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When Koe’siestes and Kneidlach mix on stage – a soupy sisterhood



Laughter is medicine, especially when it accompanies some integral cultural, religious, and familial issues. We catch up with From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach – With Kids!’ director and co-writer, Megan Choritz.

What was the inspiration for the original From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach?

Chantal Stanfield was keen to tell her own true life – very theatrical – love story. She was right in thinking that there was an audience who wanted to hear it. She found the idea of a cross-cultural love mash-up truly funny, odd, and even painful at times, but mostly funny. And then, of course, there was the kneidlach. Kneidlach are hard to get used to if you haven’t known them since birth.

What drew you to directing this show?

I was lucky that Chantal thought of me and asked me if directing From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach was something I wanted to do. Honestly, I would have been less excited to direct something more traditional, but I have a lot of experience just being Jewish and growing up in Joburg, and now I live in Cape Town in a very mixed but predominantly coloured part of Woodstock, so I felt like I knew both worlds of the story intimately well. I “felt” them. When you feel it, you know it’s the right fit.

How did you and Chantal meet and decide to work on this?

I knew Chantal from when she auditioned for me for a different project. In my mind, she was always “on file” as someone I wanted to work with. I think it was the same for her. She plucked up the courage to ask me, and I was delighted. It has flowed easily ever since. Chantal is a dream to work with. She’s an amazing actress to direct: receptive, quick, intelligent, funny, and emotional. I’m so happy we’re making the sequel. We have a hilarious way of working. Lots of Zoom and Skype and WhatsApp chats, face to face to play and develop the script, and then finally coming together to make the show in intense and productive rehearsals.

As this is based on Chantal’s life. Tell us a bit about it.

The summary: Chantal grew up on the Cape Flats, but also attended one of the first model C schools, Muizenberg Primary. She went to varsity to study drama, came to Joburg to follow her dream, met and fell in love with a nice Jewish boy from Joburg while she was on a performing tour in Turkey and he was back home. She came back, the romance blossomed, they got married, she made the first play, she fell pregnant, we tried to do the sequel, it got closed down before we even opened because of COVID-19, Chantal got COVID-19, and … a few big life changing events later, she’s back on stage with the sequel, praise be, Baruch Hashem, Insha’Allah.

Tell us about your working relationship with Chantal and how between you two, you conjured up this fabulous first show and now this. What did it take?

The most important part of our working relationship is that we find each other funny. Wait, it could just be me! No, I do think it’s mutual. Also, we see things the same way. I’m political and outspoken, I don’t tolerate racism, or discrimination, and I do believe Chantal feels safe with me. I’m pretty much in awe of her talent and skills, so it’s a great combination. Add Daphne from Theatre on the Square into the mix, and it’s a delicious theatrical event.

How would you describe this show to someone who isn’t Jewish or from the Cape Flats?

From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach with Kids is a cross-cultural exploration of what makes us human, what makes love, family, and community.

Tell us about some of the myriad cultural, religious, and familial issues you chose to deal with in this show and why you picked those particular ones.

Well for all the similarities between the cultures – feeding and feasting being the biggest – I think there are some stark differences. Baby showers are huge in the coloured community, for example, but non-existent among Jews. There are a lot of Jewish holidays. For Christians, it’s pretty much Christmas and Easter. But every culture has those that judge, those that disapprove, those that criticise, and are unkind. Even some audiences had some weird or even inappropriate responses to the first show, and I know it will be the same with this sequel. But, motherly advice happens across the board. The excitement (and family pressure) of a new baby, the universal markers of pregnancy. The show also goes to history and the pain of the past in different ways. We are who we are because of where we come from, on both sides of this relationship.

When preparing this show, what were the funniest experiences and most difficult moments?

Chantal and I laugh a lot. Sometimes we’ll have ideas about a certain character, and we’ll run with it, building onto them more and more, and each new thing will have me in hysterics. There’s a tiny cameo character in this show that literally nails me every time, she’s so funny. It’s also painful to deal with the more emotional parts of the subject matter. When Chantal told me some of the criticism or racism she experienced, I found myself full of shame. Interestingly, the most challenging thing for us was when we were cancelled in Cape Town. We felt devastated, lost, and empty. Theatre makers just want to work, and COVID-19 hit us so hard. I’m so grateful we’ve finally been able to do it.

Were you surprised when your first show (pre-kids) was such a hit, especially with the Jewish community? If so, why?

I wasn’t surprised because the story is heartwarming, funny, and delightful, and the Jewish part just meant that more of a specific Jewish audience came, loved it, and told their friends. I also think people like seeing themselves represented on stage. What was surprising was being able to tell the percentage of Jewish or coloured people in the audience by where the big laughs were.

Sometimes Jewish people find it difficult to laugh at these issues. How did you manage to get past the discomfort, enabling them to let go and laugh?

We were able to be entertaining and provocative at the same time. Some of the issues are pretty heavy, and we handle them with sensitivity but also stay true and clear. An audience will respect that. But there will always be someone who complains about something. And that you can find in every culture or creed.

What do you and Chantal want people to take home from this show?

Tolerance, respect, the acknowledgment of difference, the celebration of all that connects us, and the preciousness of children. It’s a lot!

  • ‘From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach – With Kids!’ is at The Theatre on the Square from 3 to 21 May.

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