Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Category: improv (Page 1 of 13)

Hooray May Improv and Live Performance

This May will be a huge milestone for me. I return to the stage in a tiny improv festival after over a year of no live improv, and I perform a strange and wonderful creation called Murmurations in front of a live audience. I am nervous, excited and a little bit overwhelmed. What I have taken for granted for most of my life is now a gift that is special and precious.

Our ImproGuise mini improv festival takes place from 6-8 May at The Galloway Theatre at the Waterfront Theatre School. Here is what you can expect on each night.

6 May – Game on! – Based on ou hugely popular short form, Theatresports, this is a super charged and fun improv show with an emcee, judges from the audience and 2 teams, competing in a series of short and outrageous improv games based on suggestions from the audience. Yes, this is the one you always ask for.
7 May – Superscene – This fast paced, highly competitive format is also a firm favourite with ImproGuise fans. Here 6 improvising directors compete against each other with scenes and pitches to the audience for the huge honour of last one standing to perform the final Superscene.
8 May – Fake Place – This delightful longform format sees us highly skilled improvisers exploring a fictional place and playing all the loveable and eccentric characters in it. Heart-warming and gut- wrenchingly funny.

What’s not to love? What we are going to need though, is you. Our faithful, the promisers, the followers from a distance, the wannabes, the improv lovers, the we-haven’t-been-in-a-while-ers, the students, the moms, dads and kids, the whose-line-is-it-anyway fans. We need an audience. A socially distanced, fully masked, totally protocolled audience. Please book. Book here. https://tickets.tixsa.co.za/event/improv-festival and come celebrate with us.

Then, later on in the month we have one night of improv at one of our favourite venues, The Drama Factory in Somerset West. Same deal. Best improv in a totally fabulous venue. So many options to see us. Come. Laugh. Enjoy the crazy, in the moment creativity.

I will write a separate and fabulous post about Murmurations with Louise Westerhout at Theatre Arts later.

Going Live

So, while I have been meeting with the fierce and magnificent Louise Westerhout as we dream up our new piece of what so far is anti-theatre, I have not been in a rehearsal space with more than one person at a time until last night. Last night I went to my church of improv and co-facilitated my first live session with Tandi Buchan since COVID and lockdown. ImproGuise’s Improv 4 Life is literally that. Improv for life.

Yes we all wore masks. Yes there were 11 of us in a huge, huge room. Yes we spoke about our fears and discomforts. And then we entered into the magical play space of improv and we were blessed with cooperation, creativity and inspiration, in spades, buckets and loads.

I left the room energised and I woke up this morning bouncing. And now I am entering the space of how to have an audience. Slowly sending tentacles out. Slowly emerging into theatre.

Change

I have always believed that I am one of few people who are comfortable with, or at least used to, change. Having been a ‘freelancer’ my whole life, with no actual proper job, I have gotten used to living with uncertainty. I don’t know any other way. Sometimes my days are full and complicated, and sometimes I have no idea what all those things were that I so badly wanted to do ‘when I had the time’.

Being someone who doesn’t know how the days, weeks and months of the year are going to unfold also means putting things out into the world of work and hoping that some of them take root. Some do. Sometimes at the same time. Sometimes a barren wind blows and nothing grows.

Being an improviser has been the best, and most consistent help. The improvisation philosophy of being in the present is a powerful and positive tool, and it is also the tool that has shaken me out of passive lethargy and into action; sometimes just to do the mundane stuff of exercise or housework.

So the theory is that I should be able to cope well with change. And I do. Ish. I just get stuck when things change and they are worse than they were before, and the change is out of my hands.

A good example would be the change of a board of some or other organisation – let’s say, for argument’s sake and totally hypothetically, the board of a charity I support. Let’s say I have been working with these tired and committed board members because I believe in their cause. And they have sacrificed much. And then a new board takes over, with efficient plans to save money and make money, with comparisons to other charities who do things better elsewhere. All of this is needed, and it makes sense. And they are totally gung-ho, but still, some people leave the organisation, and others stay, not totally fitting into their new skins, And the change is all over – in management style, and tone of voice, and level of commitment. None of it is wrong. It is just different. Relationships are different. And my place is different. And my voice is differently heard, and felt, and maybe, possibly ignored.

This change is so hard for me. This kind of change.

I have no idea why the feeling of this kind of change brings me to this memory. Many, many years ago now, when the passings of our old Taiwanese dogs Bayla and Gally were properly mourned and I started thinking about adopting a new dog into our home I remember seeing a pic of a dog on an animal rescue website and I became convinced he was the one for us. (I am sure I wrote about this on this blog all those years ago). They sent a man to do a house inspection and he decided that our courtyard was too small and we failed the house inspection. No matter how hard I tried to explain that we had no intention ever of keeping the dog in the courtyard, that he would be an inside dog that we would walk every day, mostly twice a day, they refused to hear us.

Sometimes change makes me feel misunderstood.

PS. I have just gone back to those old posts about that time. Yup. Still smarts.

Working on Whiteness

I ran my first ever Working on Whiteness introduction conversation/workshop last night and I want to share many of the details. I want this to be the beginning of much more work of this nature, and so I want to explain it thoroughly so more people will feel compelled to attend, and will invite those who won’t be able to come to the conclusion for themselves.

I have made a deliberate choice to keep this work exclusively white. Ironically, POC are more comfortable and supportive of this. Friends I have spoken to have articulated how being black and having to explain over and over what their pain and anger looks and feels like to white people is exhausting and often futile. It is my opinion that white people need to do a lot of work before entering into the conversation on diversity. White people need better tools and more information to have those conversations. We need to start before those.

Anyway. The lead up to last night’s workshop was an invitation through email and on Facebook and Linked in to all white friends, connections, colleagues, associates and friends of friends, who live (or found themselves) in Cape Town to attend. I think I shared it personally with over 1000 people. Many people contacted me to say that they thought it sounded good but they were previously engaged/out of town and couldn’t make this one but would still like to come if there ever was another one. There will be.

There were eight participants. The evening was divided into improv games, storytelling exercises and facilitated conversation. And it was a gentle start in the right direction. Of course, the people in the room were already conscious that there were issues like racism, white privilege, white guilt, systemic racism and virtue signalling. What we unpacked was some of that.

We are like trapeze artists who could fall into the traps at any time. It is a lot of hard work, constant reflection, and deep listening to hear, see, feel, and stay on it and in it.

An earnest desire helps, but we have to keep pushing ourselves into the uncomfortable place of this work.

Here is some of what participants had to say.

“There is often resistance to having this kind of conversation informally in a group and if the subject of ‘whiteness’ comes up, the conversation can often become quite defensive.

I wondered (worried about) what would be asked of me in a workshop like this. I had been thinking in the privacy of my own mind about myself as a white person. The thought of going to a workshop to unpack whiteness was confronting, but I decided to go.

I am very glad I did. It was hugely worthwhile. Megan held the group expertly and led us though a number of really easy and fun exercises which were designed help us begin this conversation.

Once we began the conversation to look at our/my whiteness, it felt really easy and natural to do so in the environment that had been created. The feeling in the room felt very comfortable to me.

It was amazing to hear the thoughts of others in the group and good to share my own”. – L.S.

“When you finish a two-hour workshop and race conversation with a group of ten white people saying they could continue for another hour and want to sign up for an ongoing course, you know something special has happened. Megan Furniss’ ability to hold uncomfortable spaces gently while firmly pushing into the tough areas that desperately need to be talked about is key to this much-needed work. It was just the tip of a very large iceberg, but the fact that people paid to be in the room and were engaged for two hours with no sign of wanting to leave or stall was testimony to what we need to see so much more of.” B. A

Contact me if you want to start this, or even continue with this work.

Industrial theatre, storytelling, improv news

I am currently working on a 15 minute industrial theatre play around AIDS and HIV awareness. I have written the script and it is really entertaining. It has to be. Audiences have terrible AIDS awareness fatigue. This two-hander has a delicious format, really cute characters, and it is very honest and forthright. It has been commissioned by a client, but I would love to sell it on to anyone who wants to do something for AIDS day on December 1. Let me know if you’d like more info, or would like to book it.

I am also doing beautiful storytelling workshops. Improv and personal narrative come together in this fun, moving and connecting space, where people get to know themselves and each other better.

And of course there is pure improv. You need this in your workspace to revolutionise how you work as a team, be co-creative and understand how important it is to be present and and an active listener.

Lastly, and deeply personally, I am offering tarot readings, either in person or over Skype. Email me to book an appointment for this lovely, focussed look at an area of your life.

All queries on megan@improvision.co.za

Pete

I had a full week of improv teaching and facilitating last week, including running 5 short 1 hour and ten minute sessions for a school celebrating 2 days of end of term Art Jam. I worked with groups of between 8 and 14 students and we played warm up games and they learned some improv basics in a fun and interactive way.

In my second session of my first day I encountered Pete. I could see (it was obvious) that he was out of the ordinary. He struggled with eye contact and found it difficult to do the fun and spontaneous silly stuff when we went around in a circle, but he seemed to have a spark of enjoyment about what we had done and that was great.

After a fifteen minute break I got ready to receive another group, who were coming from doing something else entirely. Who should join this group? Pete. This time he was bolder and more silly. When it came to the final game (an interview game with two players playing the talking characters hands) he volunteered, sat down, and when I asked for an expert he announced that he would be an expert in Soviet monkeys. And that is what he was; confidently, loudly and hilariously. The teacher who had joined this group told me afterwards how delighted he was that Pete had participated and spoken up – he never says anything in class.

Pete was one of the first kids to arrive the next morning for the first session. He was becoming an expert himself. Funny, clever, silly and totally committed, he had an absolute blast. And so did I, watching him. He tried to come to the last class too he but was hurried off to the session on his schedule. I don’t know if it was any good for him.

But I was so chuffed to have had him choose my improv sessions. I saw the deep magic of it in practice.

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