Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Category: world of work (Page 1 of 12)

On Set

Being on set is weird. I am resurrecting the acting side of my ‘career’ at the moment (thanks mostly to a devoted and believing agency; thank you all at ERM) and in the last little bit I have had three totally different set experiences, with one thing in common; this alternate, limbo reality that actors go to for the day.

Usually you arrive at a place you have never been to, in an area you have never been into, and usually it is early in the morning. Usually, as an actor, you will have had a little intro to the wardrobe people because you needed to try on your costume beforehand, but mostly everyone on set is unfamiliar; except for the one or two actors you may know. Usually, there is time for a coffee and to check out the craft table (in my case to scout if there is anything vegan on it) before getting changed, even though you know you won’t be called onto set for hours.

The work in front of the camera is the least weird part of the day, and night. That is the expected part of the hurry up and wait that is film making. The weird part is the make-up lady, who you have only worked with once before, who is suddenly and for the day your NBF. The weird part is sitting in a space not meant to be sat in, reading your book, with your dressing gown over your character’s clothes. The weird part is checking Facebum on your phone, as you would every actual day, but now you are checking it from another world entirely. The weird part is the running away from the talk-too-much extras. The weird part is watching other people so engrossed in their work and the detail of it, and how upset they get when messy performers have to come into their space of light and angles and set. The weird part is driving in a left-hand drive, on the wrong side of the road, down suburban streets of Ottery-meant-to-be-Virginia, with a camera suctioned to the door, while normal people come home from work, and stare out of their windows at the spectacle. And of course it is the people who must share in that weirdness with you; fellow actors, crew, catering, and the owners of whatever location you may be inhabiting for the day; their house becoming four different houses, a workshop, an interrogation room and a small business.

Finally, after trying so hard not to ask when, it is your wrap time, and you jump out of the strange clothes, now totally familiar, throw your own shit into your bag (I either feel smug that I remembered to bring the things that helped me make my day comfortable; gown, slippers, ginger tea, book, pen and paper, or else regretful that I forgot), and you walk down an unfamiliar dirt road to where you parked your car, 12 hours ago, and start up in the bitter cold, trying to remember how you got there in the morning. And then, the radio comes on and introduces you back into the usual world, as you join up onto a familiar highway, and make your way home. 

(Me and Alan Glass on set)

 

NT Live, and theatrical thoughts

I hope you have noticed that I have been writing reviews for Weekend Special, Cape Town’s newest and most comprehensive online arts and lifestyle magazine, started and curated by Karen Rutter and Jane Mayne, two vital and veteran arts journos, contributors, editors and theatre and music lovers. It has been an honour writing for the website that has made an enormous impression on the arts in Cape Town since it started up in December.

I have written about plays, movies, series and even a restaurant, and it has been such fun. One of the best parts has been that I have gone to preview screenings of the NT Live productions. I was absolutely transformed by St Joan, and Hedda Gabler, was awe struck by Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, and have a few on my list that I am so excited about (tomorrow I will see Emelda Staunton in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?).

What has been such an eye opener has been that even the famous, experienced and visionary theatre makers in the UK don’t always get it right. Last week I saw Obsession, directed by the amazing Ivo van Hove, with Jude Law, and it was truly horrible. It was agonisingly horrible. And without sounding like I am gloating, there is something so comforting in knowing that even the masters get it wrong.

Of course, the lesson is that we can all fail when trying to make theatre (or any art actually), but it is the trying that is so important. Here, at home the rules of engagement are so different, and so much of the theatre (and film) we make is terribly, boringly safe. Safety can be in what is expected of us, or it can be in having a proper, paying job, or it can be doing the same thing over and over again. Safety is low risk, low challenge, low stakes theatre, to get by. Low risk theatre is easy to make, needs short rehearsal times, and short cuts on everything including the massive commitment needed to make a show. And then, add meek critics to this; those that would rather not say if something is bad because they don’t want what tiny audience there is to stay away, and theatre is dead in the water. Nobody wants to see stuff that hardly blows air up your skirt.

Now, before everyone gets hysterical, I am totally generalising, because it is a miracle that so much great theatre IS made here, in spite of how ball achingly hard it is, and how we have none of the support, money, sponsorship, subsidy, history and culture of theatre attendance and theatre vocabulary that the UK has. I know. But there is something so extraordinary about a spectacular failure, as opposed to a whimper. And I just don’t see that here.

 

Thinking Improv

I went to a meeting yesterday to find out what a potential client needed. She had said she wanted improv theatre for a client presentation, but I wasn’t convinced that what she was asking for was improv; i.e. performers making stuff up. I was pretty sure she wanted industrial theatre; performance to support a boring event of power points and speeches.

I was right. She had been handed the notion of improv theatre by one of her superiors, didn’t really understand what it was, but couldn’t let go of the name of the thing. She was great, and responsive, when I explained to her the difference and what I thought she was asking for, but the default name of improv theatre stuck around for the meeting, and I was the one who had to let go.

And so I used the basic tools of improv for the rest of the meeting. I listened. I built on her ideas. We worked as a team. We developed the scene. I got her excited. She got me excited. We were so creative, and funny, and enthusiastic. When we walked down to the parking lot it felt like we had finished a healthy workout.

I am writing our ideas into a concept document and I have all the right improv energy to do it. Love improv. Even when it isn’t the thing.

 

Limbless without Internet

With the law of averages it was bound to happen, and now we are in it. On Sunday morning we woke up to no internet connection and a stone dead land line. The usual jumping through hoops with Hellkom is always a challenge with on-line forms pretty unworkable, phone in fault systems utterly laborious and maze-like in their inefficiency, and of course, the usual lying reply of “they’re working on it right now and will call you in 5 minutes” a kind of standard response if you ever get to speak to a human.

I can’t believe how much of my work depends on me being online. I feel completely bereft and crippled. I am currently using my cell phone as a hotspot so I can write this, because I feel like I have broken a promise I made to myself to write every day.

And I keep remembering bits and pieces of things I needed to do, or said I would do and am not doing. Even just paying my cellphone account, or sending a press release.

I am totally useless at trying to imagine what needs to happen in order for it to be magically fixed. Big Friendly is a tech angel in my life when it comes to that, only he is feeling limbless without online access too. We are like a household that has been struck by a tech plague.

So stay with me online friends, and virtually hold my hand and un social media’ed thoughts while I sit, immobile in the real world until connectivity is restored.

Joburg Nights

The window is open and the cricket is so loud its like a one cricket band on steroids. I love Jozi at this time of year when everything is lush and green and the summer heat is tempered with rain on most days.

I am up here directing Chantal Stanfield in her one woman show From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach, opening at the Auto & General Theatre on The Square. It previews on 28 Feb and opens on 2 March, and even though we have just started rehearsing this week, I can already tell that it is going to be so lovely. When I suddenly have a waterfall of ideas (most of which will never manifest and be in the final result) I know I am operating in my creative space and it is delicious. It’s also that time when I find things on the rehearsal floor achingly (and repetitively) funny, and my cheeks are sore after every session.

It is interesting working in a space that isn’t my home, and I seem to have lost any small ability to multitask (let’s face it, I don’t have much ability to start with). Everything feels different. Space and travel and timing and food and even the air is different from home. Here I am loving other dogs (missing my dogs), walking the aisles of unfamiliar supermarkets, driving a different car. It’s like I have swopped my life for someone else’s.

This is the second Jew-ish themed piece of work I have done in the last while (I performed Mother in The Finkelsteins are Coming to Dinner; a show I am dying to do in Joburg, hopefully still this year). For someone who is reluctantly Jewish as I am this is hilarious. And we are rehearsing in a pretty Jewish neighbourhood too. All my Jewish radar is on high alert. When you are looking for it, Joburg can be pretty Jewish. I keep having the urge to tap into my ancient Jewish network, to insist they come and see the show.

Whenever I come up to Joburg (my hometown) I am split between wanting to live here and in Cape Town. The urges for both are so strong. This is definitely second prize though; if I can’t live here and in Cape Town at the same time at least I can come up here for a couple of weeks at a time for work.

And, if you are in Jozi you can come and see what I’m doing. Let’s hook up.

 

 

Improv Inspiration

Not that I need it, but yesterday is living proof that improv is the most extraordinary tool and philosophy in the corporate environment.

A few weeks ago I was approached by an international company who wanted to find out about the possibility of doing some industrial theatre at a conference. They had a product (a data system) that needed to be launched, and they wanted us to spice up the launch and make it fun and exciting. After a lovely chat, they were broad minded enough to consider my suggestion that we run an improv workshop/show shop with the delegates (instead of doing rehearsed sketches), and then pepper the presentation with some improvised interventions. (I must add here that the terrifying idea of trying to understand the product and then deliver accurate content around it was the main reason why I wanted to avoid writing a script and then rehearsing the stuff).

Only after I had sold the idea to them did I hear that there were going to be 200 delegates. 200! That is 200 people in a room, 10 at a table, 20 tables.

So when we (three veteran improvisers) arrived at the venue yesterday and started setting up while everyone was at lunch I felt like an imposter. How were we going to pull this off? I shouldn’t have worried. It was magnificent, and energising, and hilarious and potent and unbelievably barrier breaking. It worked. It was amazing. My fellow improvisers Tandi Buchan and Brett Anderson were superb, and we managed to change and charge the room.

Now this is all I want to do, for the rest of my life. So, if you need us, let me know. Send me a line on megan@improvision.co.za

 

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