Emotional Creature- Part 2. What Feminism means to me.

Being a girl is harder than it looks. My whole life I wished I was a boy. Boys just move in the world differently. There is no pervasive threat ruling over their lives. They don’t feel scared walking down the street, they don’t get cat called and stared at by dirty old men. They don’t have to deal with bitchy competition and deep emotional resentment, unless they are dating one of those girls. Of course, I am aware that I am generalizing. But IN GENERAL, boys and men will never understand the everyday sexual assault girls and women go through.

Girls are taught from day one that “there isn’t enough to go round”, so you better fight for that “piece of the pie.” There aren’t enough men in the world, so you better compete with any beautiful, talented woman, to ensure your place. A deep sense of insecurity is ingrained in us and governs the rest of our lives.

Women pull each other down instead of rising up to meet the power and success of another woman. Patriarchy rules the world and his law enforces a “divide and conquer” mentality. Whether they realize it or not, men encourage women to look and act a certain way in order to appear attractive. The media force-feeds us images of “beauty” that are ultimately man-made, exclusive and restrictive.

Women, in their desperation to be desired, a concept passed down from mother to daughter for generations, do whatever it takes to keep up with this image in order to please men, in order to please their mothers, their sisters, their friends, their children…and so it goes.

Feminism is a word and movement that is hard to swallow for most people, women included. Before doing Emotional Creature with Eve Ensler, I would vehemently deny being a feminist. It was as if I thought it would scare people away. I thought Feminism was for man hating, hairy arm-pitted, bra burning lesbians. I think that’s what a lot of people imagine when they hear the “F” word.

However, I was completely misinformed. I would go so far as to say, I was mislead by Patriarchy itself, as men are the ones that want to keep women down. Keep them separate. Keep them thinking that being educated and smart is unattractive. That dressing and grooming your body in one particular way is the only way to be desirable. So women turn their backs on the movement. I know I did.

Firstly, let me be clear and state that I don’t know everything about being a feminist, or the many different kinds of Feminism there are. All I know is that I’m figuring out what Feminism means to me, today. Right now in my life, as a 26 year old, educated, inspired women, girl, actress, girlfriend, sister, Feminism means; equal rights for men and women. The fight for the right to education shouldn’t still be a thing in 2014. Feminism is about women having control over their own bodies. It demands an end to sex slavery, rape, genital mutilation and all violence against women. It HAS to stop! It has to change and I believe the only way it can start to change is for women to come together, support each other, educate each other, rise up and take back our power. While at the same time UNITING with MEN, sharing our stories and our feelings with them. Having these conversations with them. It’s NOT about being anti-men, It’s a movement for men AND women to come together and respect each other. Its NOT about being masculine in order to have power, its about owning your femininity, being confident to live in a female body and feeling free to move around in the world in that female body. Its NOT about not wanting to have sex, or being a prude, in fact its probably the exact opposite. It’s about owning our bodies and doing what WE truly want to do with them. Feeling sexy, confident, powerful, happy, smart and feminine without fear of being excluded from one’s community or being labeled a slut or a bitch. I’m so tired of those words!

That’s what Feminism means to me right now. Maybe it will change in years to come. I HOPE it does. I hope the right to education and the lack of violence against women is a reality I will get to experience in my lifetime.

I would like to thank Eve Ensler for enlightening me and showing me what Feminism is about. I didn’t realize I had an opinion on the subject until I started rehearsing for Emotional Creature. Thank you.

Emotional Creature- Part One

I just finished, what may be, the most rewarding and soulfully satisfying shows of my life. Emotional Creature, written by Eve Ensler, who interviewed girls all over the world and adapted their painful and heartbreaking stories into monologues to be performed on stage. There is something so magical about live theatre. The whole act of standing up in front of an audience, adopting a character and the emotions that go along with her, and telling a story. There is a palpable energy that cannot be experienced in any other medium.

I auditioned for Emotional Creature sometime around March 2014. I knew about The Vagina Monologues, of course. I had seen it on stage when I was in primary school and I heard pieces of it being performed while studying Drama at Wits. I then borrowed a copy of the book, Emotional Creature, from my, already enlightened feminist friend, Jaya. I say “already enlightened” because I wasn’t yet. I knew about feminism and believed it had a place in the socio-political climate of the 60’s or something…but I didn’t realize just how relevant feminism is today and that it must exist as long as sexism exists, simple as that. Anyway, I read the book and prepared for the audition and then didn’t hear back for at least a month. I figured I didn’t get it and was actually seriously considering another career path when I got that miraculous call from Gina, one of the producers of the show. I got the part! I literally had to pull over my car and cry I was so happy. But I still didn’t know what was in store. It wasn’t just a role in a show and a bit of a salary for a few months, but so much more.

I was a bit scared to start rehearsals by the time they rolled around in June. I wasn’t really in the right “headspace” to commit to all day every day rehearsals. I struggled to get into it and just kept telling myself there is only one way to enjoy something and that’s to be present and absorb every moment.

It was so amazing to work with New York based director, Jo Bonney; a patient, calm, sarcastic, witty and wonderful director. She gave us the right amount of guidance and freedom while still encouraging me to be braver and have more fun.

Acting is a funny thing. There is no real method, in my humble opinion. You just have to find the truth of the character, your storytelling beats and shifts and bring yourself to the part. At first I struggled with the monolgues that were assigned to me. I didn’t like the characters, I judged them straight off the bat. I felt self conscious doing them. It was bizarre, it was like I actually forgot that its “acting” not being myself!

Jo was always open to discussing and figuring out the character, which I found most helpful. Once I stopped judging the characters and their stories I could wear them like a big coat. Cover myself in them and feel their truth, their pain, their desires. I could have fun with them without necessarily understanding everything rationally. Basically start feeling the stories and stop thinking about them from an outsider’s perspective. I grew so much as an actor. I feel like I get it now. I get what they say when they say, “don’t judge your character” and how you can’t play a feeling, but rather tell the story and stay connected to the moment and the feelings will come! Like a cat, who will only come sit on your lap when you stop calling for it.

Moving out/moving in

My whole young adult life I have desperately wanted to move out of home. I needed my own space with my own things put in the places that I decide. I longed for my freedom and independence since I was about 13.  No jokes. I always used to say that the day I eventually moved out would be the best day of my life. I would celebrate all night and never return home, not even for a visit. Teenagers hey, what can you do.

I have had a really crazy, adventure filled 2013. I travelled and lived overseas and in Cape town and I absolutely loved it! When I had to go back to Joburg, back to my boring old bedroom-no signal-over-furnished-cluttered-tension filled house I was pretty miserable. Besides for wanting to move out of home, I wanted to move in with my boyfriend. We had spoken about it at length and agreed that it felt like the next natural step in our relationship.

The search was on! We started looking furiously on property websites every chance we could. We saw a whole bunch of flats, dealt with a few different estate agents (shudder) and even almost moved in to a place, before suddenly  changing our minds after meeting the nightmare of a landlord who was taking out her nasty divorce anger on us. (double shudder)

After a handful of disappointing attempts we finally found our flat. Its a beautiful one bedroom in Illovo, exactly where we want to be and where I spend most of my free time anyway. The landlord is lovely and so helpful. She has even included a fridge, washing machine and dishwasher. So its a huge score!

The funny thing is I when I went back to my old house this afternoon to pick up some more things, I started to feel kinda sad to leave. I thought to myself, no, this can’t be right. Sad? Why sad? This is what you have wanted for half your life, literally. Maybe sad isn’t the right word exactly, but definitely bitter sweet. Thats two words but it will have to do.

In terms of moving in with my boyfriend…I couldn’t be happier. He has been amazing throughout the whole process, and he is taking all the shopping and moving in his stride.

Moving out of home means- feeling unexpectedly bitter sweet, realising just how much clothing you have (among other stuff) and locking yourself out of your own flat because you are so tired from all the moving and shopping that you can’t think straight. Most importantly it means moving in with the person I love more than anything,  feeling free and pretty damn happy throughout it all.

Pros and Cons

 

If there is one thing that I love to do its make lists, and one kind of list that really puts things neatly into perspective is a good ol’ Pros and Cons list.

I have been spending a lot of my time alone. I would go so far as to say 90-95 percent of my waking hours are spent completely alone. Not like in my room or in the shower, that too, but also in public, surrounded by people, but alone. For the most part its really fine. Im comfortable being alone and getting lost in my thoughts, people watching, chatting to strangers, etc, but sometimes it just gets to me. Like when I’m doing something really fun, I just want to look over at someone I love, or even just like, and say, “Isnt this great?”

I think the loneliest times are when I come home late after work and my flat is dark and empty and too quiet. When I have to crawl into bed and, what? Just go to sleep? 

Its not because Im some kind of freak that has no friends, well maybe partly, but also my current job, working in a theatre production, has kept my days free and nights and weekends busy, meaning that all five of my friends, that have real jobs, are busy when Im free and vice versa. 

So the other day, when I was, yet again, alone in the dressing room I wrote up a list of pros and cons, just to make it absolutely clear what I prefer. Here its is:

 

Pros to being alone:

 
You can do what you want. All the time. Be spontaneous. 
Feel independent. 
You can talk to yourself. Figure stuff out. 
You can read or do work on your computer. 
You can spend time learning new skills like cooking or sewing. Or rediscover old ones like painting of drawing. 
You never feel like you might be inconveniencing someone. You can take your time, go to the loo twelve times a day, walk at your own pace. Run, even.
You are never (less likely to be) late.
 
 
 
Cons of being alone:
 
People generally seem to feel sorry for you. I was buying ice-cream the other day, happily enjoying my own company, when the lady at the counter felt the urge to make conversation. She starts telling me not to worry because, “There is a lid for every pot.” I try to explain that I actually have a boyfriend, he is just not with me right now. Since when did it become so strange to buy an ice-cream cone by yourself?!
 
Unwanted attention from strange people, like the 500 000 hawkers at Camps Bay beach who insist on trying to sell you paintings, sunglasses, wooden bowls or tables. This one guy comes up to me and starts asking me about myself. I politely tell him I don’t want to make conversation. He proceeds to go on about “meditation” and “getting time to think.” So I agree and say, “That’s what Im trying to do so please go away.” He responds with, “So where are you from?” I just had to get up and walk away, angrily chewing the last few mouthfuls of my cone. Alone.
 
If you get lost you get stressed. 
 
You start talking to yourself out loud. People look at you funny in traffic and malls. 
 
Books are not easy to read in public and I don’t really have anything important to do on my computer. 
 
You find yourself killing a lot of time in malls and coffee shops. 
 
No one can take a photo for you and selfies are lame. 
 
 
So, after weighing them up I have come to the conclusion that happiness is only real when shared and being with someone, only someone you love or at least like, is way better than being all by yourself, like Celine Dion. 

 

Its Almost Over Now

After nine months of hard work, sacrifices and a fair share of rewards too, my journey with this big production is almost over with one week left to go. People keep asking, “can you believe its over already?” and I reply, “Yes, I can!” Are you kidding me? I have been counting the days for the past few months.  Now I don’t want to sound ungrateful, I mean whats more annoying than an actor complaining about having work, right!? But this has by far been the most challenging job I have ever done in my, granted, fledgling, career, but still! In so many ways it has pushed and pulled me, body and soul. I have worked my ass off and thankfully my effort did not go unnoticed. I can confidently say I did a good job and I have learnt so much about myself and what kind of work I want to do in the future.

Some more things I have learnt in the last stretch of this job:

1. I am pretty good at biting my tongue now- No matter what line of work you are in you are going to come into contact with people you don’t like, or can’t stand, or really and truly want to punch in the face very hard, that you just have to deal with in the most polite and professional way.  DEAL WITH IT!  (I find listening to some relaxing music helps.)

2. Doing a brilliant job is very important, but if you fuck up, LET IT GO, it is, after all just a performance, you are not doing brain surgery, its a play. It should be fun. The two times I made, what felt like “end-of-the-world” mistakes I went home and sobbed, fell asleep, woke up, sobbed again, cursed myself and guess what? no one else cared. It really didn’t matter!

So basically, get some perspective and forgive yourself!!

3. Receive- At the end of the show when the audience applauds and cheers, stand there and receive all the energy that they are giving back to you. Its such a great gift and it reminds you why you are doing this crazy thing called show business after all. That applies to life too though, receive compliments when they are given, receive love and be open to experiences and opportunities.

4. Drawing and painting are still two of my biggest passions. They help pass the time, they help release pent up creativity that doesn’t quite know how to come out. I have been drawing and painting a lot the past 6 weeks! Im even going to enter an art competition with my one painting. As soon as that is over I will post some pretty photos of my work.

So find a hobby or creative outlet that you can do in your free time to relax you and reconnect you to your creativity!

This job has been a lot of things, one of them definitely being educational. I really feel like I have done a masters degree in Musical Theatre and I am so grateful for this experience which is now tucked safely under my belt. It feels really satisfying to know I had the opportunity to learn, travel, perform, train, stay fit, live on my own, have time to think and feel and decide where to go next. I am ready to be available and to persevere into the next chapter of my career and my life.

People keep asking me, “What are you going to do after the show ends?” and I just smile and say, “Be free!”

be free