What do you get when you give three creatives 5 weeks to write, cast and rehearse a production? You get a true theatre passion project!
When Shannyn Fourie shared her vision for a powerful play that portrays the true June Carter Cash with theatre friends Candice van Litsenborgh and Richard Wright-Firth of Canned Rice Productions, they immediately saw the potential of a collaboration... and so the stage production From The Heart was born.
As I sat down to talk to the two ladies in this theatre partnership, it was with great delight that I got drawn into their June-inspired debate… Where did her drive and power come from? Was she really that naïve or just a true sweet Southern belle? Was she likable at all, or just a homewrecker to some?
Shannyn clearly finds personal inspiration in June’s life journey, almost like they could have been soul-sisters, while Candice finds her real, even flawed, characteristics more appealing. That balance of perspective is clearly visible in their various collaborative roles. As the actress playing June, Shannyn draws on their similar backgrounds and her desire to portray June as the strong female presence that supported and inspired Johnny Cash to live his music dream.
Not only does From the Heart give Shannyn the opportunity to tell the untold, almost secret, life of June as the power behind the great man and his music, but it also gives her the opportunity to develop her love for the guitar. “I always wanted to play guitar, so I simply had to grab this opportunity to pay tribute to the instrument. There is such a release in playing it!”
Candice however explains that although there is music in the show, it is definitely not a musical or cabaret, “it is more of a dramedy, with acoustic and intimate elements, that allow their music to highlight moments in June’s life”. As equal parts drama and comedy, From the Heart also shows deference to the intelligence of the audience, “because this is not merely a remake of ‘Walk the Line’.”
For Candice, as the visionary behind the adapted script based on June Carter's book 'From the Heart', the development challenge was all about keeping it true and authentic June. For her it is important that the play both portrays June as she penned herself, even including her bad grammar, while also revealing the between the lines uncensored June she didn't present to the public.
This production will definitely take you on a June journey. It focusses on the feelings associated with the more random moments of ordinary life, as experienced by a woman married to a name. It is more about the nature of her character in relation to Johnny (and even her family), than the well-known sequence of events usually portrayed as the Johnny-June story.
It starts with one of the darkest moments in June’s life and builds up into an understanding of her hopefulness. “She may not have been very smart or truly exceptional, but she was as exceptional as any one of us”, Candice elaborates on June’s relatability. “She chose to see the good in every bad situation, whether it be crime, death, uncertainty, or violence, but she never took on a victim attitude.” Definitely a life-approach South Africans in general can relate to, both ladies agree.
“She dealt with everything with a lot of grace that highlighted her beautiful heart”, Shannyn adds as she elaborates on June’s reactionary character.
From the Heart is clearly June’s perspective of raw, messy, flawed characters, and their journey to a rocky path of redemption, because she clearly was the woman who inspired bad boy Johnny Cash to walk the line. Her presence in his life was literally so life-giving that Johnny died a mere 4 months after his beloved June.
So what can audiences expect of this journey with June? “People are definitely going to leave knowing June,” Shannyn says, “maybe even liking or loving her.”
In the end, From the Heart shows the story of a sometimes lonely, though always loved, woman, who held it together for everyone else, “and yet still found a way to smile through all the nonsense”, Candice adds.
With only a few weeks to go until From the Heart opens at Alexander Upstairs, it is now up to director Richard and his June (Shannyn) and Johnny (new comer Andy Lund) to bring to life on stage the magic that resides in the vision and words as adpated by Candice.
From the Heart, presented Shannyn Fourie and Canned Rice Productions, runs at Alexander Upstairs from 22 February to 5 March 2016. Tickets are priced at R100, but are discounted to R90 if you book online at www.alexanderbar.co.za. In honour of June and Johnny Cash, and in line with their wishes, the production team will also donate a percentatge of tickets sold as a donation to the SOS Children's Village. This show is truly from the heart, in more than one way!