Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Reply to Candice van Litsenborgh

Candice has spent a chunk of time making a passionate plea here, on meganshead. Her comments are worth checking out. And this post is my response to her.

Dear Candice,

You are right. You have come to this sorry affair late. And you are right as well about how deflating, demoralising and depressing it is to not get audiences. I promise you, I know what that is like.

However, I think you are giving our hideous and over-publicised debacle too much credit. I cannot see this tiny scandal influencing the size of Assassins audiences. I am pretty sure that there are a few who might raise this as a petty excuse not to go and see it, but then I am certain they wouldn’t have come anyway. I believe that your lack of audiences might have many contributing factors; some of which you bring up yourself. Here is my opinion.

1. Lack of publicity. I have been more than a little curious and nosy, but for the life of me I could not find any info about when Assassins was opening. (I find it funny that it ended up happening on the same night that my play, The Tent opened its showcase, to its own tiny audience, but that’s another story.) I don’t think anyone knew that the show was running yet.

2. The price. You are right. R200 a ticket is the kind of thing that puts an undecided audience member off. We all need to remember that price is not as much of a consideration if people are clear about what they want to see; I believe HSM is doing a roaring trade. That’s what people want to see. And TheatreSports too, because it’s dirt cheap.

3. Lack of Internet visibility. If you Google Assassins or The NewSpace on South African pages you only get a few outdated bits of info. This is a huge problem. There is no official website for the theatre. The face book groups and pages for Assassins and The NewSpace are not constantly updated. What this also means is that, every time anyone Googles, they get my blog, or Big Friendly’s.

4. The info on the poster is wrong, too small and not very effective.

5. Sondheim remains obscure, unknown and meaningless to the majority of South Africans. They have no idea that he wrote Sweeney Todd. They only remember Johnny Depp. However valuable the piece Assassins is, it is a really difficult one to sell. South Africans vaguely know that some American presidents were assassinated and there was an attempt on Ronnie Reagan’s life; but certainly not the why, how and who. And I don’t know if they care enough to see the musical based on it.

6. This next point is entirely my own opinion and I could be completely wrong, but, I think that if you carry the legacy of a historical, watershed, landmark place like The Space Theatre, you have to make a more obvious, inclusive, meaningful choice about what the first production is. I am not devaluing Assassins but questioning its appropriateness. You say about the theatre, “It is there to serve the community if the community lets it do that.” Your sentiment is right, just the definition of the community Assassins serves is a bit skewed.

Candice, I feel for you and your whole cast and crew. You guys have to stick it out. There is an economic crisis, competition in the form of a musical aimed at children (and another one coming!) and traditional and alternative theatre shows are struggling to stay afloat. It is hard. For all of us.

I need to be honest. I can’t see myself coming to see Assassins. Even though it is a cast to die for. Even though I would love to see the space. Some of my reasons are deeply personal (I am also away or working from now on).

I think you have used this forum well; to create publicity and interest in your show. I think you are brave, committed and passionate. I look forward to seeing you on stage. And I loved you in Chess by the way.

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12 Comments

  1. Sceptical

    Once again, Megan, you have hit the nail on the head. I can’t agree with you more on the points you raise as a response to Candice’s posts – which I found very moving, by the way. But the most important point is about giving the debacle between the NewSpace and yourself too much credit. Like you, I don’t think that the stuff on your blog has kept people away in droves. It certainly left a bitter taste in my mouth personally, but if the show being presented at the NewSpace was something I really wanted to see, I’d be there. Grudge and all. Fred and Marcel’s embarrassing blog posts have tarnished the name of the NewSpace a bit, but one thing we can count on is how fickle people are. The people angered by the banning business (like myself) have probably forgotten all about it by now. Well, mostly…

    Sterkte, Candice. You’re a great performer in what I am sure is a strong piece of theatre. Let that be what brings people to watch you at the NewSpace.

  2. Chad

    Hey! Saw Assassins this afternoon, and it was fantastic! What a powerful production, stellar cast, beautiful music and stunning dialogue. Every detail was there – set, costumes, performances. Go see it for no other reason, than it’s bloody good! It really made an impact on me, and I hope that other people will take the opportunity to open themselves up to such a memorable experience. Check it out!

    Btw, the tickets are now R110 on computicket. All the best 🙂

  3. Candice van Litsenborgh

    Thanks Megan. For your compliments and for replying to me. I honestly didn’t expect a response at all.

    I didn’t mean to imply that people are staying away in droves because of the blog. I’m sure that only a handful of people would even suggest staying away, and might still secretly go to see it anyway. But I really hope that this whole business will eventually be nothing but a fun anecdote for parties.

    We’re all struggling – even HSM and Beauty aren’t doing the business they expected, even with their incredibly visable ad campaigns. I’m glad and grateful for your page and anywhere else we can try to spread the word about our work and create a healthy dialogue about it.

    As Chad points out, we have dropped the ticket price for Assassins. (And thank you very much Chad. So glad you enjoyed it, even in that insane heat on Sunday) Hopefully the price reduction will bring in a few more people.

    My two cents worth, as somebody who knows nothing about marketing except my own likes and dislikes, is that our poster is ineffective on many levels. It’s clever up close, but from a car I think it looks drab and boring. It also makes the show look far too serious. It’s a dark comedy musical, but that’s not even hinted at on the poster. And although it is the NewSpace, 44 Long Street would have been a better way to advertise the first show. At least everyone knows where Long Street is.

    Best wishes for your show Megan.

  4. The Saint

    This is really for Candice – hope you don’t mind Megan !!!
    Dear Candice
    You are not alone in this. To give you some idea of what happened at KBT, these are extracts from emails and website posts sent and placed in Sept/Oct 2008 after we had had a real bad spell despite having a really good piece in the theatre [sorry it is all so long but hopefully of interest]. In despair I wrote to KBT’s mailing list ~
    “No glowing descriptions of the current KBT shows this week – just the basic information. Reason for that – I’d love you guys to come to KBT but nothing I have written in the past few weeks seems to have persuaded you to do so. So now I am at the terrible doubting stage where you wonder what you’ve done wrong and why nobody likes you. I am sure the marketing gurus will tell me I’m mad but you know what, stuff them and their expensive theories. What is written here is quite honestly what I am feeling at the moment. We’ve got a really decent venue, good food and a lovely play with a talented actress, and on Saturday last a piece of theatre for children that is 100% worthwhile started. The bookings have been and are abysmal. Why ? Why since the middle of the year have people stopped going to theatre ? I can say that for in reality it is not only KBT that is battling with small audiences. Maybe it’s the weather ? Maybe the uncertain economy ? You can find a number of possible reasons but you can never know for sure. And all the time that nagging little nasty asks you what if you’re doing something wrong and no-one is telling you ? Paranoia is a terrible thing !!
    So I am asking you – my personal email is templar@iafrica.com and my personal cell phone is 082-6582004, or you can use bluebottle@iafrica.com as you like, but come on tell us, tell me, what is going on, and why aren’t people coming to KBT / the theatre ?”

    Our first response after we got about 90 replies to that was ~
    “First up a big thank you to all those who replied to the KBT email of last week – everyone was constructive and a number of offers of help made and helpful suggestions put forward. We are going to follow up on quite a lot of these in the next few weeks. You will notice the start of a change of format in this email.
    One of the issues that come up a lot was the economic times we are experiencing and the need for people to be careful when spending. We didn’t say it loud enough obviously, but before last week’s email, KBT’s prices had been adjusted to introduce a cheaper dinner/theatre ticket on Wednesdays and Thursdays and to reduce ticket prices for a 3 course meal and theatre ticket on Friday & Saturdays. We are going to have another look at this and see if we can do better [no promises as we are feeling the pinch as well] but lets see what we can come with.”
    Then after we had brainstormed in KBT this is what we did ~
    “Substantial reductions in ticket prices come into effect on October 22, 2008 when the new Gaetan Schmid comedy, “RUMPSTEAK”, opens. Responding to patrons’ replies to a KBT email asking why people weren’t going to the theatre anymore [which reflected overwhelmingly that money, or more precisely the lack of money in the current economic climate is the main reason], KBT, the performer and the restaurant operators have together reduced prices and changed the way in which meals can be ordered to allow patrons to choose how much they wish to spend on food as opposed to being tied into a 3 course meal. These are not, repeat not, specials but a fundamental change in how KBT sreves and charges for food – it is the intention to retain this system for time to come. Patrons can find themselves spending up to 50% less on coming to the theatre and eating depending on how they choose to order food.
    The simple choice between a 3 course meal [at anything from R210 to R250] and a show only ticket [at R100/R110] goes and is replaced by ~
    1. a dinner/theatre ticket priced at ~
    [a] the cost of the food that you choose to order off the menu; plus
    [b] on Wednesdays & Thursdays – R75; and
    [c] on Fridays and Saturdays – R90;
    2. a menu which allows patrons to choose what they want to eat from various full and half portion meals ranging in price from R30 to R80 per dish. If they want to put together a 3 course meal, it is their choice to do so; if they want a light meal and coffee, again it is their choice; and
    3. a show only ticket priced at [a] R80 on Wednesdays & Thursdays; and [b] R95 on Fridays & Saturdays.”

    One of the worst things about this type of situation is that you never know whether something like the above turned the tide or whether other factors did or contributed. All we know is that we had a good “RUMPSTEAK” run and the next show is promising as far as advances are concerned. My view it is a combo of lower prices, a good show and the time of year. But it is a “Pick ‘n Pay” market – volume and lower prices. I think the move to reduce your prices is a positive thing and I hope it works for you.
    Vannie beste
    Simon / KBT

  5. “Something just broke”

    Hi Megan.

    My name is Megan Carelse, I’m currently playing ensemble in ASSASSINS. Lastnight we recieved some terrible news: The board of trustees and the developers of The new Space theatre have decided to close ASSASSINS on the 21st of Dec. In my two year professional career this is the second production that I’m closing, the first being RENT.

    I know that there has been bad blood between you and our directors, but here’s the thing: We are theatre people, and we should stick together and support each other where we can. Theatre is not doing well in South Africa, work is hard to find and tickets are hard to sell.

    ASSASSINS is an incredible show with a wonderful cast! We are hoping for a miracle that will keep us from closing. We can only do so by selling more tickets. We cannot appeal to the hearts of the accountants incharge of the theatre but if we sell more tickets we can appeal to their pockets.

    I am a smalltown girl from Kimberley and I was always told that “If you’re not proud of it, don’t put your name on it.” Well I speak on behalf of everyone in ASSASSINS when I say that we are all VERY proud to be associated with this production!

    We are asking for a miracle…I hope that everyone who logs on to your site will respond.

    Best wishes,

    Megan Carelse.

  6. ray

    Is it just me, or does anyone else have a gnawing feeling of discomfort about the latest developments here on meganshead? Why do people write in to say stuff like “I know that there has been bad blood between you and our directors, but here’s the thing: We are theatre people, and we should stick together and support each other where we can” – this “but” could suggest an amount of blame directed at Megan for the lack of audiences, which doesn’t feel right. Or do people think that an endorsement from Megan will turn the thing around? Interesting times.

    And by the by, notice how the F&M debacle has indeed turned into publicity now. I’m just saying.

  7. Thats not what I’m saying Ray…I do feel that people take Megans’ opinion very seriously. I think that this is a wonderful way to get people interested in shows and theatre. South African theatre is in a state of emergency! Look, I’m very new to this industry and it is not my intention to place blame on anyone…what I’m saying is that a great show runs the risk of closing. Thats it! Nothing personal, nothing directed at Megan.
    My comment was really innocent yesterday and now it’s become something else. That was not my intention. Now I wish I never left a comment. I’m speaking as a passionate performer. I am one of those TUT students who studied Sondheim for an entire year hoping to be in a Sondheim production. I’m not attacking anyone. I just don’t want the show to close.

  8. Candice van Litsenborgh

    Hopefully Ray, it is just you feeling that way. And I’m very sorry that you felt something that was simply not implied on any level. None of us are attacking Megan or anyone else on Megan’s head. I wrote my first response to respondents on this site that said things like “I’m going to give Assassins a miss”. Which of course people are entitled to do. I think it’s very noble and necessary to stand up for your friends when they are unjustly attacked and would probably have said the same thing. That’s why I feel the need to respond to what you seem to imply about Megan Carelse and myself. I simply wanted to ask that people come to see the show and judge it on its merits and not take personal feelings into account. Until your response I believed that we were all on the same page with that sentiment.

    The fact that people, like yourself, feel the need to defend Megan’s honour, even when it isn’t being attacked in any way, shows me that she is clearly an admired and respected woman. I can only speak from knowing her brother and sister in law and I judge her character on what wonderful people they are and how kindly they have treated me as a person and performer.

    We should all be sad when a good show closes early. We should all be upset when people have no money and lose their jobs days before Christmas. It’s a horrible thing to happen to anyone. And it’s a horrible thing that is happening to this amazing theatre and to this industry in general. It’s not just Assassins that’s closing early and it’s not just our audiences that are small. Megan Carelse wrote her post knowing the full extent of several shows financial problems but made an appeal for her own show. Wouldn’t you do the same?

    Questioning a 23 year old girls motives when the show she’s in has just been canceled and she’s contemplating 2 minute noodles for Christmas lunch strikes me as a slightly insensitive response. I don’t mean to call you insensitive because of course I don’t know you, but hopefully you realise now just how sad we are and that she was hoping for some positivity and understanding. She is heartbroken enough to come here to appeal to everyone who reads this page and I think she did so because I was treated with such respect and kindness. I hoped she would receive the same understanding. There are not two sides fighting here. Why treat us like the enemy because we happen to be working for F&M as you call them?

    As Megan says – we do need to stick together. Pointing fingers because you think someone else is pointing fingers doesn’t keep a roof over our heads or food on the table and that’s all young performers like Megan and myself are trying to do. Please just buy a ticket to a show, any show, and help us all out a bit, Ray. The politics simply doesn’t matter when you can’t pay your rent.

  9. ray

    Wow. Ok. Guys, you gotta lighten up and not take a whole bunch of things too seriously.

    I know it’s rough and tough and pretty crap to play to small houses. It smacks right into the heart and soul and all manner of nasties come crawling out. Please don’t think for a minute that I don’t sympathise with you guys – I do. And I apologise whole-heartedly if my feelings of slight scepticism and my musing offended you.

    I don’t feel I’m defending Megan. I’m an impartial observer to all of the shenanigans that have gone on. Megan is big and brave and nasty enough on her own to handle the kak that has been thrown her way. I comment because I am moved to, having been watching trends from when all of this started, and feeling right from the getgo that this whole thing was a publicity stunt.

    Cool?

    Now then, this is not the end of the world. Theatre in Cape Town is in crisis. It has been in crisis for the last ooh, 15 years. Yes, the 50-100 people who might come watch the show through impassioned appeals on this blog might put a few more cents in your pocket, but that’s not going to solve the crisis, or necessarily endear them any more to theatre than they were before. It could even put them off, or perhaps then not buy a ticket for something that wanted to see because they’ve blown their budget, and then that something else loses a patron.

    People will come because they want to – they’ve heard about the show, the word is awesome, they don’t have anything on, and because they can afford to. The sad thing is that theatre is not high up on priorities right now. And, perhaps, that theatres aren’t putting on stuff that people want to see. Or stuff that is somehow unmissable.

    Will this experience make or break a career? No, of course not. It’s an opportunity to learn and grow through experience. It’s a bummer. But it’s OK. We’ll all get by. You’ll all get by.

    Hang in there. It will one day be an anectdote in what will hopefully be a glittering career.

  10. Candice van Litsenborgh

    Ray, we’re not having a little debate about the theatre crisis. Nor are we trying to
    solve anyone’s economic crisis but our own. We can’t afford to be apathetic and muse about why it’s happening. We have literally been told by financiers that the only way we will stay open for another week is if we fill up to 50% by the end of the week. Then we will extend week by week. So I’m literally out on the street every day handing out flyers, putting up posters and telling people about the show. But it’s all a little too late unless the people who would have come in the last few weeks come now.

    So we ARE desperate, this is serious, and as someone who literally has a household of 3 unemployed people due to this show closing early, I take this VERY seriously because for any of us to find another job a few days before Christmas is something that realistically is not going to happen. A future glittering career is of no use to someone who can’t afford the petrol to get to the last few days of work they have.

    CT audiences are notorious for coming to the show the week AFTER it closes and then going “oh we really wanted to see that”. We simply don’t have that luxury and I cannot be more urgent in my appeal to everyone who reads this. Please take the R100 that you were going to use on a take out meal or a Christmas decoration or a movie and come watch Assassins instead. If you’re a student or pensioner it will only cost you R60. Save a starving actor and see a damn good show in the process!

    I can’t do any more than that, but I most certainly won’t sit on my ass or lighten up while I still have the ability and the passion to sell my work by any legal means possible. I have immense faith in the product we’ve created and I have faith that people’s hearts can be appealed to with the truth of the situation. Our bookings have doubled to a grand 20 people a night on average. There are more of us on stage than in the audience. You say you can sympathize with us doing that every night and getting no pay check at the end of the week. But then please understand how hard it is to “lighten up” in the face of that.

    When I performed in Korea last Christmas a fan told me on the last night that she was looking forward to eating again. She had literally been starving herself in order to come see our show every night. She had pawned her belongings to catch a train across the country to see the final show in our second city. It’s not like I’m asking anyone to go to those crazy lengths. (Though feel free if you want to) It’s R100. Girls spend 5 times that on shoes. Boys spend more than that on X-Box. My facewash costs nearly that much.

    If “the 50-100 people who might come watch the show through impassioned appeals on this blog” all came this week we might have actually gotten a salary this week. I’m hoping for that result for our final week now. I too am looking forward to eating again.

  11. ray

    I am a little surprised and apalled to hear that you are playing for no salary. Can I ask – are you really playing for a split of the door at the end of the night/week? What does your agent have to say about that? Is everyone doing that?

    I guess that could be your choice, and hey – maybe the entire cast is as an ensemble invested in the show more than emotionally, because somehow the theatre has managed to persuade you all to play for profit share. But if that is the case, then you maybe need to examine your options more carefully next time. A cast of over 20. A brand new space. A dark musical about killing presidents. Christmas. A recession. Hm. The maths ain’t great.

    Candice, you sound like an enormously passionate and fiesty person, and by all accounts an awesome performer. Your appeals have been very moving as is your faith in the show, and I applaud your efforts to keep it going. I apologise again if I am being insensitive (I clearly am not privy to all that goes on), and if I have offended.

    I do believe, though, that you’re missing a bigger picture:

    1. This blog is indeed a platform to debate the theatre crisis. It is Megan’s to comment and reflect on what she experiences, as she experiences them. And we can comment on that as we like. That is the opportunity meganshead has given Cape Town, which is fantastic.
    2. The comments and advice and responses come from a bigger picture of all of us wanting you guys to do well, but then also having a bit of perspective on it, and offering up ideas round that. This is not apathetic. Nor is it negative. This is cool for the entire industry, and benefits everyone. It should be our business to look at trends and analyse and so on. This is not sitting on asses and musing – it’s a business strategy. We don’t have the luxury not to do this. We have to be more strategic in how we run the business of the arts.
    3. People will or won’t come because of the show, its performers, its venue, its add-on benefits. Getting a number of people to the theatre through this blog will maybe lessen the immediate strain on yourself and he show. But please realise that you are appealing through emotions – save a starving actor. Which is a little like charity. People will come once, maybe twice (cos believe me, this will probably happen at least once more in your career) on this appeal. But then? Afterwards? I’m not saying you’re wrong to do this, I’m offering perspective. You can ignore me.
    4. This will pass. It’s crap now. You will survive. Take comfort from all the comments that have been posted in reply to yours (yes, even my insensitive and misdirected feeling about blaming) and know that nobody in the industry wants theatres, shows, or artists to suffer. Most of them come from knowing EXACTLY what your present predicament feels like. People are actually being very positive and supportive. Not coming to watch does not necessarily mean we don’t support your plight.

    Vasbyt.

  12. Candice van Litsenborgh

    Ray, please don’t make assumptions about what the cast have or have not decided to do with regard to money. I said absolutely nothing about taking a split of the door. Though that would effectively give us a total of zero rand each at times. I said in response to your post saying that only 50 – 100 people might come because of this blog, that those 50 – 100 could maybe keep us open and maybe we’d get paid. I can see why you may have assumed that we were splitting the door but let me assure you that you are wrong.

    We all know how easily rumours spread and this being a public forum I don’t want nonsense getting out there and what you’ve stated in the first few paragraphs of your last post is not in any way true. There are things regarding finances that need to stay within the group making those decisions and being affected by them. We stand together but not in the way you think. And seeing as we are still trying to work out the situation I couldn’t give you a clear answer even if I thought it would be right to.

    All I will say is that your assumptions are incorrect but that I cannot and will not reply and tell you the full truth of the situation because I would be overstepping my bounds. It would really be inappropriate of me to dispel what you believe to have happened in such a public place and I’m quite surprised that you would ask me what my agents thoughts or the other’s involved in the shows decisions are. That would never be my right to discuss, nor yours to ask.

    I hope that you have come to see the show. If not, perhaps I can organize you a ticket. Considering our reviews, which I hope you have read (pick up todays Cape Times for a lovely one which again states what a brilliant choice of show Assassins is for The NewSpace), I know people aren’t staying away because it’s not a fantastic show.

    I am also not missing the bigger picture just because I choose to focus on one thing that may have had a positive result right now. We can talk about things and try to come up with solutions till we’re blue in the face and every show in town closes. Maybe someone on this forum or elsewhere will actually come up with solutions before a show closes early or has to paper their entire house just to have someone to play to. And that would be amazing. But as my lecturers at UCT would say – nothing comes of sitting around and talking about what to do, you have to actually get up and do it. The smallest and easiest contribution any of us can make is to simply go and watch a show. But it seems to be the last thing anyone thinks of doing.

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