Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Category: theatre stuff (Page 1 of 67)

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.

 

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.

Something Special – From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach


Today I stepped into the Golden Arrow Studio at The Baxter¬†for the first pick-up rehearsal for Cape Town’s run of From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach, and as Chantal Stanfield started exploring the text in a new space I started chuckling, and smiling and even laughing out loud.

And then, unexpectedly I found myself with a frog in my throat, and I had to catch my breath and wipe a tear away, even though I knew the text by heart. I can tell you, I was taken aback – moved completely by surprise.

We had a divine reconnecting rehearsal and I left, still thinking about how it had had a profound effect on me. I have been trying to work out what happened, and I think I have a sense of it now. This little piece is a feel good story in the truest sense of the word. It is a love story, and a generous exploring of different cultures. It is filled with observation, and kindness and wonder, and humour. And it comes straight from the heart, straight to the heart.

I hope Cape Town audiences will love it. I do. We are on from 19 December to 6 January. Come, and then let me know what you think.

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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