Keep Your Quiztance

The Pub Quiz without the Pub

Writer, improviser, and geek Jon Keevy has hosted Let’s Get Quizzical for two years at The Courtyard Playhouse (formerly Alexander Bar). But all of a sudden he’s stuck at home with a stack of facts, a cupboard full of trivia, and no one to share it all with! (He tried quizzing his plants but they remained stoically silent – maybe they just don’t have any answers.) What’s a quizmaster to do? Go online obviously! Jon Keevy presents Keep Your Quiztance! the weekly quiz you can enjoy responsibly from the comfort of your home. Every Wednesday at 7pm he’ll be challenging audiences with tricky trivia and quirky questions.

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How does it work?

Visit Twitch.tv/jonkeevy at 7pm on Wednesdays, the show will be streamed live.

That’s it? But how do I play?

That part is up to you. You can get a group together on a chat platform (like Zoom, or Google Hangouts, or even Whatsapp, Signal, Telegram, or Discord – whatever works for you). With your group assembled you can compete amongst yourselves, or play as a team. Just follow along and answer the questions!

But what about points? Prizes? Do I have to log in or register?

Keep track of your points and feel the pride of knowing things! There are no prizes, just an opportunity to spend some time playing a game with friends in the virtual company of a charming host. You don’t even have to register, unless you want to post messages in the chat.

Then how do I pay?

I am really glad you asked! Payment is by donation and there are a couple of different ways to go about it, the easiest if you’re a South African is donate via Snapscan, but there are other methods available and explained on Twitch.tv/JonKeevy. The suggested donation is R50, but times are tough so pay what you feel is fair. In fact knowing how tough things are, 20% of all donations will go to the bar staff of the Courtyard Playhouse who aren’t earning during the lockdown and need support.

More about Jon Keevy

Beyond hosting Let’s Get Quizzical, Jon Keevy is a writer who dabbles in a bit of everything. He’s written about a dozen plays (he’s bad at keeping track) from serious solo shows to raunchy sketch comedies, he’s done a handful of short films, and spent half-a-year writing a fantasy novel about rebels and sentient plants. Probably his highest achievement was writing the script for Free Live’s Genital Jousting… a game about a squishy penis searching for love and meaning. The story was even nominated for an international award. Weird. He does other things too but frankly this seems like enough for now, and you can always google him if you want more. Or go to his website: jonkeevy.com

Some quotes from the live show at the Courtyard Playhouse about how rad Quiz is:

“Just the right combination of tricky and creative questions, strict but just guidance from the quizmaster, and merry competitiveness between the teams. Always a treat.” – Johan

“The quiz is super fun, challenging and entertaining. The quiz master is hilarious and the atmosphere is great!” – Matthew

“Love the quizzes here. Nice crowd, great host with interesting questions and just the perfect blend of subject matter!” – Alastair

“I would give this 6 stars but it only lets me rate out of 5 :)” – Carla

“Really had an awesome time! Super tough questions, but had a good laugh through the bonus round” – Laura

San Francisco days, San Francisco Nights

GDC Jon at the IGF Awards 2019

This is me at the GDC award show in San Francisco, part of a team nominated for Best Narrative at the Independent Games Festival. How I came to be there is a story that goes back a few years and involves friendship, honesty and dick jokes. Evan Greenwood and Richard Pieterse had a weird and super fun game featuring squishy penises with little butt-holes that they called Genital Jousting. I’m not sure why they decided to put in a story (probably a joke or a punk whim) but they did and decided they needed a writer. They got me.

After that the mission and the team got bigger. Robbie Fraser joined the core. But it wasn’t getting bigger that made Genital Jousting something to be proud of… It was how much deeper it went. It was a process of challenging ourselves and our ideas of masculinity and what it means to have a dick. The meetings with Ev, Richard and Robbie where we discussed and shared were sometimes close to therapy… These three men have taught me a lot. About games, but really about being an empathetic and reflective person. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but that’s what Genital Jousting is about, and I think that’s what life is about.

We didn’t win the IGF award. But we still won.

Thank-you from the Underground

Soc Med FdC

Above all to my (now) wife Suzanne, thank you.

On the evening of Sunday the 18th of March 2018 The Underground Library won Best Theatre Production for Children and Young People at the annual Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards. I was told I accepted the award and made a speech, but all I can remember is how hard my legs trembled.

From reports it seems I stuck close enough to my notes. If you had seen them, you would have read one sentence writ large across everything: There are too many people to thank them all.

Here then is my attempt to rectify that.

Tara Notcutt announced the award and that was very appropriate – she was the person I first pitched the idea to 4 years ago in Grahamstown. Tara, thank you for encouraging me from the beginning.

I wrote the first draft in early 2015 for a radio play competition (I didn’t win). Thank you to the people who read and gave me feedback: Marc Kay (who did win), Jon Minster and Melissa Loudon (who called my hacking scene ‘vaguely plausible’).

From there the script was adapted and submitted to the African Youth Theatre and Dance Festival hosted by Artscape and Assitej SA. Thando Doni directed a staged reading with a group of students. Thank you for your time and for firing me up in the talk-back. That festival was the first time I met Victoria Gruenberg, an American intern who gave me thorough, insightful and challenging notes, and my introduction to the roll-up-your-sleeves-and-work attitude of US writers.

From that festival it was selected to be a part of New Visions / New Voices in the USA – an opportunity created by Assitej SA and the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. Most costs were covered but I still had to raise money for flights.

As part of fund-raising we hosted a reading of a new draft at Alexander Bar. Jason Potgieter directing Faniswa Yisa, Mvelisi Mvandaba, Callum Tilbury, Richard September, Sive Gubangxa, Maggie Gericke, Cleo Raatus. You can listen to that early draft here: alexanderbar.co.za/undergroundlibrary

Fundraising for New Visions / New Voices (NV/NV) was an outpouring of support from family, friends and peers. Thank you all so much: Ma and Pa, Helen and Fumi, Malc and Jill, Sarah and Simon. Sanjin Muftić, Jayne Batzofin, Carla Lever, Andrew Whiting, Jennifer Downs, Karl Haupt, Aleida Heyns, Sandy Jeffery, Fred and Joy Boerlage, Ann and Jannie Wiegman, Blythe Linger, Melissa Loudon, Gaëtan Schmid, Helen Moffett, Wenda Redfern, Natasha Norman, Simon Cooper, Teri Davidoff, and Suzanne Duncan – who 2 years later is my fiance and my wonder every day.

(I may have missed donors, not every deposit had a decipherable code. Please let me know if you’ve been skipped.)

That got me to America for the first time in my life. The process was split into 2 parts, both rigorous examinations of the script. I lost track of how many drafts I was on by the end of it. I need to thank the fellow writers I went on the journey with: Vinati Makijany, Deepika Arwind, Sunil Bannur and my South African peers Tamara Guhrs, Lereko Rex Mfono, Mojalefa Samson Mlambo, and Koleka Putuma – whose talent as a poet and theatre-maker I am in awe of.

The experience was made possible Assitej SA, the Kennedy Center, The University of Maryland. Thank you people n all the organisations who made it possible: The leaders, the administrators, and the directors, dramaturgs and actors who gave notes, perspectives and their voices to bring the plays to life. Thank you Kim Peter Kovac, Patrick Crowley, Moriamo Akibu, Jeffrey Kaplan Lew Feem, Justin Weaks, Teresa Fisher, Karin Serres, Scot Reese, Meg Lowey, Faedra Carpenter, Deirdre Lavrakas and more, more, more (I want to name *all* of you individually but I didn’t keep careful enough notes.)

Returning I applied for funding supported by Maggie, my fearless assistant in all things bureaucratic and tea-fuelled.

We received funding from The Department of Arts and Culture and everything was on track to put together a full production at ASSITEJ International’s World Congress in 2017 at the Artscape.

Koleke Putuma led the creative team as director. Merryn Carver designed and made the wonderful costumes. Philip Kramer built the steel set. Dylan Owen did sounds and score. A special thanks to Shen Tian, whose otherworldly command of LEDs gave us a unique lighting feature that pushed the play into the dystopian future (10/10). Dara Beth was a excellent stagemanger to herd the talented cast: Thando Mangcu, Tankiso Mamabolo, Kathleen Stephens and Dustin Beck joining Maggie and Cleo from the first reading.

And the audiences who came to watch. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

So much of this process has been made possible by Assitej South Africa. Yvette Hardie and her team (special shout out to Yusrah Bardien and Jaqueline Dommisse) have built up theatre for young audience in this country and made a mark globally. Through their opportunities I have visited Rwanda, Sweden, Austria, India and the US. I have made new friends, found inspiring collaborators and insightful peers. I have been supported in the creation of new works – some of which continue to generate income for me.

It is in recognising how much I have gotten from Assitej SA that I pledge the prize money to them. I believe that we need organisations that grow and develop new writers, directors and performers. We need more theatre because theatre can change lives. It has mine.

Thank you for reading.

2016: My Year in Culture

A rambling bunch of thoughts on culture that made an impression, I’ll try to stick to categories. But I won’t be successful.

My year in culture was not really 2016. You see, I never really stopped being the child who refused to eat his vegetables and so, for this probably problematic and deep-rooted psychological issue, I tend to get around to ‘essential works’ rather late if at all. The more important and essential the work, the greater my antipathy toward it. This is why I haven’t watched ‘Breaking Bad’ yet. I recently dug out an old essay from varsity on ‘Thelma and Louise’ – I never watched the film. That’s me, contrary.

2016 was the year I got over myself (but not the year I watched ‘Thelma and Louise’ – 2017, fingers crossed). In part this was due to becoming a film lecturer at CityVarsity. As a student, I was comfortable being a fake – but the responsibility of teaching was a different matter. Ironically, I was a better student when I was a teacher and I began to plug the gaps in my curriculum.

The film that most stood out during this re-education was Spike Lee’s 1989 joint ‘Do the Right Thing’. It’s a stylish but visceral piece of work that remains chillingly relevant. Decolonisation, gentrification, racial justice, and police brutality. It could have been made in South Africa this year. It left me shaken and shattered. When you come across a piece of art from another time and place, you hope the recognition of the unchanging essence of human nature will stir an optimistic sense of connection. After ‘Do the Right Thing’ I was left wondering if we can ever break that thread.

A more recent film that I caught up with this year was ‘Whiplash’ (2014). I had heard a lot of praise for J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller’s performances, and they really were superb. The script was sparse and driven by image as much as by dialogue – a mark that Damien Chazelle is a master of the interplay between both arts. The movie became a favourite conversation for me – viewers had a wide range of interpretations of the ending, and the subject of the morality of art and the pursuit of excellence is a rich one.

Most regrettable confession is that I only saw ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ (2015) this year – that would have been amazing on a cinema screen. I had low expectations for a fourth entry into the franchise, and when people were raving about it I became more wary. Trust issues. But ‘Mad Max’ taught me to have faith. The painstakingly composed cinematography, the deep worldbuilding we’re thrust into, story and character revealed through action and reaction. ‘Mad Max’ is an action movie but distilled down to its essence. It’s a relentless race.

The whole year wasn’t catch-up for me. ‘Arrival’ came with a lot of praise and this time I listened. It’s the kind of scifi that’s too rare in film: a thought provoking ‘what if’ with real characters at its core. Amy Adams gives great centre to the film. My feelings about the movie fluctuate though – is it a great story, or just an unusual one that makes clever use of the language of cinema to pull off a neat trick? Watching it a second time the manipulations are more obvious. I may be reacting as a contrarian but ‘Arrival’ is a fascinating and flawed film.

It’s truly a golden age of television, maybe even platinum. Or palladium. I don’t know, I’m no metallurgist. Tara finally convinced me to watch ‘Bojack Horseman’ – a mix of deadpan absurdity and brutal psychological realism. How can I say that about a show centred on a 90s sitcom star who is an anthropomorphised horse? How can I relate to him? The eponymous Bojack is a bad person, more so than most but it’s a difference of degree and not of kind. He’s perpetually just breaking the surface of self-awareness, taking a despairing gulp of air and then being swept under by his id. In this Bojack has a doppelganger in another favourite show of the year, ‘Fleabag’. Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s show is almost too self-aware but that’s a misdirect, the character is as trapped in her own patterns as Bojack. The knowing glances at the camera – at us – should give her an ironic distance from the disaster of her life, instead they become a cry for help. Waller-Bridge’s writing is funny, obscene, and deeply empathetic. One monologue from a side character captures a masculinity in crisis more beautifully than anything else I’ve seen this year.

Something that I didn’t expect to like so much was ‘Stranger Things’. It was a joy. Balancing charm and chills. I loved that it didn’t lean so heavily on JJ Abrams ‘mystery box’ formula that is so exhausting without being satisfying.
‘Game of Thrones’ had a return to form with season 6 and HBO decided to double down on the sex and violence with ‘Westworld’ – but it was HBO’s other pick of 2016 that grabbed me. ‘High Maintenance’ had a life as cult web series before HBO brought it into the fold. I wished I’d seen it sooner. A slice-of-life series about New York City, the chapters play more like vignettes than full stories, eschewing strict narrative structure to play out with the same relaxed serenity as ‘the Guy’ – the weed dealer who loosely links the tales together.

‘High Maintenance’ seems like a good place to bridge from TV to new media platforms. There’s some kind of miraculous blooming that happens in your head when you read insightful essays and articles; this year Youtube became more than a time-sink for me, it became a place of fascinating insight. The video essay has matured thanks to time and support – revenue from Youtube and Patreon allowing people to make a career out of it. Embracing many subjects and styles, my favourite channels are Cracked, Nerdwriter, Every Frame a Painting, Extra Credits, Cinefix, Now You See It, Mark Brown, and Channel Criswell. Nerdwriter particularly has infected me with a distinctive voice after the manner of Attenborough or Louis Theroux, so that at times when I’m trying to sound insightful I’ll take a millisecond pause midsentence to gather the breath to emphasise the point. To be honest I’m not sure if this is imitation or mockery, and if so whether the Nerdwriter is the target, or I am.

Sticking to ‘media consumed via my laptop’, this year games became more than a pastime. I began writing material for Free Lives’ new game ‘Genital Jousting’ and being immersed in discussions about games and their design led to a deeper appreciation of them. I was introduced to new games, and new ideas of what games could be. One that stood out was a five minute experience: ‘the end of us’. Try this playful and heart breaking game for yourself right now. No really. 5 minutes.
‘Oxenfree’ is a ghost story about teens trapped on an island. The art style is beautiful, simple but haunting. It’s the storytelling that’s really interesting – with a dynamic conversation system that makes the dialogue flow really wonderfully allowing you to be immersed in the moment.

‘Dishonored’ was more my usual kind of game. A first person stealth challenge set in a richly textured and surprisingly responsive world. Like many other stealth games you can take a non-lethal approach, unlike many other stealth games this radically affects the outcome. I’ve noticed pacifism disappear from popular culture over the last half decade – no, actually it’s deeper than that… I’ve seen the moral dilemma of killing erased. Nolan’s Batman replaced by Snyder’s. Killing is assumed to be the only path forward. This not just bad for society’s soul, it’s also bad for our stories. Multiple, contrasting viewpoints fuel conflict and are essential if art is to have something to say. Blockbusters have consistently failed on this front, with possibly the exception of Marvel’s ‘Civil War’.

While in Washington DC I saw ‘The Nether’ by Jennifer Haley at Woolly Mammoth. Few plays handle the moral questions of modern technology so well. The concept is simple – a virtual world where players can enact paedophilia and murder. It’s not real of course, but does that matter when it feels real? Something between a techno thriller and the classic story of the detective deep undercover, ‘The Nether’ was deeply unsettling.

On the same trip I made it to New York and saw ‘Sleep No More’ – the famous, immersive theatre production riffing off ‘MacBeth’. Its grand design and intense choreography were overwhelming. I enjoyed looking for secret moments away from the rest of the silent, masked audience, and found a tiny room of towels down a tunnel we had to crawl through to access. The whole experience cross-pollinated with my evolving thinking about games and their volitional exploration.

In December I saw the Fugard’s production of ‘The Father’ by Florian Zeller directed by Greg Karvellas. I was impressed during the play, I enjoyed the clever writing and staging and the great performances. I walked out feeling satisfied. In the foyer someone asked me what I thought and as I opened my mouth to reply I started to cry, to sob. The titular father is struggling with dementia, the story bypassed my brain and clenched a fist around my subconscious. I walked straight out of the Fugard and into the night to wander aimlessly, ending up in some bar to have a whiskey to settle myself before returning to the opening night festivities. Such a visceral reaction.

And finally: Books. I used to think of myself as a reader. It was central to how I saw myself in the world. That’s not true anymore though, and the moments that I recognise it are moments of mourning. The books of last year were too few. They were continuations of series from Peter F. Hamilton, Brandon Sanderson, and Joe Abercrombie, or the page turning pulp ‘Breakers’ series by Edward W. Robertson. Largely I blame my own stalled novel, as though every completed book were a rebuke of my failure to write for over 200 days. Of course that’s not entirely fair. I did write. I wrote plays and I wrote a computer game. I had a full, productive, and creatively challenging year. I just didn’t write it.