Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Moooooooo with me!

In the infamous “Industry” they are called cattle calls. That’s when an audition is held and hundreds of people arrive to audition. Literally. Hundreds.

Usually casting briefs are rather specific. Down to the type of clothes should be wearing. The audition I attended in Johannesburg this week was not. The result? I as number 505 for the day (excluding some the animals that had been there earlier).

I hadn’t planned on going to an audition that day, and was actually packing my car to head to my parent’s house for the weekend to catch up on some admin and family time. When the call came through I had to go. The thing is, there’s always the teeniest chance that you might actually get the job. No matter how many they are searching for, and even if you know you probably won’t get it, there’s always that small chance. And if you don’t go you will never know. So I yanked on my tightest pair of jeans, tossed my hair in some steam I created in the shower to get it to curl and slapped on a healthy dose of base and mascara. I left at quarter two one for a two thirty call, assuming I’d be early enough to go on quickly and go home before the worst of the Joburg rush-hour traffic. Oh contraire.

When I arrived just before 2 for the 2:30 call they schedule was already an hour and a half behind. Apparently 300 men had arrived earlier for a single role. Apparently the casting agency didn’t bargain upon this. A stylishly dressed black girls came up to: “I know this is really random, but are you the last white girl?” The roles for the white girls was scheduled to happen before the roles for the black girls, and she was in a time crunch so she was trying to figure out who to use as her marker before she got to go on. I was, unfortunately at number 505 not the last of the white girls. There turned out to be about 20 other girls after me. So we waited. And waited. And looked.

I find what people wear to auditions fascinating. You often get the typical girls in heels so high they can barely walk, or stand up straight. You get the slightly chubby girls who dress like they 6 sizes smaller than they are and the skinny girls who show too much…everything. At this particular audition there was a girl who had blue eye shadow on one eye and pink on the other. And I know neon is a trend at the moment, but the key is incorporating into your wardrobe so you don’t look like you got attacked by a pack of highlighters.

One of the girls auditioning wore a pair of blue wedges which were eerily reminiscent of the Spice Girls era. When we were waiting just before entering the audition she was asking the ages of the rest of us sitting in the room. Most of the women were about 23, or older, up to about 30. I gauged Wedges and her short tube dress to be about 26. It turned out she was 17. I saw one of the older ladies of the group look at me wide eyed, and then mouth silently “Really?”

By quarter past five I had my turn in the audition room: Name, age, agent, left profile, right profile, hands, smile: And Go!

Monday, 20 August 2012

Cookies and underpants for an adjudicator!

This past week I had the pleasure of judging a local eisteddfod for a small town close to where I grew up. Two mornings I left my parents’ house just after seven in the bitter cold looking as professional as I could muster despite the layered coats and the fact that my Great Dane ‘puppy’ is not opposed to running between my legs while I’m balancing in heels.

As an adjudicator at this eisteddfod my goal was to give a rounded critique of every performance so that each participant could grow from the experience, as well as fostering an appreciation for the stage and the arts. For each participant I endeavoured to find something positive to say, as well as an aspect that they could improve on despite their mark, whatever it might have been. I was also sure to give my brightest smile to each of the participants.

The first morning passed without great exception. The eisteddfod started with the younger participants and I started with a section of six year olds. There is something very sweet about watching these children, and seeing their thought processes as they try to remember what their teacher told them to do! The afternoon brought the high school participants, a number of which decided to perform poems they had authored themselves. I think that this is brave, although not necessarily recommendable. One of the high schoolers also delivered, what she thought was a monologue, that she had written herself. The entry form states clearly the difference between a monologue and dramatized pros. The fact that she had written it herself and left out the inverted commas in the direct speech did not make her piece a monologue either. As she was entered in the monologue category and not in the dramatized pros category I could unfortunately not give her a good mark, and she received a participatory mark. In my address to the participants I explained exactly this. One of the participants then enquired as to the differences between the two, which I explained. I also explained that exactly the same thing had happened to me when I had participated in an eisteddfod in primary school and that this interface was one in which they could learn and make their mistakes.

During my lunch break the mother of the self-authored ‘monologue’ came to see me:

“My daughter is very upset with the mark that she received from you”

I reiterated the fact that she had been in the incorrect category, as I had explained, and if she had been in a different section her marks would have been different. I had to stand my ground, but thankfully the organizer of the eisteddfod was next to me and she agreed with me vehemently.

Upon returning the following day I only saw poetry. I was however treated to various young lads who had come up with something different to break would could have been a monotonous afternoon. The first of these did a poem about Tarzan who had now aged but was still living in the jungle. The poem ended in Afrikaans rhyme, claiming that Tarzan had died and all that was to be found was his underwear. On this last line the 9 year old paired out a pair of leopard spotted underpants! I couldn’t help but laugh!

Another of the boys performed his poem in a pink tank top and ruffled white skirt. He walked up behind me to hand in a copy of his poem before he started, and I could clearly see that he was waiting for a reaction from me due to his dress. I smiled, thanked him for the poem and said he could go on stage unperturbed. He seemed slightly bewildered by the fact that I wasn’t, but after studying drama, and having guys who look better in a skirt and walks better in heels than you do sitting behind you in class precious little takes you by surprise.

One of the last poems I heard for the eisteddfod was done by a mischievous blond 11 year old boy with a gelled fringe and chocolate all over his face. I couldn’t help thinking of Dennis the Menace. When he was called to the stage he ran to the front of my table, handed me his poem and then with a wicked grin and a look around placed a packet of cookies in front of me and then in front of the organizer who was seated next to me. He ran on stage and threw two more packets into the audience. The first one dropped straight to the floor in the middle of a group of girls. I think it took them completely by surprise. The second packet was almost wrestled for while mid-air. He commenced with his poem, something to the tune of:

“I didn’t steal the cookies!”

Not only had this piece of theatre before he started completely grabbed the attention of the entire audience he had done the piece so well I could help but to give him a 90% (despite the blatant attempt to bribe me with cookies)!

I had been an adjudicator for an acrobatics eisteddfod before, and I had been one of a panel of adjudicators for acrobatic provincial championships more than once before. Even though drama is now my field of speciality, and I am busy with my Masters, I had never been an adjudicator for a drama eisteddfod before. It was therefore really grateful when the organizer thanked me afterwards, and told me that I had done a good job. One of the teachers also approached me after my final address to the participants.  She wanted to thank me for the balanced critique, and also for delivering it in such a way to build the children up and not break them down.
“One last thing” she added quickly “Thank you for smiling at them. I can imagine you didn’t always feel like it”

I will admit that my cheeks were quite sore that evening. But seeing children try to hard, sometimes without the help of a teacher just because they want to do it is quite humbling.    

Monday, 13 August 2012

Snaking a Screening

I got an email about a film screening that was to be held at my university’s drama department. It was scheduled for a Tuesday afternoon. I lecture on Tuesday afternoons. I think it is exactly because I lecture on Tuesday afternoons that almost every audition I have been to this year has been on a Tuesday. Even the day I worked for a television advert was on a Tuesday. With the craziness of Kr√™kvars the week before and shuffling my classes I replied to the email that I would love to attend, but my job is a more permanent fixture that I would like to keep.

A reply came from my study supervisor that there would be another film screening of the same film that evening at 7 and would I be able to attend it? Another email came through saying I could bring a plus one if I would like to. Luckily I have a permanent fixture for just such a situation. As my Plus One had lived in Taipei in Taiwan for 4 years and the email mentioned that the Taipei Liaison Office was to be involved in the screening I asked if he would like to accompany me. He seemed interested and I replied that I would like to take Plus One along with me. I was then asked for my full name and that of Plus One. Apparently “Plus One” would not suffice. Full names were sent through, and confirmed and I didn’t think about it again.

As I had lectured on Tuesday afternoon I was looking, what I assumed to be, decent enough for a filming screening with fellow drama students. However, when I arrived at said film screening I was greeted by women in dress suits and heels, foreign dignitaries (quite literally as the film is Taiwanese in origin) in suits and the Production manager of University of Pretoria Arts looking very glamorous and elegant in a long red coat and spangled chandelier earrings. I walked up to my study supervisor, dressed in a tie and a smart coat to keep the cold front at bay:
“You could really have told me there was a dress code”.
I was wearing a loud pair of silver and black snakeskin leggings with a pair of high boots and a white long sleeve T-shirt and not a slick of makeup. And by that I mean not even coverstick, or lip gloss. And to top the look off, my large lime green basket with coloured flowers and emblazoned with “Ile Maurice” on the side in dedication to its country of origin where I had bought it on holiday in December. Luckily, because of the cold I had a grabbed a furry coat, which would do the trick. I quickly buttoned it up to hide the T-shirt, but the silver snakeskin would not be hidden, nor would it stand down. Luckily Plus One was dressed more appropriately.

What transpired, despite my inappropriate wardrobe was indeed a lovely evening. As I had been there in the evening with the hoi polloi instead of in the afternoon with the rest of us students there was fantastic red wine and quality finger snacks before the film.

Now, I do need to say something about the film screened on Tuesday evening. The film we saw was Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale by director Wei Te-Sheng (when I had informed Plus One of the title of the film he asked me if the film dealt with homosexual warriors). The two and half hour version that I was privileged to see was indeed fantastic. Even more so when I learned that the film is now being showed at the various film festivals around the world (it is not to be seen on our general circuit) and had already won many accolades.   The film itself deals with the history of the little-known Japanese occupation of Taiwan between 1895 and 1945 and the revolts which this occupation (which the film depicts as quite brutal) inspired. In my opinion, it is a superbly made film, especially as we learned from the director afterwards that most of the cast were not professional actors.

After the screening we allowed a Q and A with the director via a translator. And as Plus One can speak Mandarin I asked him to ask the director if he wouldn’t mind if I had a photo taken of the two of us. He didn’t, and after the camera flashed my study supervisor followed suit. I have never been one to by shy of asking such things, even in my silver snakeskin leggings.

I phoned my mom a day later:  "Mom, you won't believe. The first time in my life I'm at an international film screening with the director and some of the cast present and I'm wearing silver snakeskin leggings" To contextualize, my mom hates the culture of couture, and the Red-Carpet Hollywood that cares more about who you’re wearing than actually looking the part…or for that matter looking good. Her reply: "I couldn't be more proud"

Myself and director Wei Te-Sheng

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Delving into the State Theatre!

I never wear high heels. I own them, I love them, but I don’t wear them. Even when I go to a wedding, or event which usually requires them, I’ll wear them for half an hour and get my flats out of my car as soon as possible! Even as bridesmaid I only wore them for the service and photographs, the moment we walked into a reception I tossed them aside. Now, I hadn't dressed up, well other than being in a costume of a director’s choice, in weeks. So when my friend, Miss Rozanne Mouton from Top of the Billing fame, invited myself and my boyfriend to go with her to the final performance of Horn of Sorrow at the State Theatre on last Sunday I jumped at the chance. The chance to not wear pants that can stretch in four directions, the chance to not wear a sports bra,  and to wear makeup. Although, I must admit, after doing makeup for stage more than for going out I tend to have the eyeliner of a teenage goth quite unintentionally.

So off to the theatre I went in my high (-ish) heels to sit down and catch a show! And an amazing show it was. Afterwards we were debating our course of action for the next hour, I was dressed up after all, when the director of Horn of Sorrow, Miles Petzer, who Rozanne became acquainted with when he directed her in a show for Krekvars this year, called to hear if we didn’t want to join the cast for a drink. Thinking that we would probably go and have a drink somewhere, we agreed and were led through the parking lot to the backstage entrance of the theatre. An elevator ride up four floors brought me to a familiar place. At the end of this very same corridor where I had attended the call backs for Freedom. A right turn later and I was again on the rooftop where I had lunched during the call-back of Freedom. This time the rooftop held a braai and some of the most wonderful hosts I have experienced!

After a phone call to a wife (who was on her way) and Rozanne, my boyfriend and myself had organized our contribution to the evening and we visited with the cast on the rooftop until well after the sun had set on the skyline visible over the outcrops of the state theatre.

We said our goodbyes, and the three of us were about to leave with the director of Horn of Sorrows, and a friend of his, when Mr director asked if we would like a tour of the theatre? We started, giggling down one of the corridors of the first floor. A security guard looked very confused as the five of us waltzed by, exceptionally nonchalantly and I thought we were going to be in trouble when I heard him call after us, but smiled when I heard “You’re going to get lost!”
“I work here, I’m just giving them a tour quickly”
And we were off!
Into muraled corridors, and dimly lit staircases. Our first stop was the loading dock of the theatre, complete with two exceptionally large trucks and heaps and heaps of mementos from forgotten shows lining the walls. A large set of red his and hers thrones adorned one of these walls. Into some other new area and three Chandeliers hanging from the roof and parts of some set on the floor. We hop-scotched through the assortment of flat and into a large spiral staircase. Rozanne was at the top of the staircase when I blinked my eyes and was eagerly asking me to join her in the dark room she had discovered up top there. Noticeably, almost all these doors we kept going through and been stencilled with “KEEP DOOR CLOSED”. A part of me couldn’t help wondering if there was a reason for this. So up the staircase I went, in heels, only to discover a room full of pipes, presumably for some air conditioning system. On  the way down Rozanne, my boyfriend and myself couldn’t help noticing the marked absence of Mr Director Miles Petzer and his friend. After a general look about we decided to head back in the direction we came. After 5 minutes of this I went 21st century and asked Rozanne to call him. And the horror film theory was born. Upon the reunion of the five of us in the loading back we started to contemplate who would be the first member of the group picked off by the killer, who the group collectively named Jimmy. Nino claimed that he would have to remain to give our party of five some racial diversity. I figured, as Rozanne and I are both blonde it might be either of us, but somehow it was decided that Rob, the friend of the Mr Director, would be the first victim of Jimmy in our horror movie. As he is the youngest, I think the rest of us just desire his youth and would offer him up first.
Up the spiral staircase again, but only one floor this time brought us to where some of the lights are rigged for one of the theatres. We were guessing that it was drama theatre that we were in, although none of us was exactly sure. Then we hit the dark corridor. Miles called it the scariest place in the entire theatre, Rob had to prove him wrong, and set off down the dark corridor solo.  I thought we should all hide in a nook which was just in front of this dark area. My nook revealed another elevator, Nino pushed the up arrow and the four of us piled giggling into the elevator. We rode up a floor and decided to go down to fetch Rob again. Who was not there when we arrived moments later in the elevator. We called, heard no reply and figured that Jimmy had indeed decided upon Rob as his first victim.

The scary manikin the guys thught was Jimmy!

As it turns out Rob figured we had gone down a floor when we had gone up a floor and a few moment s after we went back down he went back up again. He returned, so we all followed his rabbit trail. Past a placard for ‘kinky pictures open day’ and room marked the ‘sluice room’ (we are still trying to find out exactly what that’s supposed to mean after investigation of the said sluice room revealed no clues!) and we made our way into the foyer of one of the theatres!

After the mannequins in the foyer scared the living daylights of the boys who thought momentarily that it was Jimmy, we moved into the theatre itself. I didn’t miss a beat and was heading towards the stage, Miles in hot pursuit! He had never been on this stage either. I’m not sure of the conversation which followed but while we were standing on stage (taking photographs, of coarse) I heard: “Miles you have no imagination. That’s terrible for a director”
My imagination had taken flight, however, and in the style of a true dancer I abandoned my shoes and jacket to do walkovers along the apron of the stage to really make it worth my while! A few pirouettes later and I was satisfied enough to put my heels back on again and head home!

Viewing the audience from the stage