Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach (Page 1 of 2)

Deeply Personal reflections on The Jewish Literature Festival

I came home early; undone, dismantled and teary. I would have been stronger, held it together better if I had seen it coming but I never do. And I should have trusted my instincts.

When I was invited to participate in the first festival last year (by the amazing, driven, talented and deeply caring Caryn Gootkin – of Souper Troopers) I said an outright no. I still bear the keloid scars of my personal horror story at one Limmud once, and I know that these spaces are a deeply challenging one for me. So, what changed my mind this year? Did I bring this onto myself?

There are probably a few reasons why I agreed. The first and main one was a general softening in me towards the Jewish community of Cape Town after the way From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach was received here. It was a great success. Our play was understood, appreciated and enjoyed. The second was that I had agreed to be in conversation with someone, who then wanted to do their own thing, and I think the inclusion of me in the programme as a speaker in my own right was an afterthought. I knew. My body told me that this was true and I didn’t listen. And the third was, ever since Tali’s Wedding Diary I have been getting genuinely kind recognition from many Jewish Capetonians (and South Africans) for my tiny cameo in it. I thought I may have developed a little traction. And also, I always want to share my knowledge. I love talking about the stuff I do.

I Ubered to the festival. Shafiek was nervous as he stopped to let me out. Suspicious glances from the guards outside the Jewish museum gate turned to recognition once I climbed out and waved him on. I got my presenter’s pack, dashed inside and joined a packed and rapt audience in a warm seminar room for Stephen Sidley’s talk on Science, Jazz and Stories. Then, in the same space I listened to Lisa Chait in conversation with my old friend and hero Mark Gevisser. Then I went downstairs to find out where the Book Lounge venue was for me to present my interactive ‘workshop’ on scriptwriting.

Baffled by the poor woman on a microphone who was struggling to read to an audience in the main outside thoroughfare, I made my way to the info table to find out where the venue was. That was it. I was going to be running my session there, in that main thoroughfare. At lunch time. It is fair to say I lost my shit. A main organiser tried to tell me that the space was perfect. A volunteer was dismantled. A woman was trying to run a mindfulness session while people ate their lunch wraps and ordered coffee.

Phillip Todres (and a few others) saw me at my hysterical worst and jumped in to help me. At last my venue was changed to a boardroom that had been reserved for the slightly bigger kids. I cleaned up the room, removed tomato saucy plates and sweet wrappers, piled paper and pencils into heaps on the table and then ran my interactive workshop. For 6 people. Husband and son of an organiser, my cousin, two teenage girls and a man who wasn’t sure he was in the right place.

It was clear that Henry, the man, had been sent by the gods. He needed my workshop and I needed him. The other five were sweet and kind and cooperative, and I do hope they got something out of it, but I don’t know.

I wanted to stay and listen to Gus Silber. I wanted to hear Sugar Segerman (whose wife kicked in to high gear to help me while I sobbed). But my roast vegetable wrap got lodged in my throat and I couldn’t swallow. Alan Glass tried to lighten my burden with jokes but I couldn’t. I came home with my tail firmly between my legs.

Did I bring this onto myself? Am I delusional and hysterical when I believe I need better consideration? Why is this struggle with this particular community always so fraught for me?

And then there is the self loathing. I was the only one who made a fuss. Who refused to do it there. I watched others suffer, but they pushed through with greater fortitude than I, a performer who should have been able to, was even prepared to try.

 

 

From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach and beyond

Let’s hear it for learning from each other, building bridges, understanding tolerance, respecting differences, trying out funny food, celebrating culture, singing each others’ songs, enjoying a turn of phrase.

Auto & General Theatre on the Square. Chantal Stanfield. Megan Furniss. Jew-ish. Coloured.

In a little side note observation navel gaze: I am often quite hostile about my own Jewishness. This play allows me to access it in the warmest and most non-judgemental way. It gives me the space to be kind and critical. I am able to see the funny side and enjoy my Jew-ishness without getting caught up in the fraught and political. I have watched this play evolve, and honestly, it only gets better. I am still moved and delighted by it.

Jozi Musings

I am up in Jozi to put From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach into the Auto & General Theatre on the Square and I am working very gently so I have a bit of time. Here are some random musings about Jozi; my hometown.

I get off the plane just before 9am and it’s cold. I can feel the cold through the soles of my takkies. The sky is crystal blue. It is one colour. The whole sky is that blue. Everything else is still golden. But the air. Where is it? It is so thin. I take big breaths but they feel shallow. The inside of my nose dries out.

My Uber driver Lwezi is chatty. He lives in Berea. I tell him I used to live on the border of Berea, just up from Abel Road. We discuss housing. He tells me there are some flats in Hilbrow where 12 people are paying R2 500 a person to live in one flat. I say I am sure you could rent a flat in Sandton for that amount of money. He says black people would never think about that. And besides, nobody would rent their flat in Sandton to 12 people. He tells me that he has been taking and fetching travellers from the airport for four years now but he has never been on a plane. That’s his goal this year.

I decide to walk to the Spar. There are no pavements in the suburbs. People have spread their house property right up to the street here. The people who walk are invisible to the people who live here. People who live here drive. A woman is blocking the road in her 4×4. She is hooting like a lunatic and she is talking on the phone. Her electric garage door is half open. Brown arms grab the underside of the door from the inside. Worn slippers, a faded housecoat, bare legs. The arms start pushing the garage door up. The car woman hoots. I glare. She is unconscious.

I stop to watch a gardening/tree felling team. A man on a rope is at the top of a long palm tree with a chain saw. I watch him with bated breath.

I stand at the till at the Spar. There are a range of chocolates with messages on them. Happy Birthday. Get Well Soon. I love you. Wishing you a good Shabbos.

We go to a restaurant at Sandton Square before going to the theatre. It is a Thursday night and the restaurants are heaving. The whole of old rich, emerging rich and wannabe rich is dining out. Even though I come from most expensive Cape Town I am taken aback by the prices. It is seriously expensive.

The play is Visiting Mr Green. It is an old play, with timeless relevance. An old Jewish man is visited by a young man doing community service in New York City. It is a beautiful, poignant play about love, loss and prejudice. The audience were 90% Jewish.

The sun starts going down from 5pm. The light is golden. Mossies, Starlings, Mousebirds and Hadedas perch on bare branched trees. The air is still. The sun goes. It gets cold in an instant.

 

How to say it

From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach, Chantal Stanfield’s one-woman piece that I directed has just been extended for a week at The Baxter. Nothing could give me more ‘naches’ or joyful pride. This joy is brought home by me not having to beg, coerce or Chinese bangle (is that horribly un PC now?) anyone into going to see it. Crowds (mostly my abandoned tribe) of people have been flocking to see it, and have been doing the word of mouth thing that is more powerful than any advertising.

Although my job of directing and even ‘getting in’ to a new space is long over, I find myself drawn to the show every couple of nights, mainly to check in with Chantal because I know how lonely a one-woman show can be, but also to witness first hand the audience response to the work.

One of the benefits of directing work like this is that someone else is able to put across more subtly, kindly and persuasively, some of the strong opinions I have about being Jewish. Also, because Chantal tackles the subject from the outside looking in, she is able to make light of her observations, and it is this that the audience loves. Non Jewish audiences find the show a hilarious learning curve, while Jewish audiences are given an opportunity to laugh at themselves and see themselves a little more critically through an outsider’s eyes.

All of this in  great, true life, storytelling tradition. I am beyond delighted that this work is being so well received, thanks in part to Daphne Khun who began the journey with Chantal, and then to Nicolette Moses, who fought hard to have us at The Baxter.

You have one more week SlaapStad. Get your tickets now.

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.

A First Audience

My body is an amazing machine. I have woken up this morning with an entirely different sensation in my entire body; one of almost relaxation. I had no idea how tightly I have been holding on, with a seriously stiff back and shoulders, taut stomach muscles and even tension in my jaw and face.

But last night we (Chantal Stanfield and I) had our first preview audience for From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach, and it was a test. A hard test because the preview audience, ‘friends of the theatre’ at Auto & General Theatre on the Square are a tough crowd of mainly old, mainly been around the block, mainly Jewish theatre goers, and we had no idea at all about how the show would go down.

As the lights dimmed and the music started I realised that I was clutching my pen so tightly I had broken though the skin on my palm. Chantal came onto stage and started. It was like my body started leaking out the tension with every word she said and every reaction from the audience. By the time she reached what we think of as the turning point there were those in the audience who wanted to clap. I found myself beaming. And then, at the end of the hour I found myself melting completely as many in the audience stood to give her a standing ovation. A Standing Ovation at our first preview.

What a blissful, comforting, lovely relief. My whole body feels it. Ok, I have woken up with a stye in my eye the size and shape of Swaziland, but that is obviously the exact point of tension release.

I can hardly believe I have most of today free. It is a gorgeous, cloudless, perfect Joburg morning. Then tonight it is our second preview and we open tomorrow night for real. Only a few tweakings and fiddlings and we are good to go.

I am finally allowing my body to start thinking about home. Big Friendly, dogs, cats, beach, wind, improv, other work that has been seriously neglected. Deep breaths in and out. Life is good.

 

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