Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Month: April 2015

The Art Of Boredom

I am in between things. I have a little more free time on my hands but I can’t remember one single thing on my urgent to-do-once-I-have-a-moment-of-free-time list. Not one thing. I can’t remember one single burningly brilliant idea for a play/story/novel out of the 160 000 I had when I was busy. The only thing I have a proper deadline for is this blog post; I have joined a group of bloggers and we are all writing posts on this exact topic.

So, I was thinking about boredom, especially in my current state, which, if I am honest, is more like waiting then actual boredom, and I was trying to think about the worst kind of boredom there is. It is this. What takes boredom to the whole new level of art is having to sit through bad theatre. I have seen a few of these in the last while, which is why it springs so readily to mind.

This height of boredom has certain ingredients. Usually (but not always) there is a small audience, where every single person, including you, can be seen by the performer (or performers). Secondly, the costumes, props and set are a collection of things from people’s houses. Also, there hasn’t been a proper or detailed rehearsal process (so some things you know for certain weren’t really 100% planned). Sometimes the director is in it, and sometimes they are also the writer.

Sometimes you know you are in for it the minute the lights go down; that sinking, dreaded feeling that you are trapped for, did they say an hour on the website? Sometimes it takes a bit longer. You think, hey, I wonder how far in we are, and you look at your watch and exactly four minutes have crawled by since it started.

This special kind of boredom is the worst kind of hell, since you put yourself through it. There is nothing you can do. Resigning yourself to it is half the battle. It is like agreeing to an anal probe, made creatively with used car parts. It is like having that anal probe on your seat, and even the slightest nodding off will move you into a sharp, prodding pain. Even closed eyes will get you into trouble; not that you could, the performer (or performers) search the audience’s faces like a beach combing device. There you sit, imagining tearing your eyeballs out, from the inside. Pushing them out actually, with your tongue, which is attached to the anal probe and now going through your brain.

Bad theatre is so, so, so boring. It is boring and dangerous. If you have experienced it you will always remember it. It will scar you, leaving giant welts of boredom memory in your being, and it could put you off ever going to the theatre again. I have been scarred. Which is why I haven’t seen anything for over a month. Maybe two. I made the excuse that I have been so, so busy. And theatre is on my to do list. But I can’t remember what exactly suddenly. I’ll have to wait.

These guys have written their own blog posts on the topic The Art of Boredom. Check them out. I can’t wait to.

Conversation with a taxi driver

Our show was cancelled last night so I decided to drink wine with a friend who was in town. I took an Uber because I didn’t want to drive drunk, and Vava picked me up. I could hear from his accent that he was Congolese, so of course the conversation swung round to how long he had been in Cape Town (14 years) and how the recent xenophobic (I hate that word, used so wrongly) attacks had made him feel. I could almost see his decision to tell me the truth, and suddenly he poured out his story, leaving me in tatters.

He told how in all his 14 years of being here he never ever, not once felt safe. He told me of his lengthly legal battle for citizenship and how disgustingly Home Affairs treated him. He told me about the hideous violence he had left behind, that still haunts his dreams, and his heartache around the current violence and the absolute lack of commitment by government to do anything about it. He almost sobbed when I showed sympathy and then he had to control his desperation when he shouted about not one conviction for the 2008 violence. By then we had reached the Alexander Bar, where I was going.

We just sat for a moment and held onto the day, 27 April, Freedom Day, and how it really just wasn’t that at all.



Being a Voice

I have just had the best morning ever. I was asked to do the voice of Ella the Elephant in a children’s animated series called Jabu’s Jungle, and off I went to The Movement’s studio in Masiphumelele to record. Granted, I was a bit dubious when, in the character brief, I found out that she was an African American jazz singer elephant; a cross between Armstrong and Fitzgerald, but then I let my creative juices get the better of me, and I was like, when are you ever going to get a chance to be that ever in your life? And so I went for it. Boy, did I go for it.

I sang. Loudly and with gusto. I trumpeted and snorted. I did my best Southern accent. I sweated buckets and had the time of my life. This is why actors love doing animation voices. It is the best kind of imagination freeing letting loose anything goes kind of acting. I am still producing adrenaline and serotonin. I am going to be happy for days. Thank you Debbie, Roger, Nic, Chaz. I am in delight.

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.

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.

From Melbourne to NYC

I have only just got back from a long celebration of my birthday (a full 10 days of celebrating actually) and I am now having to come to terms with the fact that two of my closest friends have left the country. Candice left 5 weeks ago to join her husband in Melbourne, Oz, and Jaci and her husband Gys left early this week to start a brand new adventure of life in NYC.

It is a very different world these days, where contact around the globe is easy and immediate. Candice and I had an hour long Skype session yesterday, and I even know what her apartment looks like. Jaci Whatsapped me from the metro, and Facebook messaged me from Times Square. I see photos of their new lives, and can even read about them in blogs and long posts on Facebook. But it is different. Totally different.

Ironically, the biggest difference is that we can’t complain about the same old shit. Their shit is new shit. It is exciting, foreign shit. My shit is exactly the same. South African shit, Cape Town shit, Cape Town theatre shit, Cape Town bullshit politics shit, boring old shit. (And only recently it was the real shit that hit the Rhodes statue that has churned up my worst kind of hideous racist shit.)

I miss both of these amazing women differently too. Candice was my buddy here in Cape Town and we did so much stuff together. We went out together, worked together, played together, hung out together. It is a huge physical loss. Jaci lived in Jozi and when we saw each other, which was often but not weekly, it was hard core intense. Mad. Attached at the hip for a couple of days. Dramatic. Jaci is my travel soul mate. I am deeply jealous of her being in NYC without me, especially since she introduced me to the place and watched me fall in love with it.

Once I get past the pangs of longing and missing my friends, something else can be glimmered underneath, and that is the sheer excitement of an expanding world, and it is a world I now have better access to. Melbourne is a magnificent, wonderful, quirky, pretty city. NYC pumps my creative blood and is filled with my tribe of people. I can visualise my friends in these places, and I can go there too, virtually, and also, hopefully, in reality one day.

In the meantime I have to get used to the time differences. It is bizarre. Candice is always 8 hours ahead of me, and Jaci is 7 behind. Lucky we are theatre animals. It is always dark inside a theatre.

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