Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Category: Uncategorized (Page 1 of 11)

SA life #snapshot

I had such a beautiful uplifting and heartwarming night last night at the second opening of From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach at the Auto & General Theatre on The Square. Honestly, I could not be prouder of this work that has evolved and grown into something I am so aligned with; magical theatre and storytelling with a human message.

It was with a bittersweet heartache that I woke up, ready to get back to my home, partner, animals, other pressing work and Cape winter storms, knowing I was leaving this show, and Chantal, in Jozi, as well as my hometown and city that I long for, love and hate in equal measure. The only way to describe my feelings for both of these cities is in the SASL sign for ‘it’s complicated – a frowning face with wormlike fingers moving from out to in front of the signer’s face.

Lucky, my Uber driver, was chatty and we spoke about how ridiculous the SA banking system is. He needs a loan to buy his own car, but the bank won’t give him one because his previous loan is paid up; something he did way before the time, even paying penalties for early payment. How will someone like him get ahead, he asked.

I had a tiny epiphany. We have to take a risk. Individuals, groups, corporates, banks, governments, friends, neighbours. We have to help each other. Build trust. Have something to lose and risk anyway. Help someone with their education. Help someone take out a loan instead of saying no. I don’t know how, but I know it is so, so necessary. Let’s do this thing. Let’s help each other.

I was going to write more, but I boarded my flight, felt sad about the homeless and vulnerable in stormy Cape Town, and lost my gees a little bit. Still, one thing I know is that I am going to try and help more, do more, be more.

Edit: I bought a bed for 5 nights for a homeless person from The Haven. It cost R60. It is the easiest thing to do. Go to The Haven and buy one. If you do, let me know.

 

A whole new world of SASL

For the past few months, Every Tuesday at lunchtime I waltzed onto UCT’s upper campus for a lecture. I swanned past regular full time students, lecturers and campus staff into our lecture theatre in the Soc Sci building to be greeted by an unusual silence and the presence of our amazing lecturer James Harvey.

Slides and signing were the method of the class for a beginner’s course in SASL (South African Sign Language). 45 minutes of silent but animated class propelled me into a whole new world, the world of sign language, and gave me a window into the rich and expressive language and culture of South Africa’s (and the world’s) Deaf community.

Today was our final class, which included a test, and although I am sure I got some stuff wrong, I was pretty proud of how much I actually knew, and have learnt to delight in. I was properly sad to leave.

My vocab is limited and my understanding of SASL grammar is sketchy, but I am head over heels in love with SASL. Expressive, poetic, lyrical, funny and rude, SASL has a unique flavour and quality, completely shifting the notion of language and communication.

Thank you James, classmates and UCT. I cannot recommend this course enough.

Here is a taste of it.

Improvised Industrial Theatre

Two weeks ago I got an urgent call from a business consultant who was facilitating a big corporate seminar and workshop. She had been let down by a theatre company at the last minute and needed some industrial theatre as an intervention during the seminar. In under a week. Because of improv philosophy I said ‘yes’ first, of course I could help, and then I panicked about the how of it. Fortunately, because she has a theatre background she understood what I was talking about when I explained that a week was too short a time to write, cast, rehearse and produce a 20 minute play, and that I thought it would be a good idea to throw around a few concepts and get improvisers to play with the ideas; an improvised corporate theatre intervention.

She loved it and we spoke about meeting the next day to play with the ideas, messaging and goal of the piece. “Where are you?” she asked. At that moment we realised that she was in Joburg and I was in Cape Town. My heart sank and I started thinking about who I could recommend, but she threw a solution at the problem and suggested that if I knew improvisers in Joburg and could cast them remotely, I could come up and the job would be mine. I did, I went, was supported by brilliant Joburg improvisers, and it was a great success.

And it got me thinking. One of the big problems facing us as industrial theatre makers right now is that businesses don’t have the budget, even though there is the earnest desire. It is challenging to be asked to quote for a piece of industrial theatre when you know the client will be shocked by the cost. Clients expect to pay a couple of thousand R for theatre that in reality costs almost a hundred thousand R to make. I am asked a few times a month to quote and there is almost never any comeback.

So, how about a new product? A theatrical intervention that is explained up front as improvised? This is different from forum theatre, or role play, in that it is purely theatrical, but it is also potentially funny, a great breakaway, meaningful, and also tailor made to the situation. It is improvisation, but for a target group or audience. There is the element of risk, and even ‘failure’, but that is part of improvisation, and part of business. I think there is so much value in an audience being part of that experience. And the dual message is powerful too.

Any takers? Contact me on megan@improvision.co.za and tell me what you need.

Shamed on Social Media

I wasn’t sure I was ever going to be able to come back here, but I guess it is like riding a bike: Fall off, climb back on again. I am not sure that if your legs are broken it is even possible, but, given time, even with broken but mending legs, it is said to be the best medicine. Right now I probably need this medicine. I am doing this with my heart in my mouth.

When is the right time to respond? Is it too soon? Is it too late? Will I be accused of starting it up again?

Just over a week ago I made a hideous mistake based on a completely knee-jerk reaction about a goat that I perceived was in distress. Coupled with my reaction was an idiotic post I made on a Facebook group that I am part of, asking for help. After I saw what had happened, and how the thing had spiralled down into hideous, racist, Islamophobic assumptions by idiots commenting on my post, I rushed to make a very public apology, so fast I even messed that up, and then apologised again, and then again. The family who I hurt accepted, and then later questioned and rejected my apology.

I will be very surprised if you, my readers, have not seen the resulting fallout from #goatgate, on social media, in the newspapers and on the radio. I was made fun of, threatened, trolled, called names. I was sent private messages of the most filthy abuse. My blog was targeted, my apology rejected, my personal details distributed, screen grabs (not including my apology) shared, my work threatened, my name ridiculed, my past discredited, my politics rejected. I was made fun of by South Africa’s comedians, I was given lessons in what I should have done, I was threatened and silenced and warned that my actions were indefensible. I was vilified by actresses in the industry; some who know me and some who don’t.

Three articles featured prominently on IOL, M&G and Cape Times. These were shared like holiday sweets on Facebook and Twitter. One of the articles was written by a Facebook friend. Not once was I asked for my side of the story, or even to comment. With all my contact information totally accessible to anyone (for abuse), I was not contacted by the ‘journalists’ even though I was quoted by them, when they lifted what I had written on Facebook. The only media outlet that made contact with me was Radio Islam who asked if I would come onto their morning show to give my side of the story. Of course I said yes. They were the only ones ever who asked.

Alongside the deep shame and humiliation I felt about this horrible thing was the powerless sense of my silence. I understood the temperature of the room and realised that anything I said was fuel to the fire and I had to keep quiet, get off social media and only invest in one-on-one interactions. It was clear that my apology didn’t support the narrative and was mostly left out of any further portrayals of me, the racist, hater, whitesplainer. Two people asked to meet with me, to hear what I had to say, of the hundreds who sent messages of abuse and name calling. Two people who were very offended by what I had done; one publicly and one privately schooling me and putting me in my place. These meetings have not happened yet.

The fallout has extended further into my world of work. I have always understood that I have a public profile that lends itself to controversy. I don’t do myself any favours by writing about theatre, here on meganshead and for Weekend Special. I saw two plays last week and couldn’t write about them. I knew that people would be looking at the ‘who’ of the review instead of the ‘what’, and that everybody would suffer.

When I think about it with a bit of distance the one thing that is funny is that I am always desperate for publicity for my work. I struggle to get media attention for my plays; always begging friends and colleagues for airtime and press. I haven’t been on the radio talking about my plays in years. I have to rely on my own small publicity machine on social media for any exposure. But all over all media, Megan Furniss – well known theatre maker, actress, director, famous in South African theatre circles, made headlines.

I still feel sick about this. I still feel silenced and ashamed. I still wish I could turn back the clock and take it all back. And yet, I know, in a world more gentle, and kind, my real concern for an animal in distress (regardless of it being part of a petting zoo at a children’s birthday party) would have been just that. Me. Super sensitive about an animal tied to a pole.

Bianca does Lola

I don’t think I have ever written about a show twice before. Since starting to write for Weekend Special I have let my review style pieces live there officially and I have used meganshead to mouth off on other things. But, last night I went to see An Evening with Lola, a cabaret created and performed by my NBF, ninja and heroine, Bianca Flanders, and I felt inspired to write about it twice.

This isn’t going to be a ‘review’, but it is going to be an indulgence in the talents of my friend. And it is going to be an encouragement for Capetonians who read my blog to get their shit together to book and go this week, because that’s all there is (this time around). It’s at my favourite, The Alexander.

So Bianca and her director Iman Isaacs birthed the show because of their situation at the time – two talented but out of work actresses waiting for their next gig. To be fair, I think that neither of them had any idea how busy they would end up being. They have both squeezed this run between all their other amazing projects.

This show is such a delight because Bianca is absolutely everything a cabaret performer needs to be. She is a bombshell in her red catsuit and big hair (think Donna Summer), she is a true comic with exceptional timing, her voice is utterly amazing from kick ass belting it out, to sultry crooning, and she has the most delicious and intimate rapport with her audience, including the sap she warned she would pick on for the rest of the night. She reminded me of a young Eartha Kitt, and this made me very, very happy. I love Eartha Kitt.

But there is a subtle thing going on here with Lola, that had me thinking again this morning, and it is a real achievement. Bianca and Iman have been able to be subtly, slitheringly political, in a ‘it creeps up on you’ kind of way. It is the best kind of political. No slap in the face, no toy-toy’ing and flames. But a gentle, consistent reminder that certain things are certain ways and that it isn’t altogether kosher.

There are tons of in-house actor jokes, but the audience of non actors were collapsed in their seats from laughing, so I don’t think the jokes are exclusive. And Bianca’s throw-away lines get some of the biggest laughs.

Go and see the range of what this young dynamo is capable of.

 

A last word on the ‘comments’

One of the niggling things that has been bouncing around in my mind is a picture of  the kind of white South African who has tons of opinion about the how and why of protest.

In the comments there is the voice of outrage about how these people burn stuff, and destroy stuff, as if they should somehow know better. In the comments, people judge from a position of superiority, as if the commentator is somehow above this savagery. Their tone is, if only these people were more civilised in their protest we would have more sympathy for them, but, how can they expect our sympathy if they burn/stone/destroy what little they have?

If I were to visualise this person I would see this man that I once saw at the Gardens Centre. He was shouting at the man who was putting change into the parking ticket machine. This first man was in his late forties, and he was fat, with his boep hanging over his belt. He had food stains on his shirt, and crumbs on the wiggling hairs of his moustache. His voice was whiny and breathy. His car keys jostled in his hand and his overflowing bags of Woolies groceries lay at his feet. He was terribly inconvenienced, this man, who wasn’t able to use this particular machine at this particular time to pay for his parking. And he was bullying a man who would never, in all his whole life own a car, let alone park one, or drive one. This man, who was shouting felt entirely superior and worth more.

As I turned away in disgust I thought about how deeply unjust this country was, that allowed this man, in all his mediocre failing, to be more than, worth more than anyone of colour. All he was was born into it. He hadn’t earned a single fragment of the privilege he tossed about. He hadn’t even made good on his huge and outrageous starting advantage. He was a giant blob who in any other circumstance would have swept the car park, or moved the trolleys. And yet here he was, and he was an alarm bell, a flashing neon light, an advert for how even the most miserable and mediocre among us are better off than the black majority who won’t be let out of the starting blocks.

So when that ‘civilised’ voice makes its ugly appearance in the comments section, I see that man. And I imagine the protesters seeing that man drive past them, or watch from his balcony. And, to be honest, it makes even me want to go and burn shit.

 

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