Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

The (hopefully not permanent) end of The Tent

I am glad I waited until it was done before I wrote this post. I went through every possible emotion in the last two days, from despair to pride, to vulnerability to hope.

Ultimately the showcase of The Tent was a success. But it has been quite a hectic learning curve for me along the way, and I think it deserves writing about.

Lesson number one is one that I knew but now am sure of. The Tent needs another director. I need to hand over my writing to someone who can re-interpret the text. I believe I couldn’t help but fall into the same trap that Milton Schorr fell into. The rhythm of the play suffers when it is directed by the writer. Hopefully, if this production is given a full run, somebody else will direct.

Lesson number two is a most valuable new one. I now completely understand why a show has previews to run it in. The Tent was only audience ready last night. The first two performances were like trial runs and it showed. The humour was lost. Pace was a problem. This was already a thousand times better last night and you could tell from the audience’s reactions.

My strength in this production was my casting. Everyone was perfectly cast, and one of the hard things about doing the play again and handing it over to another director will be that they will re-cast.

My expectations were very high and I completely forgot that we only had two and a half weeks to get the whole thing together. Obviously, with a longer rehearsal process the thing will settle, actors will have more clarity, things will be more sharply defined and there will be greater familiarity with the flow and movement of the piece.

I did the bravest, most stupid thing on the first night. I read the feedback forms that audience members are encouraged to fill out. They were mostly positive, ranging from fair to really good, and were generally very helpful. They mentioned the pace problem that I was instantly able to pass on to the actors and the improvement was dramatic. Then there was one guy. His comments were hard core. He was an actor.

I still need to have long conversations with my friends and colleagues. I need to hear what they thought. It is not easy to just blab about it afterwards. The play is bleak and shattering. I did go for a late meal and chat with Big Friendly and our big friends and we talked and talked. (We went to the Roxy, in Dunkley Square.)

One of the funny things that happened: We had a long break in between shows yesterday and the cleaners were obviously put under pressure to clean the venue in between shows. Tandi and the boys were downstairs in the dressing room when they heard movement on stage; a hard sweeping noise. And finally, when the cast came up to do a warm-up and focus they were faced with a sparklingly swept stage. Every last bit of leaf, dust, strategically placed can and sweet wrapper had been swept and thrown away. The poor stage manager went berserk! They had to re-dirtyfy the whole set in fifteen minutes.

I am putting The Tent to sleep for a while. I hope it wakes up. I believe it has value as a production and I’d like to see it go further. And we have all learned so much. Mostly, I am indebted to a brilliant bunch of cast, crew, designers and management who made this possible.

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3 Comments

  1. Mark Hoeben

    Dear Megan
    Would like to congratulate you and the cast on the show I saw yesterday afternoon. You were right. It did need a different director. I would love to talk to you about the show though.
    XXX
    Mark

  2. The play:

    The Tent offers a stark, harsh and painful message which – I thought, is actually optimistic.

    For me (and that’s my totally personal take) The Tent is, ultimately, an essay on compassion, healing and the everlasting battle between the human spirit and its ugly twin – the human beast. Ruth – the healer in the play (masterfully played by Margie Pankhurst, celebrating a very-very welcome return to the stage after almost two decades away), seems to be replaying the same script over and over again: show yourself, form contact, communicate, offer healing and remedies, take the inevitable punishment that awaits you at the end of the road.

    This powerful theme – the ultimate sacrifice of the committed healer – reflects unfavourably on us, humans. As Ruth and her husband Samson are savaged by the very same people who came to them for help, one needs to fight the sense of cathartic resolution that was built into us in Religious Studies classes across denominations. Ruth does not sacrifice herself for our sins; she is not a saint, but a healer. She ignores warning (symbolic and real) on her way to perdition. The Tent’s message, for me, is that healing comes at a cost – one cannot deal with people’s pain and angst without increasing the amount of dark feelings, anger, hurt and general shit that follow. Humans tend to look for real or imaginary causes to, and excuses for, their troubles, as we so clearly saw when Xenophobia reared its ugly head in our country a few months ago.

    The production:

    A general ‘well done’ to the cast – notably Margie Pankhurst, whose portrayal of Ruth is very powerful. Her humour was catchy, her anger was palpable and scary and her pain almost unbearable. Thembani Luzipho’s portrayal of Selo – the night-shift person and the narrator of the piece – is touchy and convincing. I absolutely loved the way he commented on his own story as he was telling it, a one-man Greek chorus. There was lovely sensitive work from Pierre Malherbe (the Boss) and from that delicious shape-shifter Tandi Buchan. There was also solid character work from Leon Clingman, Nelson Musonda and Carel Nel and Mbulelo Samby.

    Megan’s hand (and Megan’s head!!) are ever-present in this work – the humour, pathos and bathos, the safe, sure hand of Megan the director who controls the piece and guides her actors towards their goal, as well as Megan the writer, providing an intriguing storyline that moves like a runaway train, progressing inexorably to its shattering conclusion.

    The play would flourish under ‘normal’ rehearsals and run conditions — the general pace was far from resolved, some of the hard-hitting sections of the play needed fine tuning – but The Tent is a compelling, commanding and engaging piece.

  3. Alfred Rietmann

    It was again a huge pleasure and honor to work with Megan and her team of super dedicated actors (who sat in and walked fot the lighting plot sessions, which few other actors would be prepared to do). These actors would stand on stage and focus, warm up, reherase scenes while We are spray painting, making dirt and moving scenery and bits of props around them AND NOT TWITCH but stay focussed on what they are doing.

    I have come through a Season of working with a huge variety of directors and what realy made the difference is this: By production week (when we move into the thetare and onto stage) all the other directors are having hissie-fitz, temper-tantrums, out-bursts and generally go out of their way to make everyone in the crew’s time as miserable as they possibly can. Not Megan!!! Megan gets so excited, so possitive, so compromising and greatfull for every collor filter and bit of dirt on the set… that it moves us all onto a higher level of dilivery. We becaome delirious with making the production The Best Production That It Can Be. Nothing is too much trouble.
    Directors sit up and listen. Take a page from Megan’s book and understand that the technical team is there to make the show great not to sabotage it. That is if you can treat us with the dignity and respect that we deserve firstly as human beings and secondly as Theatre Makers.
    MEGAN- thank you for the experience – so far….

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