Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Category: Uncategorized (Page 1 of 10)

tHEARTre

Everybody who loves theatre knows that kind of love. For those of us who make it, it is a tricky affair, especially in South Africa, where we are all fighting for audiences, for support, for resources, for money, for space and time. It’s like being in a relationship with a student who is waiting to hear from NSFAS.

So I am always equal parts excitement and anxiety, delight and despair, generous and jealous.

We open From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach, Chantal Stanfield’s one brownish Cape Town woman’s journey into the mysteries of white, Jewish Joburg, in exactly a week. A week is just enough time to be convinced and doubtful, totally excited and utterly nervous about putting this work in front of an audience.

This is the first time I have premiered a work in Joburg. And even though Jozi is my hometown, and it holds my heart in so many ways, I can’t help but feel a little like a fish out of water here. Who are all these people, and where do they go, and will they come?

I can’t decide if the material is contentious or not. I can’t tell if it is kak funny or terribly sad, or none, or all. But soon, when we have an audience, I will know. And so beats my heart in theatre.

To book for From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach, go to Computicket now.

2 Parrots and a Sandcastle

IMG_6968So, my way of starting the new year is with three improv shows at my fave Alexander Bar, this coming Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. I will be performing with a different improviser each night, for an hour of made up stuff, with no pre-plan or any idea at all about what we will be doing. I cannot wait.

The line up of performers joining me is unbelievable and I am so lucky to have these people to come and play, and fulfil my dream and first love, improv.

Tandi Buchan, AD of Improguise, our improv troupe, joins me on Thursday night. We have been improvising together for over twenty years now. In fact, Tandi is like my improv wife. We are so safe with each other, but still continue to surprise each other. Tandi is imagination. Tandi is a storytelling machine and brilliant characters. Tandi is Noel Coward and South African Soap. I love being on stage with her.

Friday night is Brett Anderson night. It is also the night of his birthday, so double celebration. Brett ‘take it and run with’ it Anderson is a different kind of partner in crime. Wordsmith, rhyme guy and creative punster, Brett gives me a run for my money with quick thinking and wittiness. I so enjoy being on stage with him.

On Saturday it’s Leon Clingman’s chance to join me. I have been waiting for a chance to share a stage for an hour with Leon. We really get each other as improvisers. With Leon I can take risks. With Leon there is conflict and drama and relationships. Leon is my improv husband. I know it is going to be interesting, and amazing.

I don’t want you to have to choose which night to join us. Come to all three. It’s cheap as bad gossip. R80 if you book online.

Do I dare disturb the (theatre) universe?

With deep apologies to T.S. Eliot.

Last night I attended a second round of double bills in Artscape’s New Voices season. Once again I sat with a small (first play) and then further dwindled audience (second play) in the deathly hole that is my favourite theatre in Cape Town, Artscape’s Arena.

So, first to everything (no not everything, because that would take me my whole entire life) that was wrong with Artscape last night. I will only do one night. I arrived and there was a 50 person strong queue at box office, with 3 minutes to go before the show I was attending was to begin. People were texting other people to tell ushers and door people that they were struggling to pick up their tickets. I didn’t even try. Luckily I smashed into someone dashing to the venue who had a ticket for me. The usher at the door knows me. He hugged me and whispered in my ear that he missed me, from decades ago when we would improvise in On The Side, a fringe venue that we made, that has disappeared (one of many, many). We dashed up the stairs to join the tiny audience gathered for the first double bill. (More about the plays soon.) We came down at interval, when half the audience left. No music in the bar. No nothing. Bleak as hell. Ten minutes later we traipsed up the stairs with holes in our hearts for the actors and director of the second play, who had to start the show at 8.45pm to the fifteen of us who had remained. After that show we exited into a closed and silent bar. I had to go backstage to talk to my friends in the show. There was literally nowhere to wait for them. Ironically, that was probably for the best, because both of them live in the townships and have to rely on public transport and it was getting very late. I left through the foyer tunnel. I noticed hundreds of posters for shows that I had not heard about anywhere else. You know what Artscape? You need to do proper publicity. I looked for information on the website. It was outdated by months. You know what Artscape? You need a regularly updated website.

So, Artscape, let’s talk about this scheduling thing. I am delighted that the work is trying to appeal to a larger, blacker audience, but how about making it easier for them to actually attend the work. Why a double bill? How can you justify it? This is not the Alexander Bar; a niche venue with 44 seats and an audience with private transport or access to Uber. Why stick with this completely shoot-yourself-in-the-foot scheduling nightmare? Ityala Lamawele was also on last night. From what I have heard, attendance has been dismal. Why? Scheduling. I saw it on its last run. It was on a Sunday afternoon and the main theatre (500 seater) was full. That would surely give you a clue about scheduling wouldn’t it? So help me understand what you are trying to do here please.

Now to the plays themselves. I am going to be hard. Three out of the four New Voices productions were particularly bad. Seriously, individually, uniquely bad. The first one was a hideous combination of industrial theatre, soap opera and school play and it was embarrassing. The second one was an unrestrained agony of misplaced internal feelings attached to a nonsensical discourse around identity, that left me reeling. The third one had lots of potential. It needed a mentor, a dramaturg, a coach and director to remove all the added on, trite, pseudo cabaret, generalised wankerage, and to get to its core story which was beautiful, and even well performed. I suggested to a friend in the know that a mentor would have been useful. She said each production had one, at great expense. Oh dear theatre gods, you have sold us down the river of theatrical hell. The last one (seen only by the few hard core die-hards) was beautiful. It was gorgeous, well conceived, moving, engaging, intelligent, original and theatrical. Not 100% so, but in comparison it was the surprise upgrade to premium class. And, it must be said, and I will mention names, Thembekile Komani and Ntombi Makhutshi you were both outstanding and a joy to watch on stage. It must be asked of the other shows, what the fuck were these mentors doing?

Now Artscape, if you are going to be spending the money, then at least do it properly. Experimental work is a must, and it is a great programme, but don’t make it so high risk for your audiences, who are making a huge effort as it is. Come on. You have a huge responsibility here, and you have a magnificent opportunity too. Please let us make this work. Mandla Mbothwe I want to help. I want theatre to win.

Dani and The Lion, Last Night at the Den

1199_IMG_4340I get bored during most live shows, even the first time around. There are very few shows I will watch more than once, and seeing a show for the third time is as rare as  hen’s teeth, or even as rare as Whale 502.

Last night I saw a 3rd incarnation of Dani and The Lion, performed by my best Daneel van der Walt, and new Leo piano man David Lubbe. It isn’t fair to say it is the same show I saw last year though, it has grown and developed and is even more mad, mesmerising, moving and completely hilarious. There are a few new songs, a magnificent new costume, a gorgeous new sign, and the show has an all round attention to detail that is utterly charming, strange and other worldly.

Daneel is extraordinary. Her voice. Her arms, her funny bone, her emotion, her mal kop. David Leo Lubbe is the perfect piano man. He is so complimentary he is virtually for free. Nicholas Spagnoletti, the director, has brought focus, fabulousness and attention to detail that make the show more direct and magnificent. And Nicholas is responsible for that sign. I love that sign.

To be honest, there isn’t a thing I don’t love in this show. I call this my best show. There have been others, but I can’t think of them right now. This is it. Dani and The Lion, Last Night in the Den.

So, after tonight it heads to Gtown. I am nervous that it isn’t going to be as well received as a Neil Diamond tribute goes down in that place, but that is my own bullshit and I want so badly to be proved wrong. If you have believed anything I have ever said about anything, believe me here. Best show.

The birthing of a new production

Yesterday was a rollercoaster. I held auditions. I find it as hard holding them as doing them. I have to put out an enormous amount of energy to get people to be their best selves and to have a good time. That’s important to me. I was lucky yesterday. I allowed my instincts to speak loudly and I had no doubts about the two people I cast for a fantastic play I will be directing really soon. Now that the decision is made, and my offer has been accepted, I am allowing my imagination to soar. I am in the space of possibility and dreaming into the ideas, the vision, the meaning, the flow. And I am so terribly excited to be directing somebody else’s writing.

Last year I met an extraordinary young woman, Sara Shaarawi, at the WPIC (Women Playwrights International Conference) held in Cape Town. I was assigned to her as a director to work on a staged reading of an excerpt of her play Niqabi Ninja, and I got very excited. I knew I wanted to put the piece on, but timing and other stuff and life got in the way, until the Rhodes Reference List protests reminded me of how relevant and important this piece is. I wrote to Sara and told her I was ready to try and put it on, and she sent me the latest draft. It is radical.

So, on 18, 19, 20 July we will be doing a showcase of the play at The Alexander Bar. I will be inviting some VIPs of the theatre world (in Cape Town) because this piece must be seen, and appreciated, by as many young people as possible. And I am so, so excited. Save the dates, and come and have a look.

A funny thing happened on the way to the theatre

This is a post written with a particular friend of mine in mind. Rudy has been a major influence in my life, not only because he has been in it since I was 18, but also because he has had a prescient knowledge of me, and my abilities, loves, hates and talents.

When I was at drama school he told me that I would make a good director. I was furious. I wanted to act. Nothing else would do. He told me to have this conversation with him again when I turned 40. I did. He was right. When I was 40 he asked me when I would become the teacher I needed to be. I was furious. I hate teaching. I only teach when I absolutely have to. It is my worst. He told me we would have this conversation again.

And yesterday, when I bumped into a student of mine from 12 years ago, I realised I had been doing this thing I hate, and loving it in secret, for a very, very long time. Granted, in the same free-lance style that is my usual life, but still, teaching, on and off for more than 20 years. I have also been realising, slowly, like a spreading blush, that I adore my current students (AFDA Live Performance honours students) even though I am not officially teacher, but more coach, facilitator, and kind of director. I am working with them on their workshopped production for the Grahamstown festival, and even though I do more than my fair share of complaining, I love them, and the work we are doing. Who would have thought?

So, I guess, as long as we don’t call it teaching, and it is all part of everything to do with theatre, and drama, I pretty much love it, along with everything else I love about theatre.It is scary how right you have been all along Rudy.

 

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