Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: Theatre Arts Admin Collective (Page 1 of 2)

AWPN, Niqabi Ninja, New Stories

AWPN. African Women Playwrights Network. I don’t even know where to start with this post, and I know I am going to leave out vital parts of what ended up being an extraordinary weekend of African women theatre makers making a very special kind of noise.

About two years ago I signed up to a very basic website/group called AWPN, added a terribly simple bio, visited the site a couple of times, and then forgot about it completely. A lot happened in between, and then Amy Jephta, co-creator of the network, contacted me to find out if we would consider performing Niqabi Ninja at this small symposium that AWPN was hosting. There was an extra edge to it because the playwright of Niqabi Ninja, Sara Shaarawi, was one of the playwrights selected for publication in an anthology of African women’ s plays, and she would be coming to the symposium, from Scotland. This would also be the first time that Sara would see our production of the play (or any production of it). Of course we agreed.

The AWPN took place this weekend, at my other theatre home, the Theatre Arts Admin Collective (without which I would not survive). And it was the most extraordinary weekend. We discussed, we debated, we raged, we committed, we connected, we told stories, we met each other and fell in love, we passed on information and gossip, we networked and shared each others’ stories, and we witnessed Niqabi Ninja all together (a complete brain and heart explosion for me and the ninjas Loren Loubser and Bianca Flanders). We met and joined hands, hearts and voices from Cameroon, Egypt, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, KZN, Gauteng, Free State, Robertson and Cape Town.

I was lucky enough to attend every session and I am richer, wiser and more passionate than ever about my craft as playwright, my job as director, my love as performer, my heart as storyteller. I am also reinvented as a woman at all of these things (although I should have known I was, from the beginning, right?).

Amy and Yvette Hutchinson organised a tiny miracle that took place in Observatory this weekend and I am still glowing.

(I also love this pic I took on my phone of Ayanda watching a performance by Mothertongue Project)

A Moment of Forever Change – theatre changes lives

8940219Last night I went to see the final performance of the very short run of Ubuze Bam at the Theatre Arts Admin Collective. Directed by Thando Dhoni, four real life parolees perform stories from their lives, and their time in prison. Not gonna lie, it felt like I was doing my community service by going. You know that feeling? The show you should, and aught to see, but don’t really in your soul want to? Sometimes your soul is utterly surprised, shaken up, thrown about, and possibly fundamentally changed. Last night that is what happened to us.

Sitting in that space for just under an hour was a combination of agony, heartache, hope, hell and even humour, in the most profound, delicate, searing and brain challenging way.

Thando is absolutely magical at creating ritual and meaning through repeated movement and he managed to get four non-actors to deliver complex and terrifying material with such complexity. I was undone. I started crying and couldn’t stop. When one of what seemed to be the more quiet performers let rip in an agony of screams, demands, pleadings and rage, behind a converted bench of prison bars, I could barely breathe. “Ndidiniwe” – I am tired, he wailed over and over and over again. I could only imagine.

You cannot ever forget, while watching them, that these young men have just come out of prison, serving time for hard core crimes. You cannot ever forget that they are now performing for an audience who are listening to them instead of separated out from them. You cannot ever forget the hideous and terrible things we do to each other, and the the exact opposite; humanity, compassion and connection.

There is no doubt that this was one of the hardest, most beautiful and challenging performances to witness, but it is clear that it changed me, us, the audience, as much as it changed these young men. I pray to a god I don’t believe in that they will feel that change for a very long time. And that they will do this play forever.

Please take a look at www.younginprison.co.za for more about this programme. And always support the innovative and extraordinary work made and performed at the Theatre Arts Admin Collective.

Helpless rage

Sometimes, when I am feeling overwhelmed, I don’t manage bad news well, so when I saw the news that someone had broken into the Theatre Arts Admin Collective last night and made off with some of their equipment it felt like my heart was going to leap from my chest. From what Caroline wrote, she thinks it was an inside job; someone with an old set of keys, since there was no sign of a break-in. Equipment that had been hard earned, and used by many was taken. Equipment that is irreplaceable, financially and symbolically. The Theatre Arts Admin Collective runs on Caroline’s grit, and a piece of bubblegum and a strip of gaffer tape. Sies man.

Anyone who has worked there, or been nurtured there  or even just gone there as refuge will know how tough it is. And yet, I do not think Caroline has ever turned anyone away. The Theatre Arts Admin Collective is like the church it lives in, only for theatre makers. So, I am sick to the stomach thinking about someone who shits where they live, because that’s what they have done. They have stolen from the very place that has supported and cared for them.

I don’t know how to help. I am writing because I am furious, disgusted and shocked. I also feel helpless. I write so that word gets out, and maybe, just maybe there will be a pang of guilt, and the stuff will be returned.

Sue Maclaine in conversation

Last night a few of us (mostly white women theatre makers) hung out with visiting UK performer Sue Maclaine at the Theatre Arts Admin Collective, and she chatted to us about her work and inspiration and methodology. It was lovely and interesting and inspiring, and also hilarious. I am always struck by the things we all have in common, as well as our differences, and it’s always lovely to hear the confidence and sureness that maturity brings to the world of theatre work.

Part confession (I rehearse while lying in the bath), part declaration (I do not collaborate), part discovery (I don’t know, but I think it may be me ringing a bell), Sue brought a lightness to the heavy conversation of making meaningful theatre, and she completely sold me her work. I can’t wait to see Still Life, the show she will be performing here next weekend at the Theatre Arts Admin Collective.

I love solo work, but I also love working in a team. I love being completely in charge though and, like Sue, I don’t think I am a great theatrical collaborator (I tell actors exactly what to do to achieve my vision). But, I revel in the co-creative  space of improv. I love the completely solo space of writing, and I am in parts addicted to and terrified of solo performance.

So it was lovely to have a listen to Sue, and to hear her go boldly into this discussion (she saw, and hated, a piece of local theatre the night before), she spoke of having to take out her metaphorical man part at meetings, and she put forward ideas that challenge the narrow narrative between South African performers and our audiences.

Mostly though, she was deliciously funny, in a room full of very earnest female theatre people. I was reminded of how important being funny is (even though Sue told us that her hardest deaths in front of an audience were when she tried stand-up comedy).

I love my theatre life, I love serious solo work, I love directing, and performing and improvising. Thanks Sue, for pinging that stuff for me. (And thanks to Bella for the outrageous and delicious private cooking demo).

Waiting to become something

I am sad that I haven’t been more active here on my blog. I have had tons of stuff flying through my brain, and the desire to write is still strong, but I have had a lack of focus or intent ever since I stopped writing about the theatre I was watching. The really strange thing is that I have been less open to theatre since I have stopped writing about it. Maybe I am just looking at it a lot less analytically. I just haven’t been moved, elevated or inspired by anything theatrical lately. That is until this last Saturday night when I was arm-twisted into staying for the second half of a double bill at The Theatre Arts Admin Collective, a dance piece called UnMute.

Now, those who have read me or know me know that dance is my Greek. I don’t get it, read it or speak it. I am frustrated by it mostly, and generally find the art of modern dance painfully pretentious and self absorbed. So this is why I wasn’t in the mood at all.

Well, blow my brain open with a feather. From the very first moment of Laurie Anderson’s O Superman which began Andile Vellem’s piece I started weeping and that was it. Four dancers; Andile Vellem, Themba Mbuli, Nadine McKenzie and Zama Sonjica took me to a place I have seldom been before and transformed me emotionally and theatrically. I don’t know what else to say about the 30 minutes of moving magic. It was a piece that simultaneously took me out of myself and connected me to myself in the most special, organic way. I loved it. And I can’t help writing about it a little bit.

In the meantime I guess meganshead is in process. It is waiting to become something. It is waiting to become something else.

Walk this Way

So Liz Mills and I rehearse Drive With Me at the amazing Theatre Arts Admin Collective (I have no idea how Caroline Calburn manages that totally crazy schedule) and for the last week we have been spending each morning in the Minor Hall. It is a beautiful space, with a huge vaulted ceiling and gorgeous light through massive church windows. It is also relatively private.

Except for the man. There is a man who works for the church (the premises are on the Methodist Church in Obz) and every odd day or so he opens an internal door, shambles through, unlocks a weird storeroom, goes out the main door of the venue leaving it open, comes back, fetches the vacuum, opens another door, limps through noisily with a cup of tea. This would all be ok, if not a little irritating IF he ever acknowledged us. But he doesn’t. It is literally as if we do not exist. It would be funny if it wasn’t so utterly creepy.

Now Drive With Me is a little odd (if not creepy) and having this man entirely ignore me, and us, is the strangest feeling in the whole world.

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