On a Serious Note, Theatre

Dream on Life Support

Fuck. All of this.

Oh. It’s one of my least favourite times of the year. The seasons are about to change. I’m bipolar and this kind of thing always messes with my brain. That, and the fact that I’m going nowhere in life. It’s a stagnant well.

All I’ve ever wanted (Please God, is it too much to ask?) was to be an actor.

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Because This Makes Me ANGRY, Gay Stuff, Theatre

Theatre Etiquette and Why I’m Going to Kill Someone

If you’ve read my blog before (which I’m sure you haven’t), you know that I love theatre. It is my all-consuming passion in life and the reason why I am probably going to die alone and broke. Anyway…

Whenever I’m not performing, I like to go and watch shows. You can read as many text books as you want and go to college for the rest of your life, but I really believe that the best way to learn about writing and performing is to watch how other people do it. Anyway, that’s the excuse I use when my sensible self tells me that I can’t really afford the tickets.

Because most of these large scale theatre productions often cost a shit load of money, I often end up going to watch student productions. It’s kind of like buying things from Mr. Price instead of Edgars. You get the same thing, just for much less money.

I was recently fortunate enough to watch a brilliant student production, “Bent”, presented by the University of Pretoria. I enjoyed the show very much, except for one thing: the audience sucked.

I heard about the play via Facebook when one of the people on my friends list shared the event. Naturally, I wasn’t invited. So I decided to just invite myself. There were just so many reasons to go and watch. I mean, who doesn’t want to watch Martin Sherman’s breakthrough Broadway play about how the Nazi’s tortured the gays? Besides that, the age restriction indicated that there would be sex and nudity. Gay sex, violence, naked men, tragedy, and a DRAG QUEEN? You can’t beat that. I contacted one of my friends and convinced her that we simply had to go.

When I walked into the Lier Theatre I was booming with excitement. The Lier is where I performed as a student for the first time, so it holds a special place in my heart. The seats were already filling up fast (the show was sold out), so we ended up going to the back row. As we sat down I immediately knew I was going to get mad. The people who were sitting next to us were talking loudly, as if they were in a bloody restaurant. After the cell phone announcement was made I thought that they would calm down, but I was so wrong. The play opens with a rather provocative sex scene which takes place with the drag queen singing in the background. And that queen has the voice of an angel. While she was crooning on top of a ladder and the two boys were going at it, I was mesmerized (for various reasons). However, I was also constantly distracted by the fools sitting next to me. They kept talking and making comments. I tried to give them my “you are irritating me” look, but they didn’t even look in my direction. The worst part was the girl sitting next to me. She was on her cell phone the Whole. Fucking. Time. She hardly even paid attention to what was going on in the play. There were a few times when I considered trying to move or asking her to shove the phone up her ass, but I didn’t to cause an even bigger commotion, so I just kept quiet.

Despite all the ruckus, the actors still gave masterful performances and when the first act ended I was really keen to see what was going to happen next. The second act took place in a separate room that was (very impressively) made up to look like a concentration camp. The play continued and it was every bit as brilliant as the first act (Except for the fact that the drag queen doesn’t appear in the second act. That part made me a bit sad). Most of the audience had been drawn in by the story at this point, except for little miss socialite, who was STILL busy with her cell phone. She tried to hide it, but you can’t exactly miss a bright cell phone light in a dark room.

The play reached a climatic point in which one of the guards fires a shot. Now, the people who were actually watching could see that the shot was about to be fired, so we anticipated the sound, but because this girl was looking at her phone and not at the performers, she nearly shat herself and screamed at the top of her lungs. Immediately the tension of the show was broken, because everyone was looking at her instead of what was going on. A few people even started laughing. To be honest, I also wanted to laugh, because I was glad that she embarrassed herself (and her scream was really funny), but at the same time I wanted to get up, grab her hair, and throw her out her out the door. Because I was so angry. It’s already so difficult for theatre productions to get funding and audiences that when someone so disrespectful shows up and ruins the experience for everyone. You could’ve used that money to buy airtime honey, because clearly you have no idea of what happened in the play, so you wasted your money. And you made me angry. REALLY ANGRY.

The theatre is a sacred place. It’s a place where people work very hard for very little money, and we don’t appreciate you fucking up our shows. So stop it. Now.

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Theatre

The Night That Frank-N-Furter Toucha-Toucha-Touched Me (UPDATED)

If there’s one thing that you need to know about me it’s this: I love theatre. In fact, I love all forms of art, but I think that if I had to pick one it would be theatre. I suppose that I feel this way because out of all the art forms in the world, acting is the only one that I have some talent in. I’m by no means the world’s greatest actor, but I can put up a mean show when I want to. This is why I decided to go ahead and study drama for two years. During this time I got introduced to many different forms of theatre, one of them being musical theatre. Growing up in Harrismith, I never really got to see any musicals. Of course I saw movie musicals, but they’re nothing like the real thing. One of the other courses at my college was, of course, musical theatre. Before I came to Pretoria, I didn’t even know that you could study musical theatre on its own. I thought that everything just got thrown together in the drama course. So, when I finally got to see the musical theatre students perform, I was awestruck. I thought that they were incredibly talented and disciplined people. It’s just a pity that many of them were bitchy and didn’t believe in mixing with the common drama folk. But bitches have always been hatin’ on me since the day I was born, so I didn’t care much.

For a very brief period of my second year, my lecturer made me believe that I would be able to play a ‘character part’ in a musical. “Wentzel, you’ll be perfect for these weird characters, like Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Show.” Of course, hearing this made my little gay heart sing. If there’s one musical theatre role that I’ve always wanted to play, it’s Frank-N-Furter. So, when it came to our musical theatre exam for that year I sang ‘Mister Cellophane’ from Chicago (my other obsession) and of course, no other song than ‘Sweet Transvestite’. I absolutely loved singing and dancing around in knee-highs and a huge drag queen wig. It’s strange, but the weirder I look on stage, the more comfortable I feel.

So yes, of course I almost died when I heard that The Fugard Theatre’s acclaimed production of The Rocky Horror Show was coming to Johannesburg. I absolutely knew that I had to go and see it. It’s the show that everyone is talking about and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. After a few subtle and then not-so-subtle hints, I finally managed to convince my mom that we simply had to go and see the show. When she bought the tickets I was over the moon, because I already knew that it was going to be a night that I would never forget.

On the night when we went to go and see the show, I was almost bursting with antici…pation. Of course, I was also really nervous, because my mom was freaking out behind the steering wheel. But that’s how it normally goes, even when we drive to the shops in Harrismith. She just goes into full freak-out mode. Anyway, we survived the trip and arrived safely at Monte Casino. I had never been there before, so naturally I was walking around and gaping at the place. I was also walking very slowly, because my mother is really short and it’s difficult for her to keep up with my relatively long legs. We were very early, which is normal Lombard behavior, so we walked around and looked at everything. Finally, after what felt like a lifetime, it was time to go in.

At first it was all very intimidating. The usherettes – both male and female were prancing around and touching and flashing everyone. I didn’t mind, but I just had this irrational fear that one of them would come up to me. What was making me even more nervous was a lady that was selling stuff. Every few minutes she would loudly shout; “PARTICIPATION PACKS!” without warning. Each time I almost screamed. And yes, I did purchase a partici…pation pack.

Once we got into the theatre we realized that our seats weren’t booked next to each other. Obviously the lady in Checkers had some kind of vendetta against us and decided to put us far away from each other out of pure spitefulness. As I walked to my seat, two of the male usherettes grabbed me and I squealed like a little girl, not knowing what to do. I sat next to an old man who clearly came from the original Rocky Horror generation. He was just that old. I was still staring at everything and everyone around me when suddenly the Narrator (Adrian Galley) walked onto stage. The usherettes started walking towards the stage when one of them stopped in front of an audience member and shouted; “What?! You dirty man!” and proceeded to give the man, who was clearly very shy, a lap dance. At that moment I realized that I had to add giving an audience member a lap dance to my theatrical bucket list.

And then the show started! I was absolutely drawn in from the first moment. The girl who sang “Science Fiction/Double Feature” had an angelic voice. The partici…pation packs made the experience even more fun, especially when we were holding our newspapers over our heads as we were in the rain with Janet and Brad. The rain brought back heartwarming childhood memories of living in dilapidated houses with leaking roofs. I was absolutely swept away by the cast’s talent. Adrian Galley is a very charming and witty Narrator. Paul du Toit and Sharon Spiegel-Wagner make a very sweet couple as the wholesome Brad and Janet. After seeing him in film and television, I was really surprised at du Toit’s versatility and vocal abilities. But the party really started when Riff Raff (Andrew Laubscher) first appeared through the window of the castle. Within his tiny frame, Laubscher holds a very powerful voice and his version of the iconic hunchback character is every bit as brilliant as Richard O’Brien’s. He and Daneel van der Walt (Magenta) make a formidable team and they absolutely rocked the Time Warp. Shaun Smit’s (Rocky) body is enough to send anyone into a body dysmorphia. He gave a very sweet, innocent feeling to the character. The cutest character is undeniably Columbia (Dominique Maher) with her never-ending energy. When Maher first stepped onto stage I was certain that she would burn out, but she just kept going. She has more energy than an ecstasy addict.

But, of course, the great moment that completely blew me away was when Frank-N-Furter made his entrance with ‘Sweet Transvestite’. All at once I almost started crying like an idiot. Not only because Brendan van Rhyn was crushing my musical theatre dreams with every stomp of his six inch heels, but mostly because I have never seen someone so talented on stage before. You need to understand that I am probably the world’s biggest Tim Curry fan, but I don’t know if he was ever capable of doing what van Rhyn does. He is brilliant on every level – acting, dancing and singing (wow, his voice is amazing!). On top of this, he is phenomenal at ad-libbing, often cutting audience members that were shouting comments down to size with his razor-sharp tongue.

When the show was over, I was a cocktail of emotions. You see, I can’t just enjoy a show like other normal people. I analyze it deeply and appreciate everything that everyone does, because I know how difficult it can be. Many of the reviews never mention the ensemble cast, and even they were great. They moved like a unit, and trust me, that’s a really difficult thing to do.

When we got outside, everyone was crowding around Brendan, who was taking pictures with audience members. I had brought my camera with for this purpose, but I was suddenly hesitant, because I didn’t know what I would say to him. He had such a huge presence that it was overwhelming. On top of that I remembered all the nasty dance and musical theatre students from my college days and I thought that surely someone so talented would be like that too. Fortunately my mom insisted that I take a picture with him, so we moved into the crowd. Being the socially awkward person that I am, I waited until there was almost no one else left before I stepped forward. I didn’t know what to say, because I was really shy, so I just smiled and said “Hi!” in my girly squeal voice. I’m quite tall, so it’s not often that I meet someone taller than me, but Brendan is a lot taller and bigger than I am. He simply smiled and said “Hi.” in his deep voice. He posed with me as my mom stood on her tip-toes to get the camera high enough to take the picture. He was as warm and friendly as could be and I realized that with people like him around we still have hope in this world.

I didn’t write this blog entry to serve as a review at all. I don’t have nearly enough knowledge or experience to be a critic. I wrote it because I wanted to share with everyone one of the greatest, most inspiring nights of my life. I might not be able to sing and dance like the Rocky Horror cast, but I can still act, and this show inspired me to do it to the best of my ability.

No, I didn’t post the picture that I took with Brendan, because I look hideous in it. I intend on going again when the show returns to Joburg and then I’ll try and look better. If you know Brendan, please let him read this. Not that he’ll know who I am, but I just want him to know how big his impact is.

UPDATED!!!!!

So, for my 23rd birthday on 27 December 2014, my mom decided to surprise me with tickets to the show. I got to go again and it was wonderful! I thought about writing a new blog post, but I’m scared that they would think I’m a stalker, so instead I decided to just update this one. I did, however, invite Brendan on Facebook, which I guess can also classify as stalkerish because I don’t really know him. Anyway, this time I didn’t look as bad on the pictures (except for the fact that my mom had no clue of how the cell phone’s camera works, and had to ask a complete stranger to take the picture).

I look slightly creepy, but here I am with Brendan!

I look slightly creepy, but here I am with Brendan!

It's blurry ,(because my mom took the picture) but   HE HUGGED ME, YOU GUYS! Best birthday ever.

It’s blurry ,(because my mom took the picture) but HE HUGGED ME, YOU GUYS! Best birthday ever.

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