I Capuleti E I Montecchi at Artscape Theatre Cape Town

Artscape Theatre – Mail and Guardian

Artscape Theatre is a favorite venue in Cape Town and last night I attended a performance of I Capuleti E I Montecchi – The Capulets and Montagues. In this creative production, Cape Town Opera (CTO) collaborates with the University of Cape Town (UCT) Opera School to present Italian composer Vincenzo Bellini’s work. It’s based on Shakespeare’s classic story and Luigi Scevola’s tragedy Giulietta e Romeo.

I Capuleti E I Montecchi – Tirana Times

Vincenzo Bellini wrote I Capuleti E I Montecchi for the 1830 Carnival Season at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice. It was an enormous success and later appeared at King’s Theater in London, the Paris Opera, and on the Swedish stage.

Jeremy Silver Director UCT Opera School – iono.fm

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I Capuleti has “endlessly long, melancholy vocal lines”. In the first act finale Romeo and Juliet sing a long unison melody with only brief pauses for breath”.

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Steven Stead Director – Kickstart Theatre

Marvin Kernelle CTO Chorus Master – Cape Town Opera

Bellini cast the star-crossed lovers as a soprano and mezzo-soprano featuring his “trademark sensuous duets”. The libretto by Felice Romani is a “reworking of Romeo and Juliet” with a simplified story line. The five soloists are Romeo, Juliet, Juliet’s father Capelio, Lorenzo a physician, and Tebaldo Juliet’s betrothed and Capulet heir. As the opera opens, Romeo and Juliet have already met and fallen in love.

Artscape Theatre – town.co.za

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“With his melancholy melodies, Bellini aims straight for our hearts, giving us not a moment’s doubt of the young lovers’ feelings for one another.”

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Vincenzo Bellini Composer – Primephonic

The opera features a “youthful cast from UCT Opera School and CTO’s Young Artist Programme“. Jeremy Silver, Director of the UCT Opera School, conducts the UCT Symphony Orchestra. Steven Stead directs the performance and Marvin Kernelle is CTO Chorus Master. Michael Mitchell designed the set and costumes, while stage lighting is by Kobus Rossouw.

Cape Town Opera Chorus

Cape Town Opera Youth Development and Education (YDE) Department

The story of Romeo and Juliet inspired hundreds of operas. Shakespeare used life in the Renaissance Period to develop his plot. Bellini’s opera applies “bel canto elegiac styleis” to emphasize the “poignancy of the love story”.

Kobus Rossouw Lighting Design – kobusrossouw.net

I Capuleti E I Montecchi – OVS Arts of Italy

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“Bellini’s opera spins out extended threads of wistful, longing song in passages that are among the best of the bel canto elegiac style.”

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Cast

UCT Symphony Orchestra – Baxter Theatre Centre

Michael Mitchell Set and Costume Designer – Getty Images

The highly emotional two-act performance – with more than one person shedding a tear – was a total delight, BIG smile!

Apple Face at Alexander Bar, Café and Theatre Cape Town

Brett Williams, Juliette Pauling, Pierre Malherbe – Alexander Bar, Café & Theatre

“That which is seen, cannot be unseen; unless that which is seen was never seen in the first place. Or maybe it was seen, but not quite in the way it happened. If it even happened at all.”

Apple Face – Alexander Bar and Theatre

Plot

Last night I saw Apple Face, a witty, avant-garde comedy written by Pierre Malherbe, directed by Adrian Collins, and performed by Malherbe and two other talented actors – Juliette Pauling and Brett Williams. The story unravels during an outdoor music festival where plans for a “40th birthday celebration turn sour when somebody witnesses something disturbing” – or did they?

Review

A WeekendSpecial review by Megan Furniss – Cape Town “improviser, performer, writer, and playwright” – describes the play as “layers of completely confusing, mind altering, drug swirling, but totally hilarious weird shit”. I admit that as an American – but frequent visitor to Cape Town – considerably older than most of the audience, finer points of the play’s South African slang and humor escaped me.

Brett Williams – ERM Stars

Regardless, it was still a hilarious, enjoyable performance. I’ve been on the road since October 2018 and feeling a bit dizzy with many new places and experiences to absorb. Being back in Cape Town is a treat, and I’m always up for a provocative, entertaining evening at Alexander Theatre!

Pierre Malherbe – Twitter

Pierre Malherbe Writer and Actor

Apple Face is Pierre Malherbe’s “first self-penned show”. He plays Phil who is with Ryan at a music festival. Furniss describes Ryan and Phil as “hapless friends who are a combination of loser, Allenesque whiner (reminiscent of Woody Allen), naïve chump, drug-fueled paranoid, and completely-too-old-for-the-joll wankers”.

Malherbe has 20 years of theater experience. He’s written and performed multiple stand-up comedy and one-man shows. Performances include Louis Viljoen plays, David Mamet’s Sexual Perversity In Chicago, and Brent Palmers The Visit. His camera credits include Black Sails, Roots, Troy: Fall of a City, and the SAFTA award winning short film Armed Response.

Juliette Pauling Actress – View Artist APM Artistes Personal Management

Juliette Pauling Actor

Juliette Pauling presents a brilliant portrayal of three-in-one character – Chelsea, Sarah, and Jennifer – the “young party girl/girlfriend/serial killer/manipulator” who messes with Phil’s “fragile and hallucination-prone mind”.

Apple Face – Alexander Bar and Theatre

Pauling received a BA in drama from Rhodes University and performed at the South African National Arts Festival. She appeared in YouTubeZA’s Suzelle DIY, the TV series Tali’s Wedding Diary, and now Apple Face.

Brett Williams Actor

Brett Williams plays Phil’s friend Ryan. He’s a seasoned actor and sometimes described as a “reluctant entrepreneur with a penchant for karaoke”.

Adrian Collins – Alexander Bar

Adrian Collins Director

Adrian Collins directs Apple Face with “delight and a deep understanding of how to get the actors to play the funniness”. A successful actor himself, Collins made his directing début in 2016 with A Steady Rain at the Fugard Theatre. In that production he and Nicholas Pauling portray the tormented lives of two Chicago police officers, Joey and Denny. Their efforts resulted in Collins and Palmer being nominated for Fleur du Cap awards for Best New Director and Best Actor.

Silkworm at Alexander Bar, Café and Theatre Cape Town

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Taryn Bennett Actress – twitter

Silkworm is a one-person, award-winning theatrical performance exploring the “ordinary things that make life extraordinary”. Artists who can captivate their audience non-stop for a solid hour are amazing! Taryn Bennett does that in her portrayal of Georgina, a “gregarious and socially awkward” young woman “about to have the single most important day of her life” – revealed in the final moments of the show.

Alexander Bar, Café and Theatre Cape Town – Alexander Bar

During her performance, Bennett interacts with the audience. She uses “storytelling and clowning techniques borrowed from Florence Italy’s Helikos School of Theatre Creation”. The “whimsical” performance combines humor with stark reality and leaves a deep impact.

Jenine Collocott Director – ABOUT Contagious

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“Did you know that silkworms only live for about a week? I think…. You can check that on Google.”  Georgina

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Jenine Collocott Director

Silkworm – a Contagious Theatre production – is “conceived and directed by Jenine Collocott with additional dramaturgy by Nick Warren”. Based in Johannesburg and Cape Town, Contagious combines the talents of several “critically acclaimed theatre makers with long-time Fringe producers”.

Nick Warren – djnickwarren

“Jenine studied theatre creation at Helikos in Florence. Her production Making Mandela won the 2016 Naledi for Best Youth Production and was most recently selected as part of the Assitej World Congress Main Programme. Much of Collocott’s work has travelled internationally.”

Taryn Bennett – contagioustheatre.co.za

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“Contagious produces independent fringe theatre that brings the creative freedom, simplicity, and energy of the festival circuit to mainstream audiences.”

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Taryn Bennett – ABOUT Contagious

Taryn Bennett Actress

Taryn studied theatre at Rhodes University and has performed for TV, on stage, and at the National Arts Festival. Her critically acclaimed Silkworm performance won a 2018 Ovation Award. Recently Taryn’s performance in The Old Man and the Sea was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the 2018 Naledi Theatre Awards.

Making Mandela – Contagious Theatre

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“Clowning is about spotting, understanding, and surpassing individual and/or collective difficulties with the help of clown resources and theatre interactivity”. Les aventures de Zippo le clown

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Silkworm

Silkworm is “described as a dollop of humor and a touch of whimsy”. The theatrical production uses “clowning storytelling techniques”.

Taryn Bennett – alexanderbar.co.za

In Silkworm “the clown is influenced by the audience”. Members of the audience determine parts of the show and “no two shows are the same”. For the clown, “the audience is really there”. “There’s no fourth wall.”

Alexander Bar, Café & Theatre Cape Town – PlacesMap.net

Theatre Clowning is essentially an intuitive style of storytelling that’s quite naive yet super sophisticated. If a person is able to access the child within themselves, they will be taken on the journey with the clown.”

The Snow Goose – Knysna Arts Festival Contagious Theatre

Silkworm is a brilliant theater performance! It was a memorable evening!

Cape Town 2019

Waterfront Cape Town – The South African

It’s fantastic being back in Cape Town! A location that stole my heart during the first visit in 1987. The beautiful coastal city is surrounded by incomparable Table Mountain.

View of Table Mountain from My Gardens Apartment

I arrived on May 2nd after a series of flights beginning in Catania Sicily and passing through Rome and Addis Ababa Ethiopia – including two plane and terminal changes more tiring than the thirteen-hour flight.

Cape Town at Night – wpblink.com

During the flight from Addis Ababa to Cape Town naughty Indian children commandeered the aircraft running wild through the aisles disrupting everything. A passenger complained in a loud way and the children were forced to sit down and behave themselves. Upon arrival in Cape Town, they continued wreaking havoc in the immigration hall, running races through cordoned off lines, clearly undaunted by their reprimand on the airplane. Their parents seemed amused.

Victoria and Alfred Waterfront Cape Town – Rhino Africa

After Berlin, Dubrovnik, Kotor, Sarajevo, Belgrade, and Sicily, passengers on Ethiopian Airlines were more diverse than any of the places visited, except maybe Berlin. I’m still processing the time spent in Europe and the Balkans – a valuable learning experience with priceless memories!

Table Mountain from Melkbos – Discover Africa Safaris

When returning to Cape Town I always notice changes – some subtle, others not. I’ll be here through mid-June and then on to Hermanus, Onrus Beach, and Walker Bay.

Cape Town – Independent.ie

My apartment in Gardens neighborhood is in a high-rise building with retail and parking garages on the lower levels and residential above. I’m on the 17th floor and look out at Table Mountain. It’s thrilling to watch the mountain constantly changing depending on weather, wind, and sky. It almost seems close enough to touch!

Pink in Cape Town’s Sky that Artists Try to Capture

The building is secure and comfortable. Everything is within walking distance including a great choice of restaurants.

Walker Bay Sunset – Unsplash

I have a rental car for day trips and places further away. After seven months without driving, it’s nice to be mobile again – even though South Africans drive on the wrong side of the road :)…

Table Cloth of Fog Over Table Mountain

Today the wind is howling – yesterday it was calm. Earlier the Table Mountain Table Cloth was visible as fog gently spewed over the flat-topped mountain. It’s mesmerizing watching sunrises and sunsets and spectacular scenery changes from foggy to clear and back again. Hiking on the mountain is part of my agenda.

Walker Bay Grootbos Nature Reserve – Robert Harding

The drought crisis is over but water and energy conservation are everyday concerns in Cape Town. Hopefully winter will bring significant rainfall. May temperatures are mild in the 60s and 70s but forecast to reach the 80s next week.

Table Mountain Aerial Cableway – springbokatlas.com

South Africa’s General Election is May 8 with another ANC (African National Congress) victory predicted. Elections are always exciting. South Africa’s economy and social inequalities create an emotional, volatile atmosphere with protests for change.

The Company’s Gardens Cape Town – The Heritage Portal

There’s considerable voter apathy in South Africa, especially among young voters. The ANC disappointed and is under pressure to improve the failing economy, address unemployment, provide better services (especially power), improve infrastructure, and curb crime, violence, and government corruption. All are complicated issues with unemployment, the economy, and a looming energy crisis heading the list.

Views Onrus Beach and Hermanus Bay – Pinterest

One thing I’d forgotten about (almost) is the Hadeda Ibis – known as the “loudest bird in Africa“. With Hadedas nearby, you don’t need an alarm clock!

More later…

Hot Oregon Summer – Berlin Next

Gendarmenmarkt Berlin – depositphotos.com

Gardening and Wildfires

It’s been a restful, contemplative summer in Oregon working in my garden with deer, wild turkeys, annoying yellow jackets, and a stray Gothic-looking black cat. Sadly, dry and windy conditions combined with record-breaking heat resulted in raging wildfires all around us.

Garden Visitor

Cute Stray Cat

The massive Carr Fire near the California / Oregon border created terrifying “fire tornadoes“. They occur when a fire acquires “vertical vorticity and forms a whirl”. Fire tornadoes can “grow to gargantuan size with winds of over 90 mph”.

Fire Tornado – zmescience.com

Carr Fire Chopper – The Mercury News Bay Area

The Carr Fire ignited in late July. A month later, after “torching more than 200,000 acres,” it’s about 90 percent contained!  Smoke from fires in Oregon, California, Washington, and nearby Colorado and Canada creates a surreal aura, bringing an eerie atmospheric haze, poor air quality, and vivid sunrises and sunsets.

Wildfire Sunset San Francisco Bay – Fstoppers.com

Wildfire Smoke at Sunrise – Jonathan Hayward Canadian Press

Brave Wildfire Fighter – Charlie Nash Photography

Next Long Trip

I’ve started getting into the specifics of my next travel adventure. No matter what, this time I’m traveling with one piece of luggage!

Berlin Boroughs and Districts

Like in 2017, I’ll begin in Europe and eventually make my way back to South Africa. I decided to start in Berlin – a new city for me. I’ve studied Berlin’s East and West boroughs and have a few leads for rental apartments in well-located areas near attractions and transportation – Mitte, Charlottenburg-WilmersdorfFriedrichshain-Kreuzberg, and Neukölln. Rents are reasonable, and the apartments look comfortable.

Museum Island River Spree – Stock Photo

Return to South Africa

I’m apprehensive about violence in many parts of Africa – Congo, Mali, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, et al. Although I’ve never experienced violence during my travels in Africa, but six cities in South Africa – Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Pietermaritzburg, Rustenburg, and Johannesburg – made the top ten list of the most dangerous cities on the African continent. Xenophobic related violence in South Africa is disturbing. Here in the US, we clearly have our own problems and brand of political tension, civil unrest, violence, and a vast chasm between “left versus right” ideologies…

Berlin Cathedral – Wikimedia.org 

Thankfully Day Zero in Cape Town’s drought is now pushed out beyond 2019, but the government’s move toward land expropriation without compensation is a concern. More than two decades after the end of apartheid, land ownership remains a “highly emotive” subject for South Africans – that may be an understatement. According to the ruling ANC government, white people own 72 percent of private land, black people 4 percent, and other ethnic groups 24 percent.

Berlin Cathedral at Museum Island – 123RF.com

Land expropriation is said to be “the most pressing social issue in the country”. However, some think high crime, corruption, and the “triple-time-bomb of poverty, unemployment, and inequality” are the real issues keeping South Africans awake at night.

Kayelitsha Township Outside Cape Town – Dan Kitwood Getty Images

Julius Malema Leader Economic Freedem Fighters (EFF) -blouinnews

Julius Sello Malema Leader Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) – blouinnews.com

The ANC-led government and members of the militant, aggressive Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party differ in their approach to land expropriation.

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South Africa’s EFF – founded in 2013 and led by outspoken Julius Sello Malema – is a self-proclaimed “radical leftist, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist movement that draws inspiration from the broad Marxist-Leninist tradition”.

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Mmusi Maimane – Leader Democratic Alliance

The Democratic Alliance (DA) – the ANC’s official opposition and second largest political party – accuses both the ANC and EFF of “misleading the public on land expropriation”. They claim to have the best land-reform plan. DA leader Mmusi Maimane says, “there can be no new dawn for South Africa until the ANC is out of power“.

My extended South African visa expires in 2020 – a regular entry (tourist) visa issued at the airport is good for 90 days. I haven’t decided whether to pursue the rigorous renewal process. The “retirement visa” has allowed me to make long trips (up to five years) to explore and better understand South Africa. I especially enjoy the Western Cape, hiking Table Mountain, volunteer work with young children, and vibrant Cape Town – a special and dear place to me. South Africa is a strikingly beautiful but complex and sometimes difficult country that can’t possibly be understood without spending extended time there.

Unter den Linden by Night – 123RF.com

During this period of rapid change, the National Development Plan (NDP) is the country’s detailed proposal addressing key issues for uniting South Africans.The lofty NDP goals to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality are to be implemented by 2030. What little I know of the NDP, it seems overwhelming, but I’m digressing – back to Berlin

Clouds Over Table Mountain from Signal Hill Cape Town – Erik Pronske Getty Images

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The NDP’s goal is to “unite South Africans, unleash the energies of its citizens, grow an inclusive economy, build capabilities, and enable the state and leaders to work together to solve complex problems”…

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Staatsoper Unter den Linden

Berlin State Opera Staatsoper Unter den Linden – Wikipedia

Berlin This Fall

I plan to arrive in Berlin in September. Their fall weather is much like Oregon’s with cool but mild temperatures. When winter comes and it starts getting really cold, I’ll move south – not sure where yet. I’m considering exploring new places versus returning to more familiar areas. New countries of interest include Romania and Albania, but Italy and Spain also have moderate winter climates.

Berlin Brandenburg Gate at Dusk – pond5.com

I’m looking for a three-month rental apartment in the Berlin-Mitte borough, the central section of former East Berlin. “Before the war and division of the city, Mitte was the center of Berlin. It’s regained its former pre-eminence to such an extent that many visitors never see the western side of the city.”

Bode Museum Mitte – Wikimedia.org

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Mitte is the oldest and most historic part of Berlin with many cultural attractions and “ever-expanding restaurant, club, and arts scenes”.

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Strandbar at Bode Museum Mitte

Mitte begins at Potsdamer Platz and the Brandenburg Gate on the east side of Tiergarten Park. The grand boulevard, Unter den Linden, is lined with 18th- and 19th-century palaces and monuments.

Mitte – VanDam StreetSmart Maps

Tiergarten Park – berlijn-blog.nl

Komische Opera House Berlin – operawire.com

I’m excited to attend theater performances and the Berlin opera! Berlin is teeming with performing arts theaters, cabarets, and clubs. The Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Berlin’s main opera house, and the Komische Oper, the third largest, are both in Mitte. Berlin’s Philharmonic Season begins in late September. Other major attractions in the area include Gendarmenmarkt, a neoclassical square, Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral), and Museumsinsel (Museum Island) with five major museums. Frivolous activities that top my list are – mingling with locals, hanging out in cafés, overnight side trips, and exploring less-traveled backstreets.

Christmas Berlin – efcollegebreak.com 

Germany’s festive Christmas Markets are legendary. These are the top five:

  1. Weihnachtszauber at the Gendarmenmarkt
  2. Berliner Weihnachtszeit at Roten Rathaus
  3. Wintertraum am Alexa
  4. Winterwelt am Potsdamer Platz
  5. Weihnachtsmarkt am Gedächtniskirche

Christmas Markets Berlin – classictic.com

I don’t speak German but am learning key phrases and pronunciation rules hoping I don’t butcher the language too much. During past travels in Germany, English was spoken everywhere. Mehr später…

Monbijou Park Embankment River Spree

West Side Story Artscape Theatre

In March after popular demand, producer and human rights activist Eric Abraham and the Fugard Theatre’s production of West Side Story returned to the Artscape. The American musical has been performed in Cape Town before and audiences raved about the brilliant actors, singers, dancers, music, and sets!

Jerome Robbins – Choreographer

Grant van Stern – Choreographer

Artscape Theatre

Artscape is one of my favorite performing arts venues in Cape Town. The theatre opened in 1971 as the Nico Malan Theatre Centre. It was renamed in 2001 and now belongs to the Western Cape Government.

Officer Krupke and Detective Schrank

The spectacular opera house has an exciting ambiance, including gardens, rehearsal rooms, and a stylish foyer. Over the years, I’ve joined friends there for memorable opera, ballet, musical, and comedy performances! Last night’s brilliant performance didn’t disappoint!

Eric Abraham – Film, Television, Theatre Producer

Stephen Sondheim – Songwriter

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“West Side Story is a musical about cultural differences, racism, forbidden love, revenge, and death.”
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Arthur Laurents – Screenwriter

Plot

Inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story’s timeless plot is set on the “harsh streets of New York City’s Upper West Side in the 1950s”.

Rival street gangs, the Puerto Rican Sharks and Caucasian Jets, battle in a turf-war to gain control of the neighborhood. Tensions rise when Tony, a former member of the Jets and best friend of the leader, Riff, falls in love with Maria, the sister of Bernardo, leader of the rival Sharks.

Production

American choreographer Jerome Robbins conceived the story in 1957, and playwright and screenwriter Arthur Laurents wrote the West Side Story book. Renowned composer Leonard Bernstein created the musical score with lyrics written by songwriter Stephen Sondheim.

Michael Brenner – Producer

The 1961 film version of West Side Story “won 11 Academy Awards, including best picture, best supporting actor and actress, best director, and best cinematographer”. The film also won a Grammy for best soundtrack. It’s undoubtedly one of the best musicals ever written.

Louisa Talbot – Choreographer

South Africa’s Matthew Wild directs the Artscape production with Charl Johan Lingenfelder as musical director and conductor of the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra. Louisa Talbot choreographed the production with Grant van Ster as resident choreographer and dance captain.

Charl Johan Lingenfelder – Musical Director and Conductor

In 2018, West Side Story is once again “sweeping Capetonians off their feet”! How could it not with the fabulous Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra performing in the pit and an outstanding cast of forty exceptional performers?

Cast of Characters

Lynelle Kenned plays the role of Maria, a hopeless romantic who falls in love with Tony and finds herself at the center of a violent conflict between the Jets and Sharks. Kenned won the Fleur du Cap Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance. Among her many talents Kenned is a soprano opera singer with a marvelous voice!

The main character Tony – former Jets leader – is torn between his gang friends and love for Maria. The part is played by talented US actor Kevin Hack who has performed the role almost 400 times. Hack recently completed an international tour playing in the 60th anniversary international tour of German producer Michael Brenner’s production of West Side Story.

Matthew Wild – Director

Singer, pianist, violinist, dancer, and actress Bianca Le Grange plays Anita, Maria’s friend and Bernardo’s girlfriend. Daniel Mpilo Richards plays Bernardo, proud leader or the Sharks.

Leonard Bernstein – Composer and Conductor

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“The choreography exudes vibrant waves of emotion from act to act leaving its audience’s heart thumping!”

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Artscape Foyer

Artscape Theatre Centre Cape Town

Artscape Foyer Upper Level Lounge

Sculptures Artscape Entrance

The actors are multi-talented with impressive accomplishments and careers. The beautiful, strong dancers were magnificent!!! Main characters include:

  1. Lynelle Kenned – Maria, Bernardo’s sister in love with Tony
  2. Kevin Hack – Tony, former Jets leader in love with Maria
  3. Bianca Le Grange – Anita, Jet, Bernardo’s girlfriend, Maria’s friend
  4. Daniel Mpilo Richards – Bernardo, Shark leader, Maria’s brother, Anita’s boyfriend
  5. Stephen Jubber – Riff, quick-­tempered Jets leader
  6. Sven-Eric Muller – Diesel, Jets second-in-­command
  7. Craig Urbani – Schrank, police detective
  8. Richard Lothian – Officer Krupke, beat cop
  9. James Borthwick – Doc, owner of the store where the Jets hang out
  10. Clint Lesch – Chino, Jet, Maria’s suitor, and friend of Bernardo
  11. Logan Timbre – Action, quick-­‐tempered member of the Jets

West Side Story Artscape Willem Law Photographer

It was an interesting, eclectic crowd attending the performance – an evening of entertainment by extraordinarily talented young artists! Many more than mentioned here helped with production of the musical.

Cape Town International Jazz Festival

Next weekend Artscape hosts the 19th Cape Town International Jazz Festival. The exciting lineup includes Alistair Izobell, Amanda Black, GrazRoots Project, Blinky Bill, Claire Phillips, Miles Mosley, Nduduzo Makhathini, Mabuta, Louis Moholo, and many more outstanding artists!

In Bocca al Lupo Cape Town

Actress and Artist Jemma Kahn

You never know what might happen at Cape Town’s Alexander Theatre – that’s the beauty of the place! The Mother City is rich in creativity, energy, and talented artists. Last night’s performance – In Bocca al Lupo – was a phenomenal one-woman show!

Jemma Kahn

Before last night, I hadn’t experienced the art of kamishibai – “a twelfth century Japanese form of storytelling where a tale is presented with the help of cardboard panel illustrations”.  In Bocca al Lupo was totally engrossing!

Jemma Kahn studied kamishibai under “veteran Japanese performer Roukda Genji, and the two performed throughout Japan”. In Bocca al Lupo is Jemma’s memoir – or maybe not. I didn’t know about her before last night’s performance, so the story that kept the audience engaged could have been her own, or perhaps it was fictional?

Alexander Bar, Café & Theatre

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“While kamishibai may be the device Kahn uses to portray her tales, it’s not the only thing that sets her apart as a master storyteller.”

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Jemma Kahn

To summarize simplistically, the memoir begins as the story of a young South African woman who feels like a failure living a boring life. She decides to spice things up and expand her world by embarking on a two-year adventure teaching English in Japan.

Alexander Bar, Café & Theatre

Alexander Bar, Café & Theatre

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“Kahn has the charisma of an old Hollywood starlet. To be a member of her audience is to be in a state of enchantment for a full 80 minutes.” 

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Alexander Bar, Café & Theatre

Alexander Bar, Café & Theatre

After living in Japan for several months, Jemma experiences culture shock and ponders its four stages – honeymoon, frustration, adjustment, acceptance – ha ha ha. This is something I can relate to firsthand having traveled abroad extensively on my own!

Jemma Kahn

The romantic concept of living in a foreign country is often deceptive. Jemma does a masterful job of telling her (or someone’s) story of alienation as a foreigner in Japan – an unfamiliar country that in the end, was not for her.

Jemma Kahn

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“One’s travels can be rife with anxiety, loneliness, culture shock, and the depression that inevitably comes with isolation.”

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The Epicene Butcher

Using a series of four “beautifully drawn images displayed on cardboard story panels” Jemma meticulously connects with her audience, drawing them in and leaving them hanging on her every word and description! She adds humor to her stories, even though some of the subjects she discusses aren’t funny.

A multi-talented artist trained in fine art and drama, Kahn created many of the kamishibai panels she uses. Her talented award-winning crew are remarkable:

Jemma Kahn

In Bocca al Lupo (into the mouth of the wolf in Italian) follows two of Kahn’s other popular kamishibai shows:

Actress and Artist Jemma Kahn

The Epicene Butcher – described as stories that “seduce the sinless and astonish the immoral” toured internationally and was performed 400 times.

Jemma Kahn We Didn’t Come to Hell for the Croissants photo by Dean Hutton

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Jemma Kahn has “captivated audiences from Cape Town to Edinburgh to Amsterdam with her unique take on the 12th century Japanese art form Kamishibai”.

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Alexander Theatre

Alexander Bar, Café & Theatre – SafariNow

The phrase “in bocca al lupo” is an Italian idiom used in opera and theatre to wish a performer good luck before a performance. The standard response is “crepi il lupo” or, more commonly, simply “crepi” (may the wolf die). The Italian expression is similar to the English actor’s idiom “break a leg, reflecting a theatrical superstition in which wishing a person ‘good luck’ before a performance is considered bad luck”.

In Bocca Al Lupo Poster

There are several theories on how the Italian expression originated. For this show, “the phrase illustrates the leap of faith Jemma took to create her third kamishibai play”.

Alexander Bar, Café & Theatre

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“The play follows Kahn on her journey to Japan and then Ireland, as she regales her audience with all the things we fail to mention when asked about our travels to another country.”

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Alexander Bar, Café & Theatre

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of restoring broken ceramics using lacquer and gold dust to repair cracks, emphasizing and assigning value to the site of repair. In Bocca Al Lupo has a similar effect. Kahn, co-writer Tertius Kapp, and director Jane Taylor expertly curate her story by selecting the cracks as the focal points which form the narrative.”

Jemma Kahn

Although I often find memoirs boring, if In Bocca al Lupo really was one, it was a delightful, thoroughly enjoyed, and well-performer story – a must see in Cape Town!

Alexander Bar, Café & Theatre