Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: The Finkelsteins are Coming to Dinner

Joburg Nights

The window is open and the cricket is so loud its like a one cricket band on steroids. I love Jozi at this time of year when everything is lush and green and the summer heat is tempered with rain on most days.

I am up here directing Chantal Stanfield in her one woman show From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach, opening at the Auto & General Theatre on The Square. It previews on 28 Feb and opens on 2 March, and even though we have just started rehearsing this week, I can already tell that it is going to be so lovely. When I suddenly have a waterfall of ideas (most of which will never manifest and be in the final result) I know I am operating in my creative space and it is delicious. It’s also that time when I find things on the rehearsal floor achingly (and repetitively) funny, and my cheeks are sore after every session.

It is interesting working in a space that isn’t my home, and I seem to have lost any small ability to multitask (let’s face it, I don’t have much ability to start with). Everything feels different. Space and travel and timing and food and even the air is different from home. Here I am loving other dogs (missing my dogs), walking the aisles of unfamiliar supermarkets, driving a different car. It’s like I have swopped my life for someone else’s.

This is the second Jew-ish themed piece of work I have done in the last while (I performed Mother in The Finkelsteins are Coming to Dinner; a show I am dying to do in Joburg, hopefully still this year). For someone who is reluctantly Jewish as I am this is hilarious. And we are rehearsing in a pretty Jewish neighbourhood too. All my Jewish radar is on high alert. When you are looking for it, Joburg can be pretty Jewish. I keep having the urge to tap into my ancient Jewish network, to insist they come and see the show.

Whenever I come up to Joburg (my hometown) I am split between wanting to live here and in Cape Town. The urges for both are so strong. This is definitely second prize though; if I can’t live here and in Cape Town at the same time at least I can come up here for a couple of weeks at a time for work.

And, if you are in Jozi you can come and see what I’m doing. Let’s hook up.

 

 

The Fabulous Finkelsteins, and me

1351_the_finkelsteins_are_coming_to_dinner_photo_nardus_engelbrecht_4(Photo Nardus Engelbrecht)

This little lovely play has been a lifesaver for me on so many levels, and as we turn towards our final week of this run (it has flown by with joy and delight) I am beginning to reflect on some of the secondary enjoyments of being an actor person in a successful production.

Being ‘just an actor’ doesn’t come naturally to me. I am a bossy, over compensating publicity maniac, a used car salesman of the theatre, hell bent on begging, pleading, cajoling and sometimes even paying for an audience to come and see our work. But The Finkelsteins are Coming to Dinner has managed to get its own audience for us to enjoy. I haven’t had to nag anyone. When I default into thinking about who hasn’t come and who has said they would but haven’t I quickly change that old worn script, because, who cares?

I look out into the audience (I only allow myself to see actual faces during the curtain call) without knowing who is there, and it is a surprise and thrill to find out at the end that there were people in the audience who I know. I am able to receive the love and warmth of strangers and friends alike, and I am completely able to play utterly unselfconsciously on stage without thinking about who is there.

I can check up on our bookings and delight in how well they are doing without panicking about the few nights that are still not sold out. I can allow myself to not check up on bookings at all. I can walk into the space knowing that I will be generous and present and do my best (and hope it will be the best night ever, every time) and honour the work, without thinking about any single aspect of production, or admin, or technical, or publicity.

Yes, it helps that the Alexander Bar team have created the perfect venue for these perfect gems of shows. Yes, it helps that I share the stage with two, true superstar men, and let me name them again, Andrew Laubscher and David Viviers. Yes, there is a brilliant debut playwright Richard Kaplan whose play I was lucky to have been cast in. Yes, I can’t help but think of the future of this play and whether there is one, and then I have to stop myself; it’s not my job right now. Right now I live in the luxury of having a day off before our final week of eight shows, and I am going to love every single moment of them.

 

Actor people

Today is another two show day for me, performing in The Finkelsteins are Coming to Dinner at 14:00 and then at 20:30 it is the penultimate show of Niqabi Ninja at the Cape Town Fringe.

And today I want to honour the actors I am working with. I know I have said how amazing they are as performers; I watched Loren Loubser and Bianca Flanders in Niqabi Ninja for the 20th time yesterday and they reduced me to tears again, and Andrew Laubscher and David Viviers are also such incredible performers that I learn from them every day. But I am also struck by what beautiful people these are.

As actors we are supposed to come from a certain spirit, a certain place. In reality this is often not the case, which is why I love the mostly ego free souls of improvisers and find the self preoccupied actor soul a little more difficult. But these guys are beautiful, and I love them.

Bianca Flanders is a beautiful, sensitive, hilarious, generous, kind and quirky girl. We laugh and laugh because we are both Aries and have so much in common. Loren thinks this stuff is idiotic (she is a Cancer, so of course she does!). Loren is pure heart, and action, and word, and voice and humour and love and humanity and outrage, and passion. Both of them have giant talent, but that is not what this post is about. I love them.

Andrew Laubscher and David Viviers have held my hand on stage in The Finkelsteins, and I could not have been better supported. But, they are both such delicious people. They are the nicest people anyone can possibly hope to spend time with before, during and after stage time. Andrew and David, you are both such mensches.

Come and watch us all. This loveliness of being does translate onto stage. Come and see.

The Finkelsteins Are Coming (to Dinner)

The Finkelsteins-5Tadah! Here is our poster.

The truth is that I am procrastinating, right this second. Instead of writing this post I should be learning my words. There are a lot of them. And it’s been a while since I was in a conventional play, with dialogue, and scenes, and other gorgeous actors, and a director, and set and props. It is fabulous and scary and challenging and hilarious and fun. And there are a lot of words.

I am in a brand new play, just written, (by Richard Kaplan) and this is the first time it is being performed. It premiers at the CT Fringe, and then we go on to do a run at my favourite Alexander Bar. We did a play reading of it at the beginning of the year, and everyone loved it so much we decided to do the production. We are me, Andrew Laubscher and David Viviers, directed by Adrian Collins. It’s a pretty phenomenal team. The Finkelsteins are Coming to Dinner is a funny, heartwarming, odd, gay, Jewish love/ghost story.

I am excited and nervous, in both parts. And I am hoping people come. You can book for the fringe here.

CT Fringe Revisited

Yesterday the full programme of the 3rd CT Fringe was announced to media and theatre lovers at my favourite theatre and second home The Alexander Bar. I wasn’t there, but I was invested. I am involved in two shows on this year’s fringe. I am performing in the premier of a brand new play, The Finkelsteins are Coming to Dinner, and Niqabi Ninja, Sara Shaarawi’s play that I have directed, will also have five performances at this year’s fringe.

For those of you who know me, my participation may be quite a surprise, and even a radical turn around. Believe me, I am still trying to get my head around it too. So much about what I find problematic about the CT Fringe still holds true. Actually, all still holds true. Once again, the festival model puts all financial risk on the artist, with very little possibility of proper financial return. The financial outlay is big if a production is not sponsored, like Niqabi Ninja, where I have to shoulder the financial burden of registration, venue hire, publicity and actual production costs. Then I have to do big maths to hope that we have audience numbers that will not only cover costs but still be able to give the performers a decent cut. To be fair, this model only works in an artist’s favour if there is producer money, or proper sponsorship. But I am not sure how many productions go into the festival with donor money.

The other big thing about the CT Fringe is, who is it for? Who is its target audience? Is it another exclusive, elite Cape Town experience that further alienates those creating work in challenging conditions without helping them get the work out to the audiences it deserves? Why does the Fringe not serve the greater community of Cape Town? And the answer here is, it can’t. And that still remains terribly problematic for me.

So why am I doing it? Well, with The Finkelsteins are Coming to Dinner, the decision of being part of the festival was taken out of my hands, and as a performer I was happy to go with the consensus of the company. It was how it was, and I, like most not very famous actors, was delighted at the opportunity to be on stage regardless. I still am. So excited.

With Niqabi Ninja I have a deep commitment to getting the message of the piece out to a wider audience, and the CT Fringe seemed like a good place to start. I am so proud of the work, the actors, and the impact it has already had on the small audiences we attracted at the Alexander Bar, but I know that it needs to speak to a much bigger, broader audience, and this is just the start. We have made the work to be absolutely portable and festival friendly. And this will be our first festival outing, to test its waters, and gauge its response.

But, the main reason I signed Niqabi Ninja up was because of the gentle persuasion, encouragement, support and genuine engagement I had from the festival’s new guest Artistic Director Rob Murray. (Some of you will remember my experiences with the past one in not such genial circumstances.) I trust Rob (enough to shake a stick at him and know he will not bite). I believe in him. I believe he has, in as much as his position allows, a genuine understanding of the challenges faced by those who are creating theatre and trying to get it out to an audience.

So, for those of you who missed our tiny run at Alexander Bar, please come and support Niqabi Ninja at the CT Fringe. We have made the tickets as cheap as we can, to improve accessibility and affordability. We are in the City Hall 3. Here are our dates. 22/09 20:30, 23/09 18:30, 24/09 22:30, 25/09 20:30, 26/09 18:30

And then, come and laugh with (and at) me on stage at City Hall 2 in The Finkelsteins are Coming To Dinner. There are 11 shows spread over the whole of the festival. This one is going to be a winner.

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