Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Category: G’town (Page 1 of 10)

The Big Fat Cape Town Fringe Festival Elephant in the Room

I have put off writing this post until now because I was a little nervous that certain productions that had put in proposals for the new Cape Town Fringe Festival would be unfairly disadvantaged by whatever association with me. I shouldn’t have worried. They were both turned down anyway. In fact, I only know of 2 productions that were selected and I heard about that before any other announcements were made (no idea how they knew that they had been chosen!), and they were not Cape Town productions.

Ever since I heard about this new, shiny Cape Town Fringe I have had more questions than answers. No, let me express myself a little more clearly, so you get the picture. I have felt rage at its existence, fury at the lack of consultation, disbelief  that the City of Cape Town signed a 3 year contract with the powers that run the Grahamstown festival, and total amazement that other artists and arts media and theatre lovers all thought that this was a good idea.

Here is just some of what pissed (and continues to piss) me off.

1. Why do we need a Cape Town Fringe Festival in the first place? I know my home town as a place where I spend the whole year making theatre and sukkeling to get an audience to come, dealing with venues, producing work, directing work, performing work and supporting others’ work. That is what we do. All year round. Now the GTown powers are coming and telling us what to do, how to do it and when, in Cape Town. Sorry, no.

2. Why a new festival when all others have bombed? We have had Cape Town festivals before that sucked and failed. And winners that failed. Out The Box, a gorgeous festival, died a horrible death when it couldn’t get funding. Infecting the City is already a Cape Town festival.

3. Who has curated this Cape Town Fringe Festival? Ok, so it’s no secret that I have a terrible relationship with the Gtown powers that be. No love lost. But really? The flailing Gtown festival organisers sail into my city and make a festival? Their rules, their ideas, their plans, their choices, their budgets in my city? I get that if I don’t want to do their festival in Gtown I can choose not to, but this city of Cape Town is our stomping ground (me and those unconsulted, unhappy, distrusting and bitter) and we feel betrayed by the City of Cape Town. Why weren’t any of the Cape Town theatre players that I know and respect consulted?

4. Suddenly people who ‘applied’ are getting rejection emails that explain that the work they submitted isn’t representative. Ja. WTF? Explain who decides that. No, don’t. What utter trash.

5. Why would any local artist pay to be part of this? I cannot imagine who would put up the extra costs. Apparently plenty do, and are, if the flood of applications is anything to go by, but I don’t get it. At all.

6. Why is the whole thing so hush hush? Why wouldn’t Zayd Minty (from the City) meet with us to answer our questions? Who did the deal? Who gave the go ahead? Who drew up the budget? Who is paying?

On a personal note, I think I will make a plan to be out of the city then. Stuff your festival and the miserable Eastern Cape sponsored car you drove up in.

PS. I know. I know the backlash is about to whip my sorry arse. Hasn’t killed me yet, and shutting up never made me friends anyway.

Drive With Me again

DrivewithMeWebJKK-002I am picking up the script for Drive With Me again. I have a proper two week run at Alexander Bar from 30 June to 12 July, the exact time of the Grahamstown festival. It is intentional irony. The show is set in Grahamstown, at the festival. Anyone who knows me knows the metaphorical death I suffered at the festival with this piece last year. In spite of great reviews, standing ovations from audiences of 3, and a very late awarding of an Ovation award, I came away from the experience in more than just a few pieces.

Luckily I was able to put those terrors and ghosts to bed during a 3 show sold out slot at Alexander Bar in November last year. (It was so strange wearing that winter costume and describing the July conditions in the heat of summer.) This time I am really excited. I feel as if the blossom and bloom time for the piece is now. I am proud of the writing even though I am still challenged by the performance of it, and I surprise myself, even when just learning lines, with new thoughts and ideas. Writing and then performing a piece has different stages of gestation I guess. I remember the late Peter Hayes saying that a show needs to be performed at least 70 times before it becomes what it should be. As an improviser that seems terribly long, but I am starting to understand what it means. The more you do it the smaller the gap between intention and execution.

I am excited by the possibility of reaching a (slightly) bigger and wider audience. The Alexander Bar is tiny and intimate enough, but more than just friends will get to see it this time with 9 performances. So, if you’re even just a little curious, please take the chance and book here.

PS. It is the weirdest thing being 17kgs lighter than when I last performed this. I wonder how the character of Marion Taylor will be affected?

Thoughts and realisations

So, last week was a power one for me, mainly because of the completely overwhelming response I got from friends and strangers to Drive With Me. Powerful too was that I was, without too much effort, able to get three little full houses to see my show. Compared to Grahamstown this was a real success, and on a deeply personal level I was able to bury the disaster that the festival was, and rebirth Drive With Me into recognition, being visible and appreciated. I definitely feel more hopeful, proud, encouraged and fulfilled after a magnificent short time at Alexander Bar.

But this triggered another really big deeply personal realisation about me and what I do. And it has to do with this blog. My initial inspiration and motivation (back in 2007, can you believe?) was to write review style posts about the theatre I saw. I was immediately controversial, and this also meant readable. Every time I wrote a review post my readership spiked, people left comments, I was agreed with, passionately disagreed with, fought with and I was even part of a theatre scandal that took me ages to recover from as well as a recipient of a deeply personal dressing down by a friend, for something that I unintentionally did to hurt her. In all this I continued writing about theatre, and defending my position, but I didn’t make the connection, even though I was warned about how inappropriate it was for me to ‘piss where I slept’. People loved reading what I had to say about other theatre, but didn’t want to see the theatre I would make. I was the person people loved to hate. It crept up on me, getting worse and worse every time I tried to rustle up an audience for something I was involved in. My tragic experience in Grahamstown brought all of this into sharp focus, and while there is no doubt I was paranoid, desperate and most invisible, I also felt like I wasn’t doing myself any favours by writing about theatre at the same time as making it. I could manage the contradiction but people in the industry couldn’t, and made it known by actively not supporting me.

It was very hard to decide to stop writing about other people’s work, and I had to wean myself off it. At first I couldn’t resist writing about stuff that I loved, convinced I would be able to help it get an audience.I decided that I would only write about things I loved, but of course it was obvious then what I didn’t love, by the absence of writing. I also had to take responsibility for being on a few opening night invitation lists. I was being invited as if I were a critic. I was much more valuable as part of a publicity campaign for others, than as a producer of my own work. Eina. A hard lesson.

And now the challenge has been to reestablish myself as a player. I write, perform, direct and make theatre. I won’t write about other people’s theatre any more. I am sorry it has taken me so long to get to this place, but I am suddenly so much more at ease. I will heartily recommend stuff I enjoy, and I will also write about my thoughts and experiences of the industry in general. And, so, it is time to get your honest response, reader. What do you think?

Festival Post Mortem

I always knew I would write this post, but even now I find it difficult. I have been home 3 nights and there is nothing more comforting than fast ADSL, animals, my things and my solid pillar of Big Friendly. Still, for those of you who weren’t there or didn’t hear me say so, the festival was one long, tough, exhausting, often painful, occasionally inspiring, frighteningly empty affair.

I had very few people coming through the door to see Drive With Me, even though those that did seemed to love it, a lot. The combination of a great review on day 1 and then nothing until an Ovation award on day 10 didn’t help (although I am deeply grateful for both). Song And Dance got better and better, without a word or pic in CUE (to be honest I have no idea how people knew about it), and even though Pieter Bosch Botha and Richard Antrobus did a sterling publicity job on Fully Committed and people raved about it I had visions of sold-outs and extra shows because of how perfect it was for the festival. Truth is, it was a very quiet affair, with tons of parking in the streets, food and furniture always available at the Long Table, nobody at the Village Green, and people handing out comps left, right and centre. The only full show I attended was jammed full of school kids. That’s not to say there weren’t full ones. It seems shows that were there for the 2nd and 3rd time did better.

The worst part about all of this is that I am already thinking about how to do it differently next year. Please, theatre gods, if I decide to jump, look after me harder.

And now for some other news. I have decided, after much hearty discussion with friends, family and some colleagues, to stop writing review style posts here on meganshead. I am very sad about it, but I feel like it typecasts me in the industry and people then find it difficult to see me or receive me when I do theatre work of my own. Obviously, that is still more important to me, and so I think I will serve myself better if I am not seen as a theatre critic. I’ll still write, and share my opinions about everything else, including industry related stuff, but I will leave the ‘reviewing’ to those less involved, even though I am confident I did a bladdy good job. So, I will still see almost everything, and I will facebook and tweet about whether I liked it or not, but I’ll reserve this space for writing about other, varied stuff. How do you feel about that? Please send me comments to let me know.

“I was no longer driving the car…”

I am over half way. 6 down and 4 to go. I won’t lie. I have felt mostly hysterical, most of the time. I confess to having no audience numbers, no publicity, no recognition from the mysterious festival powers that be, no ovation, very little press. I admit that I have had the devotion and total commitment from my loved ones; friends and family who have held me close and strong.

I love my show Drive With Me (in case you hadn’t noticed). I think it is brilliant, which is why I get sad (and even more committed) when there are 10 faces in the audience. Even when two of them were sleeping before I even spoke my first word. How it goes. It’s not only me. When I admit to fellow industry folk how hard it is for me the floodgates open. No houses. 11 people in the audience. Ja.

My good news stories. Anthea Moys. Her work at the festival (and I have only seen two pieces; the chess and the soccer) has been a total delight. She has taken on the city of Grahamstown in the best way, setting herself up for failure in the most charming and hilarious of events, and this work is inspired, feel good, community inclusive and even healing, in a way that most theatre can’t be. I think I love her.

Fully Committed. Nothing could make me prouder than the huge visibility of this show. Pieter Bosch Botha and Richard Antrobus have worked their bum muscles to the bone to publicise this hilarious and festival-perfect show and it has paid off in spades. Big audiences have been enchanted, amazed and delighted by his genius performance and lightning quick switches between 36 characters. As director, all I have been asked to do is kick back and enjoy. Yes.

The cast of Song And Dance. It hasn’t been such fun for them, with small houses, no reviews, and very little recognition, but they are kak funny and I think the show is the best it has ever been. Bravo Deon, Anele, Zondwa, and Ntombi Makhutshi the director. I am so proud of what you have made of my (our) play.

So, other than Anthea, I am still waiting to be blown away, although I do confess to not having seen too much. I really enjoyed Stuart Lightbody’s Unreal. I worked hard to enjoy Tom Pain, because I love watching Albert on stage so much, I enjoyed Mary Sibanda’s exhibition a bit. The Belgian was cute. I have missed too much.

Last night I watched Same Time Next Year again and was delighted by it again. Tonight I will revisit Gina’s The Line.

And then some interesting impressions. Gtown, land where even the obscure critic becomes god. Student radio is banal. People want to see what was on last year, and the year before. I don’t know how actors can get so wasted and then still perform the next day. Gtown, where old grudges fester and new ones are made. Gtown, where the difference between black and white is obvious again. Gtown, where students bring the best joy, and most passionate response to the work. Gtown, where the CUE is hated and obsessed over in the same breath. Where every once in a blue moon a person working on the Village Green randomly chooses to see your show and is moved enough by it to leave a response. Where American post grad students engage in hearty, healthy political conversations. Where people still ask me whether I am here playing Theatresports. Where I spend at least R50 on parking attendants, who probably have exactly these 10 days of informal work in the whole year. Where when I asked a parking attendant where she was from (she had a foreign accent) she panicked and tried to send me to her “office” where I could find out that she was ‘allowed’ to be there.

Where equipment is as old as my 29th anniversary of being here. Where the difference in size of every stage flat is directly proportional to the size of the gap between them. Where the unspoken politic of shmooze, taking out to dinner, paying for drinks, false promises, fake smiles, secret handshakes, embarrassing hangovers, obvious indiscretions, confusing nostalgic reminiscences all surface. Where I learn that I cannot, and shouldn’t have to, sell my own work like a tradesman. Where I get inspired for writing my next damn show while lamenting my current lack of achieving commercial success.

Where the pep talk from my brother is the best advice ever. Too good and private to write down here. Where the tears of Big Friendly are enough to make me know so completely how brilliant I am. Where the strong arm of by bestie Jaci is like an iron rod of encouragement when I might fade or fall. Where the stamp of my magnificent director Liz Mills (even though she is already back home) makes me honour our choices every day, to every face that looks back at me. Where the man who took the courage to talk to me even though he was still so freaked out by Drive With Me that he didn’t know if I was real.

Wicked, powerful theatre gods bless Grahamstown festival. Fuck you Grahamstown festival. You filthy theatre whore in my blood.

Gtown Love Hate and Theatre

Just so you know, the details are no different from how I imagined they would be. Love, inspiration, excitement, terror, panic, desperation, joy, ease, discomfort, awe, pride. The festival.

My first performance of Drive With Me happened yesterday, and it was a relief and comfort to have some familiar faces in the audience. It went pretty well, considering. Actually, it went well enough to get me a really lovely, well written, enticing and mysterious review from Nigel Vermass, whose opinion I really care about and who knows what he is doing. I am sure the blind panic I felt yesterday will subside into something more contained and manageable for tomorrow’s performance (today is my only day off).

I allowed the adrenaline and relief to wash through me and celebrated by watching 2 shows. I saw A Town Called Fookol-Luthu, also produced by Kalk Bay Productions, and it was just what I needed. Tara Louise Nottcutt directs this quirky, funny, rude and ridiculous collection of Jervis Pennington’s stories and songs, performed by some delicious young CT talent (and Jervis himself) and it washed over me like laughing water. If you weren’t sure, you can be. It was delicious. It also helped that I had a most vocal woman loving the show behind me and loudly saying “yes” in support of the troubles and trials of all the characters.

Then (after most yum soup at The Long Table) I went to see Rob Murray directing Andrew Buckland and Liesl de Kok in Crazy in Love. It is an interesting piece, with beautiful moments by two performers I am totally in love with, but I wasn’t entirely won over by this one, and I was sad that I didn’t feel absolutely crazy in love with it.

Tonight Fully Committed opens; and I will eat my spandex bicycle shorts if it isn’t a sure-fire festival winner.

And of course, there is my favourite, Song And Dance, that I am hoping will draw a crowd.

More later. This internet cafe’s connection is agonisingly slow.

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