Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Tag: Sara Shaarawi

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.

Rude Awakening – Women’s Day

My father was that incredible being; a true example of how a man should bring up a daughter. Of course he had his faults, some of them big, and some of them strange, but the one thing he did with magnificence was bring me up as a person, and not as a girl.

He was only mildly interested in girly stuff, and tolerated those phases that I went through with kindness and bemusement. But mostly he was interested in developing my brain and thoughts, my talents and skills, and I didn’t feel like foremost a girl when I was with him. I felt seen and heard and understood, and I was criticised and encouraged and scolded and guided as a person.

The main result of the way my father treated me was that I expected all boys and men to treat me that way. I was shocked and angered when they didn’t and was lucky enough to be confident in my confrontation of them and their inappropriate behaviour. I was also lucky enough that nothing really bad happened to me when I was growing up.

When I was about 15 a friend’s father tried to kiss me before I entered his house. I remember laughing in his face. As a school girl, when I was catcalled at I remember swearing like a trooper (my father swore creatively and colourfully in a few languages) and it working beautifully to embarrass the catcaller. When I felt the unwanted physical attention of boys it seemed like the most natural thing to tell them to stop and to expect them to.

My father was also my confidant. I told him about my first sexual encounter and his response was perfect; concerned, practical (protection was a big deal) and terribly adult. I can only now imagine the restraint he had to have to pull off that conversation.

My father never ever made me feel the disadvantages of being a woman. And, in a weird way, maybe he should have. Because it has come upon me over the years with such force, and such distaste and even disbelief, that his way is not the way of the world. And this makes me deeply, achingly sad. Because it damn well should be.

(This musing is written for Sara Shaarawi, playwright of Niqabi Ninja, actresses Bianca Flanders and Loren Loubser, and the 4 silent Khwezi protesters)

Niqabi Ninja – we need your help

NN font sample 2This post is a letter/press release/call for help.

Dear theatre lovers, fighters for causes, feminists, allies, survivors, and community members,

I am currently involved with a beautiful and important work, Niqabi Ninja, that I want to bring to your attention.

Niqabi Ninja is an avenging Superhero, born on the streets of Cairo, who is ready to seek out and avenge every single act of harassment she has experienced at the hands of men. She has a list, a record of injuries and a variety of punishments to mete out. Watch out men of Cairo. Niqabi Ninja has a score to settle, and she is coming after you.

Set in Cairo during the chaotic time of the Egyptian uprising, Niqabi Ninja is an extraordinarily beautiful play giving two actresses a chance to explore the range and complexity of harassment against women, and one woman’s ability to develop a response.

Niqabi Ninja is written by emerging young Egyptian playwright Sara Shaarawi, and directed by me, Megan Furniss, and performed by Cape Town’s rising talents Bianca Flanders and Loren Loubser. We have put this show together on zero budget and 100% commitment and passion.

The play premiers at The Alexander Bar on 18, 19, 20 July, for a showcase of three performances, and we have just heard news that we have an additional 3 dates on the 1, 2, 3 August.

I am convinced that this work, these outstanding performances, the subject matter and how it is presented, will speak to a wide audience in South Africa, but more particularly to a young, student audience. I am looking for advice, production skills, a producer and project management to get Niqabi Ninja to its biggest audience. I am open to all suggestions, possibilities and options. Please let me know if you are able to attend one of our premier performances. Let me know if you have ideas, contacts, suggestions, skills to share. The truth is, this is gorgeous work and I am terrible at anything besides the creative stuff. And share, share, share this post.


Why I am happy (even though the world is totally upside down)

IMG_5891On Monday of this last week we started rehearsing Niqabi Ninja. It is a brand new work, written by Egyptian playwright Sara Shaarawi. I met her last year at the WPIC and I worked on an excerpt. I immediately put it on my to do list, and I revisited it after the Reference List protests at the University currently known as Rhodes. Niqabi Ninja is an extraordinary two-hander that investigates sexual harassment in a totally engaging, honest, contemporary, timeless way. Although it is set in Cairo, it could so easily be Cape Town, or Joburg, or Rio, or anywhere where there are women, and men who harass them.

In a gift from the theatre gods, two of Cape Town’s finest young actors signed up to perform this show. I have completely fallen in love with Bianca Flanders and Loren Loubser, who remind me what an amazing training UCT drama school is. These women are exciting, committed, passionate, rigorous, imaginative, generous, questioning, brave and so powerful. I cannot wait for them to be seen.

We have three showcase performances on the 17, 18, 19 July at the Alexander Bar. Come and see the work that makes me so happy.

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