just functioning alcoholics. The usual. Blah blah Shakespeare.

And then it happened. This respected and very super talented actor gave a thorough analysis and deeply thought out criticism of a play he had not, actually, in fact seen. There are few times when I am completely at a loss for words. Not that he noticed. His diatribe had come out of a moment where he inhaled mid speech and I had told him about a play that I had in fact seen; a play that I did think was hideous; based on actual first hand experience. On his out breath he started talking about this other play, that he had not seen, but, according to him, could never work because of 1. the director, 2. the cast, 3. the content and 4. how it has been done in the past.

I suddenly realised that this happens a lot. A lot of actors don’t see other work but have opinions on it. I see a lot of work. Some I write about, others not, but I never ever have an opinion on a piece that I have not yet seen.

Next time you get into one of those post-show, a few glasses of wine later monologues in pseudo camaraderie, ask the speech giver up front if they are talking about a play that they have seen.

Advice for recent Drama Graduates

This is an open letter to all recent drama school graduates who are trying to enter the profession, from a very experienced, not always successful, long time fighter in the field.

Dear almost made it,

Firstly, congratulations on completing the introduction to what will be a lifetime of learning, practicing, hoping, developing and waiting. Drama school (I include all of them) is the very beginning of your journey and, if you are anything like I was when I finished my diploma and degree at UCT, you have only just started to understand this world. Yes, it is a great start, but that is what it is – an introduction.

What next? Some of you will wait to get work, hope to get an an agent, go to castings, become bar tenders while you wait. Some of you will tech for other shows, stay part of a theatrical community, do courses, get drunk with your friends, or give up entirely and make a different choice for your life. One or two of you will land that job, make a name for yourself, fill your calendars, win awards and glow and succeed.

Some of you will be bold and take the initiative to create your own work. You will be both praised for this and warned; it is so tough on every level. It is tough to work with no money, and to get others to work for no money, it is tough to publicise a show with no resources, no name to go on, no past history to rely on. It is heart breaking to perform for tiny audiences. All of this is true. So, if you do decide to put on your own work, even with all these things conspiring to make it the hardest thing to achieve, you need to make sure you do the work.

Learn your lines. Rehearse. Rehearse more than you ever did at school. Make sure that you respect the space, the playwright, the director and most importantly, the audience, because there will be people like me, who have been there and done that, who will be sitting in the audience and who will know. We will know that you just haven’t done the work and you are trying to get away with it. Your raw talent, and recent knowledge of voice warm-ups will give you false confidence, but it isn’t enough to pull the wool over our eyes, and you do yourselves a terrible disservice.

Honour the theatrical space by giving it the respect it deserves. Honour your education by knowing that all those things you learned need to be put into practice. Make a commitment to putting on great work, and failing, rather than trying to get away with shit work, or no work.

Whatever you do, do not present shit work, half-baked work, work that shows you up as a chancer, as someone who doesn’t really take their craft seriously. I recognise talent, but I can tell you right now, I have only once ever casted someone because they were talented, even though I was concerned about their reliability and commitment, and I made the biggest mistake.

We see you, those of us in the tiny audience who know how it works, and we know exactly what you are doing. And your friends and family might not tell you the truth, so I am going to. Do not do the barest minimum of work and try to get away with it. It will not serve you.

I hope you know that I have your best interests at heart. I want you to succeed, make beautiful theatre and be brilliant. That is what I want to watch.

Megan

 

 

Noah of Cape Town, A prophecy of Drought

In 2003 Graham Weir and I sat down to turn an idea for a story into a fully fledged, futuristic accapella musical, set in Cape Town in the near future. It took us two years to finish the writing and get something of Noah of Cape Town onto stage. This took the form of a cantata version as part of Artscape’s New Writing Programme. In the cantata in 2005, Noah of Cape Town was set in 2012. It described Cape Town as an arid landscape where water was so scarce what little of it had to be guarded by the military. Politicians were involved in hideous water scandals and the city had ground to a halt. There was an illegal black market for water. When we started fleshing the thing out once Simon Cooper had agreed to produce the full version we shifted the timeline and set it in 2020 because 2012 was too close.

The full, amazing premier of Noah of Cape Town took place in August of 2009, almost 9 years ago. As I write this we are 3 months away from Day Zero. The day our taps will be switched off and we will have to queue for 25l of water. The Cape Town we warned about in a fantastic, futuristic, dystopian ‘what if?’ has arrived.

We didn’t pull the theme out of thin air. We were worried about Cape Town and water scarcity. We saw what was happening with the migration of people to the city, refugees from the North, the expansion of Cape Town, the corruption of politicians and officials. We knew there was going to be a water crisis. And we knew this in 2003.

We cannot have been the only ones.

 

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