Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Category: writing (Page 1 of 17)

Lost Property – a virtual, live, global connection

I could feel it in my body the whole week and finally, when Jaci de Villiers (friend and director), Zane Gillion (co-actor) and Gys de Villiers (hero and stage directions reader) met on Zoom for a rehearsal of my play Lost Property I freaked out. My technology was horrible (internet woes), I struggled with my glasses and the screen, I couldn’t work out how to sit, or what angle, and I was a proper mess. Our rehearsal dissolved and I was scared and horrified. What would happen on the day, Saturday, when we would do a live reading?

I really had to think hard about what was wrong. Of course, it was more than one thing, but one of the biggest things was that my body and heart were remembering and wanting to be in the physical world of Jersey City, performing live, at a live festival. That’s what was going to happen pre-COVID. The other thing, a big thing, is that the play is one of the most prophetic pieces of writing I have made and it does make me all strange and weird, but that is a story for another day.

Our rehearsal on Friday went really well – I had (temporarily it turned out) sorted out my internet connectivity, had given myself a big fat pep talk and I reminded myself why I wanted to do this work in the first place.

And so on Saturday at 6pm we went live. Yes I froze a couple of times. No, it wasn’t serious. Yes I had all the usual performer fears and nerves. No, they didn’t get in the way of delivering our connection, characters and intentions. And we performed our hearts out, on Zoom, at a virtual, international festival of political work. We had an audience. We had positive feedback. And it was amazing.

Obviously I still want to get to Jersey City to do a proper run. Obviously I would love to do a run in South Africa. But being part of this festival is amazing. A global, network of theatre and art people from all over has been built and brought together by artistic director of the Jersey City Theatre Centre, Olga Livina, and it is amazing. Check out the website. See what’s on offer. Free talks, amazing shows from around the world. Connect, engage, celebrate VOICES from those who struggle to speak, in politically ravaged countries from around the world.

 

Bits and Pieces

One of the really cool things I did from 30 March to 5 April, all while in lockdown, was an online memoir style writing course with my long time friend and brilliant writer Melinda Ferguson. It was pretty intense, and took us all to some real pain spots. It wasn’t all doom and gloom though; some of the stuff we wrote about was hilarious, if not seriously bleak and dark.

I now have a small body of work created in that time and I thought it might be fun to share some of it here. It’s not like it’s destined for anywhere else, and I love this blog space, even though it is weathered and a bit neglected.

I thought I would start with this fun exercise, where we wrote about lockdown diaries day 10, and then day 100.

Corona diaries Day 10

It is only because I am lying on the floor on my Pilates mat that I notice it. Corona Zoom Pilates has become a thing, and my mat, usually squeezed between my cupboard and the wall and used for emergencies (I don’t know what kind, I haven’t actually needed a Pilates mat in an emergency), is now always in the lounge.

Linus, my boy dog, dog of my heart, IBD sufferer, Hobbit hairy foot, stinky breath, spatchcock lying down boy, is lying near me, waiting to see what I am going to do next. That’s how it has been in the house since lockdown. The dogs don’t trust me anymore. Anyway, I am staring at Linus’s body and I see that he has a weird, scaly, flaky, lumpy growth on his elbow. It is huge, and gross. What the fuck has happened, and how did I not notice this before? Well, that part is easy. Linus’s fur hides a universe of weird things.

I jump up, banging my knee on the furniture I have moved so I can paint the skirting boards, and go and take a closer look. The Game of Thrones scale disease has found its way onto Linus’s elbow (do dogs have elbows?).

I am hysterical. I call the vet. It takes an age for someone to answer. “Look, look, I know this isn’t an emergency emergency, but Linus has a sci-fi growth, fungus, goitre thing going on! I need to bring him in!”

She tells me to take photos and WhatsApp George (I am deeply in love with George. Have been for two generations of dogs and three generations of cats).

I squeeze Linus between my knees and photograph the flaking abomination. I send the pictures to George and wait.

George the saviour, the calm and thorough, the dog whisperer, messages back. “Common in dogs who have spent the summer lying on cool cement floors. Put Bactroban on. For 4 days. Then once or twice a week.”

And then…

Corona Diaries day 100

Friday 3 July (this is fiction! I am changing names to protect the real people)

We meet secretly at the top of the road. It is freezing. Only 7am and still dark in the middle of Cape Town winter. The dogs, now completely used to never leaving the house, are silhouetted by the stoep light as they wait for me, ears pricked.

Fikkie from the corner house and I have gone into business, desperado style. I have two packets to bring him today, and he has a small wad of cash for me.

Marion appears on her stoep with her cup of coffee and gives us the stank eye. She is religious and doesn’t approve of our little arrangement. Also, she is the unofficial street compliance officer and Fikkie and I really don’t want her to call the police. Really.

I smile at Marion and wave. Fikkie follows suit. I turn my back to her, and hand Fikkie the Checkers packets stuffed with the leaves, ready to be oven dried, cleaned, shredded and rolled.

It was an accident, I swear. On day 10 of lockdown I had found some fruit and vegetable seeds and planted what I had thought was cabbage and coriander. Instead the healthiest tobacco plants had speed grown and flourished – I have had all the time in the world to care for them – and I had approached Fikkie, a Woodstock hanger abouter, on WhatsApp to ask if he could help me. He had jumped at the chance.

So now I grow the stuff in my back courtyard, and he processes it, home grown style. Luckily he has a stash of rizla paper, stockpiled in the early days of cigarette banning.

Now we sell Fikkie’s Entjies, five a pack, loosely bound with elastic bands, totally organic and without harmful chemicals, to the neighbourhood. We can’t keep up with the demand.

Today I’ll be able to order much needed dog food.

Lockdown thoughts

I have been frantic; all over social media, making funny videos, dog videos, divination readings, participating in story challenges, cooking, videoing my cooking, exercising, video exercising, doing a writing course, reviewing TV stuff, doing Facebook challenges, and also doing housework, gardening and maintenance. This lockdown has been a gift and a special kind of therapy, as well as an unsettling terror.

Because of completely unforeseeable circumstances, the details of which I won’t go public with, I have spent lockdown on my own, with three animals. My beautiful fat cat Chassie died a couple of weeks before lockdown, so it’s been me, Frieda, Linus and Jasmine.

And I have earned not one cent, nor do I have a single job lined up for the future. I had three little jobs cancelled just before lockdown, and that’s it. It is pretty weird.

Luckily, I have my years of improv training to fall back on and I am really good at turning my what if thoughts to the present. Oh and I have diaphragmatic breathing for calming (and checking if I have COVID19 symptoms).

One of the most striking things about being on my own is having to flow between my own deeply personal, terrifyingly alienated situation and thoughts about others. Thinking about how many people are 1. in the same boat 2. in much worse boats 3. do not have boats 4. are sick 5. have lost someone.

I have to regulate and restrict how I get news. Radio, YouTube and websites are fine, for a limited time each day. Social media is a tornado; once in it is hard to spin out of it.

After the president’s announcement extending the lockdown last night I went to bed thinking that I need to think about things a little differently. I need to ask, what can I do to help? I can’t help with money, but I can listen, make things, share ideas, reach out, and write.

That’s why I am back here, on this blog, resurrecting it for some sharing.

Word

Last night

Still skin sensitive (I have thin white skin)

After reading an article from Americaland or its cleaner cousin Canada

Where black theatre makers asked that white reviewers

refrain from reviewing their work – they don’t know what we are talking about –

I asked permission to write a review.

This was new.

Who the fuck am I, right? I had never thought about it before.

Oh the sneaky insidiousness of white privilege.

 

I sat in the close heat of the unairconditioned, semidecolonised, renamed and reframed

theatre.

I watched purity and purpose and word and movement

On stage, like a duet dance.

In the audience

We watched, heard, laughed, shivered and shook.

Women and GBV and #menaretrash and our worlds at war and words at work.

 

We rose and applauded. Such good, powerful, clever stuff.

And then a Q&A crept into the room

As I was getting ready to make my exit.

There were 7 white women in the room last night. Including me. I say it to make it clear.

And with the ease of a tide coming in, as we know it must, and does,

White women spoke. First, and loud, and freely.

Sitting at the back I got shy, and then frustrated

By the size of the demographic compared to the space it was comfortable to take up.

By the unconscious, unselfconscious, unilateral hierarchy of colour and gender

And come on. Racism.

Followed by.

There were no white men in the room last night. But, next on the list,

White women. Then black men. It was black men who spoke next.

And the black women on stage, at the Q&A, were the ones who were

Asked, interrogated, questioned, like the representatives of the whole wide west and east.

 

That’s quite a big burden.

To carry.

Out of the theatre

And into the world.

Reviewing my situation

Cue Fagan earworm for the rest of the day.

A particularly complicated space I have managed to carve out for myself is that of reviewer in the field in which I try to have a career (word used because there isn’t a proper one to describe the all over dabbleness of what it is I actually do). It is between a huge rock of irony and a hard place of communal despair (universal and timeless when it comes to theatre that isn’t in New York City and On Broadway) that I put myself. Because I write about other people’s theatre work to get people into the theatre. And I am honest (even though it comes at a terrible price) because I want people to be able to trust me, and get to know me by my likes and dislikes.

But it is a dance, and I suck at the choreography of innuendo, and politic, and getting comps, and being part of the system, and being outside of the system, and having to rely on the same when I put on my own work, and then seeing something that is brilliant that isn’t getting audiences, and then feeling like I can’t get my own work into the spaces because I am more valuable as an external voice, and then seeing something terrible and having my heart fill my mouth and make me wordless, and then straying from the pack and doing something different that nobody sees, and appreciating the effort and hating the result of something, or seeing through the hype, or believing my own hype, and around the mulberry bush I go, mostly at 430am in the morning.

So, I am going to say it here, and test it out on myself. It’s good to be writing from meganshead again.

Pumpkin Finds Her Queen

Off we pootled yesterday evening into the traffic of town to Youngblood in Bree St for the launch of one of my favourite actors in CT, Bianca Flanders’, children’s book, Pumpkin Finds Her Queen. And what a lovely, magical, affirming and divine thing it was.

Pumpkin Finds Her Queen is all about learning to love your unique, and especially curly haired self. And there was so much beautiful, curly, whirly, swirly, bouncy, frizzy, crazy, big and bushy hair in one room last night.

It was a beautiful party, to introduce this little piece of deliciousness into the world. A little, gentle rhyming story, with crazy and fantastic illustrations by Zinelda McDonald and every little person will love and cherish the gorgeous Pumpkin and her curly crown.

PS. Dean Balie’s music accompaniment to the live reading was an extra bonus treat.

Here’s me looking like a psycho stalker fan and the fabulous author.

 

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