Jobs: Doing It for Yourself

Chantal Stanfield is an actress, singer, dancer and stage actor – an accomplished all-round performer.  The public will recognize her from various local soap operas, earning her the label “Soap Star” in the mix. Chantal knows the fickleness of the industry all too well, especially after a year of disappointment, disillusionment and confusion. Here’s her take.

The entertainment industry, specifically TV and Film focuses on name or followers in this case. They tend to employ people for their “name,” i.e., how many followers they have on Twitter. As Chantal says what does that even mean, they don’t necessary have the talent. I really get annoyed when I know someone has been cast based simply off their social media numbers. I don’t believe the number of followers you have necessarily equates to the delivery of a top-quality performance. In those instances, it’s actually really difficult to perform with someone like that when you know another actor who would’ve delivered proper work.

         In short we are celebrating mediocrity in a male-dominated profession. Surely we should focus on the talent. Sadly this rings true in quite a few professions today, that and who you know.The old classic of you need more experience before you can get the part/job, but how to gain it if they don't give you a job to start with didn’t even apply. She did have the experience andthe years of experience got her nowhere. 

That was in part the catalyst that ignited the spark to write her own play. The defiance of I am not being cast, let me do it myself. The play is about how she met her husband, award-winning vocalist RJ Benjamin, who she, incidentally, met on Twitter.  She met her husband in the year he’d given his mother to find him a nice Jewish girl.

The heart-warming play is about what happens when a girl from the Cape Flats meets a Jewish boy from Johannesburg’s affluent East Rand. The play aptly named from Koe’siestes to Kneidlach, is the wordplay on the cultural clash of colour and Jewish sensibilities. (A koeksister is a plaited doughnut dipped in syrup).

She cites meeting couples (from the audience) after the show, whose relationships mirrored hers in some way, be it cultural or religious background differences, as reason why the show works. The experience of the discoveries in all the rituals such as Shabbat, prayers, food, (oh yes the food) and the potential of offending however unintentional. She credits the success of the show to all-female team, director Megan Furniss and Theatre Owner Daphne Kuhne. As she says she has started her little feminist wave thing. They are all headstrong and forceful females who are continuing the theatrical fight for women in the industry. It sets precedence, as there are so few female directors, producers and writers receiving recognition.

She evidently supports the #MeToo campaign, it is giving women such courage to be aware, be present and be heard. This is a wonderful crazy, stressful and empowering time to be a woman. It’s scary but so important for these stories to see the light of day. People need to be held accountable for what they’ve done. As for social media being the gatekeeper of social justice for someone in the public eye. She agrees that it’s a crazy new world where anything you say online, even unintended, can be used against you. However it is a handy filter for racism and sexism.  Awareness is key, as you have to be able to stand by it proudly and lawfully.

In the similar vein, her motto is hard work, staying true to your goals and applauding yourself for just going for it in the first place. Always give your best in an audition, regardless of curveballs and whether you a fit or not. Go with it and then forget about it. In an industry where the focus can be on the roles you didn’t get or other negativity, it’s not self-aggrandising to congratulate oneself when achieving a dream. It’s a much needed affirmation.

When she does get the role keying into character through the clothes, apart from warming up and meditating especially for stage work would be her main ritual. The clothes provide the focus, an honest account of literally inhaling the character’s mannerisms. As keeping it real is part and parcel of the job, understandably one of her pet peeves is when fellow actors act to the  camera or only to the camera. It is annoying when they only react when aware of the camera. Any real connection is spoiled.

Some fun facts. Her memorable corpsing moment was when she got so confused in a take, recently that she said the other actor’s line instead of her own. Fortunately on screen, there’s always another take. As for her ultimate girl crush, right now it would be Claire Foy in The Crown. “She is a great study on subtlety on screen, bummed that she won’t be back for the next seasons.”

Yes she can also binge-watch, either as an escape or inspiration. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Veep is great after a day of serious screen or stage acting- other people’s silly antics. The British series The Crown and Derek’s nuances is inspiring, especially concerning the subtleties of acting.

As for a web series becoming a theatre production, although doubtful if it really works, she would pay to see RuPaul’s Drag Race on stage. Sheer Drama! If she had to choose between these series: Friends or Will and Grace –Will & Grace, Always.

A favourite Sunday home-cooked meal would depend on the mood or what the food delivery service has on offer. The ultimate would be either Nandos or a baked pasta dish and roast chicken. We couldn’t resist, we had to ask what her 3 favourite Yiddish words are. That would be the ones she use the most - schvitz ,oy vey and kvetch (squeeze).

She can add shtolts (proud) of her achievements to that. Here’s to courage, equal recognition and chutzpah. Here’s to celebrating many more doyennes not only in theatre but in the job markets throughout.

Our writer from South Africa, Bernadette Erasmuswrites a blog Kaleidoscope





Hello I'm Bernadette Erasmus from Cape Town South Africa.  I have a blog called Kaleidoscope, please do have a look.

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