Friday, August 31, 2007

Jack At Last! #3

(1) Feeling better but where do these market people come from so early in the morning? And where do they go to with all this stuff? Townships are miles away. Displacement...Urban renewal? Cabrini Green?

(2) I can't imagine working as hard as they do.

(3) I never worked as hard as they do.

(4) I don't know what hard work is. Not like that.

(5) F@#& it. We are going to the beach.

(6) Beautiful beaches and the coastline. We will send pictures.

(7) We park on a street in an obviously white beach town and are met by young men and women of color wearing T-shirts proclaiming that they are "Beach Road Parking Security." Apparently, they will protect our car while we eat lunch. Upon asking a waiter, I am told to tip them 5 - 10 Rand. This is their job.

(8) Women on the corners waiting for the buses or vans to take them from their housekeeping jobs. They are in clothes that are almost Amish in nature. But they laugh, sing and whistle as we pass.

(9) Men in hard work clothes walking against traffic on major throughways. And we drive past.

(10) I am told that South Africa’s greatest employer is self-employment.

(11) It’s a beautiful landscape…scarred.

(12) The disparity of weath is unbelievable. Ghastly and sinful.

Okay, this is the truth. I am having an anxiety dream about the blog with Carey and Pink and Janette telling me I need to do it and with me quitting and with my wife saying “Just do it.” And I wake up in a sweat.

There has to be a better way.

The District Six Museum

Today we went to the District Six Museum and we met Noor, the founder of the museum. So what, or more appropriately where is District Six? District Six is now a large empty area on a hillside in Capetown, it was a thriving neighborhood. Noor is a South African man of Indian descent. He is sixty two years old, his story and the story of District Six are inextricably linked.

District Six was a place where all kinds of people lived. Muslim, Jew, Christian, Hindu, Colored, Black, but no one who was White. That was the problem. The area was a prime location, looking out over Cape Town towards the water. In the early Sixties the government sent out notices to the residents of District Six that they were living in violation of the law and that the district was to become an all white area, they were told to move, they had lost ownership of their property, and it would be bulldozed. Now the impact of that is a bit abstract, until you talk to someone who experienced it.

Noor was born in a house in District Six. This house was his family's home in South Africa since they had been here. His entire life was contained in this area. He stood across the street and watched as the bulldozer came and transformed his family's home into a pile of rubble. He wept as he watched all that his parents had worked a lifetime to build being destroyed. He spoke of a time when people of different religions all celebrated their friend's holidays, how they attended the various places of worship and prayed together out of mutual respect for the religious beliefs of their friends and neighbors. He told how families were broken up. A Colored man is married to a black woman, they have three children, the children are dark. The Colored father is moved to a Colored township, his Black wife and Black children are moved to a Black township, to visit them he is required by law to go to the police station and get a permit for each visit. This is the madness of Apartheid, this is the world of our play.

There is enormous irony here, today South Africa wants to be a kind of multicultural model and yet they had that model in the early sixties in District Six and they didn't value it, in fact, they destroyed it. The demolition of District Six is the backdrop of the world of The Blood Knot. The world of our play is a world in which color means everything. Where you can live, what you can do, who you can see, also how you are seen by the world. Black people were required by law to carry a "passbook," other people carried identification cards indicating their racial category, and this was required of all South Africans, but for black South Africans the circumstance was a little different. If you were black you had to have your passbook on your person at all times. If a policeman asked to see it and you didn't have it, you were arrested and fined, and if you couldn't pay the fine you were imprisoned until it was paid. Your skin color was the fence around your life, you couldn't go over it or under it, you had to live inside that fence.

Today District Six is an urban wasteland, no one lives there. Many want to see it established as a monument park, so the injustices of the past are never forgotten. Perhaps they will succeed, perhaps not.


Pictures from the District Six Museum:

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Jack At Last! #2

(1) Man, South African bacons are the best bacons in the world. They put out quite a breakfast spread.

(2) 8AM, I wake to the sound of shopping carts rolling down the street, which is cobble-stoned street. And it is the beginning of another day at Green Market. The entire place is erected from scratch - poles, ropes, awnings, tables, and lots of "stuff" that you could find in Berkeley or on the Lower East Side of NYC.

Tourists and Commerce... I guess it's everywhere.

(3) Out on the street, eerie. Am I experiencing white guilt??

(4) Found a great music store and want to spend a day there. Lots of American, and African Jazz, Blues, Ska, etc. And hand-made instrument that I must consider buying.

(5) SAJ walks slower than I do.

(6) But he's much smarter than I am.

(7) Found a liquor store. Thank Allah!

(8) So we are walking along, looking at the Table Mountain, and noticing that there is a Turkish bath in the neighborhood. We turn a corner and are confronted by St. George's Cathedral. This was Tutu's Cathedral. It is like being in Atlanta at M. L. K.'s Baptist Church. And remarkably there are protesters. Schoolgirls, singing and walking and dancing and clapping in a circle. Their issues? Health! AIDS!! Beautiful young women and great sounds. I am humbled.

(9) SAJ said there are cops everywhere...taking pictures...making recording... which is exactly what we are doing.

(10) He really does walk slow, but he is really smart.

(11) Relics of oppression everywhere. Jails, courthouses. You can feel the hurt everywhere.

(12) Still being called “Boss,” and being told where the good times are. His name is Kev. And if I mention his name, I get a discount and he gets a commission.

(13) Tired, tired, tired.

(14) Lots of local history. Just waiting for the personal stories.

(15) Feeling sick. Going to bed. Early. Night, night.


Table Mountain in Cape Town:

SAJ looking out over the coastline:

Coastal resort in Cape Town:

Day #2 - We meet Songs and talk to Ivan

The virgin blogger is online again. SAJ coming to you from Cape Town, South Africa. Today started at about 6:30 a.m. No matter how far I may travel, I am never far from A.C.T.'s conservatory and our beloved MFA students. I did some work on the upcoming second year production of The Roundhouse. Then I had breakfast and I had to change rooms because my old room was a wifi deadzone. No wifi hotspot, no blog, and we couldn't have that, so I moved all my stuff to another room and all is well. Last night I had to blog from the hotel lobby (oh my, oh my). I am willing to do a lot of things in public, but blogging is not one of them. Now I can blog in the privacy of my room.

I got on the phone and rang up (their term not mine) a number of contacts I made on a previous trip, among them a man named Songs Ngcongolo, a Xhosa gentleman with a vast knowledge of the history of The Struggle and of township life. He came and met with us and we arranged to spend two days with him in various townships. Songs lives in the township of Langa. I also spoke with another friend I made from a previous trip, Ivan Le Kay. Ivan is my age (don't ask) and under Apartheid he and his family were classified as Cape colored and his first language was Afrikaans. He also speaks English, of course, and he told me that he made a point of sending his children to English language schools because he viewed Afrikaans as the language of the oppressor. He now refers to himself as a Black man, something we have in common. Under the old system Songs was classified as Black, he and Ivan and I are all very similar in skin color. Ivan and I shared many stories about our family histories and we discovered many similarities around issues of race and especially skin color that we had in common. In short, darker was bad and lighter was good, and with this distinction came privilege. This was true in South Africa and the U.S.A. We agreed that to a certain extent this is still true.

Think about it and be honest, we respond to skin color, don't we? Forget about what we say publicly, you know in your heart of hearts that you respond to skin color in large and small ways. That idea lies at the very center of Blood Knot and I want to get inside it, eat, sleep, and breath it, so it guides me in my work on this show. I want to confront the truth of that, and take the audience with me eight times a week. I want you to hear the voice of Songs Ngcongolo, he is singing "the Click song." I hope I can download this for you.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Jack At Last!

(1) Long and restless flight. World is made for small people... At least airplanes are.

(2) When you really think about it, this is a weird excursion - Halfway around the world for research on an obscure South African play that hasn't been produced for 30 years. Hopefully we'll do everybody proud and justify ourselves with this opportunity.

(3) Trouble with car reservation. Dianne, don't worry. We can fix it. We shouldn't have called you, but actors can be such a p@$$%s.

(4) Traffic, traffic, traffic. And the gears. Steering wheel and roads are all backwards. Foreigners, huh! Pedestrians everywhere walking on the sides of major highways and crossing right in front of you almost begging to be ran over. They make New Yorkers look like p@$$%s. If we don't kill someone or ourselves or cause an accident, it will be an act of a benevolent god.

(5) The hotel is great. Thanks, Dianne and Caresa.

(6) Great currency exchange rate. Thanks, somebody?

(7) These mechanical digital toys are pain in my a$$. But we will figure them out.

(8) Staying awake on doctors' orders and getting really f@%&ing stupid, slap happy, goofy, and dumb. I just asked somebody where to buy "lamps" and what I meant to say was "stamps."

(9) Cocktails and smokes are quite affordable. Thank you, god!!! No, REALLY! THANK YOU!!!!!! See you guys at A.C.T. in 2008. I'm not coming back.

(10) I look like a cop.

(11) So does SAJ.

(12) There is a private club called "Paradise." I'll bring back the card. I am being solicited constantly and called "Boss." It's a little disconcerting.

(13) Looking at faces.

(13-a) SAJ has a whole thing about faces of colors. He will elaborate.
(13-b) I'm looking at middle aged white men and seeing Foster everywhere. Where were these middle-aged men then and what did they do during The Struggle?
(13-c) I look in the mirror and see my dad, and am therefore forced to ask the question..."Where would I have been and what would I have done?"

(14) They have beef-flavored potato chips. WHY??? Lamb-flavored, too. Really, WHY?

(15) I have to wrap my mind around this "Coloured" thing. It seems so completely different from Jim Crow. This is absolutely pivotal to the production. Coloured, coloured, coloured! I must keep pondering that. I must force that word. That enigma into something actable.

(16) As a baby boomer, and the frequent viewer of post-WWII films made in the US, I have always had an aversion to the German language and its subsequent dialect as performed by badly trained American actors. It is like the dialect of Bull Conners, George Wallace or Lester Maddox and that ilk. It seems like it was made to oppress.

(17) I'm getting a little drunk.

(18) Just had dinner at this authentically touristy African menued restaurant. Great beans & rice. Great spinach & squash. And great Ox tail and Lamb. Soul Foods? Go figure!

(19) Cuban cigars and scotch at a bar in Cape Town with SAJ... What could be better?

(20) Gene pool - gene pool - think about gene pool.

(21) Sitting with SAJ at a cigar & scotch lounge in Cape Town Center, minding our own business. When 4 (count them closely) German women of the holiday variety sat across from us, smiling and chatting. We talked about cigars, and the Cuban boycott. We talked about scotch and its many qualities and how it is almost an absolute universal icebreaker. We talked about traveling around the world, and about the many places we have been to. They then asked us..."so are you in South Africa for business?" And we said, "yes." "What kind of business?" "We are actors," we beamed.

And they didn't talk to us for the rest of the evening.

The 1st day in Cape Town

Well this is it, we arrived at 5:00 a.m. this morning. This is the longest trip in the universe, we were absolutely a complete and total mess after 23 hours in the air. But miraculously we got the rental car and drove to the Tudor Hotel in downtown Cape Town. It's not bad and it is located in the heart of town. We walked around the area. This city is filled with people who speak the most amazing mix of dialects and languages, it dazzles the mind. Speaking of "the mind" my mind is fried, we have been up all day, so we're going to go eat and then I expect we both will call it a day. Until later.............

Monday, August 27, 2007

More about Athol Fugard

A.C.T.'s resident dramaturg, Michael Paller, together with the Publications department, recently provided some very interesting links about the life and work of Athol Fugard. I'm sure their resources will continue to grow as we prepare for Blood Knot, but here are a few websites and a recent article from Times Online that highlight Fugard's influence through the last century.

Athol Fugard Statements - A site by Iain Fisher

A Conversation with Athol Fugard
- Stream a conversation between Fugard and Indiana University theater professor Bruce Burgun

Finally, It's Personal - Article about Fugard's life by Brian Logan

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Welcome to the Blood Knot blog...

Welcome to the very first A.C.T. blog. This blog will be a central communication point for our upcoming production of Athol Fugard's Blood Knot at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.

The Blood Knot will be directed by the talented Charles Randolph-Wright and will feature veteran A.C.T. core company members Steven Anthony Jones and Jack Willis. Both actors will soon embark on a journey to South Africa, where they will explore the setting of this groundbreaking play and share their day-to-day experiences through blog postings and video/audio clips.

Stay tuned for more as we begin this journey!