Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Category: world of work (Page 1 of 13)

Working on Whiteness

I ran my first ever Working on Whiteness introduction conversation/workshop last night and I want to share many of the details. I want this to be the beginning of much more work of this nature, and so I want to explain it thoroughly so more people will feel compelled to attend, and will invite those who won’t be able to come to the conclusion for themselves.

I have made a deliberate choice to keep this work exclusively white. Ironically, POC are more comfortable and supportive of this. Friends I have spoken to have articulated how being black and having to explain over and over what their pain and anger looks and feels like to white people is exhausting and often futile. It is my opinion that white people need to do a lot of work before entering into the conversation on diversity. White people need better tools and more information to have those conversations. We need to start before those.

Anyway. The lead up to last night’s workshop was an invitation through email and on Facebook and Linked in to all white friends, connections, colleagues, associates and friends of friends, who live (or found themselves) in Cape Town to attend. I think I shared it personally with over 1000 people. Many people contacted me to say that they thought it sounded good but they were previously engaged/out of town and couldn’t make this one but would still like to come if there ever was another one. There will be.

There were eight participants. The evening was divided into improv games, storytelling exercises and facilitated conversation. And it was a gentle start in the right direction. Of course, the people in the room were already conscious that there were issues like racism, white privilege, white guilt, systemic racism and virtue signalling. What we unpacked was some of that.

We are like trapeze artists who could fall into the traps at any time. It is a lot of hard work, constant reflection, and deep listening to hear, see, feel, and stay on it and in it.

An earnest desire helps, but we have to keep pushing ourselves into the uncomfortable place of this work.

Here is some of what participants had to say.

“There is often resistance to having this kind of conversation informally in a group and if the subject of ‘whiteness’ comes up, the conversation can often become quite defensive.

I wondered (worried about) what would be asked of me in a workshop like this. I had been thinking in the privacy of my own mind about myself as a white person. The thought of going to a workshop to unpack whiteness was confronting, but I decided to go.

I am very glad I did. It was hugely worthwhile. Megan held the group expertly and led us though a number of really easy and fun exercises which were designed help us begin this conversation.

Once we began the conversation to look at our/my whiteness, it felt really easy and natural to do so in the environment that had been created. The feeling in the room felt very comfortable to me.

It was amazing to hear the thoughts of others in the group and good to share my own”. – L.S.

“When you finish a two-hour workshop and race conversation with a group of ten white people saying they could continue for another hour and want to sign up for an ongoing course, you know something special has happened. Megan Furniss’ ability to hold uncomfortable spaces gently while firmly pushing into the tough areas that desperately need to be talked about is key to this much-needed work. It was just the tip of a very large iceberg, but the fact that people paid to be in the room and were engaged for two hours with no sign of wanting to leave or stall was testimony to what we need to see so much more of.” B. A

Contact me if you want to start this, or even continue with this work.

Industrial theatre, storytelling, improv news

I am currently working on a 15 minute industrial theatre play around AIDS and HIV awareness. I have written the script and it is really entertaining. It has to be. Audiences have terrible AIDS awareness fatigue. This two-hander has a delicious format, really cute characters, and it is very honest and forthright. It has been commissioned by a client, but I would love to sell it on to anyone who wants to do something for AIDS day on December 1. Let me know if you’d like more info, or would like to book it.

I am also doing beautiful storytelling workshops. Improv and personal narrative come together in this fun, moving and connecting space, where people get to know themselves and each other better.

And of course there is pure improv. You need this in your workspace to revolutionise how you work as a team, be co-creative and understand how important it is to be present and and an active listener.

Lastly, and deeply personally, I am offering tarot readings, either in person or over Skype. Email me to book an appointment for this lovely, focussed look at an area of your life.

All queries on megan@improvision.co.za

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.

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.

 

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