Werner Asher Steffen had wanted to do an Afrikaans play for his next directing foray at the Milnerton Playhouse. But, when it proved impossible to get the rights he told the producing committee he had something else instead – offering his own work in progress.
While Steffen prefers to let ideas germinate as they come, he was forced to buckle down and write, admitting now that sometimes deadlines can be helpful. And Then What? Now plays at The Milnerton Playhouse from 22 to 29 March 2019.
He finished writing And Then What? in time for casting in October 2018, and this week it becomes his third foray into the complicated world of writing and directing at the same time.
Die Lappop at UJ Drama Festival
Last year he wrote and directed the short play Before I Forget at the Milnerton Playhouse and his first stint was Die Lappop in 1998 for the UJ Drama Festival. Steffen is no stranger to the stage either, having most recently portrayed roles in The Christmas Spirit (2018) and Art (2017).
Steffen says pulling the double act of writer and director can be an advantage because you already have insight into characters and plot which you can share with the actors.
Having been on the boards himself though, he knows better than to dictate to actors what he thinks their characters should be like: “I pointed them in a direction, but never gave them answers. You must let them discover their characters themselves,” he says.
And Then What? revolves around three friends who meet up for after-work drinks. As the alcohol flows the questions start zinging and the trio are forced to reckon with some issues they were rather pointedly ignoring. The simple “and then what” rattles each one of them into questioning their own decisions.
There’s emotionally brittle Fiona (Lizanne Peters) who suggests that frazzled Anne (Hannah Crafford) has not considered what will happen after the big happy wedding day she is so single-mindedly planning. Seemingly confident Bryan (Anton Schafer) admits that his fear of rejection is holding him back and all along the bartender plying them with drinks, pretty boy Collin (Shaun Saal), is eavesdropping with his own agenda.
“I tried to write something universal, characters that people can identify with. They come to realise they must stop living their lives blindly following some direction. Stop and just think about what it is you are trying to achieve,” said Steffen.
The story plays out in The Office Bar & Bistro and Barry Altwick has built a gorgeous set, creating a bar that is more well-appointed than most Long Street dives.
A technical director
Werner Asher Steffen doesn’t think of himself as a technical director, so he considers the strong behind the scenes team at The Milnerton Playhouse to be a welcome boon. He can describe the effect he is trying to achieve and they can fill in the technical details.
He considers creating his own work to be an important step in expanding the local theatre scene, be it professional or community theatre – he sees creating new theatre as an antidote to complaining that there is just no work.
“It is important to point out there is a space, both mental and more importantly physical, for others to produce work. Me doing this might just give somebody else the kick in the butt to realise they can do something themselves in a place like The Milnerton Playhouse,” said Steffen.
What: And Then What?
When: 29 March to 13 April, Evenings 8pm: 29, 30 March, 5, 6, 12, 13 April. Matinees 6, 13 April 2019
Where: The Milnerton Playhouse, Pienaar Road (Behind Library), Cape Town
And Then What tickets: firstname.lastname@example.org, 082 267 1061,www.milnertonplayers.co.za/shows