No doubt many performers who are asked about working for Blue Moon will recall the diamond-studded spectaculars and gala dinners. I've been privileged to do a few of those, but for me, the most memorable shows have always been in places where nobody's ventured before, taking training and entertainment to audiences unfamiliar with theatre in ways that genuinely affected them.
My first acting job for Blue Moon, in '93 or thereabouts, required me to wear full drag, because the character was a cross-dressing fridge. That's when I had the first inkling that I liked how this company's mind worked.
After that it just seemed normal to play a white blood cell in an AIDS awareness roadshow that took us right across the country and sometimes, deep under it. Perform down a mine? In a dam wall? Sure, what could go wrong?
Other travels followed. Try explaining to Swazi customs why you want to fly into their country with a full size, cardboard replica of a kitchen stove in your hand luggage.
"You see, officer, we're doing a play... No I'm not trying to play with you..."
Oh, and the rush of accidentally setting off the alarm at Koeberg nuclear facility when the sniffer dogs discover an old alcohol bottle used as a prop.
I've worked with some fine actors. I don't think anything ever tested us more than a show in a marquee during a freak rainstorm, ankle deep in water on a rapidly flooding stage, while the script called for us to mime rowing a canoe.
I've also enjoyed the laughter with great teams of people. The hysteria of endless Star Trek puns during an almost all-night rehearsal for SASOL. Swapping country song lyrics with DJ Grant on board The Yellow Train. Having to evacuate a hotel, because an actor smoked the place out by lighting up a pipe.
Over the years Blue Moon decided that instead of irritating directors with my incessant suggestions, I should write them down in script form. Sounds cushy? Not when squashed into a teeny tiny aircraft flying to Richards Bay at OMG o'clock in the morning, or taking notes under a cement crusher raining hot ash on us.
But these research trips always lead to vibrant brainstorming sessions and it's worth it to see little muscles around Producers' eyes begin to twitch when creatives present ideas beginning with the words: "It might cost a bit, but if we could get a helicopter..."
I also have to a mention how brave so many clients have been to trust us to come up with ideas for their business, EDCON, VWSA, ESKOM, SASOL, EXXARO, PPC, Kumba, Harmony, De Beers, Nissan, RBM, Reckitt-Benkiser, Standard Bank and many, many more. I still don't know how we do it. Put enough weird people in a room and some kind of magic happens.
Weird people? Never! Apologies to the totally sane ones like DJ, Sue (Stoppie!), Graham (I'm not stressed!), Claire, Sarah, Deana, Trudy, Lucinda (Alp!), Xoli, Michael, Mia, Heather, Dikeledi, Viv, Charlotte, Liyanda and so many who I've neglected to mention and will now never hire me again.
For a perpetual free-lance odd-job type like me, it makes all the difference to feel as though I have an artistic home. The rewards of working for Blue Moon have been great. And the awards are deeply appreciated too. But what's really special is when Michelle introduces me to a client, with the words, "This is Al. He's a Blue Mooner."
Thanks, Blue Moon. Here's to the next twenty-five.Al's Blog