Saturday, 28 April 2012


I got dropped during Monday night’s rehearsal. It was the first time we tried the lift, and I hit the ground quite hard. After some laughter and apologies and inspections of the areas which I knew would be blue in a few hours we carried on. These things happen in physical theatre. Nobody drops you on purpose.

That was until Thursday. The same cast member who dropped my physically then dropped the group by pulling out of the show.

I arrived bright and early on Friday morning for our rehearsal. I was slightly surprised to see a number of the younger students floating around the rehearsal space. When I walked in I wasn’t greeted with the familiar. “Have you heard the news?” one my cast members asked me. “X pulled out of the show” (I shall call him student X). My first calculated reaction was: “WHAT?!” Apparently it was the same reaction as our director. The next emotional reaction was “Why?”

The reasons for dropping out of a cast, unless you are dead, or strapped to a bed somewhere, usually do not matter much for those who are left behind in the cast. Three rehearsals down we had already done a lot of work, and to teach it to someone new, to get someone new up to speed with our warm-ups and work felt like a somewhat mammoth task.

The cogs in my head turned. That explained the presence of the other students, who I then realised were all boys. We were auditioning then and there, and putting the new straight into the rehearsal, whoever he may be. And we did. Today was rehearsal two with the new soul, and he is fitting in rather nicely as it seems. As difficult as it is to have someone drop you for a show I suppose it’s better that it happens sooner, rather than later. Instead of viewing the recapping and teaching of the work to our newest member I decided to take the opportunity to do something of the fine tuning of the choreography. Adding and fixing as we taught.

Sometimes these things happen. People drop you. And in our case it’s not just a paper that is handed in late, or merely getting a replacement with the same skills. In theatre you are an ensemble. You have to work as a team, and you have to knew that when you come out of that lift that your fellow actor will be there to catch you. And that isn’t easy. Especially after you fell the first time.

Sometimes better consequences come out of disasters, panic and in this case, replacements.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Feeling it.

We artists are emotional creatures. We dig and scratch and pick at old scabs and scars to find some truth. To put in words, or movement or expression how we really feel. How we felt at that specific moment, that one time. Hopefully how you feel. And sometimes those close to us fall victim to our process.

When I was younger every time I was upset my mom would tell me to write down how I felt, or whatever it was that upset so that I could use it. So that I would remember it. She would tell me that artists feel so much more than other people, and that’s why we can translate what we felt on the inside to something on the outside. Use it. So now I have a book of time capsules, or and album of snapshots of emotions that I felt. Sometimes I can’t help but be amused at my younger self and the things that upset her. Sometimes I can’t believe I ever stood up and carried on to reach this point.

Sometimes I remember the exact circumstances of an event. Sometimes I only wrote down how I felt and the event didn't really matter so much. When I read some of the entries in my books and diaries I only wrote down the event, but I still remember how I felt, although the memory of what I am reading has blurred somewhat and feels more like I movie I watched a long time ago than my own life.

I spent four years studying how to pull at my emotions, how to lay them flat and interrogate and examine everything I’ve felt. We did some of the good, but we all know that the true grit lies in the things that hurt. Sometimes you get pulled out of it and back into the real world. Sometimes the period ends and you walk of the class, your head filled with something raw that you spent years piling good things on top of it so you didn’t’ have to see it again.

But this is the nature of the arts, and is only once you’re in it that you realise what you truly do. And then there’s no more turning back.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Making it though a Marathon Call back Session!

On Thursday I had call backs for a new musical at the State Theatre call Freedom. A friend dropped me off at the theatre at 8 in the morning, and I left at 5. It’s a long day to be constantly watched and considered.  When I arrived I was roughly half an hour early. I wondered around at the empty reception desk until I heard another girl of approximately my age say ‘call back’. I introduced myself immediately, thankful for an ally, and especially one who knew her way around the theatre and who spoke about the director and producer on first name basis. As sweet as this lady was, it was kind of awkward when in the first ten minutes of knowing each other I was hit with the following: “You know, it’s like what it feels like when you have a pregnancy scare”.  No. I don’t really.

View of Pretorius Street from the Terrace

After checking through security we were then taken up to the Rehearsal Room in the State theatre. Dancing mats, a room without windows that are note-worthy and that could open, a sound system and a keyboard awaited us in the Rehearsal Room. After about 5 hours of dancing in that room with closed doors you start wishing that the windows were able to open. The man in charge of us actors was extremely strict in the sense that he needed to know where we were at all times. “You will get lost”.

Now to contextualize, we were roughly 28 hopefuls and I was the only white person there. This meant that half the time I had no idea what the people were saying, but I could gather most of what I needed from context and gestures. Every now and then when I was completely lost I asked, and everyone would be very apologetic about the language barrier. I suppose they technically have to speak English as the show is going to be English (as far as I know).

About half way through the audition I had been selected as one of the singers in the group as well as one of the dancers. I was the only person who was selected for both, so when they wanted to work the two groups at the same time. What ensued was a bout between the choreographer and the music director as to where I was to be placed, and I literally ran from one side of the hall to the other 4 times as they said the other could have me. Eventually I was sent to the dancers as they had only chosen to other girls. I couldn’t help but laugh as ran over to the dancing side again. "That’s right. Mess with the white girl huh”.

On our lunch break we sat on one of the building’s terraces over looking Pretoria Central from four stories up. It was a quite a sight for this small town girl.

All that remains is to wait for the phone call… 

View of Pretoria Central from the windows just outside the Rehearsal Rooms

Where we lunched

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Reflections of a set day

The first thing you need to know about being an actor working on a film set is that the mornings are early. My first day I had to be in Johannesburg, on set, at 05:30. This was already half an hour later then the extras who had to be on set at 05:00. I’m one of those people who would prefer to be awake until the early hours of the morning rather than waking up then. But none the less I was fresh clean, showered and shaved for the first day, and arrived about 15 minutes early. Once on set a security guard walking me from the parking garage where my car was to remain for the entire day to where we would be shooting. I’m not sure if the presence of the guard made me feel safer or more afraid, considering that his presence seemed to be required.

One of the perks of being awake so early, if you find that you cannot otherwise do so, is seeing the sunrise. And I watched the sunrise that morning perched as we were on a bit of hill over the Johannesburg skyline. And it was a sight to behold.

This brought me to the coffee pot. I am not a coffee drinker myself. At all, but having a warm cup of predawn tea did seem to help. Then it was off to wardrobe. You know that you’re working professionally when a gay European called Mariano is hitching up and choosing your skirts. As the advert was set in an Eastern bloc village in the eighteen hundreds us ladies were in full skirts, full petticoats and full sleeves. Which is all very well in Eastern bloc Europe, but we were shooting in South Africa, in 30 degree heat in the sun in the middle of the day. Adding to this was the fact that a number of fires were lit all around the set to create a smoky effect for the outdoor scenes.

Just before we started filming one of the scenes the director asked one of the technicians for 10% less smoke. Literally. One of the younger technicians ran passed, me swearing under his breath. All I could make out was 10%. Adding to the smoke and heat in our full period costumes were the animals. To protect us actors from the heat, in between the takes while we were waiting for odds and ends to be set up some of the technical assistants would stand between us with umbrellas. I think this was less to do with looking after our skins and more to do with continuity. This courtesy was also extended to the donkey. In between sets an umbrella was held over the donkey’s head so that it too could be shielded from the sun.

And let’s not forget the goat. There’s always a goat somehow. The goat was tethered to a large wagon wheel, and the director wanted the goat to stand at a specific angle when the camera passes. Time after time the goat would stand still and move as soon as the camera was close by. With the exception of the goat climbing onto the highest point of the wheel and bleating at full volume until someone coaxed it down with some bread. Of which there was an abundance as the advert we were filming was about two bakeries.

What followed was a strange day. I suppose mostly because I wasn’t sure what to expect. As featured ‘talent’ we got to, or should I say had to, eat before the extras so that we could have our make and costume touched up again before we started shooting before lunch. And as a stage lets not mention the lack of preparation. You get to told what to do and go with it. The other side of the coin to this is the fact that I felt the only think I did for myself that day was feed myself. I was dressed, to the point that my shoes were laced for me. My hair was done for me, and so was my makeup.  I literally didn’t do anything for myself. What I had to carry was handed to me, and I was told exactly where to walk and how and when to do it. At one point I had to enter the shot from a passage carrying a basket of bread. As I was standing in the passage waiting for my moment the assistant director walked passed me. I had small splinter which I couldn’t remove myself as I was holding my basket of bread and was too afraid to put it down in case someone might pick it up for me again. As the assistant director walked passed me asked him to quickly pull the splinter out of my hand. He looked at me with genuine concern: “It’s ok. We’ve got a medic. I”ll get him”. I pulled the splinter out with my teeth before we did the take.

Being on set for an advert consists basically of pitching up on time, doing exactly what you’re told, and not fiddling too much with your make up or costume. After a 14 hour day of shooting I climbed into my car for the hour journey back home.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Making it back to movement

Today hailed the return to physical theatre rehearsals for myself and the six other cast members for CHASING (choreographed by the fantastic Nicola Haskins of the Matchbox Theatre Collective). I have been trying to stay fit jogging, and working roughly once a week but today was a shock to the system (my legs were already stiffening halfway through the rehearsal)!

Part of this process is putting together my rehearsal bag. This usually consists of a pair of legwarmers (winter is coming), a very large water bottle, something that I can eat, and which won’t perish and is usually my mother’s sugar free rusks. And let’s not forget that bottle of deodorant for when you need to be somewhere right after a five hour physical theatre rehearsal, like by yourself in your car. The other two “must haves” in my bag is a roll of medical elastic tape, and a pair of scissors. Most time I’m just cutting dead skin off my feet and less often cutting tape to put on them.

Now, when creating new movement material the process usually consists of each member of the cast creating material, according to your own body and around a specific concept.

Seeing what your fellow cast members can come up with and do is fantastic, until the realization sinks in that you will have to do exactly that shortly! For me this usually occurs when we see one of the boys doing some phenomenal leap soaring through the air, and I am well of aware of the hold that gravity tends to have on me!

Tomorrow night we will probably be comparing bruises. And yes, they have formed already!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Switching positions

Since February I have been the one nervous and hoping looking at directors and casting agents for the next role, so yesterday was a strange change of pace when I sat in the director’s chair again, and had nervous hopeful actors looking at me. A friend and I are directing a musical for a student festival in Pretoria, and after planning, and starting with the music for a month we had our auditions yesterday.

The reactions are interesting when people are nervous, even though the students auditioning either knew myself and my co-director, or had even been directed by us previously. When I arrived at the audition venue I was immediately encircled by hopefuls, asking me the specifics, or any last minute advice before going in. I explained that Jesto, Gerrit and myself would be their panel. Naturally the girl standing in front of Gerrit loudly asking me “Who’s Gerrit” while someone promptly, and loudly, answered “The guy standing behind you”. And we were off to an interesting start.

As we are going to be devising the script for this show (Suikerbos) we decided to ask the students to do an improv as part of their audition. We asked a female and male student to do an improve where a guy tricks to pick a girl up in a bar. As a joke Jesto (my co-director) told them that if it led up to a kiss they should go with it. Before starting the improve the male student joking said to the female student while she was quickly putting on lipice “That’s right. Wipe that mouth clean” and it only escalated from there. Instead of using dialogue the male student grabbed the student behind the neck a few seconds into the improv and tried to pull her into a kiss, her first, I suppose survival reaction, was to slap him. No bars held. When he tried it again we immediately stopped the improv.

As the show is going to be in Afrikaans, we asked one of the English students to do his improv in Afrikaans with his fellow female student. This one was supposed to be about meeting up with you ex-girlfriend at a party. In the improv the female student asked him why he was with his new girlfriend. His response? “She has big boobs and you are platteland” (Literally translating into ‘flat lands’, but is the Afrikaans word meaning the country). We hastily ended their improv through our laughter.

Gerrit, our musical co-conspirator and music Masters student, had his first taste of drama, and the drama students. I somehow don’t think he’ll ever quite look at me the same.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Making a Debut

I had either missed the advert I am in on TV, or it showed on a channel I do not have in my flat. So when I went to my parents' house that had managed to record half of the advert, and as luck would have it the half with my face in, it was the most of the advert I had seen. And again, as luck would also have it, the advert was placed on youtube the same day.The internet coverage where my parents live is shocking, hence, while I was with my parents I could not watch the advert on youtube either, and had to wait until I was back in my flat again today.

For the curious, I am posting the 60second version here, and the 45second version is on television and on youtube.

Look out for the blonde in the white headscarve close to the end.