Behind the scenes


A couple of weeks ago I went to Cape Town with my daughter to the Artscape Theatre.

Backstage nogal.

She has been working at a High School for the last couple of years teaching drama and producing plays for competitions. I have followed her efforts from afar and went to see each of the productions at least once.

This year I went twice and the second time I really got to see her in action.

We travelled to the school in my little red Jimney and even stopped at a popular fast food joint which will remain unnamed!  I only mention this because I realized afterwards that it was an adult version of a ritual she and I shared when we still lived in Johannesburg.  We would sneak away, buy take-aways and sit at the Emmerentia Dam in the car scoffing the guilty treat – just the two of us.

I was amazed when the bus that was to take Marguerite and her cast to the theatre arrived and children appeared from nowhere (well actually from inside the school!). They proceeded to pack the trailer with all their props.  She stood and watched. I was gobsmacked. It was like magic. No cajoling or irritation – just one, two , three and the trailer was packed and the children filed into the bus.

Same thing when we got to the theatre- they unpacked without being told. Everyone seemed to know exactly what to do.  Marguerite put down a bag and a few of the young people proceeded to touch up the props with spray paint. Let me just interrupt myself here to say I happened to witness the creation of said props. As I did the previous year.  In fact, it has become something of tradition for me to help with the costumes and props – even if it is just to provide the space for the operation! Or give moral support in times of stress.

Our shed here at Witvoets Kloof became a factory for the production of little green men one year–well toy soldiers actually. Very effective they turned out to be.

Every year we trawl the Hospice Shops in our various towns in search of just the right outfit for each child. She carries a book with her with their measurements and shows me pictures that they send her by WhatsApp of the clothes and shoes they have found for their role. Her standard reply: “Lovely , bring them all and we will choose together “ or something to that effect. She seems to know exactly what we are looking for. She has picture of what each character must look like.

At the theatre we have two proper dressing rooms complete with a security system with a code that has to be punched in and remembered! Check the age gap – they all (Marguerite included) whip out their phones and tap the numbers in whilst I laboriously scratch around in my handbag in search of a pen and paper.

Inside there are mirrors with lights, lockers and a rail to hang costumes on , even a shower– the whole toot.

At a certain time we need to be at the back entrance to the stage ready for our “technical run –through”.  Here I giggle because my daughter utters the following in a no nonsense voice :

“ Julle is 14h45 hier. En ek praat nie van ‘Ek haat vir Juffrou tyd nie’ – 14h45!! Het julle dit?”

That little inter-change gives me a glimpse of what has gone before, I suppose, but all I see now is absolute confidence, grace and focus.

The run- through is another eye-opener.  They all know exactly what to do and when to do it. The cues flow and the young people responsible for the lights and sound manage to sort it all out in the small slot of time allotted to them. Never having been there before!

Just before I leave them to become a member of the audience, they do their warm-up exercises and again I cannot believe how professional, and dare I say, strict and purposeful my daughter appears to be.  She lovingly calls her cast : “ my kiddies” or ”the kiddies”, but now she treats them like actors- professional performers and it shows in the end result.  I am humbled and amazed , thinking back to my days of teaching.  My beautiful child seems to exude an authority and natural discipline I struggled to elicit at the best of times.

As they all obediently practice their sounds I am reminded of the film “As it is in Heaven” and the workshops Marguerite’s father used to run.  It feels to me, for a brief brief moment, that he is there, in the dressing room with us. As proud of her as I am!

When the time comes, I watch all the performances – theirs and two other school’s efforts. I experience the joy and disappointment of awards received or missed.

My mother heart is thrilled when she receives recognition for the text which she wrote with the children’s input. I am thrilled when one of the judges remark on their level of discipline and the obvious hard work that has gone into producing the play. This he deduced from their ability to do scene changes perfectly in the dark!

Afterwards I think of so many things: little things that touch my soul and bring me back to this experience for days until now. These things that call me to write.

I think of the references she builds into her texts that honour moments in her life: her darling father’s early death and my affectionate nickname for her (“Droomkind”). I realize with awe that whilst she will always be my child, my daughter , born of my womb, the child I dreamed of and longed for, she is truly an adult.  An admirable human being who gives of herself so fully that I can only stand in awe of it all.

I love that she is teaching her pupils to trawl the Hospice Shops in search of costumes and clothes, that she builds a tiny piece of herself , of us, into her plays , her life.

I am grateful that I have seen her like this: purposeful, powerful and loving…oh so loving.  Filled with her ancestors’  love of the youth and teaching, but so much more too.

A beautiful Being inside and out.

A woman born on Woman’s Day!

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1 Response to Behind the scenes

  1. June Hugo. says:

    Oh dear Perdita it means the world to me that you shared this with me. In your words the actions came alive in my mind, I was there with you all enjoying the action. The words on this talented , energetic, humane child of yours are uplifting. Love it that she shares a birth day with me.

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