• Chenal Kock

QnA with the quirky actress from #ActorsLife

We've been supporting and working on a production created by Estelle Terblanche, a drama graduate from Stellenbosch University (2010), who describes herself as "quirky, relentless and indecisive". The actress plays the role of Christine in her one-woman show #ActorsLife directed by Tamryn Speirs. Within this play, she Estelle gets to live out her passion for telling stories and pursues one of her very first loves: acting!

Chenal Kock asked her a few questions about her journey...

1. You wrote your play in 2016. It's first run was at the Alexander bar in September of 2017. You then furthermore had a run at the Drama factory. Why do you think it is important to tour with a show?

Estelle: It is necessary to perform in front of as many different audiences as possible. It is a play that deals with a variety of issues within the context of an actor's life, but in fact, relates to struggles faced by many. It is important to give non-actors a glimpse into the difficulties faced in the entertainment industry, but also to show them the overlapping experiences. I love the way different audiences react to different parts of the show, but so far everyone has felt they could relate to Christine, laugh with her and, hopefully, learn from her. Laughing with Christine is also laughing at yourself and I feel this is one of the most important things human being should do!


2. You worked with director Tamryn Speirs, who works as an international acting coach. Why do you think it was important to have a female director, direct this one-woman play?

Estelle: I had a male director at first and although he approached the issues with a very strong awareness and sensitivity, he was still a man. The play requires a female voice to speak up about issues faced by women within the industry. With a male director at the helm, it was still to some extent the masculine voice speaking to the audience. Christine is rediscovering her own voice and so am I. Working with a female actor has given me a much stronger part in the creative decision-making process and it has added another point of view, another female actor whose experience has helped to create layers I never imagined when I initially wrote the script.

3. Why do you think it's important for artists to have runs at theatres and not only festivals and please explain the different processes when dealing with a theatre vs a festival.

Estelle: Firstly, it would be tragic if audiences had to travel to a festival in order to see theatre. Even if there is one person in an audience, this is someone who wants to see theatre and not everyone can afford the costs of a festival. We as actors must, therefore, bring theatre to our audiences. It is also important for actors to work in different spaces. Working in a variety of theatres teaches you to adapt quickly and adjust to the space - which is created to support a theatre performance. Festival stages are often more difficult to transform into a performance space because they were not built primarily for that purpose. With a theatre run, you learn to use the space to add to the performance. You have a lot more time to move in and create a technical landscape that supports but does not overwhelm the performance. And you can stay in one place for longer, building stamina in a space where you feel safe.

Festivals are often exciting, adrenaline filled, sleep deprived and rushed. You get in quickly, make the best of whatever space and technical options you are offered and perform. It is exhilarating, boosts theatre awareness and teaches actors to be ready for anything. Very different from working in an established theatre space. Both are important in their own way.

4. Explain what is "#actor's life" about?

Estelle: Well, I tried to cram it into an hour and still did not manage to cover everything. It is so many things. There is the social media image that many actors present of setlife, makeup, events and awards. And then there is the work, rejection, insecurities, moments of wonder, competition, support networks, castings, regrets, waiting... You really do need to come and watch the play, to be honest.

5. What makes your play different and unique?

Estelle: I think it is a form of comedy which is very underused in South Africa. It is witty, it is not slapstick and we do not want to underestimate our audience. Tamryn has also created a very interesting landscape, which is based on the mockumentary genre in film. Christine is interacting on various levels. And we use a television in a way I have never seen on stage before - or even heard of.

6. As artists it is difficult to sustain ourselves financially. How do you cope financially as an artist?

Estelle: I do a million jobs. I am a Pilates instructor, petsitter, voice over artists, writer, babysitter and I've dipped a toe in the arbitrage trade market. When I do my taxes I laugh. Most years I have four or five different income sections and everything else pays for the Loss I make investing in short films and theatre. So, I work hard, live frugally and trust that the money will come when I need it.

7. What advice would Christine give to Estelle Terblanche and what advice would Estelle offer Christine? (One actor to another)

Estelle: Christine would probably tell Estelle to appreciate what she has. Christine would love to be doing a show in a real theatre, so gratitude is in order. Christine has a lot of good advice. She doesn't always follow it herself, but she is not shy to tell me to relax and have fun.

I would tell her to find her community. I've recently found my support network within the industry and it has made a massive difference. It allows me to practice my skills on a regular basis with a group of actors who truly support and help one another, within a safe space. Christine really needs a safe space to just act, so that she doesn't forget why she became an actor in the first place.

8. Who are your local and international role models and why?

Estelle: This is a tricky one. Let me start with international. I want to be Maggie Smith when I grow up. She is unbelievable. She is just so present and so versatile and so funny and she played in Harry Potter. Need I say more? Then there is Meryl Streep. Who doesn't love a woman who was told she was too ugly for a film and told the critic that she would find kinder waters? And I love Emma Watson for her work in raising awareness, as well as choosing clever roles that she portrays with great nuance. I tend to love British actors, but there are so many. All these actors also manage to keep their private lives private. They are super famous, but we know very little about them outside of their work.

Then, locally, I admire many of the great theatre actors. I'm sticking to female because this is such a female-driven project. I was lucky enough to train with Antoinette Kellerman and Nicole Holm - both superb actors who put in the work. I admire Sandra Prinsloo, Lizz Meiring and Margit Meyer Rodenbeck from afar. I have so much respect for Tinarie van Wyk Loots and Julia Anastasopoulos. And then there are directors like Kanya Viljoen, Nicola Hanekom, Renee van Rooyen, Dara Beth and Tara Notcutt... And my own director, Tamryn Speirs. Too many...

I need to stop now and I am sure I haven't listed a quarter of the people I want to be like and/or work with!

9. What do you hope to achieve with your show going forward? What is your ultimate goal/vision?

Estelle: I'm still deciding and developing. I have learned that planning the future of a creative project is kind of crazy. It just never turns out the way you expect it to. I want people to see it. I hope I will have the opportunity to keep performing it for a while still, but who knows where, when or how. Do I have a secret goal? Yes, but it will have to remain secret for now.

10. In your play, you speak of the "pressures to constantly provide a perfect image". If you could redefine the "perfect image" how would you positively redefine it?

Estelle: I want people to see the beauty of imperfection. The fact that sometimes we can't control everything. Sometimes we can't fix it. Sometimes we are just flawed. And that's okay. That is kind of perfect in a different way.

#ActorsLife runs at the Baxter theater's Masambe theatre ( a newly rejuvenated hub for young artists , curated by Nwabisa Plaatjie) from 28 May-1 June at19:00pm. Bookings can be made through Webtickets on 0861110005, online at www.webtickets.co.za or from Pick n Pay stores.

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