Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: industrial theatre (Page 1 of 3)

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

 

Acting

These are just a few thoughts, because I am deeply in love with my current cast, who are busy performing an industrial theatre roadshow , and I am reminded how extraordinary actors can and should be, when they are the real deal. And, I consider myself an actor of sorts, an actor amongst other things, but I do think I am in a good position to see what works, and what doesn’t both on stage and off.

Acting is proper teamwork. Unless you are in a one person show that you have written and directed yourself, you have to work as a team, and your goals and desires are shared and the same. Your intentions are all aimed at the same audience and you should have each others’ best interests at heart.

Acting is sharing; usually sharing something special and important with an audience. It is the actors’ job to share that.

Acting is doing something that somebody else told you to do (playwright, director, possibly client) as if it were you that thought it up. This is an amazing thing.

Acting means being sensitive to group dynamics, on and off stage.

Acting is shining a light, but not more brightly than the other members of your cast. Acting is listening to the others, and responding to them, but not during their thing.

Acting is remembering that you are in the business of magic, and the suspension of disbelief needs to be bought into by the whole cast, all the time.

Acting is storytelling, only it isn’t your story and nobody can know that.

Acting is fun, but it is also hard, and if you are a diva, you are doing it wrong.

A simple moment in the chaos

IMG_1847-e1429160928722We opened our Engen Phambili road show in Bloemfontein yesterday. It was a challenging time for me on a personal level; I am recovering from Tick Bite Fever (a result of my gorgeous, irresponsible and crazy week long birthday celebrations), I am deeply shaken by the resurgence of xenophobia in our country and, being a bit of a sick and vulnerable emotional wreck, I weep about it in public. I did that at the breakfast table at the hotel yesterday morning. Also, since the Rhodes Must Fall campaign, my race antennae are buzzing and crackling, and on high alert for the minutest racial issue, to the point where my 90% black cast tease me about it. Bloemfontein might not seem the best place for my personal race riot warning system to go on the fritz, although I am definitely noticing how much more integrated and sorted the inner city of Bloom is.

So, after my gorgeous cast had warmed up, costumed up and miked up they were backstage and ready, and I was sitting in the auditorium of the bizarre city hall (a first time venue for us). It is a huge, traditional space, with funny wall chandeliers, a massive prosc-arch stage and brown leatherette chairs that are mostly on the verge of exploding or collapsing. Add to the mix the red, white and blue colours of Engen branding, stage lights, huge backdrops and a giant video screen and you can start to understand the strange mix of time, place and thing.

The doors finally opened and the Engen petrol pump attendants and cashiers (some from as far away as Welkom and Lesotho) started filing in. There is always a buzz of excitement in the air when people take their seats. It has been 10 years of exciting, entertaining and fabulous roadshow.

When the flood of entrants had become a trickle, and people had started filling in the back rows of chairs I saw three white young men in cashier uniforms enter. None of the other petrol pump attendants or cashiers in this audience were white. I noticed them choose seats in the back. I thought about them for a moment and wondered what their world might be like; three white men in a previously entirely black domain, unglamorous and basic employment that it is. Then, further along into the venue, and a few rows up from me a young black petrol pump attendant stood up to have a look around. It was clear that he was sitting with the rest of his team, colleagues and friends from his forecourt, but his searching was for someone. He did a full circle and finally saw the three white guys behind him and in the corner, and turned to give them a questioning thumbs up, a wordless ‘are you guys ok?’. They waved back. ‘We are fine.’ And I, for the second time that morning, cried in public.

That moment of care, of unselfconscious humanity has touched me more deeply than the shouting. And I will hold onto it so tightly in these disturbing, crazy bad times.

Theatre of heart

I have written about my industrial theatre work before, but every time I start rehearsals it I am reminded of how awesome it is, and I get excited by the braveness of my clients, the creativity and commitment of the team I work with and the audience reach we get.

In SA we are not huge supporters of theatre. It is hard enough getting our friends and connections to support our work. Mostly our audiences are made up of repeat offenders. So, how extraordinary is it that for the past 8 years a petrol company has been providing live training and entertainment in the form of theatre?

Initially they took a huge risk. Doing a road show of this size and reach is very expensive and a massive organisational undertaking. But it paid off immediately because of the response of the petrol pump attendants, cashiers, dealers and management. And they have stuck with it because of the huge pay off. Service delivery improves every time we come around. Pump attendants and cashiers feel special and important and part of a huge team. They adore the performers and treat them like celebrities. And, where I get excited is that these audiences have become more and more theatre literate. They understand character, story and humour, send-up and satire. They have grown as we have grown. And we inform and are informed by each other.

So, we have just completed our second week of rehearsals and we had our first client viewing today. I can’t wait for this show to happen in front of my favourite, and biggest audiences of the year.

Revisiting my fab Industrial Theatre job

Aside from the fact that I am deeply thankful for the return work of my long-term client (I have been making industrial theatre plays for them for seven years now) I also love it. We are into our second week of rehearsals, and this time around it’s a full-on musical. I know. I know. Completely silly, crazy and foolhardy. A thirty five minute, five-hander musical with a message. But I have an amazing cast; repeat offenders Ntombi Makhutshi, Larissa Hughes and Daneel van der Walt, and newbies Richard Tafane and Aphiwe Menziwa. They are a magical, creative and delicious team.

We had our first client viewing today; scripts in hand and gaps in places, and still, the cast were power, and blew the client away.

I know that a lot of actors see industrial theatre as a necessary evil; a chance to pay the bills, but for me it is a chance to take the target audience into consideration right at the outset, and then to go about making them something that they will love. The details are taken care of, and all we have to do is make a beautiful, entertaining, clearly messaged show. Isn’t that what every writer, director and performer wants? When it’s made my cast go around the country, performing to huge audiences who go completely crazy for them.

This time around I have to thank Trevor du Buisson for making the most amazing backing tracks, and Fiona du Plooy for awesome, hilarious and wonderful choreography. I can feel it. This one is a winner.

Industrial Theatre Auditions

I want to try something brave. I know a few actors read this blog, and there are quite a few of my friends on facebum who are actors and are friends with actors. So, here’s what I want to do. I am casting a role for a fantastic industrial theatre project that starts rehearsing on 19 September and carries on through to mid November. It’s an amazing cast so far.

I am looking for a male, in his thirties (or even forties; quite broad) who can play a warm, friendly, accessible type boss. He is a bit conservative, but very passionate about his business. A bonus would be that the actor can sing really well. Are you him? Do you know of a friend or colleague who is? Colour is not an issue. Pink, or light brown or dark brown.

Please send me an email to megan@improvision.co.za if you are him, or you know him. If I don’t know you, send me a CV. Or inbox me on facebum. If I think you are suitable, we will set up a meeting.

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