A Q&A with Chantal Stanfield

In December 2017, we sat down with actress, singer and playwright Chantal Stanfield to chat about her one-woman show, From Koe’siestes To Kneidlach, which was about to debut at the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town following a successful run at Theatre On The Square in Johannesburg. Fast forward to 2020 and a global pandemic that has left theatres around the world dark. In response to this, Chantal has released a pre-recorded version of the show that audience members can stream to their homes, in the hopes of raising funds for the two theatres that From Koe’siestes To Kneidlach called home.

Click here to read our conversation with Chantal from 2017.

The last time we spoke was when From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach was being performed at the Baxter Theatre in 2017. How are you doing in the midst of this pandemic?

I’m adapting as best I can, as best as we all can. I mean, this is a truly crazy global event to be experiencing and trying to live and survive through as a ‘struggling artist!’ Obviously attending theatre and producing shows as we used to has been a no-go for months and the entire entertainment industry has been thrown for an absolute loop. It’s been disheartening to see the lack of proper Governmental support for the Arts sector at this time – most of the financial assistance I’ve seen myself and other artists receive has been from fellow industry individuals and organisations. But it’s been great to see how many people and productions have ‘pivoted’ and tried to make the best of this new situation we’re all in.

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Photo credit: Chris de Beer

What have you been up to since our initial conversation?

So much has happened since we last spoke! The show had a return season at Theatre On The Square, which felt like both a homecoming and closing of a chapter – it felt like I had personally outgrown the piece. But the ‘big thing’ was having our first kid, who is now a toddling one-year-old! The difficulty with being pregnant as a performer (amongst the actual pregnant craziness) is that there’s only so much work you can do as the actor – not many roles for actual pregnant people but I managed to continue voicework and filmed an ad while secretly three-months pregnant. 
I was in two musicals while our baby was quite new. Rock Of Ages returned. I was so happy to work again and reprise my supporting roles, even if Baby was barely three months old – I would spend almost an hour a day during rehearsals pumping breastmilk in a private room and storing it in my cooler bag! It became an in-joke – whenever someone couldn’t find me, they’d say I was at Milky Lane! Then in Seussical, I had the lead role of Gertrude McFuzz when Baby was six months old – luckily weaned by that stage. Also, trying to do pirouettes with limited ab strength will humble you! I was so very fortunate that the production companies I worked for while breastfeeding as a new Mom especially, were so very supportive and understanding of my challenges.
I’ve finally ventured in my solo music career in 2018 and released two singles – the funky first single Walk It Off and the very popular house track Nothing There, which my company Kizara Kreative funded a music video for, off the back of the From Koe’siestes To Kneidlach success.

I squeezed in another ad between the two musicals. I recently also filmed a few weeks on a soapie, which gets quite tricky when dealing with safety protocols during a pandemic AND you’re new to the set trying to remember people’s names behind the literal masks! Needless to say, having a supportive and equal partner while attempting to keep up and get back into the entertainment industry as a new Mom is indispensable.

From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach is your one-woman show that chronicles your journey of meeting your husband and navigating your different backgrounds and religious beliefs. Reflecting on the show now that it’s been performed, what challenged you most about that experience and what are you most proud of?

I’m just really proud of the piece as a whole, actually. Most of the stories that people see about the “Coloured” community in the media are negative and, unfortunately, our largely negative circumstances and stories translate to and influence the stories that audiences see onstage. I’m certainly not denying the need to shed light on the difficulties our communities face – these are truths that we have to share. I felt with my piece, I was able to show audiences the joy, the rich culture and humour that is present in those circumstances too. 

What was most challenging, besides the behind-the-scenes production madness, in retrospect, was some knee-jerk responses to the uncomfortable aspects of the piece that touched on racism and micro-aggressions. Those scenes were so difficult to work through in rehearsal because we knew how important it was to both be sensitive and revealing. But I’m so proud that a large part of the audience actually ‘got it’. 

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Photo credit: Chris de Beer

In response to the global pandemic and theatres around the world being shut, you’ve chosen to release a filmed performance of the show in support of Theatre On The Square, The Baxter Theatre and Kizara Kreative. What made you decide to release the recording and donate the proceeds? 

Well, like so many of us, income is severely limited and my initial idea was selfishly to keep myself and my young family afloat for a little bit. But I realised at the same time that these two theatres that hosted and co-produced From Koe’siestes To Kneidlach were also going through a tough time and would appreciate any help too. So I decided since I personally couldn’t help them, that I’d make the donations from the profits. The filmed show was initially for the private archive and marketing purposes only, so it’s crazy that it’s actually out there and that people as far as New Zealand and America have now seen and praised the piece! 

How do you hope the filmed version translates to audiences? 

I know it’s strange to watch theatre on a screen because you lose some of that energy of audience members right next to you. But I think that the online audience will still get that feeling because the show was filmed with a live audience and those reactions and participations are still there. I hope people receive the piece in the spirit it was written – for the sake of understanding, reflecting and laughing at our unique South African foibles. 

As an artist, how have you managed to stay inspired and creative during this time?

It’s actually been quite tiring in general. I think that’s down to the collective stress and anxiety that everybody’s feeling about the state of the world, when we can work again or if there’ll even be work in our particular sectors available after this. I started off quite motivated but, as lockdown continued, I put less pressure on myself with deadlines to finish things. We are, after all, a creative family stuck in a flat with a very active and loud toddler! So filming footage for a web-series and auditions, recording vocals and finishing songs, and trying to write the From Koe’siestes To Kneidlach sequel – it’s all had to be taken with a large pinch of salt. 

How are you feeling about the future of the arts industry?

Television-wise, I’m not really worried. I’ve seen first-hand now how a television studio can operate quite successfully during this pandemic – lots of sanitising in and out of studio, minimal crew, numerous temperature checks, lots of social distancing etc. But theatre, the real first love, I’m not too sure about… The costs involved with sanitising after every performance with the limited number of audience members at a time and what all that means for the bottom line of an independent producer or theatre or the performer…? I just don’t see live theatre being viable for anybody right now without major corporate sponsors involved. It seems that we’ll only ‘get back’ to how it was next year.

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Photo credit: Chris de Beer

What is one online platform or social media account that we should be following right now?

Gosh, there are so many though but here are just two: 

Im4TheArts on Facebook is a great arts activism and community page to follow. They’ve recently hosted a Winter school for various disciplines from film and dance to music and theatre. The conversations they’re having are so pertinent to the industry. 
The production company &Co have created an online offshoot called AndSceneLive that aims to educate, upskill and keep artists moving in lockdown, from interviews with South African performers on Broadway to dance masterclasses and yoga/dance classes – www.andscene.live

From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach is available to stream until July 10th 2020. For tickets, click here

To support the Baxter Theatre’s Coffee Angels initiative, click here.

All photos were taken by Chris de Beer at the Baxter Theatre on December 13th 2017.

Sarafina Magazine and Chris de Beer maintain copyrights over all images. For usage or inquires, please contact us.

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