Geneva Ballet’s Romeo and Juliette – Artistic Director Philippe Cohen

The Geneva Ballet (Grand Théâtre de Genève) debuts in Johannesburg in June at the Mandela, Joburg Theatre with Romeo and Juliette.  

The company is considered one of the most original dance companies in Europe, excelling in variations of the classical ballet vernacular through innovative artistic collaborations. With an average age of 25, Geneva Ballet is a company that features youthful dancers from around the world and includes the South African Angela Rebelo, niece of well-known South African actors Nicky Rebelo and Jennifer Steyn Rebelo.

 

R and J

It’s my honour to speak to the Artistic Director of The Geneva Ballet Philippe Cohen. 

Is this your first time in South Africa and what has your experience of our country been like?

 I have traveled to South Africa on a number of occasions for professional reasons. Most notably was the successful tour in 2014 to Grahamstown (National Arts Festival) and Cape Town (Artscape) where the company was greeted with great enthusiasm. 

South Africa for me is a wonderful place to visit. Full of vibrant culture, landscapes and the people are so generous and sincere.

 You’re working with Joëlle Bouvier, who has re-imagined Shakespeare’s classic tragedy as a contemporary piece, re-visiting the ballet in an inventive way. Please describe the experience of adapting this classic in this way? What have the challenges been and what has been easy?

 Joëlle Bouvier retells this classic with a certain abstraction.  The picturesque historical characteristics are secondary. Her perspective is more universal rather than a recognizable historical setting and prefers to concentrate rather on the story’s essential turning points, the intention being to allow the medium of dance to speak directly to the audience’s hearts and emotions. I think the biggest challenge was for Joëlle to work with an orchestra for the first time. The easiest was her natural sense of stagecraft and space adaptation.

 My blog likes to address the golden thread of humanity which is the way in which artists, actors, musicians, and dancers tweak the emotions of people across ages, generations, continents. Here we have a modernized version of an age old story, done by a ballet company 200 years old. I should imagine that this should appeal to young and old. In which way should we expect this show to make us feel?

 R and J2Romeo and Juliet is a story of love stifled by hate. A family devastated by the violence of two enemy clans, ruthless rivals with no other reason for the bloody feud than that they belonged to two distinct families. How many wars in the world today reflect the tragedy of Shakespeare? I believe the audience will be able to relate to these emotions, be it love, hate or death.

 Why do you think audiences today can still relate to shows that originated centuries ago?

 We have evolved over the centuries but we still have the same society issues. I believe this is why audiences can identify themselves in many ways to these epic tales of tragedy.

 Do you hope for the show to be purely entertainment or for people to go away thinking?

 Definitely the latter. I believe the audience will be immersed with emotion during and after the performance and maybe return home relating something they felt to themselves and their own lives.

 As a major component of it’s two week visit to Johannesburg, the Geneva Ballet company, with a focus on choreography in a variety of forms and expression., will be involved in a collaborative project with South African choreographers and dancers. This project will involve four local choreographers, Gregory Maqoma, Mamela Nyamza, P J Sabbagha, Fana Tshabalala and Nathanaël Marie from the Geneva Ballet. It will take place at the Soweto Theatre, the Dance Space in Newtown, The Forgotten Angle Collaborative at University of Johannesburg Arts & Culture and at the Hilbrow Theatre from 8-14 June. The creative result of this collaboration will be showcased in partnership at the Soweto and Wits Theatres on June 13 and 14 respectively. Please tell me more about this community related aspect of your tour.

 This unique artistic encounter enables South African and Geneva Ballet dancers/choreographers to exchange/work in a dialogue and a transmission of knowledge through the international language of dance. Through this art form we can transmit the ideas of different cultures and enrich the process of invention.

How have ballet audiences changed in your experience and how have ballets adapted to meet this?

 Audiences have evolved just like we have as human beings over time. Of course all art forms need to meet these demands. Also as artists we are sensitive and listen to the demands of the public but at the same time try to push their imaginations further beyond what they believe exists.

 What lies ahead for the Geneva Ballet?

 Upon completion of our performances here in Johannesburg the company will be traveling to Turkey before a well deserved vacation for myself and the dancers. The following season will be very exciting traveling vastly around the world. Most notably Brazil and China.

Read my interview with company member Angela Rebelo here

Roméo & Juliette performances are from Wednesday 17 June – Friday 19 June at 8pm, Saturday 20 June at 3pm & 8pm and Sunday 21 June at 2pm.

Tickets  range from R180 to R350 and are on sale via the Joburg Theatre website www.joburgtheatre.com  or by calling the theatre’s direct ticketing line on 0861 670 670.  

 

 

Doris Day Animal Foundation

Doris Day is an American actress and singer whose career began in 1939 as a Big Band Singer.  She recorded her first hit, Sentimental Journey, in 1945, and started her association with Columbia Records in 1947. This lasted until 1967Pillow-Talk-poster and included the recording of 650 or more songs. She also appeared in 39 films over the course of her career, and was ranked the biggest box office star for the years of 1960, 1962, 1963 and 1964. She ranked in the top 10 for ten years.

Among many awards that she received was an Academy Award nomination for her performance in Pillow Talk. She has been awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and a Legend Award from the Society of Singers.

Arguably her biggest hit was Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be Will Be).From 1968 to 1973, it was the theme song for the situation comedy The Doris Day Show, becoming her signature song.

 

Here it is.

Read more about Doris Day here on her Wikipedia Page

I was so interested and impressed to find out recently (via my Facebook friend Duane – thankyou!) that Doris Day has an Animal Foundation. I’m rather behind the times  She’s had it since 1978! At the age of 91, she is still actively involved in it and it is our pleasure to feature it.  I’m so grateful to Lu Ann Smith, the Grant Coordinator and Lea Price, the Director of Communications, for answering my questions and facilitating this interview.

 

Doris Day Life
Doris Day on the cover of Life Magazine October 1960

What inspired the creation of the Doris Day Animal Foundation and the Doris Day Animal League?

A life-long animal lover and advocate, Doris recognized that through her own organization and celebrity status she could make a difference for the animals. When she initially founded the Doris Day Pet Foundation in 1978, Doris focused on finding homes for the too many animals that were being destroyed simply because there weren’t enough good homes, while educating the public on the importance of spaying and neutering their pets. Over the years, the Foundation has evolved into today’s Doris Day Animal Foundation (www.ddaf.org), which has a much greater reach as a non-profit grant-giving charity that funds other 501(c)(3) organizations across the country that share DDAF’s mission of helping animals and the people who love them. In addition to assisting numerous organizations with various programs, such as spay/neuter, veterinary expenses, seniors programs, pet food pantries, wildlife rehabilitation and educational resources, some of DDAF’s ongoing “legacy” project funding includes World Spay Day (founded by Doris Day and our sister organization, the Doris Day Animal League, as Spay Day USA in 1995), the Doris Day Horse Rescue and Adoption Center (located at Cleveland Amory’s Black Beauty Ranch in Murchison, Texas and operated by the Humane Society of the United States), the Duffy Day Life Saving Program (giving a second chance to older and injured animals that may otherwise face euthanasia), the Doris Day/Terry Melcher Scholarship at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and many others.

The Doris Day Animal League (www.ddal.org) founded in 1987, is a nonprofit citizens’ lobbying organization that works with U.S. Congress, government agencies and state and local officials to pass new laws and enforce existing laws that reduce suffering and improve the humane treatment of animals. In 2006, DDAL merged with the Humane Society of the United States for an even greater legislative voice.

Establishing the annual observance Spay Day USA in 1994, the Doris Day Animal League now partners with The Humane Society of the United States and continues to be a leading advocacy organization. What an amazing achievement. How does this work?

HSUSLogo_60Years_CelebratingDoris Day and the Doris Day Animal League founded Spay Day USA in 1995. Over the years the event, held on the last Tuesday in February, has evolved into World Spay Day, with more than 40 countries participating. It is now under the auspices of the Humane Society of the United States, and the Doris Day Animal Foundation provides significant annual funding. All of the details can be found on the Humane Society’s website at: http://www.worldspayday.org/.

 

 

How can the public help? Do you have a volunteer programme?

The Doris Day Animal Foundation welcomes donations, which can be made from anywhere around the world via credit card or PayPal on our website, www.ddaf.org. There are also other free and easy ways to support DDAF through every-day actions, such as online searches and shopping via GoodSearch or Shop for Your Cause . All of the information can be found on our website under “Ways to Give” 

As a grant-giving charity, we work out of a virtual office with a small staff to keep overhead low so donations can go directly to the animals. As such, volunteer opportunities don’t often arise. However, folks can spread DDAF’s mission by getting involved with animals shelters and rescue organizations in their own communities that may need assistance walking dogs or socializing cats; or by fostering one of the hundreds of abandoned animals found every year; or writing letters to legislators to support any one of dozens of pieces of worthwhile animal welfare legislation; or letting everyone know just why spay/neuter is so critically important to help end animal overpopulation.

Doris DayTell me more about the Duffy Day Lifesaving programme? (I love the fact that it works with elderly or ‘special needs’ animals! – so often neglected!)

Named after Doris Day’s rescued Maltese, the Duffy Day Lifesaving program provides funds for extraordinary costs associated with giving a second chance to senior and special-needs animals that would otherwise be euthanized. More information can be found here.

The foundation goes the whole hog and even includes a scholarship for young people – the UC Davis scholarship. What are the requirements for people wishing to apply for this?

The Doris Day/Terry Melcher Scholarship was established in memory of Doris’ son, Terry Melcher, and to honor the professionals at the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. It is awarded to outstanding students pursuing an education in veterinary shelter medicine and helping disadvantaged pet populations. For further information on specific requirements and how to apply for the scholarship at UC Davis, go here.

Is Doris still quite involved today?

Doris continues to be actively involved in the operation of the Doris Day Animal Foundation and its decision-making process. She receives regular updates on the organizations seeking grants, as well as other animal welfare issues. She also enjoys personally keeping supporters and fans apprised of the latest news via her recorded founder’s messages on the DDAF (www.ddaf.org) and her personal (www.dorisday.com) websites, as well as occasionally signing her CDs, DVDs and other memorabilia for sale at her pet-friendly Cypress Inn in Carmel, CA, or auctioned on eBay, with all proceeds directly benefitting DDAF and the animals.

Are there any particular grantees or organisations that the foundation favours?

All of the Doris Day Animal Foundation’s grantees are carefully researched to make sure they qualify for one of DDAF’s grants. Funding is based on the greatest need and primarily extended to smaller non-profit organizations across the US that are struggling for financial support to allow them to continue the wonderful work they do in directly caring for the animals or implementing programs that directly help animals and the people who love them.

doris day Animal FoundationDid Doris have any pets as a child / how was she inspired to get involved in animal welfare? Were her parents animal lovers?

While recuperating from a childhood auto accident that nearly left her paralyzed, Doris’ dog, “Tiny,” helped her cope. “He never left my side, understood my moods and gave me the kind of companionship that only a dog can bestow,” Doris said. “It was during this time that I began a lifelong love affair with dogs, a sentiment known only to dog lovers – and cat lovers, too. Their affection and caring is a relief from tensions and anxiety.”

 

Is there anything else you would like to get across to our readers?

Nothing is closer to Doris Day’s heart than making this a better world for the animals. To join Doris in her mission to help the animals and the people who love them, please visit the Doris Day Animal Foundation website, www.ddaf.org, to learn more about the work we do or to make a donation.

You can follow the Doris Day Animal Foundation on Facebook here, and the Doris Day Animal League on Twitter here

Lloyd Cele – The Life and Music of Marvin Gaye

Lloyd Cele first came to prominence in 2010 during the same season of Idols as Elvis Blue and ever since then I’ve liked him. He was 50% of what made that season of Idols an almost impossibly good season, one which could have gone any way. So I was very excited to find that he’ll be telling the story of Marvin Gaye  in Let’s Get it On – the Life and Music of Marvin Gaye at The Joburg Theatre from 7 May to 16 May.  His shows are visually and musically exceptional.

Here’s Lloyd’s faultless version of Usher’s Oh My Gosh on Idols 2010.

Lloyd Cele will perform together with the incredible Vika Bull who will represent  Tammy Tyrell,  Kim Weston and Diana Ross and Anna Gordy. .

You got your grounding as a Worship Director at your church, as well as worship leader. Marvin Gaye also began by singing in a church. Was this a spiritual / soulful experience and does it still impact on your work today?

Lloyd Cele 1Absolutely … my spiritual foundation has been very instrumental in my success. Everything that I have been taught whilst in church has helped me as a person and in my career. This industry is very tough, without being grounded and having a solid foundation it can be overwhelming and can take you on a ride of ego; pride and depression.  I’m blessed to still be able apply my spiritual foundation and values to run my business and be great at what I do without getting my head big.

What other influences do you have?

I am influenced by people who are inspirational and purpose driven. They say you become the people you associate yourself with and I find this to be true. There is a lot of negativity in this work , these things can change you and affect your self esteem. I surround myself with positive people. People who can influence me to rise above challanges. My other influence is my family. My family is my greatest inspiration.

Describe that moment in the finals in South African Idol.

WhenI found out that I was not the winner, it depressed me at first but then I realised that this is what I needed to be motivated to work harder and make things happen for myself and not wait for someone else to make my dreams come alive. In essence my failure made me stronger and more determined to succeed.

Tell us about the Lloyd Cele show on Vuma FM

That journey has been on hold due to my demand in my music career. The show is vibrant , up to date and has live performances of some of the greatest artists in our country. The show is also very inspirational; I have word of the day, quote of the day and inspirational messages from the likes of Dr Phil and Oprah. I also chat about current issues and get listeners involved

Lloyd Cele 2What are the highlights of your career in the last five years, to you?

Singing at the memorial of Nelson Mandela.
Opening my own label , named after my son “Levi Josh Productions”
Releasing my biography “The Dream of an idol”
Winning a SAMA for best pop album.
Winning best RnB at the MetroFM awards
Performing in New York and Pennsylvania
Working with the best in the industry, releasing 3albums. To name a few

My site is about highlighting those who touch the golden thread of humanity, meaning those who have an impact on people across nationalities and generations by means of their art, music, etc. Is this something that matters to you?

Very much so. My latest album called “Grey matter ” is my initiative to fight against racism through music. I sing in 3 different languages, also have a tribute song to uTata Nelson Mandela.
I‘m very passionate about helping us as Africans to look beyond our skin colour and walk genuinely in love. I’m also very passionate about helping /inspiring kids /teens to pursue their dreams and never give up. I’m an ambassador for Reach for your dreams . Before all of this I worked for 10 years as a youth leader at eagles community fellowship ; where we equipped young people to be effective in their local communities. Making a difference means everything to me.

What is it that attracts you to Marvin Gaye?

Lloyd Cele 3His passion and soul is like no other. Marvin really sings his heart out . We are living in a time where that kind of soul is very rare. Music has changed a lot and people these days want to feel the music by dancing ; I love how Marvin taps onto the soul and moves you emotionally. This is something I admire about his music and hope to obtain.

Do you have a favourite Marvin Gaye song?

I love all of them. This is a tough one to answer. But if I have to choose one , it would be Sexual Healing. This is the song I audiotioned with for this role and always been one of my favourites

Is there anything else you would like to bring to our attention?

I’m currently in studio in the middle of all of this. I have been writing new material and have and new single called “Best I’ve ever had” , I also want to thank my amazing and loyal fans who have brought me this far. They are the reason for all of this success.

THE LIFE AND MUSIC OF MARVIN GAYE: on The Mandela stage from May 7th to May 16th 2015.

Read my interview with Vika Bull here and my interview with producer Simon Myers here. 

Vika Bull – The Life and Music of Marvin Gaye

Vika Bull 1For 25 years, the glorious voices of Vika and Linda Bull have comprised one of the most distinctive, versatile and emotionally charged sounds on the Australian music landscape. Since their multi-platinum conquest of pop radio with the Black Sorrows in the late 1980s, the sisters have forged diverse pathways into soul, gospel, blues, country and the island music of their Tongan ancestry.

By turns tender and powerful, their rich solo vocals and instinctive harmonies have spawned eight albums of their own, as well as illuminating studio and concert performances by Paul Kelly, Renee Geyer, John Farnham, Hunters & Collectors, Tim Finn, Kasey Chambers, John Butler and many more. Born of a Tongan mother and Australian father, Vika and Linda have been singing together for as long as they can remember. (from their website).

 

 

 

Now, excitingly, Vika will be singing together with Lloyd Cele in The Life and Music of Marvin Gaye at Joburg Theatre from 7 – 16 May 2015. 

These two fine voices are perfectly suited to bring you the life and music of Marvin Gaye and the women in his career.

Vika Bull sings I’d Rather Go Blind as part of The Etta James Story in The Sydney Opera House.

Your character is an amalgam of the three main women in Marvin’s life; Tammy Tyrell, Diana Ross and Anna Gordy. How interesting is it to play these three influential women all in one show?

I am telling their story not acting. I am singing Tammi’s parts and Diana’s parts and Kim Weston’s parts as well. Marvin sang a lot of duets with different women but I think Tammi was his favourite. Anna Gordy sounds like my type of women – a little bit fiesty – I like that.

Please describe the experience of supporting Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Sting and Joe Cocker.

Vika Bull 2The experience was getting the opportunity to perform on very big stages with very big PA’s and performing in fronVika Bull 4t of crowds that otherwise would probably never come to see me perform at all. Being able to watch these people work was incredible – a master class.

Is there anything specific you can tell us about the production of the Marvin Gaye story?

Marvin is a very important musician – someone everyone should know about. His music, his life and how he wrote about things that were happening around him and how they affected him. His songs are incredible and in the show we perform 24 of them.

Back in Australia you’re well known both in your own right as well as part of Vika and Linda. What’s it like to come to a country where you’re relatively unknown and take part in a show like this?

I am so excited to be given the opportunity to visit South Africa. I never thought I would ever be able to visit there – it is a dream come true. I am a little nervous.

Is this your first time in South Africa? And welcome to South Africa!

First time and thank you.

What specifically are you looking forward to with the South African audiences?

I have no idea – I hope they clap and dance and sing and laugh and cry. I like audiences that do that – that get involved and I am hoping the South African audiences will be like that.

Is there anything specific you would like to get across in this interview?

No – just come to the show and have fun.

Thankyou and I’m really looking forward to seeing the show!

Thank you and I look forward to meeting you.

 

 

THE LIFE AND MUSIC OF MARVIN GAYE: on The Mandela stage from May 7th to May 16th 2015.

Read our interview with Lloyd Cele here and our interview with producer Simon Myers here. 

Simon Myers – The Life and Music of Marvin Gaye

simon myersSimon Myers has been producing films, promoting artists and presenting shows and concerts for the last 15 years. Among his many achievements, in 2009, Simon produced The Man in Black: The Johnny Cash Story which won a Helpmann Award in 2010 (Best Australian Contemporary Concert). As a Producer, Simon Myers has had a string of theatre successes; EVA – Tales From the Life of Eva Cassidy, enjoyed fourteen sold out performances and starred Clare Bowditch who brought the audience to their feet every night. As well, there was The John Denver Story; The Ultimate Rock n Roll Jam Session, Doris Day – So Much More Than The Girl Next Door; all of which featured fabulous musicians and musical arrangements.

You’ve just done some amazing shows including John Denver and Johnny Cash and your shows are a new theatre genre called Narrative Entertainment. Please tell us more about this and about your initiative Room 8?

The Narrative concert is a new format where we find fantastic performers, such as Lloyd, and get them to tell the story and sing the songs of a legendary star, such as Marvin Gaye. Rather than imitating, they pay homage to the star  by bringing their own fantastic talents to the  show.

Room 8 was formed by Moira Bennett and myself to provide top quality entertainment at an affordable price. To this end we have developed a new genre of theatre entertainment called “The Narrative Concert”. This genre is a mix of the life stories of the artist in question and the hit songs which brought the artist worldwide success. We engage local musicians whose standing in the marketplace ensures success.

Marvin GayeIs there anything specific you can tell us about the production of the Marvin Gaye story?

It’s full of great songs a smoking hot band and and two wonderful perfomers Lloyd Cele and Vika Bull. Half the band is from South Africa and half from Australia which is really  exciting  

How did you find Lloyd Cele?

The Joburg Theatre assisted in finding Lloyd.

Is this your first time in South Africa?  And welcome to South Africa!

Yes this is our first time in South Africa and hoepfully it will be the first of many.

What made you decide that the time was right for a Marvin Gaye show?

I suppose Marvin’s songs are timeless, however it seems recently  his songs or part of  songs are being used more and more  in movies and as inspiration for new R & B artists

What specifically are you looking forward to with the South African audiences?

I am hoping they love the show and I am sure they will love Lloyd’s and Vika’s performance. I’m sure there will be plenty of dancing in the aisles

Is there anything specific you would like to get across in this interview?

The fact that we are really excited to be working with the Joburg Theatre, Lloyd and the local musicians in a true Co – Production of the show.

Read our interviews with Lloyd Cele here and with Vika Bull here

THE LIFE AND MUSIC OF MARVIN GAYE: on The Mandela stage from May 7th to May 16th 2015.

 

Under Joburg Skies

There is so much terrible stuff going on in South Africa at the moment. Xenophobia. Destruction of statues. Loadshedding. It just seems that everything is on such a destructive trend. It seems that we have forgotten how to use our minds, hearts and hands for good, and that we choose to use them for bad. South Africans are.. honestly.. DESPONDENT right now. On every level it’s demoralising. I feel I want to give voice to this. Because although, yes, we are going through the motions – we’re despondent. My countrymen are not despondent people by nature. We’re upbeat. We make a plan. But this new mood is something scary, something more. This is not the South Africa we wanted, the one we worked for.   I can’t imagine what the rest of Africa,  and the world, thinks of us.  The thought of leaving breaks my heart, the thought of staying scares me more. So what to do? There is only one thing we can do. MATTER. In our own rights. Keep busy and productive and do something that MATTERS.

 

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Which is why it brings me such great pleasure to cover something that DOES represent the South Africa we wanted, the one we know is still in there somewhere. THIS matters, because it’s the embodiment of a dream. It’s a project called Under Joburg Skies. It’s a vision, and it makes me proud. It’s been founded by Zola Maseko (who is a film director fittingly noted for his documentaries about xenophobia), Andrea Larnyoh, and Andreas Cohrs. This could not have come at a better time in our country that is sorely crying out for some good news.

The concept is profound in its simplicity. Take an urban building – The Loft – doesn’t look like much, does it??

The Loft

 

But it IS something. It’s a core piece in a dream becoming reality. Because inside this building is the most incredible, beautiful loft. Which belongs to a man called Zola Maseko, who has always had a dream for the building, and more specifically, for the ROOF of the building.

From their website: Our vision is to create a center of excellence, both for learning and for presentation of our South African culture and heritage through music and film and for collaboration with international artists. We are contributing to the cultural awareness and identity while supporting exchange between the various fields of arts and also between other countries. We aim at encouraging young talent and providing for know-how and tools to become an active player on both the domestic and the global market.

The building looks like nothing… here’s the thing though.. nothing is anything, without a dream.

Watch this slideshow and listen to some of the music. All pictures by my friend Alison Roberts.

 

 

And on 12 April 2015,  the dream of Zola Maseko,  Andrea Larnyoh, and Andreas Cohrs was launched.  The evening was freezing cold yet in true South African spirit, the show went on. On the ROOF! It meant so much to me to be at this event (thank you to my friend Alison for inviting me and for taking the pics!). As white South Africans, we don’t tend to get out of our holes and leave the questionable safety of our suburban streets.  Leaving my suburban street and going onto the roof of a building in Lorentzville to experience my country with all its rhythms, sights and sounds was immensely empowering to me. And this is just the start of things to come. Under Joburg Skies.. anything is possible.

We’re a land of doers, a land of dreamers, a land of culture and music.

I really, really, enjoyed this evening. And it reminded me that it’s not always what those in charge do that matters. It’s what I do, and what you do, and what the children of the world do.

The launch occurred on the roof of the loft, under Joburg skies.

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Megan C is not waiting for anything – she’s on the rise!

One day while reading through Facebook I noticed a share by the awesome South African actor Zak Hendrikz telling me to go check out a song by Megan C. This, he said, is going to be her year. I am in full agreement. Please have a listen and share her song on Facebook to increase her chances for this soundtrack.

After listening, I didn’t waste any time in getting hold of her and we had the most fun interview at a coffee shop in Lanseria Airport! She is one of the most natural people I’ve interviewed.

How did you get into music and movies?

I have my degree in Musical Theatre, Cum Laude but before that I was also classically trained. I got a scholarship to study opera and I thought ‘no that’s not for me’. I’d rather do musical theatre. There was always that dream of being a pop star and I knew if I could become a fully-fledged performer, the course was so multi-faceted.

Musical theatre is better than it’s ever been. When I started studying it was just Cats and Showboat that were available.  Now it’s exploded, which has been an incredible process to watch. The difference between South African talent and talent overseas is we’re so very hungry because opportunities are few and far between.

I retired from Musical Theatre about three years ago and I look back and think that was such a crazy decision and I also realised the reason I did it is because I’ve been doing musical theatre since I was six years old. I needed a new challenge,  and I wanted to go into film and finally focus on my album

Megan C in Hair - Source: Megan Carelse Facebook
Megan C in Hair – Source: Megan Carelse Facebook

. Once you’re in a show, it takes up your life and you just don’t have time outside of it. I needed to build my brand. I’m actually busy with Riaan Fourie, an artist developer from Cape Town and he’s helping me with my album.

What other shows and things have you done?

When I did musicals, the first show that I did was Hair, and that was the one that I did with people that you’ve already interviewed before, Zak and Suzzi, and from there I went onto Rent, and  toured all over Asia with We Will Rock You. We were lucky enough to work with Roger Taylor and Ben Elton.  It was incredible. I met my mentor there who had written for Chaka Khan, Chaka actually came out to Hong Kong and saw us on stage. Howard’s written for Whitney Houston, he’s worked with Michael Jackson. After that tour I did Aspects of Love for Bernard Jay, and then from there I did Spotlight. After that I did Evita. And I did Jesus Christ Superstar. I did a Season of the Final Countdown at The Barnyard and then I called it quits, because I also started auditioning for Rhythm City and I had my heart set on that. This was back in 2012 and I got to play Stacy, quite possibly one of the most psychotic characters on TV. They did plan on killing the character but they rewrote it and she’s now missing in Durban somewhere. That was fun.  I was trashing apartments, assaulting innocent men with a baseball bat, on screen slaps.

Source: Megan Carelse Facebook
Source: Megan Carelse Facebook

We were so convincing and I think the character sort of kicked us in the teeth. There were Facebook posts on the page saying things like ‘Team Stacy gave me power. I found out that my boyfriend was having an affair and I scratched his TV. Thank you #TeamStacy’ and I thought “ohhh… we’ve created a monster”. I didn’t realise how much people lived in that soapie world.  It’s a bit scary but it’s a massive compliment.

You started with the Kimberley Children’s Choir.

Yes. I’m a small town girl from Kimberley. I was born in the age of uncertainty and we were part of the transition. So I was one of the first non-whites allowed into the choir and we took the world by storm. Definitely one of the most incredible experiences of my life.  There’s always been a degree of pioneering in my life. It’s a pattern I enjoy. We took part in the first ever choir Olympics in Austria. In the gold category there’s three places, first second and third and then you get silver and bronze. We came home with gold. We were the third best choir in the world, first best in South Africa. They’re still going and they’re the jewel of Kimberley. It’s something I’ve termed “Kimberley Magic”, because of the talent that comes out of that town in particular.  We have an incredible musical theatre culture. The man that taught us musical theatre when I went to Pretoria Tech was Johann Swart and he was the one who founded the musical theatre culture in Kimberley.  So it was very interesting for me to come from Kimberley knowing what this man had laid down for me and then to be taught by him.  What was incredible about musical theatre there was people spent a lot to come and see us. It was amateur theatre, but our sets were incredible. The lights were incredible. We had a full symphony orchestra led by children. There are lots of diamonds in the rough in Kimberley.

Which of your work are you the most proud of?

Generally when you have a great range you want to be as versatile as possible and nobody knows your sound. It’s fantastic to be talented but if you don’t have your sound, nobody can identify you. I found my sound in 2014. The album that I’m writing right now is a country album. That’s what I grew up with and what I’m working on. I grew up old school with Willy Nelson, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris.  I’m four songs in, and I need to get to Cape Town and record everything. I want to record them right now, make sure they’re done and mixed and mastered and then carry on again. It’s useless having all these songs, all these lyrics, music and you haven’t made anything tangible with them.

What’s up next?

Screen shot from the Cambion Chronicles trailer.

We’re going into pre-production for a series called Cambion Chronicles where I play a half demon named Tessa Ford. Super speed, super strength. That story is interesting. There’s a lot of history at play. We shot the 12 minute short film in 2013 and we’re already sitting on almost 100,000 views on Youtube. It’s been a two year journey. We’ve done a lot of scenes in the Sterkfontein caves. I did all my own stunts. I did  injure myself. I worked with the most incredible Russian fight trainer Vadim Dobrin. He was fantastic. He made sure that I was safe but I did injure my pelvis on one of those falls but I  still managed to do a cave dive out. I love caving.

Who is producing it?

Fat Cigar. And it’s actually Zino Ventura who runs that company. He’s ex Mr South Africa and he’s also my co-star.  It’s going to be awesome.

You were thinking of immigrating – where would you go? Probably America?

 I’d love it. At first we thought about Canada. My brother lives there and my sister in law arranges a lot of the music events on Prince Edward Island. Then we thought about America because of where The Money Trail TV (TMTVSA) is going. The producer is actually in LA. TMTVSA is now on the rise. We’ve had over 20,000 hits and we’ve only just shot content for the entertainment channel.  We’re a web channel so we are online and it’s the first of its kind in South Africa.  My agent / manager Kimberley Stark of Stark Raving Management is the one heading it up in South Africa. She is so hands on and super aware of what is happening in my life. She literally takes care of everybody.  At the moment we’re actually securing investors for TMTVSA but everybody is extremely excited about this project and they know how big it’s going to be.

Source: Megan Carelse Facebook
Source: Megan Carelse Facebook

What is TMTVSA about?

This is a whole new take on South African travel and entertainment. It’s 10 minutes an episode and that’s the difference. All the presenters have been handpicked. I’m in charge of the entertainment channel and I have a team of five with me. Those are the presenters that we send out and we get the job done.  There is an aspect of gossip which is interesting, something I need to get used to but it’s another hat I’m wearing. As an actress I’m far deeper. But as a presenter you have to get into it.  But if it’s news its interesting, that’s the human condition. And social media has changed the game. When I realised that the internet was my friend and I wasn’t so dead set against it, that was when my brand started growing. Everything is available.  There’s a lot of information out there. I’ll never forget the first time I googled myself and all my songs came up and I realised people are downloading my music in places like Indonesia.

I suppose we’re all guilty of it, we go onto Youtube. But now that we’ve got ITunes –

 It’s a challenge, I don’t think it’s a problem. What is right about it, is that now I know my music is accessible everywhere, so I’ll work on it from there.  It increases reach and popularity. And last year I won an international award for best pop artist through the Love Music Awards, a UK based indie magazine. The support on the indie scene for indie music is ridiculous.  There might not be money in it but there’s support. Since I won that award, my fan statistics have gone up by 1,000. Now the world is listening.

How do you get around piracy?

 We finally went live onto iTunes last year. For me this is how I see it, if they want the real deal then they’ll buy it. If you want some cheap knock off – if you want the right quality to be playing it a club, then you need the right copy. And having it available on iTunes helps. What I did when I found out that my music was being pirated was make a couple of my tracks available free. Then, I’m not going to have somebody halfway around the world playing something that I did that is not of a good quality. Here’s my gift to you, the gift of music. The more popular I become the more people want the good quality recording. I can’t control what has happened to those tracks, but I can control the quality at which they are played.

MC 2
At the shoot for TMTVSA Entertainment News

And if they get played on radio, you get royalties

 Royalties are so important. It’s been very hard for me to get onto South African radio stations and ever since I started focusing on the international market I’ve been a much happier artist.  Five hours after it was released What You Waiting For was played by Krystal Radio in the UK. I’m not angry about it or upset about it. I know the game, I know that it’s hard to do this sort of thing. You need to know people and be connected. It’s all about who you know. I relaunched my career last year so I’m getting to know all these things, however now that I’ve got the international indie contacts, I’m very happy with that and I get a lot of rotation overseas. And now my world is so much bigger, I’m not so consumed by South Africa. Because it was really upsetting and very frustrating at first. At the moment I’m doing a few collaborations with Wired Sound Studios. We are back together again, they did the mixing on What You Waiting For.

I’m recording with them tomorrow and they have some nice radio contacts. So I’ll know where to go to from here.  Especially when my album is ready. It’s not a denial of self or anything. I know my sound is changing. So that nobody is sitting there thinking she’s a dance artist, an EDM artist, now I know exactly where the sound is going. I am so comfortable with country. I feel like I’m finally writing my heart song, the melodies and the strumming and all of the things that are in my head. It’s your heart song.

 

Source: Megan Carelse Facebook
Source: Megan Carelse Facebook

I was listening to Dolly Parton the other day and thinking what an incredible person. She was so down to earth. She was the first one to make blonde jokes about herself.

 So down to earth, what an incredible writer. She laughs with herself.

I saw the Whitney Houston show, The Greatest Love of All, have you seen it?

 With Belinda Davids? I saw the first one, Belinda is quite possibly one of the best vocalists we have in this country. How’s that part where Whitney’s in the red dress on the screen behind her? The likeness is ridiculous, every time I close my eyes it feels like Whitney is back. Definitely as an imitation artist Belinda is right on the money. Every singer I know will avoid the big artists specially for auditions, because if you don’t sound like them you don’t know what is going to happen. But Belinda nails it.

One of my celeb crushes, Zak Hendrikz, introduced me to you.

 He is amazing and what incredible development. He’s been so amazing. How good was he in I Have Life? I was so scared. I was a little frightened, I asked him who are you going to play? One of the rapists? Because that was my first horror story. I was about nine years old when it happened and my parents didn’t want to explain all the way and I kept on saying why would they want to hurt the pretty lady and when I heard that Zak was cast I said to him I know you’re going to be great and you know how to debrief yourself, but you’re going to go to a dark place, but you’ll know how to pull yourself out of it. He has that kind of integrity, and is in a class of his own.

 I don’t know if there’s anything else you’d want to add in? So you’re working in the four new songs and you’re on iTunes.

 One thing you should probably know is that I have gone back to school. I’ve been accepted into an exclusive acting academy, the first of its kind. Led by the incomparable Steven Feinstein who used to run the Actors Centre back in the day, he has started this incredible project and I’ll be in class for the next five months. It is the most intense process I’ve ever gone through. I’ve been led to understand what people mean when they talk about trusting the process. Our showcase will happen in June.

I suppose that takes a bit of courage to do. What qualification do you come out with once you’ve done – ?

 It is the bravest thing I’ve ever done. It’s not like we get a certificate or anything like that but for five months it is gruelling and incredible. The best experience. For me what I’d like to achieve is to be a better actress and person, because you need to know yourself to be a great actress. The academy is the first of its kind in South Africa.   So far this has been an incredible process and he’s got us working with six incredible South African performers. Next weekend I’m working with Fiona Ramsay. Craig Freimond is one of the lecturers and he’s shooting two movies this year.

That’s incredible, you’re busy with all this work and studying, it’s a passion. If you’re that good and you are passionate you can succeed.

 I’m lucky to be able to do it full time.  It takes special people to be able to do this and not to let their ego take over. Look the ego in itself will always take things personally. You need to find your way around, you need to work on yourself as a person so that you’re not lost every time you’re doing this thing or pick up methods of self-sabotage. Nobody can beat you up like YOU can beat you up. It’s all about having a loving relationship with yourself. This is why I’m so grateful for the team that surrounds me. My singing lessons are with Adele Strombeck. She’s at thehelm of what my album is sounding like.  As you have noticed I’ve got a great team of coaches with me. I’ve got Riaan, I’ve got Adele, now I have Steven, who is the most incredible man pushing me to become a better actress. And all the team that I’ve mentioned here. Then I’ve got Steven, this incredible man wanting me to be a better actress.  When you’re in your 20s, you think you can do anything. There’s an element of immortality, you think you’re going to live forever. It’s that “do it yourself attitude”. And when you get to 30 you have to learn to trust others. The 20s were interesting, but I am ready for this. This is where it’s at. I’m not going to sweat the little things. Save your energy.  I take time to enjoy the little things like spotting butterflies every single day.

Source: Megan Carelse Facebook
Source: Megan Carelse Facebook

You guys live on a farm outside of the city. Tell us about farm life.

The farm that we live on is completely off the grid and I have to say I don’t struggle with what half of my friends struggle with in the city, like power cuts. When I do experience it, it’s because the robots are out and then I sit in hours of traffic that I did not sign up for. But at home I can switch on the generator and I’m okay.  When I have a farm day, that’s my writing day, I write at  home. I don’t even realize that I don’t have electricity on, I’m forced to go outside and make up my music on the field. You can breathe more and you’re a lot more open.  I’ve really chosen, I wouldn’t say the easiest way out, but definitely the better way out.  I started horse-riding last year, and we’ve just today adopted a rescue dog. The relationship in the horse-riding is beautiful. It is that kind of connection, you are completely in sync with this gorgeous animal.

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Related Post: Zak Hendrikz plays a bad guy but he’s really nice! 

State of the Nation

I have been thinking today about voting in South Africa, and more specifically about whether most people are a member of a political party. Without actually getting political in this post, I am thinking about levels of apathy. Surely we should all care deeply about our country and as such be a member of a party and at least we make sure we cast a vote in the election? I am not necessarily a political person, and I feel that if things were running right, then I wouldn’t feel a need to be political. But things aren’t right… things don’t work. Crime levels are too high. Friends of mine were shot at in a parking lot of a shopping centre recently. I have been a victim of card cloning. The corruption levels have increased from 34% to 67% since 1994. I am a positive South African, I love my country. And I don’t see why a few at the top should mess it up for us who work hard on the ground.

Cleveland CPF 3 July 2013

I attended a recent CPF sector meeting in our community. We are very fortunate to have some dedicated policeman, community leaders and other role players in our midst. But this meeting was not well attended. We had about 7 people attend. This is important information that is being discussed here, and feedback is given to the community from the police about crime in their very own area. We put sufficient advertising in the paper, on Facebook, by email, by word of mouth. I would like to understand the apathy of people – why don’t you attend?

In any case, I stood up and told the people who were there about the ward committee and what the public safety portfolio involves. I’ll be doing the same at other community meetings in the future, so come along if you want to hear.