Ever since I can remember I have had dreams about theatre. There's a recurring dream with variations:
I am prepared. I know all my words. I step onto the stage and open my mouth to say my line, only to realise that I am in the wrong play. This is not the one I prepared for. Everyone else is performing a different script.
The audience is gathered. They are waiting outside the venue. I go inside to where the actors are. We have no play. We have only minutes to put something together. I sort frantically through ideas surging through my head, and issue some hasty improvisation instructions to the cast and we are off. We somehow pull it off, usually with the help of some beautiful colourful cloths and cast members who really know how to move.
In these dreams my roles change. Sometimes I am director. Sometimes I am performer. Sometimes I am designer (fantastic sets, great big clam-shell sails and reticulated carriages that can traverse the stage and collapse in on themselves - but then the director doesn't want them).
In my patchy career I have toyed with these three alternating roles, and also experienced the lung-crushing anxiety of feeling hopelessy underprepared.
There was a turning point though. About a year ago I had one of those dreams - big festival venue, big cast, big audience gathered outside, including my mentor-gurus from varsity days. Play not ready. So I say to the cast - its ok, we'll each have a copy of the same text (from the Jungle Book, apparently. I hand out copies) We can work from this and do our thing. But the text is wonky and blurred and the lights too dim. So I do something I have never done. I go outside and I cancel the show. I tell the waiting audeince that sorry, we are not ready and there will be no performance tonight.
The show does not have to go on if it means that it may wreck your constitution, or may be really really bad.
I think that turning point dream was the day I grew up.
Now, I've had to do it for real. I applied for my show to be on the fringe of the National Arts Festival in January. This is the blurb that's the in the booking kit for Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth:
Goddess of many names: Inanna, Ishtar, Queen of Heaven and Earth. This rare production takes an ancient Sumerian myth and transforms it into a powerful healing journey for the 21st century. Part therapeutic workshop, this ritual theatre experience will transport you into a shadowland of image, poetic text, movement and story.
Dreamed up before falling pregnant (why do we say falling? Is it really a fall?), before the trauma of Seka Theatre's trip to Cape Town and all the funding disasters that accompanied that. Before many other other potholes that have loomed at me since January. I know its the best decision, to withdraw this show from the programme and wait til it has "come to term" and has been deeply worked by the goddess-hands that will collaborate with me. I know there's no time to do the proper job it requires, to realise the gorgeous visions that have arrived here everytime I apply my dreaming mind to this project. I know all that. But it still hurts to see Cancelled Show next its name on the website. Before, I would have stubbornly clenched my jaw and ploughed on anyway, despite not having the right team together yet, the right funding together yet, etc. Just because I said I would. I can't do that now. And that's fine. Even though part of me is panicking that "its my last chance!"
However, there is something else afoot. Something so frantically, furtively exciting, so in keeping with all the dreams I have about the stage and being ready, or not. Something dangerous and sexy: the kind of theatre where everything can go wrong, and that's ok, coz that is just the point. I'll tell you about it in the next post.