Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: audience

Why I am lucky – an improviser’s note

I love what I do, and I get to do it a lot. Most weeks, twice a week I get to improvise live in front of an audience. Sometimes I emcee a show and sometimes I play. Both of those jobs are completely ace. Last night’s show is a case in point. It is a love story on so many levels. Here’s what happened, and who and how I loved.

Last night we did something a little different from our regular Tuesday short form improv show at The Kalk Bay Theatre. We did what we came to call a ‘half and half’. Half the show was dedicated to some fun short form games. Then, after a tiny interval to reset the stage, we did a 25 minute long homage to Chekhov. I emceed the short form games and directed the Chekhov, giving me a brilliant opportunity to kick back and watch the magic happen from the sidelines. I was particularly invested in the Chekhov piece, after seeing 3 beautiful examples of Chekhov by The Mechanicals in the last two weeks, and also because I had run a short workshop on the themes and styles of Chekhov; adapting them to an improv situation. I promised the improvisers that I would intervene where necessary, to guide the piece, but I didn’t. Not once. It all unfolded absolutely beautifully, hilariously, confidently and touchingly and all I had to do was watch. I loved each and every member of the team and was glowingly proud of them.

But before that. The short form games. When I saw the three gorgeous pre-teen boys and a mum coming into the theatre I was delighted that we were doing a first half of short games that the boys would love. And when I came out in front of the audience for the first time and there were quite a lot of ‘never-seen-improv-before’ members, and I was pleased to take them through short form before the long form. The cast did not disappoint. Each game was delicious, culminating in an Opera called The Finger Puppets of Geometry. Yes. Our audience was in raptures. And I loved them back. They were perfectly primed for the completely made-up Chekhov, which they loved.

There was a lot of love going around. After the show I had a glass of wine at the bar with a big table of fans. They were also half and half; half veterans who had seen us before, and half first timers. They could hardly believe that we had made it all up, but what sold them on the idea was that we had taken up some of the strange suggestions from them. This was proof that we weren’t faking it.

I left, into the rain and cold with the biggest, warmest grin. Full of improv love. And, I get to do it twice next week, and then begin to teach it, in our brand new improv training course starting next Thursday. Lots more love. Keep up to date on our ImproGuise website for news, info about performances, courses and our 15 hour improvised Soap-A-Thon in October.


It’s been two weeks since I started working with my awesome director Liz Mills on Drive With Me. We haven’t worked every day, or every moment of the days we work; I certainly don’t have the focus or stamina to do such intensive work, just me and her, for too long. But I am totally obsessed and pre-occupied. I say lines of text in the car, in the shower, to the dogs. I stomp around the house doing chunks and Big Friendly keeps thinking there is someone else here or that I am on the phone, fighting with someone. I keep trying on bits of costume and standing in front of the mirror, so I can have a clear picture of myself in my mind while I work on the floor.

Yesterday we managed a stumble through. From beginning to end. I almost know all the words and I am remembering what I should be doing where (even if I’m not actually doing it yet). It is an amazing feeling doing a one-person show again after all these years. And it brings up so many other, related and unrelated feelings. “Threads of past memory surface into the present.” That’s a quote from the play.

Here are some random moments and observations from the rehearsal process.

1.Liz and I gossip and reminisce, a lot. We have a lot of catching up to do; it’s been 30 years since I started drama school, with Liz as my voice teacher.

2. Liz talks about the writer (me) as if she was another person, blaming her for writing a challenging script. So do I.

3. Things in the script keep happening in real life. A small Fiat Uno on the side of the road, orange traffic cones down the middle on the white line. Neil Young on the radio. A ghost in a story. Stephen King on twitter. Everything is connected.

4. I am touched, moved by and sensitive to arbitrary moments. I am ready to cry, but not in or during the work.

5. I am excited about building relationships with an audience; that’s always been my big thing.

6. I watch other performers and compare myself to them all the time. “I do that.” “I don’t do that.” “I should do that.” “I’ve never even thought of doing that.” I imagine how they feel, how what they do makes them feel.

7. I am able to jump right into the performance zone when I improvise. Somehow, the focus of rehearsals and repetition bring my readiness to improvise onto my fingertips and everything is so easy to access. What a bonus.

8. I am able to criticise the writer and enjoy her and know it is me. I am starting to do that with the performer too.

9. I am saying my mantra for Grahamstown even as I type this. I don’t want to jinx it, so I’ll keep it private.

Here’s what I want you all to do. If you are coming to G’town, come and see my show. It’s called Drive With Me and it is on at the NG Kerk Hall from 27 June to 7 July every day, bar one (28 June). If you aren’t coming, please recommend it to friends and family who are. I am almost prepared to guarantee that whoever sees it will be a little bit changed (in a good way) forever.

A Beautiful long-term Relationship

There is a body of people we have not really mentioned every time we congratulate ourselves on our marvelous work. Our audience. This teeny two week improv festival has managed to attract an ever growing audience to our work, and they have been amazing; generous, responsive, enthusiastic, chatty, delighted. And it has been our pleasure to perform for them.

The quality of our work has been improving all the time, and our audience has been there to witness it. The fact that we are able to come up with an hour and a half show of totally improvised long-form stuff is proof. But if it weren’t for the generosity, love and support of our audiences it would all be academic. They are the heart and soul of our performances. I hope this is the continuation of the most beautiful long term relationship.

Love ya. Mean it.

An audience Challenge

It’s a good one. It’s not punishment or hard or horrible. It goes like this. On Monday night, at The Intimate, instead of us doing our usual (and I am not for one moment claiming it isn’t totally awesome) TheatreSports show, we will be trying out one of the brand new formats we saw in Oz at Improvention. It is still pure improvisation. It is still making it up in front of a live audience. It is just a bigger than usual cast, new exciting ideas, and a new approach to what we have been doing anyway.

It is guaranteed to be amazing (as with all improv) although I am sure it will have moments that will be great, and some less great. The usual. I am really excited to be playing this. We have been playing more or less the same (reliable) format for yonks and this feels like such a cool offering.

Now I know that there are lots of you who like reading what I say about theatre in CT (and sometimes beyond, like Jozi and G’town). Some of you like me seeing your shows and then writing about them. Some of you like me seeing other people’s shows, and then you go and see them (or not). Some of you just read what I say anyway, and never see anything. All of that is super cool.

My challenge is this. Come and see me perform on Monday night. In a new improv format. I will be doing what I love. I will be doing it for you. And for my team. Just like the Olympics, only in a theatre. The ticket prices are the usual R50 (and this might be one of your last chances to pay such a pissy little amount for magnificent live theatre and a cast of 9!) Come and see what I do on stage. It will be a little like you saying, “Let’s check out what she’s got, instead of asking her to come and see what we’ve got.”

Come along and buy tickets at the door. Or call Ryan on 072 9393351. Or call me. Or leave a message here that you’ll be coming. Or on facebum or twitter. I would love to hear your feedback.

Where the Audience is King

I took the jibe about TheatreSports personally (comment 14). Usually I’m not that sensitive so I tried to work out why I was this time, and I think I’ve come up with an answer. TheatreSports is loved; not only by those of us who perform it, but also by our audiences, who have proved their love by coming over and over again in the last 18 years. Of course there have been times when there’s been a bit of a dip in attendance, but I think that a theatrical product running mostly twice a week in Cape Town, for 18 years is testimony to the fact that audiences love it.

I got to thinking about how hard it is to get bums on seats in our theatres in Cape Town (and even in SA in general). Aside from the totally tried and tested big musicals (and not even those every time), shows really battle to do even short three week runs. My guess it is because most people don’t like theatre much; not enough to make it a regular thing anyway. And so I got to thinking why, and I have come up with a few reasons for that too. The first and most obvious reason is that theatre has a bit of a bad rep. I think most ordinary people think “it’s not for them”. I think most ordinary people think that theatre is intellectual, arty, fringe and high-brow, with only the big, well known mainstream musicals (in which at least some of the songs are known) being safe live fodder. I think most ordinary people think that theatre is expensive, especially when they could be making a horrible mistake and ending up being bored to tears, confused or intimidated. I think theatre can be quite scary for those who do not have theatre vocabulary or experience. I also think that most ordinary people have absolutely no, or very little trust in what reviewers, critics, theatre makers, and the publicity and marketing machines say about the shows.

And so to meganshead. It seems like I have developed a bit of a reputation for being a harsh judge of the stuff I see (even though, on average, I like and am complimentary about 70% of it) and I have had the sense lately that people think if I don’t like something it is because I have a problem. But why would I? I take my self appointed, opinionated and personal blog reviewing very, very seriously. I want my readers (however tiny my readership) to know what I thought, and for them to trust that it is an honest response. That way we can build an audience who trust a certain opinion and can feel safe about going to the theatre again and again, and even joyfully contesting what I say when they disagree.

I am a firm believer in “the audience is always right”. Nothing makes me happier than when a little sleeper of a production does better and better, selling out by the end of the run because friends have told friends to go and check it out. So thank you TheatreSports (and industrial theatre which is made for a target audience) for reminding me that the Audience is King.

Margeaux is Back

This time it’s a bitch about the theatre.

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