11×11 – Boom! That’s Two Down

The second play of my 2015 writing challenge 11×11 is done. The Underground Library was an idea I’ve been kicking around since the National Arts Festival in 2013. It was going to be building the style of Get Kraken. Set in Jozi of the near-future, the Underground Library is about education and inspired by Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, and the thread of pro-autodidacticism that runs through the work of black intellectuals from Carter Woodson to Steve Biko. It’s an adventure story with spies, hackers, shady interests, and samurai (you know you like samurai).

The biggest challenge for this was that it was a radio play. My first ever. My preference is to write whatever pops into my head and let the director and designer work out how to make it happen on stage (in Get Kraken a stage direction reads, “The submarine rises up from beneath the little boat, stranding the panicked pair”). But in radio it’s all on the writer to figure out how to convey the info. None of it is visual, and since it was for a competition (SAfm radio playwrights) I also couldn’t leave it up to a sound designer – I needed to show that I understood the medium. It being a competition added more pressure. This one had to be good. Every Beautiful was written to be performed, but I will be doing further drafts, I’ll be revising. The Underground Library I had one shot at, and it kept me up late this last week.

Lessons this month:

• If writing is the most important thing to you, then you have to make finishing the most important thing. Prioritise finishing. Life will make you choose. Choose finishing.

• I’m useless at night. Rather take it off and recharge.

Colouring the Kraken!

A comedian observed that handing out flyers is a bit like saying, “Here, throw this away for me.” He’s not wrong. Flyering can be the most disheartening activity in theatre. Marketing general gets that reputation.

But like any challenge it has the possibility of being really exciting. Every year performers try crazy stunts to get people to take their flyers – they cavort in costume, they sing, they beg… And the for the designers the challenge is just as intense: How to deliver information in a way that engages the imagination of the target audience. As much as the aesthetics matter, the result is what counts.

Yusrah Bardien passed on a great idea to me from Fiona Gordon (if you’re interested in the up & coming generation of people who make theatre happen, it’s them). Instead of making the standard flyer, make a colouring book page. Suddenly the flyer becomes entertaining in itself, an item families can engage with and even look forward to finding on their tables. For me it’s a joy to be able to doodle the characters and a challenge to figure out what makes a good image to colour in. Usually I don’t work with vector graphics but since I’m travelling it became the best way to work.

Colouring Page 01 vWebFirst I’d doodle the characters, trying to find a nice clean cartoon style that is still energetic, then I’d roughly sketch ideas for layout, finally I’d rework these with the vector tools on Photoshop (I know, I know I should use Freehand or Corel if I’m serious about vectors. But I didn’t have time to learn a programme from scratch). I’ll do a work through when I have more time.Doodles 01

The results are still evolving. In these sketches you can see I went back to rework Jay – the first pass felt too non specific, too generic kid (a danger of writing young characters too?) while the new sketches give him more energy and expression.

Doodle 3Doodle 2I’m looking forward to seeing the reaction of kids. Hopefully they’ll enjoy them as much as I enjoyed making them.

Get Kraken is on daily at 12pm at Oatlands Hall as part of the ASSITEJ Family Venue at the National Arts Festival 2013.

Owls and Krakens and Bears, Oh My!

I’m writing from an artists’ residency in Berlin that I am crashing. It’s called HomeBase and is all about bringing together artists from around the world together to work on notions of ‘home’ – I am not one of those artists, I’m just visiting. It’s a really interesting project and you can find out more on their Homepage.

For me it’s a nice space to type out emails and write press releases and go out of my mind worrying about the up-coming National Arts Festival. It is right around the corner (at this point some of you will nod, mutter about how true that is, stop reading and switch tabs to get back to working on your own productions), and it’s going to be a tough one.

Mostly because I’m trying to wrangle Krakens and Owls from another continent (OK, so that accounts for two thirds of the titular menagerie… where do bears fit in? Well, the bears are a symbol of Berlin. There. Mystery solved.)

This first half of the year has been a roller-coaster, with highs like Alexander Upstairs and the amazing response at Brighton Fringe for A Girl Called Owl, and lows like my collapsed lung (a month in and out of hospital and the recovery period) and the low turn out for Get Kraken despite amazing reviews. I’ve made a lot of declarations about what I’m going to focus on, and then made a whole lot more declarations stating the opposite. The most important lesson is just to keep working; good things happen if you don’t give up.

Get Kraken!

Kraken Teaser webGet Kraken is a tale of high adventure; there are poachers, plucky heroes, ice-cold villains, breath-taking battles and a sea monster bigger than your imagination. All brought to larger-than-life by four actors. No fancy props or cd players making sound effects. Four sweaty actors take the audience under the ocean on the hunt for the greatest catch of all… the KRAKEN!

Get Kraken is next performing at: the Cape Town Fringe 27 September to 5 of October

27 September 2014 15:00
28 September 2014 13:05
29 September 2014 18:00
01 October 2014 13:05
02 October 2014 9:00
03 October 2014 11:00
05 October 2014 11:00

I wrote Get Kraken as part of ASSITEJ SA and The Theatre Arts Admin Collective’s Inspiring a Generation programme, a combination of a mentorship and cultural exchange which I have posted about a couple of times before (Inspiring a Generation, No Really). It’s being performed at various schools around the Cape even gone as far a field as the Garden Route Family Festival in Plett and Knysna. Right now we have one week left at the Intimate Theatre (16th April – 4th May), and it’ll be heading to the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in June / July as part of the ASSITEJ family venue.

What sets the play apart from most other family fare is the way Kim Kerfoot and the performers create the world of the story. It’s done in the style of a theatrical comic book without props, set, or costume – the actors, dressed in black t-shirts and pants, use their bodies and voices to zoom in and out, to create special effects and locations from a busy road, the ocean by night, to a submarine or the inside of a whale. Part of going to schools has been giving workshops on this energetic style of performance. The script is also going to form part Shuter & Shooter’s grade 9 English reader next year, an added bonus for schools.

Get Kraken Performance

Reviews So Far:

“Director Kim Kerfoot brings Jon Keevy’s text to life in ways that keep the audience guessing and in stitches. As something of an environmentalist, for me it’s the reasoning behind hunting the Kraken that make this wildly entertaining play stand out among the current theatre on offer in Cape Town.”

– Clifford Graham, the Monday Missile

“Jon Keevy has written a fun and funny script and Kim Kerfoot has directed the cast with vigour and cleverness. I loved it.”

– Megan Furniss, Meganshead.co.za

“Under Kim Kerfoot’s direction this cast bravely goes into a totally different direction to most of what passes for children’s theatre in Cape Town. Instead of sticking to staid, safe fairy tales with bright primary colours and seriously old ways of looking at the world, Get Kraken is a comic-book adventure with references from the now and speech patterns borrowed from TV and film.”

– Theresa Smith, Cape Argus

“I couldn’t stop laughing. All you need is your imagination and you’ll be set for one seriously funny night!”

– Eugene Yiga, Bizcommunity

“The comedic appeal and brilliance of the artists is apparent from the moment they set foot on stage, but it is their imagination that particularly shines in this production. The cast merges vivid miming and idiosyncratic sound effects to create a theatrical tale for the hunt of “Kraken”.  This show without a doubt raises the bar for experimental stage comedy.”

– Benn van der Westhuizen, Whats on in Cape Town

“Keevy has managed to write a script for children which is as entertaining for adults and it is presented in an innovative way – light on embellishment and laden with energy.”

– Tracey Saunders, Cape Times

“Binne ’n driekwartier het jy egter ’n avontuur van epiese proporsies beleef.”

– Marina Griebenow, Die Burger

Get Kraken was first performed at the Intimate Theatre on the 16 April to 4 May

The Get Kraken team:

In which some folk had a sneak peek at my new play and I write a press release about it.

On Monday night a full house at Alexander Upstairs got to see a preview of my new play, Get Kraken, as part of Play Things, a monthly platform for artists to showcase new writing, experiments and short performances.

Play Things was started so that artists from different fields could have a space to try out stuff. There always seemed to be events where musician of a specific genre, or comedians, or poets could get together… with Play Things we wanted to stimulate collaboration across art forms. People come and are surprised, whether they’re in the audience or on stage they discover things they wouldn’t ordinarily go looking for. This is the first time I’ve put any of my own work on and I was pretty nervous. But it was also my birthday so by 9pm I was also tipsy (just a little, I swear).

Get Kraken is a tale of high adventure; there are poachers, plucky heroes, ice-cold villains, breath-taking battles and a sea monster bigger than your imagination. All brought to larger-than-life by four actors. No fancy props or cd players making sound effects. Four sweaty actors take the audience under the ocean on the hunt for the greatest catch of all… the KRAKEN!

The response from the audience was fantastic. We shared the night with Tape Hiss and Sparkle, a scene from Oskar Brown’s work-in-progress Berlin was Yesterday, poetry by James Honibal and Black Lung.

Get Kraken will be at the Intimate Theatre, 37 Orange Street, Gardens, Cape Town

16 April to 4 May Tuesdays to Saturdays 8pm

R70 Adults, R50 concessions, R50 parents accompanied by a kid (most suitable for 8 and up)

For bookings and enquiries please email kraken@jonkeevy.com, for more information visit jonkeevy.com

In a small fishing community along the West Coast Jay and his Oupa try their best to make a living from the sea.  But you need slips of paper and signatures to get at the dwindling fish and perlemoen while police patrol in caspirs and Marine Patrol watch the waters. Despite the dangers Oupa takes Jay out with him one night to pull perlies off the rocks. Bam! Searchlights! They’re caught red-handed by Marine Patrol. But before the authorities can arrest them properly something under the water yanks them away. Suddenly Jay and Oupa in their tiny boat are being towed out to sea… When they finally stop they are drifting in the middle of the ocean, without land in sight.

That’s when things get strange…

Get Kraken! is my new play, written as part of ASSITEJ’s Inspiring a Generation programme. The goal of the programme was that each of the participants should write a play for young audiences somehow related to the theme of ‘poverty’. Taking poverty to be about resources, access and potential I decided to research issues around fishing. I got some amazing research from the University of Cape Town – facts, figures, and collected statements from fishermen from Hawston, Kalk Bay and Langebaan – and processed them.

Then I let my imagination go, using the research as inspiration, not a collection of data points that I had to include. Our Swedish mentor, Lucia Cajchanova, really helped me to find the journey of Jay and his Oupa, two people caught up in a big world that often doesn’t care.

Kim Kerfoot will be directing DJ Mouton, Shaun Acker, Jason Potgieter and Stefan Erasmus in a staged reading at the TAAC on the 28th and 30th of November at 6pm along with Lindelwa Kisana’s Doll Boy.

Telling it.

Whenever I need inspiration, or my process stalls, I turn to Robert McKee’s Story. Today I opened it at random and got this:

“At last he [the writer] has a story. Now he goes to friends, but not asking for a day out of their lives – which is what we ask when we want a conscientious person to read a screenplay. Instead he pours a cup of coffee and asks for ten minutes. Then he pitches his story.”

The exercise of writing out the story inevitably leads us to write out what happens. But this is not story. The story is the distillation of what happens, the spine under the actions and events that gives them meaning. Telling a story is to select moments out of the infinite scope of ‘what happened’ (for in fiction anything is possible) into an emotionally moving sequence. When you tell someone your story out loud you’ll see if it works in their face and their body language. Then you’ll know if you have story that’ll hook your audience or just a list of things happening. I have never found a more useful exercise than to tell a reacting person my story. At the NAF the Inspiring a Generation folk got in front of a crowd of twenty or so Grahamstown kids. We were all a little nervous. The others read bits of their scripts, scenes or poems; I read nothing. I sat close, made eye contact and told them the story of a boy and his Oupa and the hunt for the Kraken. I got more out of that than the others because I could see what engaged the kids and what lost their attention. When the play is eventually produced it’ll have puppets, projections and performers, but all that is made compelling by the story they’re telling.