Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Category: world of work (Page 1 of 12)

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

 

Khwezi Ninjas

NN by Nicky Newman - WEB-12I had no idea how perfect the timing of Niqabi Ninja was going to be, but on the eve of the announcement of South Africa’s election results, in front of the whole country, four young female ninjas performed a silent, poetic, theatrical protest that was somehow more meaningful than the election results themselves.

Four young women invoked the buried tragedy of Khwezi, Zuma’s rape victim, as he stood behind a podium, oblivious. And then they were violently removed.

In our short run of Niqabi Ninja (a play that deals with sexual harassment and mob rape in Egypt, but reflects on it everywhere in the world) we became more and more aware of how men were largely ignorant of the prevalence and impact of sexual harassment and even rape itself. We realised that all women who ever have to walk somewhere or share public space at some point, have to prepare themselves for the inevitability of harassment. Women are exhausted by the relentlessness of this constant and ubiquitous targeting.

It is Women’s month (hilarious), and Women’s day on Tuesday (a whole day!) and there are programmes and discussions and even adverts about what this means. But those four ninjas ‘said’ it perfectly, and they were shut down immediately. I know for certain that the time is absolutely now for everybody to see and experience our play Niqabi Ninja. I need help to get it out there. Anyone know who can produce a nationwide tour? Every campus, high school, organisation, government building, police station, boardroom needs to host a performance. Now.

Call me with your ideas. 0834403961.

(Above photo by Nicky Newman)

 

Niqabi Ninja – we need your help

NN font sample 2This post is a letter/press release/call for help.

Dear theatre lovers, fighters for causes, feminists, allies, survivors, and community members,

I am currently involved with a beautiful and important work, Niqabi Ninja, that I want to bring to your attention.

Niqabi Ninja is an avenging Superhero, born on the streets of Cairo, who is ready to seek out and avenge every single act of harassment she has experienced at the hands of men. She has a list, a record of injuries and a variety of punishments to mete out. Watch out men of Cairo. Niqabi Ninja has a score to settle, and she is coming after you.

Set in Cairo during the chaotic time of the Egyptian uprising, Niqabi Ninja is an extraordinarily beautiful play giving two actresses a chance to explore the range and complexity of harassment against women, and one woman’s ability to develop a response.

Niqabi Ninja is written by emerging young Egyptian playwright Sara Shaarawi, and directed by me, Megan Furniss, and performed by Cape Town’s rising talents Bianca Flanders and Loren Loubser. We have put this show together on zero budget and 100% commitment and passion.

The play premiers at The Alexander Bar on 18, 19, 20 July, for a showcase of three performances, and we have just heard news that we have an additional 3 dates on the 1, 2, 3 August.

I am convinced that this work, these outstanding performances, the subject matter and how it is presented, will speak to a wide audience in South Africa, but more particularly to a young, student audience. I am looking for advice, production skills, a producer and project management to get Niqabi Ninja to its biggest audience. I am open to all suggestions, possibilities and options. Please let me know if you are able to attend one of our premier performances. Let me know if you have ideas, contacts, suggestions, skills to share. The truth is, this is gorgeous work and I am terrible at anything besides the creative stuff. And share, share, share this post.

 

Tightrope

6a00d8341c61d153ef0115719b6255970bYesterday was a long, amazing, interesting and eye opening day for me in South Africa. The details were simple. On Thursday I flew up to Jozi, and then drove to Potch, where I spent the night, so that I could run an early morning improv session with participants in an advanced leadership programme for one of the mining companies. I love this work, and am deeply happy to have it. I am in my element working to teach the basic principles of improv to groups who have no experience of this way of thinking. Three hours of laughing, playing and creating later and they are a transformed team.

And yet, I sit with so much anxiety and reservation about the true voices in our country; the unspoken disbelief I see flash across black faces when white participants innocently and unconsciously make reference to ‘those people’ or ‘these people’ and say something so deeply racist my brain wants to explode. Or the vile and despicable white voice of complaint to the black serving woman in the airport business lounge, as if she has the power to improve the ridiculousness of a triple full lounge, plane delays and the lack of seating for her and her miserable partner. I sit with the frustration of the conversation I have with a man who was flying to Limpopo for voter registration weekend and when he hears that I live in Cape Town he tells me “ag, just ask your Zille,” “ask your DA,” assuming that script for me without even asking. I don’t blame him. He sees examples of that mentality all around him. I listen to the slightly louder voice of the white man when he talks to the brown air hostess. We have no idea what we sound like and it is deeply rude and embarrassing.

My big fear is that it is already too late to prove that we can be different. Why should anyone ever believe us? It is hard going. I am not going to stop making a noise, trying to make a difference. I will try in small and big ways.

On my way up to Jozi I sat next to a gorgeous woman. We didn’t speak until she saw me staring out the window in amazement at the beautiful cloud formations below us; we were flying above the clouds. And she turned to me, this stranger, and in a thickly isiXhosa accented English said, “Nature is so powerful and beautiful.” And in that tiny moment I felt hope.

 

 

Personal ramblings, ad castings, and hair removal

Photo on 2016-02-17 at 1.59 PMThose of you who know me well have seen my body hair. I have hairy armpits, hairy (but not terribly) legs, and I haven’t shampooed my hair in at least 4 years.

At the beginning of the year I told my agent that I would be available for castings again, after a very long hiatus. I’ve been to four odd castings so far, and I have enjoyed myself immensely. You can’t take this stuff seriously, and as long as you aren’t over invested which causes a certain tight faced desperation that cameras pick up on, it can be such fun.

Request castings are cool because your agents put you forward and then the casting company asks to see you; better than a thousand hungry people waiting for days in stinky casting corridors.

So yesterday afternoon I got sent a brief for a deodorant ad. I said sure I’ll go. And then I saw that there was no story in the brief but they wanted to see interesting people (I am interesting) of a certain age that I fall smack in the middle of. Cool.

I woke up this morning panicking. A deodorant ad. What if I have to show my armpits?

I put a desperate message on the Woodstock group on Facebum. I needed a beautician before 1130am. I found one. I had my armpits waxed. You know the deal.

Fully prepared, I arrived at the casting studio.  I had stuck on a smudge of make-up and I was wearing a top that showed my underarms if I lifted my arms even a little bit.

I had a look around. Where the hell was I? It looked like every single homeless white person of a certain age had been dragged though fields of thorns, plate glass windows, cigarette factories and second hand clothes shops, and those that had not died had been dumped at the casting. Most people didn’t have teeth, let alone body hair. The guy before me, a huge, fat, red faced man, was sweating so badly his t-shirt was two distinct colours; wet khaki and dry khaki. More wet than dry.

Three of us went in together. The sweaty guy of a certain age, a young tattooed and pierced ‘hipster’ and me. We had to stand and wait, then watch someone walk past behind the camera and smile. No underarm action at all.

I got back into my car and thanked my life for aircon. Three of the ‘homeless’ people were sitting on the kerb behind my car. The man with the ZZ-top beard stood up to direct me. My armpits started itching. I looked at one underarm in the rear view mirror. Sensitive spots were appearing. Angry, red blobs. Next time I will get the damn brief. Next time.

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