BEHIND THE SCENES: Sleeping Beauty Pantomime – The Run-Through (Why our children need to see live theatre now, more than ever)

Sleeping Beauty BannerSo today was the start of ‪Tech Week for ‪#‎SleepingBeautyPanto. What does that mean? I hear you ask. What that means is that it’s almost time for opening night! Here’s a nutshell ‪Behind The Scenes look:

This morning saw the first full run-through of the entire production after weeks of choreography and vocal training and practice. This afternoon for the first time, the cast rehearsed with the full band and from tomorrow the adrenaline starts pumping as the company moves to the main stage and the lighting team take up their roles in the production … and then things get really interesting!! For a look at what went down today, you can take a look here: https://www.facebook.com/janice.leibowitz/media_set?set=a.10153071413971333.1073741845.646516332&type=3&pnref=story

I’ve had a love of all things dramatic from a very young age. Yes, I believe I was extremely lucky being the only child to Anglo/European parents who came from a rich cultural background. I grew up in a home filled with books and music (from opera to heavy metal guitar) and so it has probably always been something that I have taken for granted. I was taken to the theatre regularly, from a young age, and not having any siblings, books and their fictional characters that filled my head were my first companions. I know it was a privileged upbringing, but I know of plenty others who had similar upbringings, in comparable environments who today hardly ever open a book, and wouldn’t know where the entrance to a theatre is! Growing up with these luxuries (and yes, I’m not obtuse enough to realise that these are not indulgences), does not guarantee that you appreciate and make use of them.

Now, more than ever, I believe that it’s absolutely vital that our children are exposed to all types of (age appropriate) Sleeping Beauty 1theatre if and when you have the means. Kids spend so much of their time on screens – phone screens, tablet screens, TV screens – actually, come to think of it, so do adults! But as adults, we’re more able (let that read ‘should be more able’) to exercise a bit of self-restraint when it comes to screen-time and gaming time. We don’t though. In fact, if the kids are happy and quiet, we’re more than content to just let them carry on with whatever zombie attack they’re orchestrating, or whichever clan they happen to be coordinating at any given moment, right?

Live theatre can be just as riveting, if not more so! You don’t believe me? Then you’ve never been in an auditorium filled with school kids, watching a pantomime. They don’t need any encouragement from the cast, they don’t need any signs held up to tell them when to shout, what to say or do. They instinctively know when their interaction is required and they get stuck in wholeheartedly, cheering the good guys, boo’ing the villains, yelling out ‘yes’ and ‘no’ right on cue … but with no cues needed. It is a thrilling experience. Kids being kids – no screens, no buttons, no ‘game over’s’ – completely genuine human interaction. They sing along to the songs they recognise with uninhibited abandon. Here, they are allowed to be children, not undead sleepwalkers or gun-toting gang-landers, just children. They know that good will overcome evil, the prince will get his girl and peace will reign in the kingdom.
So make your children switch off those screens – yes, you can actually make your children do something. Remember, YOU are the parent! Please bring your kids to the pantomime. It’s real, wholesome entertainment. And if you really, really don’t want to come with them (although you really, really should), then try and get their school to do a booking. It’s a fantastic group outing (you can go to www.joburgtheatre.com for all booking info).

There really is nothing like seeing a child’s face when it lights up with the excitement of seeing a live show – real actors, singing and dancing right there in front of them! It’s better than anything they’ll see on any screen!

STAR WARS 101 – THE FORCE IS WITH ME

My name is Janice and I’m a Star Wars Fan! No, not Start Trek, that’s different. I am NOT a Trekkie. If you don’t know the difference, kindly unfriend yourself now! If you don’t know the difference but wish to be enlightened, keep reading.

Star Wars 7

My love for Star Wars started many light years ago … in 1977 when my late Dad (bless his soul) took me to see the first Star Wars movie. Actually, it’s not the first one, it’s the fourth one but it was the first one to be made, and the first one to be released. I know it’s a bit confusing so I’ll put it in a nutshell for you. Episodes 4, 5 and 6 were released first, with 3 year gaps in between each film release. Then, after a staggering 16 year wait, episode 1 was released in 1999, and episodes 2 and 3 followed, again with 3 year gaps in between each episode’s release.

It’s now been 10 years since we saw the last Star Wars film (in case you’re not keeping up – that was episode 3 in 2005) episode 7 is about to be released – in December of 2015. Apparently we won’t have to wait too long for the final two episodes in the series. This time there will only be a two-year wait between the release of those, in 2017 and 2019! I think they’re worried that the original fans from the 70’s might be dying off so they’re hurrying things along slightly. Can you actually handle the excitement! (Actually, at our age, maybe we should take a pill and go and lie down.)

Right, so to make sure we’re all on the same page and that you’re all paying attention here’s what the actual Star Wars series looks like – not in chronological order (although it pains me to list it this way), but in episodic order, because I do understand that not all of you are quite as purist as the rest of us:

Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)

Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)

Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)

Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)

Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)

Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)

Episode VIII (2017)

Episode IX (2019)

Moving swiftly along … I hear you asking, ‘What is it about?’ Well, what do you think it’s about? The battle between good and evil – duh! There are the Jedi, who are the good guys, and the Sith, the nasty guys. And all are ruled by the ‘Force’. The Jedi harness the Force (always, always with a capital ‘F’) for good. The Sith, tune in to its dark side and use it to do their damndest, evil worst to take over the Galaxy.

To try and explain the entire, intricate story to Star Wars novices would take quite some time, and as this is only the 101 version, I will simply educate you on some of the more iconic characters that you will most certainly have seen or heard of (please, please humour me and tell me you have!)

Star Wars 6Darth Vader

Darth Vader represents the epitome of evil in the Star Wars saga. An imposing figure be-robed in black and with his face masked, breathing heavily, who can say they haven’t heard someone mimicking Vader’s catchphrase ‘I am your Father’? (even if you haven’t, please for the love of the Galaxy, just nod and say you have!!). Darth Vader started life as Anakin Skywalker, and once it’s discovered that he has great potential in the Force, he is removed from a life of poverty and trained to become a Jedi Knight (very, very important good guy). He eventually marries Queen Padmé Amidala of Naboo, but events conspire against him, and he ends up moving to the dark side, and becoming a very important bad guy!

Luke SkywalkerStar Wars 3

Heartthrob of note in the 70’s when the first Star Wars movie (which was episode 3, remember?) was released. Now we look at him, shake our heads and wonder, ‘What were we thinking?’ In the first Star Wars (which is the 3rd Star Wars, really) he’s a fairly non-descript young man, coerced into helping to rescue Princess Leia (his twin sister – but he doesn’t know that yet; he doesn’t know Darth Vader’s his dad yet either; actually he doesn’t know that he himself is a Jedi, by virtue of the fact that his father is one – the ultimate dysfunctional family). Eventually, he accepts that he must be trained in the ways of the Jedi, and he comes across Yoda …

Star Wars 5Yoda

The wise Jedi Master, an odd looking but endearing little creature who speaks in a strange, backward prose. Yoda’s character encompasses all that represents good in the Star Wars franchise. Advice he gives, wisdom he imparts (that’s how he talks – funny, hey?) No-one would dare say that they don’t like Yoda! (So don’t even try it!)

Han Soloimages (8)

The rugged hero with the smart comebacks and the risky moves, who rescues everyone and gets the girl (Princess Leia). When we first meet him, he’s a smuggler, trying to get out of trouble by chartering his spacecraft to the highest bidder. Nobody likes him or trusts him in the beginning, but of course by the end of about 6 episodes (in whichever order you choose), everybody adores him! It’s Harrison Ford – what’s not to love (even with the dodgy waistcoat, and without the bullwhip)? His co-pilot is a Wookiee (what do you mean you don’t know what that is – and no, it’s not a type of dog, it’s much, much bigger?!?!) named Chewbacca (affectionately, Chewey). He’s adorable – but don’t get on his bad side. He doesn’t talk (not in words), but when he gets angry you’ll know!

Star Wars 8C-3PO and R2-D2

They’re droids! How cool? Yes, robots. C-3PO is a very prim and proper droid who speaks in a very British, butler-like voice and who always needs to do the right thing. In fact he’s absolutely, positively terrified of doing anything wrong or making anyone angry with him. R2-D2 doesn’t speak – but C-3PO understands him perfectly. He communicates in blips and whirrs, and when he gets really over-excited, spins around like a bit of a dervish! He’s usually referred to as just R2, but you’ll know when C-3PO is really angry with him when he calls him by his full name, R2-D2!

Ok, so I think that’s enough for Star Wars 101 – I wouldn’t want to overload your brains with too much intergalactic information! I’m trusting you to revise these notes adequately. There won’t be a test, but just keep your light-saber charged (get one of those portable chargers in case of load-shedding!) and may the Force by with you!

IT’S GOOD TO BE A BRATZ!

Bratz - Prima home page

I always loved dolls! When I was about 12 or 13 years old (many, many, many years ago!) my mom was actually quite concerned that I’d never outgrow playing with dolls! I had quite a collection. I particularly loved my Pippa and Sindy dolls (it seems we didn’t have Barbie back then), and had inherited quite a few from my older cousin, complete with an enviable collection of clothing and accessories to keep me occupied.

Suffice to say that by the time I walked down the aisle a few years later I had, eventually, moved on.

Bratz launch 2Bratz logoBratz launch 1

Imagine my disappointment when my own daughters didn’t express much of an interest in dolls, until last Thursday that is, when my 12-year-old accompanied me to the #BratzinSA launch, and seemed to regress to somewhere around the age of 6, insisting that she wanted a Bratz doll!!

Bratz Selfie SnapsYes, the Bratz are back and they’re better than ever! Jade, Yasmin, Chloe, Sasha and their new friend, Raya are all about being creative, confident and self-aware. They’re up-to-date, complete with selfie-sticks and shoefies – oh my word, THE most enviable shoe collection EVER!! They have sleep-overs and study overseas. They know what they want, and the underlying theme of this new range is to let your little girls know that even though girls just wanna have fun, at the end of the day, they’re going to achieve their goals!

The #BratzinSA launch, held at Toyzone in the Benmore Gardens shopping centre in association withBratz launch 14
Prima Toys and Twiga PR was a resounding success. Guests (the VIP’s were all under the age of 10) were treated to drinks, snacks, and much pink icing was in evidence! We were welcomed with gorgeous pink-handled, Bratz emblazoned selfie-sticks, which everyone happily set about activating.

Bratz launch 13And then for the formalities; thank you’s from Prima Toys’ MD, John Jordaan and Marketing Executive Chiquita Patrizi, before the pink sheeting was dropped Bratz launch 12from the Bratz display and gasps of sheer awe could be heard from the little girls who had been waiting for this very moment!

How refreshing to see that children still get so very excited by toys – no technology, no gadgets, just genuine, traditional dolls. They literally jumped up and down with delight! Even better … the tills were open for business! And by the end of the evening, there were most definitely gaps in the previously pristine display!

Bratz launch 11                                     Bratz launch 10

Bratz launch 9

Some things just work! This launch was one of them. Full marks to all involved! And extra points awarded to all involved in marketing for perfect timing – pitched perfectly at small people who like pink and who just happen to be compiling Christmas lists right about now.Bratz launch 7Bratz launch 6Bratz launch 3Bratz launch 8
Bratz launch 5

Are Big Retailers too Big for Small Consumers?

I adore Food and Retail Store Woolworths. I think we’re lucky to have them. I love the way they package their food, the fact that it definitely does taste better, is good value and is excellent quality. But sometimes, in their quest to be just those few steps ahead of the pack, that much more ecologically correct, and just that bit more tree-huggy, things do tend to get a bit manic!

At the end of August, Woolworths proudly made a big song and dance about the fact that they would be removing all sweets and chocolatesWoolies sweet aisle from its checkout points in order to provide its shoppers with healthier food options. I’m not sure what prompted this announcement, clearly other retailers were not impressed by it as they were all quick to say they would not be following suit. Moms countrywide rejoiced that it would once again be safe to take their little ones into a Woolies supermarket. I myself was nonplussed – I no longer have small children – ok, that’s a slight fabrication, I do have youngish children, but by the time you reach that fourth child you’re immune to whining and you are actually that mother. You know … the one whose children are just helping themselves to stuff and chucking it in the trolley and you’re just ignoring them and everyone else is looking on in gobsmacked horror, whispering to each other “Doesn’t she care?!?!”

So yes, Woolies did not impress me with their grandiose statements. And here we are, screeching into mid-October and I must be honest, I have not seen this sweet-and-chocolate-checkout-point-removal being rolled out in a single one of the Woolworths stores that I’ve visited recently (including one of the new, large stores, which were to be targeted first). I admit, I’m just a mom, I only have a small home of 6 troops to command, not a massive conglomerate of what must at times seem like insurmountable numbers, so I don’t know how these things work. But if you’re making such a fuss about it, surely there needs to be some follow through. It’s kind of like when you’ve promised your child something and then you don’t do it; a teensy little bit of trust crumbles by the wayside, never to return. But I digress – I was saying, I don’t know how these things work – I’m imagining something along the lines of an email to each branch saying something like: Remove the sweets and chocolates from the checkout aisle, redistribute them to the sweets and chocolates aisle, place more boring stuff in the checkout aisle and carry on as you were.

A member of Woolies’ Foods Leadership Team (no, I also have no clue what that is) said in the original announcement that he was ‘delighted’ (yes, he expressed actual delight) that the company he represented was committed to removing sweets and chocolates from their checkout aisles. He went on to say that customers could trust that Woolworths had their best interests at heart, and that as a father himself, he was very proud that his organisation was  leading the way to providing healthier kids’ options. Seriously? Buddy, the options have always been there, and will continue to be there. It’s up to us as parents to make the choices as to what we buy and offer our kids. And are you actually implying that other stores are not offering these same healthy options?

While we’re on the topic of that aisle and options and such … my local Woolies branch seems to only stock the lunch box sizes of dried fruit packs in that checkout aisle, and nowhere else in the store. I know it’s only a smallish store, so maybe larger stores stock them in other aisles too, but here’s the thing: at Woolies mango chunks17.37 pm (they close at 18.00 pm) when I’m stocking up on lunch box fillers for the next few days and 83 people are behind me, while I’m frantically searching for mango chunks but can only find apricot strips in the tiny little boxes that are stacked waaaaaay down there by my feet, I can promise you that there are a few rather unhappy people who cannot even get their trolleys past me in that narrow little checkout aisle. That very cleverly, convolutedly engineered aisle, designed to juuuuuust fit one trolley into it. Now, whose bright idea of lunacy was that? Must have been someone on the Food Leadership Team! Or maybe there’s a Checkout Aisle Leadership Team that they haven’t told us about yet!Waiting in line

Although I often engage in various online surveys and focus groups I don’t recall ever being approached by Woolworths or being engaged by Woolworths on my views of their ‘Good Food Journey’ (yes, they’re on one, in case you didn’t know). Other retailers have forms at their checkouts for customers to complete on topics such as service delivery, stock, and even whether you were greeted on arrival at the till! I’ve never seen such forms in a Woolworths store. However, Woolies assures us that they do interact with customers through numerous feedback alternatives.

But actually, I don’t care! No, I don’t! When I’ve finally found the mango chunks (at 17.48 pm), apologised to the 48 murderous people behind me (the other 35 have given up waiting and gone home), and pushed friendly cashiermy trolley to the next available till, all I want is a cashier to greet me with a friendly hello – because really, all you big Leadership Team people, sometimes that’s what it’s all about. And then, then, just as I’m about to pay, I often want to turn round and grab a couple of chocolate bars (as I ignore thunderous looks from those still waiting in the queue) to munch in the car on the way home!

ATTACK OF THE MOMMY GROUPS!!

I love Facebook! There, I said it … yeh, yeh, I know it’s pretty much par for the course in my line of work, but I genuinely do enjoy Facebook, how it’s evolved and most of what it entails. The one interesting development that’s really catching my attention lately plays both a negative and a positive role in social media’s ever-changing development, and that is the ‘Mommy Groups’.

There are groups for every type of mom you can imagine! For the moms who want to stay slim and trim; Gym momthe moms who love to bake and cook; the inked (tattooed) moms; moms of boys – strangely I couldn’t find one for moms of girls – someone let me know if there is one (actually on second thoughts, probably, please don’t!); moms who love wine (quite a few variations of those); and generally just lots of groups of moms who want to be in a group with other moms!

Tattooed MommyIt’s not new or surprising that we gravitate towards those in similar situations to us for support or simply for some innate sense of security (or some herding instinct). But what absolutely fascinates me is that as these clusters have gathered momentum, it seems that many of their members start to adopt somewhat of a pack mentality. Common sense seems to completely fly out of the window as people somehow think it’s obviously much better to ask a group of complete strangers (ok, that’s not strictly true, there are often individuals within any given Facebook group who do actually know each other) for advice on anything from what that nasty rash might be (yes, of course pictures are included!), to what legal proceedings they should implement now that they have photographic evidence that the neighbour’s Pitbull is having illicit relations with their French Poodle (feel free to replace ‘Pitbull’ and ‘French Poodle’ with the names of whoever is appearing in your current soap opera/Mommy group scandal)!Common sense

People! I really, really don’t mean to sound judgey here, but why would you ask for medical advice from a group (and some groups number in the thousands) of unqualified women, the majority of whom have never even met you or your child? If you’re confused before you asked your question, imagine how much more confusion the different responses you’ll receive, will cause? Why would you do that to yourself?  Why would you do that to your child? If it’s 2.43 am and it does seem, God forbid, to be an emergency, that’s what a hospital emergency room is for. Go there first. Do not head over to Facebook to see what some other sleep-deprived mother might suggest in a moment of insanity!

Ask your friends, your mother, your doula, the cashier at your local Quick-Shop, dare I say, even your mother-in-law. Surely there are people you can approach with your personal issues before launching them into the virtual stratosphere for all too gleefully trample over with their muddy little paws! And believe me, Opinion 2trample they will, with gay abandon! You will be the subject of every type of criticism you can imagine (and some you didn’t). Ladies you are putting yourself out there! I know you’re looking for encouragement, support, love, baby bunnies and puppies with rainbow hearts and flowers to wrap you in pink cotton wool, but the likelihood of that happening is slim. I know that you think you are in a ‘safe place’ and that is what all groups do offer (and that IS the intention of all these groups – they all have rules, and most stipulate that hate speech is not permitted), but always be aware that not everyone has the same agenda as you! Even if you respond kindly to someone else’s dilemma, rest assured, someone out there is waiting to bash your well-meaning words of advice because your opinion is so obviously, ridiculously wrong, wrong, wrong, and how dare you even have the audacity to share it here!?!?

However, before you run screaming for the hills and go deleting your Facebook account altogether … these groups are amazing platforms for sharing resources. They’re a fantastic support and networking system for the many, many new and necessary mommy-businesses that are springing up all the time. Refinements_gotham_5And by this I don’t only mean businesses based around mom and babe products, but also every single type of business that I’m seeing start up almost every day by a mom who, for whatever reason, isn’t going back to her pre-mom workplace. There still aren’t many opportunities for moms in the workplace who might want to work flexible hours, especially those with very young kids, and I strongly believe that we need to support the constant strength and ability that women show in going out there and making things happen when those opportunities don’t miraculously appear for us.

To sum up:

  1. Use your common sense!!Common Sense pills
  2. Does your query require the help of a professional?
  3. Use your common sense!!!!
  4. Can you Google it first?
  5. Use your common sense!!!!!!
  6. Don’t be a hater!
  7. Use your common SENSE!!!!!! (You might be recognising a pattern here.)
  8. Check that your question hasn’t been asked at least 10 times already this week.
  9. Use your COMMON SENSE!!!!!!!!!!!
  10. Refer to points 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 before posting to the group!

Disclaimer: This is a VERY generalised blog post, and not specifically aimed at ANY group/s that I am currently a member of. Nor is it aimed at any particular individual/s in any group/s that I am currently a member of. I love ALL my mommy groups unreservedly!!!

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