One on One with Megan Furniss

Godfrey Johnson (GJ) sat down with South African playwright/actor Megan Furniss (MF) recently for an interview. Below are excerpts from...



Godfrey Johnson (GJ) sat down with South African playwright/actor Megan Furniss (MF) recently for an interview. Below are excerpts from that conversation, an enlightening one at that and one that shed more light on the revered dramatist’s journey in the industry, what she has been up to lately and of course, her future endeavors.


 Here I am talking to my friend, colleague and annual coffee buddy, the one and only Megan Furniss. Megan is an award winning Cape Town based playwright, actor, vegan, improviser, director and closet truck driver.

GJ:  My favourite quote is, “How can you see straight if your imagination is out of focus?” What keeps your imagination in focus?

MF: I think my imagination is the exact opposite of ‘in focus’. I see a bird on the side of the road and imagine its voice, and before long I have given it a back story and developed the drama of its life. Before I get home there have been a hundred different things that have sparked my imagination. If I remember something later I may have to stop what I am doing to write it down. The dishes never get done in this house.

GJ: I have known you for many years and I have always admired your passion and energy. Is there a secret to this almost otherworldly enthusiasm?

MF: Improv. It is the practice of saying “yes, and.” I am trained to do that instead of defaulting to ‘no’, or ‘but’. I am a pain in the ‘yes, and’. Seriously though, I also get paralyzed sometimes, and blue. Brilliant series and great NTLive theatre usually cheers me up.

GJ: Many years ago I did a show called ‘Blond Juan’ with our dear friend Trevor du Buisson and of course you directed us in the most gentle yet stern way. I remember watching you hand sew a sequin onto my costume as you sat on the pavement outside Chaplin’s Restaurant Theatre in Greenpoint ,no complaining, just making theatre. In other words, it’s all in the detail. Is it and why?

MF: If you ever set yourself up to experience the greatest let down or disappointment it is when you allow yourself to believe you are very, absolutely important, especially in theatre. You will certainly be knocked down.
Detail, kindness, service to your fellow theatre makers, respect is ultimately how you create a magical, trusting, creative space. If I am in charge I consider myself to be a benevolent dictator. I work hard to prove that I am totally, 100% on your side and that if I am pushing you hard it is because you can do it.

GJ: You don’t age, why?

MF: Tell that to my sciatica!

GJ: You write, act, direct, produce, blog and improvise. My plan B was to become a medical doctor. Did you have a Plan B and what was it?

MF: I wanted to be a fine artist. I wanted to paint and draw. I would have been terrible at it. Oh. And I also wanted to be a truck driver but my legs didn’t grow long enough.
Lately I have been wishing I had studied biology or something environmental. I am totally preoccupied with being a vegan, and reducing plastic usage at the moment.

GJ: Blogs come and go as quickly as trendy coffee shops but not Meganshead, why and how?

MF: It just won’t die! It’s funny you should bring it up. I hadn’t written for 3 months and I thought it was over, and then suddenly I wanted to write a post again. Just like that. Also, I have been writing reviews for Weekend Special, so that has been a shift in focus. Still, I always seem to have something to say.

GJ: You travelled to New York recently with a new original play, how was the experience and can you tell us about this new work?

MF: I had the best time of my whole life, performing in a play I had written, in NYC. I felt so validated, and seen and held. It was amazing, and the feedback from audiences was so good. It was a real confidence booster. I wrote that play four years ago, Clouds Like Waves, and I have not been able to get it staged in Cape Town. Very frustrating.

GJ: What advice would you give to an independent company traveling abroad for the first time?

MF: Listen to instructions. Make friends with the people who operate the venue. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

GJ: How would you describe your style of writing?

MF: Diverse. I write so many different things, for so many different reasons. Plays, poems, novels, short stories, blog posts, reviews, industrial theatre scripts. To be honest, I think I may lack a style.

GJ: Who is your favourite musician and why? (I think I know this one).

MF: I have always been in love with Bruce Springsteen who has been part of my life since I was 12. His music and lyrics cut a direct line to my heart. They make me feel things so acutely, make me feel like I am a tiny part of this universe and planet. Connected in love and pain and the human condition. I think Bruce understands the complex nature of love in all its forms and that most of our monsters are internal, historical. Oh and he despises Trump.

GJ: Almost impossible to do I know but can you name a few of your career highlights?

MF: This is going to sound weird but I loved performing in this last Cape Town Carnival. I took over from someone who pulled out, was irritated with myself for agreeing to do it because it is a voluntary thing, and then I loved it so much. I loved being in character – I was a clown/businessman/puppet attached to a puppeteer on stilts and it was the most intense performance of my life. The hour long walk with crowds lining the street was unbelievable and miraculous and amazing. I was pretty stiff afterwards.
Another was our very first improv marathon. I think that first one was 10 hours of non-stop improv and the style was South African soap opera. I loved that. Also 10 hours of adrenaline is quite a rush.
Of course, Clouds Like Waves in New York City was so completely mind and heart shifting.

GJ: My cats are very good at signalling when my singing is appealing or appalling. Do you ever share new thoughts, lines and tunes with your brilliant beasts and do they give solid advice?

MF: I think I share emotions with them more. They always know how I feel. We have huge chats and conversations and each of the four animals that live in our house has a different response to me and how I feel. They are comfort, critic, disbeliever, and naughtiness.

GJ: Marlene Dietrich used to scrub her stage before each performance. It is very possible to become a superstar on social media with little or no actual talent. Do you think this strange fame has a sell by date and what advice would you give to young superstars who believe that sweeping the stage is beneath them?

MF: I think I may have answered this already. Also, there is absolutely no relationship between fame and talent. Just be clear about what you want, and what it is you want to feel. Being famous can be very eina.

GJ: If someone wrote a play about your life, what would the title be and who would/ should play you?

MF: It would be called The Happy Accident and Anne Hirsch in a fat suit would play me. I love these questions. You are so nutty!

GJ: What creative delights can we expect from you in the next year or two?

MF: Definitely more improv. Also, I am trying to get a two hander, a serious one, that I wrote produced. With me in it. If it ever happens I may be too old to play the part! So if anyone wants to come on board and make it happen, let’s talk.

Links:

www.meganshead.co.za
Twitter: @meganshead
Instagram: @meganshead
https://www.facebook.com/meganfurniss


About Megan Furniss

Megan Furniss is a South African born playwright, actor, writer, director and improviser. She has spent all of her life involved in theatre and make-believe.
Megan graduated from the University of Cape Town in 1986 and worked as an actress before starting her own improvisation troupe in Cape Town. She has written and co-written numerous plays and musicals, performed and directed theatre and she improvises and teaches improv. She has self published a novel, and writes short stories for competitions.
The Tent, written in 2009, was published in an anthology of South African and Argentinian plays by Projecto 34˚ South, and was chosen as one of six African plays to be workshopped and showcased at the National Theatre Studio in London in 2011. Drive with Me, a one-woman show written and performed by Megan Furniss, won a Standard Bank Ovation Award at the prestigious Grahamstown National Arts festival in 2013. Megan has also won a Fleur du Cap award for Innovation in Theatre. In 2017 she was nominated for a Fleur du Cap for best supporting actress in The Finkelsteins are Coming to Dinner.
She also achieved critical acclaim for her tiny role in the Showmax smash hit Tali’s Wedding Diary.

COMMENTS

BLOGGER: 2
  1. This warms my heart so much!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love everything that Megan stands for. She is one of my heroes.

    ReplyDelete

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Urban Craft Magazine: One on One with Megan Furniss
One on One with Megan Furniss
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Urban Craft Magazine
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