Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: Niqabi Ninja (Page 1 of 3)

AWPN, Niqabi Ninja, New Stories

AWPN. African Women Playwrights Network. I don’t even know where to start with this post, and I know I am going to leave out vital parts of what ended up being an extraordinary weekend of African women theatre makers making a very special kind of noise.

About two years ago I signed up to a very basic website/group called AWPN, added a terribly simple bio, visited the site a couple of times, and then forgot about it completely. A lot happened in between, and then Amy Jephta, co-creator of the network, contacted me to find out if we would consider performing Niqabi Ninja at this small symposium that AWPN was hosting. There was an extra edge to it because the playwright of Niqabi Ninja, Sara Shaarawi, was one of the playwrights selected for publication in an anthology of African women’ s plays, and she would be coming to the symposium, from Scotland. This would also be the first time that Sara would see our production of the play (or any production of it). Of course we agreed.

The AWPN took place this weekend, at my other theatre home, the Theatre Arts Admin Collective (without which I would not survive). And it was the most extraordinary weekend. We discussed, we debated, we raged, we committed, we connected, we told stories, we met each other and fell in love, we passed on information and gossip, we networked and shared each others’ stories, and we witnessed Niqabi Ninja all together (a complete brain and heart explosion for me and the ninjas Loren Loubser and Bianca Flanders). We met and joined hands, hearts and voices from Cameroon, Egypt, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, KZN, Gauteng, Free State, Robertson and Cape Town.

I was lucky enough to attend every session and I am richer, wiser and more passionate than ever about my craft as playwright, my job as director, my love as performer, my heart as storyteller. I am also reinvented as a woman at all of these things (although I should have known I was, from the beginning, right?).

Amy and Yvette Hutchinson organised a tiny miracle that took place in Observatory this weekend and I am still glowing.

(I also love this pic I took on my phone of Ayanda watching a performance by Mothertongue Project)

Niqabi Ninja in a New Age

Yesterday we got together for our first pick-up rehearsal for Niqabi Ninja; we are performing at a little symposium next weekend and we haven’t looked at it for a while. We did a read-through, and then we stumbled through a run, reminding our bodies, minds and hearts. It was a very fresh and intense experience and the words and meaning of this play were sharp.

What added to my deeply felt experience was the fact that this was a new era, a new time, with sexist misogynist, the orange man, president of the United States. The sexual harassment of women the world over takes on new meaning, and must be fought on a grander scale now. Our job as commentators, educators, art makers and theatre warriors is harder, and must be louder and more frequent.

Niqabi Ninja becomes our cultural weapon, and we will use it. Sara Shaarawi, Loren Loubser, Bianca Flanders, Caroline Calburn, we are an army.

Actor people

Today is another two show day for me, performing in The Finkelsteins are Coming to Dinner at 14:00 and then at 20:30 it is the penultimate show of Niqabi Ninja at the Cape Town Fringe.

And today I want to honour the actors I am working with. I know I have said how amazing they are as performers; I watched Loren Loubser and Bianca Flanders in Niqabi Ninja for the 20th time yesterday and they reduced me to tears again, and Andrew Laubscher and David Viviers are also such incredible performers that I learn from them every day. But I am also struck by what beautiful people these are.

As actors we are supposed to come from a certain spirit, a certain place. In reality this is often not the case, which is why I love the mostly ego free souls of improvisers and find the self preoccupied actor soul a little more difficult. But these guys are beautiful, and I love them.

Bianca Flanders is a beautiful, sensitive, hilarious, generous, kind and quirky girl. We laugh and laugh because we are both Aries and have so much in common. Loren thinks this stuff is idiotic (she is a Cancer, so of course she does!). Loren is pure heart, and action, and word, and voice and humour and love and humanity and outrage, and passion. Both of them have giant talent, but that is not what this post is about. I love them.

Andrew Laubscher and David Viviers have held my hand on stage in The Finkelsteins, and I could not have been better supported. But, they are both such delicious people. They are the nicest people anyone can possibly hope to spend time with before, during and after stage time. Andrew and David, you are both such mensches.

Come and watch us all. This loveliness of being does translate onto stage. Come and see.

A scene from Niqabi Ninja

Niqabi Ninja at CT Fringe

(and why it is still so important to see it.)

We 3 met today to do a bit of a pick-up rehearsal. To be honest, I thought we would meet, get going and then say our farewells. Instead, because we haven’t seen each other for a few weeks, we ended up catching up, and what happened is we started sharing stories again. New hideous stories of rape as gang initiation, rape and sexual coercion during political disruptions on campus, feelings of fear and frustration at being silenced during sexual harassment.

We all agreed that we felt a certain power in being able to express ourselves theatrically, while giving this cause an energetic and accessible voice, through Niqabi Ninja. In fact, we are itching to put it in front of an audience again, and are really hoping the audience will be a wide one, of CT Fringe newcomers. We want many women to identify and more men to become aware; to understand, to feel.

If you saw and were moved by Niqabi Ninja please tell your friends and acquaintances, your colleagues and students to come and see it. If you missed it, now is your chance. Book here on the CT Fringe website for one of our 6 performances.




CT Fringe Revisited

Yesterday the full programme of the 3rd CT Fringe was announced to media and theatre lovers at my favourite theatre and second home The Alexander Bar. I wasn’t there, but I was invested. I am involved in two shows on this year’s fringe. I am performing in the premier of a brand new play, The Finkelsteins are Coming to Dinner, and Niqabi Ninja, Sara Shaarawi’s play that I have directed, will also have five performances at this year’s fringe.

For those of you who know me, my participation may be quite a surprise, and even a radical turn around. Believe me, I am still trying to get my head around it too. So much about what I find problematic about the CT Fringe still holds true. Actually, all still holds true. Once again, the festival model puts all financial risk on the artist, with very little possibility of proper financial return. The financial outlay is big if a production is not sponsored, like Niqabi Ninja, where I have to shoulder the financial burden of registration, venue hire, publicity and actual production costs. Then I have to do big maths to hope that we have audience numbers that will not only cover costs but still be able to give the performers a decent cut. To be fair, this model only works in an artist’s favour if there is producer money, or proper sponsorship. But I am not sure how many productions go into the festival with donor money.

The other big thing about the CT Fringe is, who is it for? Who is its target audience? Is it another exclusive, elite Cape Town experience that further alienates those creating work in challenging conditions without helping them get the work out to the audiences it deserves? Why does the Fringe not serve the greater community of Cape Town? And the answer here is, it can’t. And that still remains terribly problematic for me.

So why am I doing it? Well, with The Finkelsteins are Coming to Dinner, the decision of being part of the festival was taken out of my hands, and as a performer I was happy to go with the consensus of the company. It was how it was, and I, like most not very famous actors, was delighted at the opportunity to be on stage regardless. I still am. So excited.

With Niqabi Ninja I have a deep commitment to getting the message of the piece out to a wider audience, and the CT Fringe seemed like a good place to start. I am so proud of the work, the actors, and the impact it has already had on the small audiences we attracted at the Alexander Bar, but I know that it needs to speak to a much bigger, broader audience, and this is just the start. We have made the work to be absolutely portable and festival friendly. And this will be our first festival outing, to test its waters, and gauge its response.

But, the main reason I signed Niqabi Ninja up was because of the gentle persuasion, encouragement, support and genuine engagement I had from the festival’s new guest Artistic Director Rob Murray. (Some of you will remember my experiences with the past one in not such genial circumstances.) I trust Rob (enough to shake a stick at him and know he will not bite). I believe in him. I believe he has, in as much as his position allows, a genuine understanding of the challenges faced by those who are creating theatre and trying to get it out to an audience.

So, for those of you who missed our tiny run at Alexander Bar, please come and support Niqabi Ninja at the CT Fringe. We have made the tickets as cheap as we can, to improve accessibility and affordability. We are in the City Hall 3. Here are our dates. 22/09 20:30, 23/09 18:30, 24/09 22:30, 25/09 20:30, 26/09 18:30

And then, come and laugh with (and at) me on stage at City Hall 2 in The Finkelsteins are Coming To Dinner. There are 11 shows spread over the whole of the festival. This one is going to be a winner.

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