The Dark and the Fox on Planet Circus

August 9, 2008

So end of July we had a Dark. This is with a capital letter because of it’s importance. The Dark. This is a time when the show doesn’t play, the performers are on vacation and the theatre is ‘dark’. We had a full week plus two weekends. Seemed to come at a good time when we, especially me, needed it.

Last week of shows felt like lasting forever because of the lure of a weeks worth of not having to go to the theatre every day for rehearsal training and two performances. Highlight though was the acting workshop with Don. Beautiful teacher and inspiring lesson.

An arrangement had been made in the rehearsals for the Zimbabwean tour with Michael (Lessac) to be employed by him during this time to work with him on the script of Truth before it goes to the Balkans, and with the long term plan of finding a theatre in New York to host it in 2009. So the week’s worth of Dark was planned as a road trip to Jackson Hole or a flight to New York. Turned out Jackson suited them better, so having bought a car and earned a license, a road trip was planned. Discovered a curious connection with Jackson Hole through Nate and Keisha who know an artist/theatre maker/performer from Jackson, Bob Berky(sp?) and in fact I know his ex wife Babs, who runs (?) the Centre for the Arts in J hole. She is a strong supporter of the truth project and in fact gave us fantastically hospitable treatment when we went there during the American Truth tour.

But anyway the week went like this. Jackie and Michael are both injured. Jackie recovering from the second of two operations on her feet; to correct years-old injuries and dance related conditions. Michael from a herniated disc. A herniated disc and he has a back brace but should be flat on his back for three days before moving. He trots about and occasionally squawks or groans or winces as the pain hits him.

On the second day I am woken… no rather I wake and listen to the sound of the forest around us. But then comes the, gradually identifiable sound of Michael getting Jackie’s crutches from the shed at the end of the driveway. Engine noise… then door, ‘chump!’ Then gravel steps. Sudden yelp. Then I put a picture to the sounds by standing up and looking out the window. There is Michael in shorts checking something behind the truck. The truck’s rear wheels spit gravel as it returns up the slope to its parking place under the tree.

Jackie has a four wheeled sort of wheelchair for one leg and like a kid on a scooter she alternates between gliding and thumping around the house. Glide in one direction, thump to turn as she lifts the front two wheels and takes the corner. Michael looks up from the script and says. I feel like I’m in a Mel Brooks movie. Jackie who seldom stops going from one vital task to the next whatever the state of wellness prepares meals, runs the office, makes travel arrangements and reads drafts. She glide/thumps from room to room over thankfully smooth concrete floors which keep the cool and warmth for the house.

Days are; after a breakfast of cereal and fruit. Jackie has ordered some especially cooked melanzane egg plant dishes. Which we eat for lunch abut wait we haven’t got there yet… but before that, during phone conversations home; (we don’t have Skype because the internet connection here is too weak and we complain, and also the place is out of cell phone range as well. So contact is limited and restricted like it used to be in the old days. As Wednesday approaches so does Janet’s departure to Cape Town for the Woman of the Year awards for which she is nominated in the Arts and Culture category.

Then on Wednesday night, well one thirty SA time, Janet phones and I call her back and she tells me in shocked tones that she has won the National Shoprite Checkers/SABC2 Woman of the Year Award in the Arts and Culture category. But then, also, she is named overall winner. 2008 South African Woman of the Year. That’s my gal. Fox of the Century. What can I say. I sure can pick them. Not that I’ve picked many. In my life. But this was a hot one. And anyway we kind of picked each other. Both of us seeing the other in performance. I seeing her through the narrowly open side doors of the theatre; she in fish net stockings and high cut 70’s leotard strutting some Annie Get Your Gun soubrette fireworks. No question but she was for me. And she watching me play in Malcolm Scrawdyke and His Struggle against the Eunuchs making her selection.

I have a short paragraph in support of this decision by the judges. Or ultimately I understand that the final decision is made by a sole court judge after presentations by the judges of each category. It is worth noting that this paragraph is totally and absolutely without bias. The fact that I am her life partner, husband, closest friend, lover and co-parent and co-grandparent has no bearing on the relevance and validity of this expression.

It is one thing to have a unique artistic and educational vision and to inspire other artists to commit fully to it. It is quite another to have the administrative skill and financial discipline, capacity for sheer dogged hard work and attention to detail to support this vision. To also have the skills required to source, access and maintain funding as well as create efficient management systems and administration teams to create conditions in which sustainability becomes a real possibility in the unforgiving conditions of the arts in South Africa is an indication of a unique and extraordinary person. Janet has been doing this or teaching herself how to do this since I have known her.

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2 Responses to “The Dark and the Fox on Planet Circus”

  1. Marianne Says:

    Congratulations with Janet! How is it to have an South African Woman of the Year? Must feel good!
    Love, Marianne

  2. Francis Says:

    Wow! What an amazing achievement! Please tell Janet how proud she makes us to be Bucklands.

    Francis and Jewel, Washington


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