Thursday, September 10, 2009
The whole play has a new gloss - slicker transitions and lots more polish. You'll remember that our initial impulse was to look at the city through three different lenses - portrait, still life and landscape. So obviously, the portraits are the easy part. We've collected some beautiful stories, all based on the 'come to Egoli to seek your fortune' theme. I'm loving the way all these stories fuse, and mirror the heroine's central story.
The landscape part is a little trickier - there's so much we wanted to do - from the glitzy shopping malls to the yellow cake mine dumps. But we couldn't take too much time away from the momentum of the story, so we just focused in on downtown - an incantatory meditation on streetnames and getting to know the maze.
The still life aspect was largely missing from our Grahamstown run, but now we're working in some beautiful moments. Some objects are so typical of the Joburg experience - keys and locks and alarms and gate remotes come to mind. Hawkers on street corners selling car chargers and sunglasses. But it depends where you move on the grid of the city. For some its the oily vetkoek for sale at taxi-ranks. The handwritten signs held by beggars on street corners - some plaintive: "no job no money no food pliz help", and sometimes more creative ones: "My dog is arrested for eating Robert Mugabe's shoes. need money for bail". Tiny hairdressing salons with bad wigs on polystyrene heads.
What's your archetypal Joburg still life?
Monday, September 7, 2009
Aah well, a lot has happened since the whirl of festival. This brand new little wobbly baby is getting stronger legs at last. This strange but compelling mixture of ghost story, love story, quest story is starting to settle.
I saw my first performance in front of an audience - a tiny audience of trainee arts and culture teachers. They laughed a bit, (in the right places, thankfully) and hung on tenterhooks (at least one tenterhook) and didn't notice me in the lighting booth, swearing, muttering, holding my breath, shaking my head and scribbling on my prompt copy of the script (new endings, new bridging moments...) I felt like I needed to pick up the whole play and just shake it vigorously until all the bits fell into their proper places. It was a bit like that. I wrote a whole new ending coz I felt cross that it seemed to end on such a downbeat note - a real winter play.
And then, we did a free performance for the lovely National Arts School kids, to thank the drama department for so kindly letting us use their theatre for rehearsing in. We spent a chaotic day polishing, working some transitions, developing one of the backstories, and - wow, something really ignited that night. I sat in the lighting booth spellbound - missed two cues because I was just enjoying the rollicking performances of three talented actors stretching their muscles and starting to play a bit, to explore the edges of their comfort fields.
What fun. Jessica is incandescent at the moment. Ndu's wistful Thandeka is kind of heartbreaking - its such a common, ordinary tale really, there are thousands of young girls lost and searching in this city, but she gives it a quiet integrity somehow. She's anywoman, but she could be your sister. Watch this actress. When she's smoking up screens and stages in five years time you can say, you saw her in Paydirt first.
And Nhlanhla let out that impish playful spirit of his that night. Lovely to see, when the actors really start trusting each other and feeling that its ok for them to try new stuff out, its not going to throw anyone, they're just jolling.
So, with a few more tweaks and tugs, we'll be ready for our run in the 969 Festival next week. We play alongside some very hot new plays and are so excited to do this on our own stomping ground. 15th - 19th September, every night at 20:30 - Wits Downstairs Theatre.
See you there?
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
It all seems to be holding together, though news from Jen is scarce. I know what its like - you're constantly having to fend off people in silly hats, people trying to sell you silly hats or trying to get you to go and watch their show, old mates trying to get you to drink at 9 in the morning, and streetkids with never-ending renditions of shosholoza. If its not that, its working that damn village green and trying to recruit audiences. Hard work, all in the bitter cold. Do I sound like I wish I was there? Course I do! Every year if I'm not in Grahamstown for the first ten days of July, it feels all wrong.
So here's the review we got on the festival website. Its good to get some outside validation for stuff what we were trying to do. For the record, Paydirt is rooted in a character's journey - a simple quest narrative - but what we going for was to let the 'story' of Joburg's origins coexist with her story, and see how these mirror each other. Like Indra's web, perhaps. Little bits of the parts reflected in each other. Or something. He's quite right though, the play will definitely evolve. There's lots we still want to do with it. It'll be interesting to see what Joburg dwellers make of it.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
All pics by Lisa Skinner
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Its been an incredibly taxing week, trying to push it all together. The performers we are working with are AMAZING!!! I am SOSOOOOOSO impressed by them. I am constantly giving them new bits of script, new lines, taking away lines I gave them only a day ago. (Oh sorry, did you learn those words, well, we're cutting them!). And I have never seen any of them with script in hand during a rehearsal or run through. They are SO professional, SO versatile and so so talented.
Congrats to them. And to Jen and I for casting them - aren't we clever for spotting such talent!!
No, no video yet. Monday, Monday....
Friday, June 19, 2009
Sometimes we wonder if there's a play in there at all. Sometimes I wonder why I do this to myself. Staring down into the abyss wondering if there's a play in there somewhere. Watching the calendar shrink.
The slow work of trying to make concrete the invisible. Ideas abound, but bodies in space and time catch up slowly. This process of page to stage and back to page again is confounding sometimes.
We had Guy in town two weeks ago. Our lighting designer and production, old mucker from Grahamstown. What were we thinking? When we first planned his visit, we felt sure that the early June was the perfect time. We'd have enough to show him by then, and we'd still have enough time to polish before the festival. Gulp.
We didn't factor in the Wits prac exams and how incredibly fragmenting and time consuming they'd be. So at best we had some cobbled together scenes to show him, from all the material we've been generating. A hilarious "friday night" movement sequence, and this still tentative little narrative... girl travels to Joburg to find what happened to her dead father... meets taxi owner / tour guide megalomaniac... hmmm, but its sketchy at best and needs serious editing.
When we had a run on Wednesday I went home with a rock in my heart. That sinking ooooh noooo feeling. Stayed up late and made some bold cuts, shuffled some scenes around and now its looking stronger.
Its turning into a collage of ghost stories - strange little portraits of Joburg people past and present who's spirits wander the streets and tunnels underneath the streets.
We'll be taking a video clip over the weekend, and if we're brave enough we'll post some here.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
We built this city on rock and gold
Joburg has opened her dirty streets to Nigerians, Rwandans, Zimbabweans, Congolese, Mozambicans, Malawians, Cote d'Ivoirians, Senegalese and Ethiopians. Lets not forget that both her sky-grabbing buildings and her earth-burrowing shafts were built by migrants from the north. Well, apparently this was forgotten when so-called foreigners were chased, burned, beaten and stolen from, a year ago. But lets not dwell on that weird contradiction right now.
Come join us on the playground
So in the spirit of the inclusiveness that made this city, we want to throw open the doors to Paydirt, and invite people to collaborate. Do you have ideas, snippets of writing, stories or real life experiences that you'd like to share or see included in a unique collaborative performance piece? If you are a digital artist, writer, photographer, an image maker, storyteller, animator or simply someone who lives in and loves Jozi, you are welcome to send us a proposal for a project that might link into Paydirt in some way. Think exhibitions, online collaborations or site specific performances.
But that's not all
The play that launches in Grahamstown on the 2nd of July is still under construction. Currently its a melting pot catchment for portraits, landscapes and meditations on the Jozi experience, with a chopped up linear narrative running through it.
Be part of the first blog playmaking collaboration ever (that I know of)
Like the city that has been built, erased, re-built and is still under construction, Paydirt will continue to be shaped and tweaked long after its Grahamstown run. Or so we hope.
So here are some starters – taken from some of our chapter headings. We welcome stories under 500 words and they must relate to Joburg – portrait, landscape or still-life.
Send them (or your proposal) to firstname.lastname@example.org
If we like yours we'll either:
Put it on the blog
Incorporate it into the play
Use it in one of our future reworked versions of the play
You will be credited. We cannot yet promise moolah, but if you invite more and more people to visit the blog we can persuade new sponsors to give us money and we can promise them some logo-space on the blog.
Go on, give it a go!