Monday, 22 July 2013

Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to this National Arts Festisal Production.

Photo with thanks to Amitie Lee and Cue Pix
Performing in Grahamstown is always the highpoint of my year. Being at the National Arts Festival, watching shows and being inspired by the works of both accomplished and emerging artists. Being surrounded by thousands of posters, and constantly being handed flyers, and bumping into people you saw give a breathtaking performance just last night is all part of the festival experience for me. And nowhere else in South Africa will you ever see so many people with dreadlocks in the same location.

But being little known, and performing on The Fringe you are not always guaranteed and audience. On more than one occasion I have performed to an audience smaller than the cast of eight on the stage, and at one of these performances a reviewer was in the audience gave us an award. So when you don’t have a well known name, or twitter following rivalling that of Gaga you need to market you show. A lot. Or else you might be performing to the technical crew. So every year, we go with our posters, and flyers, and this year our matchboxes with the show times stuck on them. And we hand out complementary tickets, and we chat people up and inform them about our shows, and what we do. And sometimes despite the flyers and press stick and making sure your posters don’t wash off the walls in the rain you know will happen at some time during festival you still don’t get a sizable audience. This year, however, the past two years of marketing started paying off…

The Ladies of Chasing before our first performance in
Centenary Hall in Grahamstown in our make-shift dressing room.

When we had performed in Pretoria in one of our “Preview Performances”, before we left for Grahamstown, we were not informed as to when exactly the show would be starting. Due to some technical difficulties with ticket sales we knew we would be starting slightly late, but that was as much as we knew. The cast was standing in the wing, knowing that, at some time in the near future someone would announce something and we would start. And as we stood there I noticed a backstage light that would potentially disturb the show was on, and as I reached the furthest point to turn off the light the music which started our show started playing. I tripped on the stairs running to make my que, while one of my fellow cast mates whisper-screamed for me in panic. I made it. Barely. But was rather paranoid about not being on stage in time for every other performance thereafter in Grahamstown. And it nearly happened again in Grahamstown. Being myself, and constantly getting myself into awkward situations I had cut, or more accurately sliced my finger quite badly. And after contemplating my next action, for too long apparently, I decided to run backstage and put a plaster on my finger. As I ran up the stairs the pre-show announcement started, and I ran back down again.

Before our first performance of Chasing we stood in the artificially warmed girls dressing room. Due to the fact that most of the performance venues in Grahamstown are make-shift and have various other functions for the other 355 days of the year, there is no system for the technical crew to let us know backstage when we are about to perform. So again, we stood and waited for the voice over, every show in Grahamstown plays before the show starts. Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to this National Arts Festisal Production... 

As we stood backstage in Grahamstown, literally in the dark, and in the dark as to exactly when need to be ready to perform one of the cast members commented that even if nobody came to watch our show we should do a run of the show just to make sure that all the technical aspects were correct. And then we walked onto stage in the blackout to start the show, and the venue was almost full. Centenary Hall, with a capacity of almost 300 people, was almost full. And as we took our bow at the end of the show, the entire audience rose to their feet.

In my career so far it was probably one of the most humbling moments. And all the infected floor burns, blistered feet, hours of rehearsing, hours of travelling and technical rehearsals were all worth it. For that moment, before I walked off stage. And it’s for those small moments that we do what we do.

And this week I get to do it again. If you are in Pretoria, or close by, drop in by the Krekvars Student Arts Festival on the University of Pretoria main campus. Come and support the experimental and the young and upcoming. And catch As Night Falls, tonight and Wednesday at 21:45 at the Masker Theatre and see what the rave was about in Grahamstown.

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