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BWW Interview: Julie-Anne McDowell Hegarty & Daniel Galloway Talk Brand New Production Company

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How Now Brown Cow aims to bring new works to South African stages in 2021

BWW Interview: Julie-Anne McDowell Hegarty & Daniel Galloway Talk Brand New Production Company

Combining the best of both theatrical worlds, actress, writer and publicist Julie-Anne McDowell Hegarty joins forces with former Managing Director of The Fugard Theatre Daniel Galloway to launch new theatre production company How Now Brown Cow. The co-founders chat to BroadwayWorld South Africa about how they got here, and where they're going.

BWW: Tell us about the conception of How Now Brown Cow. Where did the inspiration come from?

Julie-Anne: It came from the realisation that to make it work in this industry, as an actress, you must literally make your own work. I wanted to create work for myself initially, but the vision has clarified through lockdown and post-COVID to be more about encouraging South African talent back on to our stages. We see so many British, Irish and American plays performed here - which is great and should continue if relevant - but long term I'd like to see us take our South African talent overseas to be appreciated like it should!

BWW: What made you reach out to Daniel specifically?

Julie-Anne: I'd met Daniel at The Fugard last November and we chatted briefly about the industry in general. I had the license for a play that I wanted to produce and I was keen that it go to The Fugard. However, when I saw on Facebook that Daniel was leaving the theatre earlier this year I picked up the phone within seconds and asked if he wanted to come on board as the producer for my play. He agreed and it was all systems go until COVID hit and we locked down. I probably spoke to Daniel 2 to 3 times a week during lockdown and we shared many of our hopes, frustrations and dreams for this industry - and out of those discussions our theatre production company was born.

BWW: Daniel, how do you feel your experience with The Fugard Theatre has prepared you for this new venture?

Daniel: I have been deeply privileged in my experiences with The Fugard and Eric Abraham, for which I am enormously grateful. I have an acute understanding of producing independent theatre and a great love for working with passionate people who want to collectively create beautiful, meaningful theatrical work.

BWW: What is the most exciting part of starting a new production company?

Daniel: 2020 has been brutal for the industry we all love. There has been little to provide hope in this year; from the closure of theatres to the complete lack of meaningful supportive response from those in positions of power. It is in this light that the courage displayed by Julie-Anne to announce a new production company, that is most exciting to me. I take my hat off, truly, to Julie-Anne for taking this leap and I am thrilled to be a part of her fierce quest.

BWW: And what do you think is, or will be, the most challenging?

Daniel: Funding, support, and will audiences return in meaningful numbers once we are able to re-open our theatres in sustainable, feasible ways. This remains to be seen but for the time being we are focused on doing all we can to ready ourselves for a time when we can share important stories to live audiences on our beautiful stages.

BWW: It must be asked: how did the name How Now Brown Cow come about?

Julie-Anne: So "How Now Brown Cow" is a vocal exercise to round out your vowel sounds and is particularly helpful when perfecting a received pronunciation accent. Northern Irish people like myself struggle with this as we have clipped closed vowel sounds and so our pronunciation often provokes surprise and laughter. It's a nod to my heritage and my love for acting. Plus I've a secret obsession with cows. They are my spirit animal!

BWW: It seems How Now Brown Cow is looking at producing a wide range of productions in future. What do you think makes this production company unique from others in South Africa?

Julie-Anne: Well, right at this moment we are perhaps unique because we are prepared to invest in an industry that has been decimated by COVID. It's a fairly bold move especially as it seems unclear when we might recover, but we believe in the need for theatre and the importance of theatre in our society.

Daniel: We are fiercely determined to join many others who are truly focused on creating meaningful work for theatre makers across the country. We will do it step by step, in small ways. We will play our part as best as we can, with transparency and integrity insuring we advantage as many people as we can.

BWW: If you could get your hands on any play, what would be the number one production you would like to see How Now Brown Cow do?

Daniel: There are so many, many titles out there and I will decline to hang my hat on just one! What I am particularly excited about is the commissioning of new South African work, and we look forward to announcing those works in time to come.

Julie-Anne: Gosh, as an Irish actress my heart yearns for Jez Butterworth's THE FERRYMAN. But as an adopted South African there's so much choice here, where does one start? I'd like one of our first plays out of the bag to be a locally written piece with a globally relevant theme. Oh, and with the role of a middle aged Irish woman in it!

BWW: Ideally, where do you see How Now Brown Cow in five years' time?

Daniel: So much can happen in a year - let alone five - but if How Now Brown Cow could be a meaningful contributor to the beautifully diverse cultural landscape of South Africa and create meaningful work for those professionals in our industry, and if this can be done in a financially sustainable way through us raising support from those who can contribute financially to our cause, I think we would have done very well!

Photo credit: Supplied

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