In the limelight: Melissa Haiden talks about her work with Cape Town’s Sugar-daddy theatre company

Melissa Haiden has made her mark on stage and screen (TV and film- international and South African work) and she is an accomplished visual artist. She currently lives in Cape Town but plans to semi-grate to Johannesburg in mid 2021. Heiden credits Sugar-daddy theatre company for fast-tracking her career, after she performed in David Mamet’s Sexual Perversity in Chicago, directed by Chris Weare. The traction from that knock-out performance was instrumental in opening up opportunities in the industry.

To mark its 10th birthday in 2020, Sugar-daddy theatre company, Cape Town is celebrating the work of theatre makers who have been part of its journey. Grateful for the platform that Sugar-daddy gave her as an emerging theatre maker, Haiden shares her tips for audition prepping on SugarTube – Sugar-daddy’s YouTube Channel (filmed 2014). She has updated those tips for the time of Covid when self-taping and Zoom has become an essential auditioning mode. Read on, to find out more.

TheCapeRobyn: Marlisa Doubell says that you credit Sugar-daddy with giving you your ‘break’ with David Mamet’s Sexual Perversity in Chicago, produced by Sugar-daddy and directed by Chris Weare?

Melissa Haiden: I finished my four year degree from UCT in 2009. Chris Weare and Jaqui Singer were my major mentors. After graduating I felt that I still only had half the password for getting into the theatre scene. I quickly discovered that an actor has to make work to get work. My collaboration with Marlisa Doubell, founder of Sugar-daddy theatre company was an important moment at the start of my career. I met Marlisa in Bonnie Rodini’s acting workshop in 2012 and was really taken by her passion for theatre and her ‘get it done’ attitude. We instantly connected and that’s how Sexual Perversity in Chicago at the old Intimate Theatre at UCT was born. We approached Chris Weare to direct and with Chis at the helm and Sugar-daddy producing we had the whole package. After that I had a professional production on my CV that I was very proud of and which also gave me the confidence to approach lead roles in other professional theatre productions like Othello at Maynardville, directed by Fred Abrahamse, in 2015.

TheCapeRobyn: In addition to Sexual Perversity, you have performed in two V-Day productions for Sugar-daddy?

Melissa Haiden: The first Sugar Daddy V-day production of The Vagina Monologues was 2016 and the second edition of the same production was 2017. It was an empowering experience for the cast and the audience alike. I have watched the 2018 and 2019 productions and been very moved on each occasion. 

TheCapeRobyn: Between 2009 and 2013- what were you doing theatre wise?

Melissa Haiden: My first year out in the open after drama school was in 2010. I performed as a ghost in the opera, Dead Man Walking, where I ran starkers across the wide expanse of the Artscape Stage. That was thrilling except I had no actual dialogue. I obviously was hungry for more. I worked in an art gallery and waitressed until 2011 when I was cast in rep theatre company, Siyasanga, at the Artscape for 12 months. What a rare and amazing experience that was!

TheCapeRobyn: On SugarTube –Sugar-daddy’s YouTube channel –in 2014 – you shared tips for prepping for a film audition? That was 2014. Now we are in 2020 and much has changed with the pandemic. Looks like you need to do tips for auditioning, in the age of Corona for SugarTube- such a great resource that Sugar-daddy has put together? 

Melissa Haiden: I agree, the Sugar Tube videos are filled with interesting nuggets from successful SA actors. With Covid everything has changed and we have about 80% fewer first round castings in person. Good quality self-tapes -castings filmed in the actor’s living rooms/bedrooms- have become very important in getting our faces and our voices out there. If I were to do a SugarTube tips video today in 2020 these would be some pointers:

Tips for prepping for audition self-tapes – in the era of Covid –by Melissa Haiden, South Africa , December 2020 

Good lighting:   

DO Invest in 2 LED lights from any online store or stand in an area with a clear wall and natural light enhancing your features      

Noise reduction

DO Close your windows to prevent outside noise

Formatting is key after you have your footage

Film in low res on your phone camera and compress files on i-movie or video editor after you have trimmed the top and tail.  ·   


DO Label your takes. Get organized.     

Network and reciprocate

DO Get an actor friend to help you. Build your network. They will need you help as well at some point.

Preparation – always

DO Prepare well. Don’t waste your acting partner’s time. Time is money and nobody has money at the moment

Just do it – keep it fresh and energetic

DON’T do too many takes. You will kill it. But DO watch your takes and learn from watching yourself

Enjoy the process- embrace the intimacy of filming in your own space

DON’T take yourself too seriously. Let your personality come through in the tape. It’s a gift to audition in the comfort of your home. Use that to your advantage.    

See: Tips on Film Audition Prepping by Melissa Haiden, Sugar-daddy actress, 2014      

SugarTube is a wonderful resource for actors – accents (eg Spanish, French ), comic performance, improv etc. Check it out:

Sexual Perversity in Chicago by David Mamet. Staged by Cape Town’s Sugar-daddy co, in 2013 at The Intimate Theatre, Hiddingh Campus [the theatre no longer exists]. Direction was by Chris Weare. From left: Pierre Malherbe, Melissa Haiden, Alistair Moulton Black, Marlisa Doubell.

❇ Image credit- featured image – photo of Melissa Heiden by Martin Kluge. Supplied.

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