Month: May 2014

People in Fringe: The Václav Havel Project and ‘Olé!’ on Prague and its audience

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Susan Galbraith in Unveiling – The Václav Havel Project. Photo: praguefringe.com

Part two of the People in Fringe interviews includes snippets from Duane Gelderloos of The Václav Havel Project and the cast of ‘Olé!’, including director Paul Bedard. These artists give us their opinions on the Czech capital, the best moments of the festival, and an insight into their captivating work and talents.

Duane Gelderloos, Executive Director of Alliance for New-Music Theatre and Producer of The Václav Havel Project

Where are you from originally, Duane?

Well my parents were American but in the Foreign Service so I grew up overseas.  I was born in Indonesia and spent much of my childhood moving between south-east Asia and Europe.  I was informed by both far-eastern traditions of theatre which incorporate so much music and dance as well as European theatre — both text-based works particularly of British theatre but also the fantastic corporal theater forms of other European traditions.

How would you describe Prague in adjectives?

Beautiful, densely historical, at times chilly (people and place).

What do you think of Fringe in Prague? Any highlights so far?

I am impressed by the eclectic nature of the offerings and the passion that is brought to bear on so much work.  By its nature a fringe festival gives adventurous people opportunities to try out new material and viewpoints, and is less about polished professionalism. I have loved meeting the artists and learning about their work and their processes. I find everyone I have spoken to, to be committed, interesting and  hugely supportive of each other.  I am also impressed by some of the sophistication, as well as courage, that these participants have about attracting audiences to their work, working outside as well as working through social media. Much more savvy than I am for sure!

What would you have said to Václav Havel if you had met him?

I imagine he would be a wonderful dinner companion, genuine with his time and very curious. We would eat well and enjoy our Czech beer. I would want to hear HIM speak as much as possible, about his plays, about the challenges of offering people their own freedom. I would ask him questions about what he feels now about his own country, and how he sees how the artist can continue to challenge and poke at establishments everywhere in the world.

How do you find the audience here in Prague?

I find audiences very intelligent here.  In the Fringe we have found many friends, and it has been wonderful for them to get the inherent theatricality and  performer-audience connection Havel and I hope we make with our style of theatre and the two companion pieces we brought.  We work with eclectic forms and dry changeable rhythm and styles. It has been fascinating to hear responses from Czechs, particularly those who knew Havel, his wife Olga, etc. They have been very encouraging about our work.  It has been a little strange to adjust to the way Czechs tend not to laugh out loud. In America, I would say audiences would have laughed immediately at the comedy in ‘Unveiling’, maybe only understanding it superficially, and only later seeing the twists, the horror and pathetic quality of Michael’s and Vera’s  marriage and the cost of their “sell out.”  Our lovely interviewer from Czech radio said, “Czechs are depressed. They like their own depression.”  But I think our director Miřenka Čechová was right, Czechs are chucklers at best, but they so deeply get the language and the layers in ‘Unveiling’.  It has been especially heart-warming for me to feel our new musical, ‘Vanek Unleashed’, has been so enthusiastically received. Our composer Maurice Saylor and these actors — Pam Jusino, Meghan McCall, Ron Heneghan an d Drew Valins — have worked so hard to make these characters come to life off the page.

Cast of ‘Olé!’ and Director Paul Bedard

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(From left) Frankie Alicea, Adrian Bridges, Sofia Lund and Jake Lasser in ‘Olé!’ Photo: Martin Mlaka

How do you think you would describe Prague, Paul?

Paul: Majestic, it has that fairy tale quality, you know? The castle is REAL.

Yes, it’s not a Disney castle!

Paul: Exactly! We’ve been talking about that it is so clear when the city was made because they really cared about the landscape. There is such a beautiful cohesive design to lift the spirit.

And you’re from New York originally?

Paul: I am, I grew up just outside the city and then moved there for school afterwards.

What’s your favourite thing about New York?

Paul: Almost everything is there at one moment, it’s overwhelming at times.. If you’re bored, it’s your fault!

So, in this play we see a lot of memorable romance and chaos between the Spanish greats, Salvador Dalí and Federico García Lorca, and of course their arrrrt. Jake and Frankie, you guys played Lorca and Dali, what do you think THEY would think of the play?

Jake: Dali would think it was putrefaction and cry secretly in his bathroom!

Frankie: It feels like Lorca would be honoured and excited by the conversation that is being had.. and really, if I may say so myself, the amount of bravery that the four of us have to work with on stage.

Sofia: Every time this play is done it releases something precious about Spain and life and love. Every time you do it more things come into the real world and Lorca and Dali still live on; through the music and through the beings.

What have you really enjoyed here at Fringe?

Jake: Jamie MacDowell and Tom Thum, they were incredible! And the illusionist.. AMAAAAZING.

Paul: I’ve done a number of Fringe festivals and in this one it’s so easy to be a community. That Fringe bar (Beseda) is not only a casual hangout, but they draw you to it. As silly as karaoke is, it’s a great way to laugh at a friend! It’s just been so easy to meet people and ask them about their work.

For more reviews and other festival highlights, check out the Fringe website here.

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People in Fringe: Organiser Carole and Cat Black’s Stu talk about Prague and the festival this year

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Carole Wears – Prague Fringe Associate Director and Co-founder. Photo: Martin Mlata.

Prague’s Fringe Festival has always met with success, but this year has been an exceptional year for all involved. I had a chance to chat with some of the extremely talented performers and witness their wonder and for the first time, as well as an opportunity to get my fringe on with some of the organisers and volunteers involved with the festival.

This part 1 “People in Fringe” special looks at writer and performer Stu Mentha and Director and co-founder Carole Wears. See what they had to say on the festival, the city and the atmosphere of this splendid and hilarious past week.

Carole Wears – Associate Director and Co-founder

Where are you from originally, Carole? How long have you been in Prague?

(Laughs) Well I am originally from Newcastle upon Tyne and I am still based there.  Fringe Festival Praha is truly international.  Our technical and Production Director is based in New Zealand, for example.  Fringe brings many people from across the world to the city year after year and of all of those thousands of people over the last 13 years of festival, I don’t know one who hasn’t fallen in love with it.  Of course I feel Prague is my second home because I am here whenever I can be, planning the festival, programming, meeting friends and enjoying the city.  My partner in Fringe Festival Prague, Steve Gove is one of my oldest friends as well as business comrade, perhaps he is the greatest lure of all!!

How would you describe Prague in adjectives? Bohemian (in the wider sense!)

Captivating and generous.

Nice! And how would you describe Prague Fringe?

A Family, a very very large, family…full of all associated drama in all senses of the word!

What’s your involvement with the festival?

I am one of the Directors of the festival, there at the beginning when we had a meeting with Prague City Council armed only with an A4 sheet of paper outlining the concept of Fringe, our own enthusiasm for a Fringe in Prague and a translator!  To the eternal credit of the officer we saw that day, she got it, understood what Fringe can do for a city, bringing in hundreds of repeat fringe cultural attenders back to the city year after year.  Fringe Festival Praha was born the very next year and this year it is a teenager!

What’s been the best moment of the festival so far?

We spend so much of the year planning this event, the weeks and days leading up to it are beyond frantic, believe it or not so many people contribute their time and energy simply for the love of this being that when the first show of the festival goes up I just feel a huge sense of happiness and relief and excitement of what is to come!

Stu Mentha – Writer / actor of ‘Cat Black’

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Photo: Petr Kurečka

Where are you from originally, Stu? How did you get to Prague?

I’m from Melbourne (Australia), I was born there but I grew up in a place called Warrnambool. And I came to Prague in 2009 after an Erasmus program in Italy and fell in love with the city and made a lot of friends.

How would you describe Prague in adjectives, Stu?

Hmmm. Free… and orange – because of the rooves and the certain glow that Prague has.

And how would you describe Prague Fringe? How many years is this now?

This is my third year. It’s just FUN. There is so much variety, from magicians and illusionists to cabaret and theatre people. I love the atmosphere.

You’re from a Creative Writing background so if there was a famous author who was going to write a book about you. who would you choose?

Well, I’d like to say Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but he’s passed away now…

It can be hypothetical 🙂

Ok, so maybe him. I love magical realism.

Your show ‘Cat Black’ is about the mind of a cat being transferred into a human, which sounds pretty exciting. Do you have a cat at home?

I did have a cat! This was part of the inspiration for the play, but there were many seeds. Her name was Kismet – it means fate in Hindi I think and she had this great personality. She really felt she was human. She loved to drink champagne for instance.

She loved to drink champagne?

(Laughs) Not that we would give it to her straight from the bottle, she’d lick it from your finger. She loved it!

More People in Fringe interviews coming soon. Be sure to check out the last day of Fringe today! There is still time!

Jan Wolf on ‘Siciliana’ and Czech film

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Jan’s cozy and stylish flat sports a lot of film and art memorabilia setting a nice vintage feel and atmosphere for our interview about the Czech film industry, and of course the release of his new film Siciliana, which was rendering as we spoke.

Read on for an inside look at this neo-noir film and for a look into the workings of the Czech film industry.

Thanks for having us today Honza. Are you from Prague originally?

Yes, I was born in the 80s.

An 80s baby, like myself! Where did you grow up?

In Dejvice. I had my elementary school around the corner from our house and spent a lot of my childhood running around outside with my friends and riding a bike. I also loved visiting my grandma and taking long walks around Baba looking at the beautiful old buildings. I also travelled the world a lot because my parents both worked in aviation.

Excellent and did you study film at university?

No, I actually studied graphic design in Žižkov, back then it was called advertising graphics. I also worked in television for a while and then a production company in 2007. I spent two years there and learnt everything about film.

Have you always been interested in film and art?

Since I was a kid – I was always drawing posters for non-existent films and I got my first video camera for my 18th birthday.

What was the first thing that you filmed with that camera?

My first film! It was called 1976. The movie was so shitty and it was filmed in 14 days with my schoolmates in our cottage. It was supposed to be a drama, but it was terrible.

Well it mustn’t have been too bad if you’re still making films now. Tell us about your new film Siciliana

It’s a short film, 26 minutes long and the reason why it is short is because of the rejection of the previous script for a feature film by the Czech Ministry of Culture. We had already casted it and everything so I said to myself we have plenty of time, let’s make a zero budget film with the same crew. I wrote the script, which is only 9 pages, in 14 days. It is basically a simpler version of the feature with zero budget of course (laughs).

14 days? That’s quite a short time.

Yes! So, it’s set in the early 60s in Sicily in a sleepy little town by the sea shore. The main character Maddalena (Petra Nesvačilová), who is in love with a travel agent that is married of course. The agent’s wife is very jealous and begins to make plans for revenge… It may sound cheesy, I did get some inspiration from cheesy TV movies, but it’s still a thriller.

I believe you also helped with the costumes? It looks very vintage.

I asked for help from ‘Lazy-eye’ who designs remakes of original 1950s dresses. I think it’s called neo-vintage. She is one of the partners of the film and without her we would never have made it.

I see. And what will happen after this film? What’s your next project?

I’m still developing some scripts, one main script in particular which took me over two years to write and rewrite. We always ask for some financial support from the Ministry of Culture… but they always want rewrites.

What do they want you to change?

Well the jury once said, “You know in this country we don’t shoot movies like this…” It was like going back to the stone age.

I see, and have your parents always supported you in terms of your art and film?

Not really. Mum was an air hostess and my father was a navigator. But my Mumis quite supportive now.

If you could choose an actor to play you in a movie about your life, who would it be?

I want somebody cool, of course! Hmmm.. Let’s say Ewan McGregor or Jude Law.

Good choices. What do you want people to get out of this film?

I suppose that life can be unfair sometimes.

Is this film based on true events? Maybe events in your own life?

No and I’ve actually never been to the Sicily either!

No? Would you like to go there?

Of course, maybe this Summer.

What’s your favourite part of the movie?

The climax or generally the whole second part which is at night, but shooting at night was terrible. We were all tired and wanted to go home.

What kind of movies do YOU like watching?

All types of movies, from the cheesy stupid comedies to cabaret.

What do you need to have to break in to the Czech film industry?

A good project. It’s hard to have one though, there are a lot of films that are the same, nothing is special that you remember. It’s all the same actors and stories every year.

What do you think the industry needs to fix that?

Something special. They shouldn’t be afraid during the development of the script and shooting. Be original. Of course, it’s much harder to have success with a non typical Czech movie. The audience always wants that nice little film.

Nice. Change of pace now..Who could you not live without in Prague?

My friends and my mother of course.

Where do you hang out in Prague?

I like Bukanýr, Le Clan and Pioneer of course, it’s one of the best parties. Also, Groove bar, Q cafe and in the summer I like to be outside in Riegrovy Sady, for example. Basement Bar is good as well.

Describe Prague in adjectives..

Quiet but loud. Fast but slow. Prague is not black and not white, you can just find whatever you want here. I like the quiet little pubs with my friends and I also like loud parties..

Very ambiguous, sounds like the way Charles Dickens would describe a city! If you could go back in time and see anything, what would you see?

Maybe the Roman empire.

Cool. Also, your surname is ‘Wolf.’ Have you ever been compared to the animal?

Not really. It’s a German surname originally. It used to be spelt with a ‘v’.

What animal would you compare yourself to then?

Something lazy, not a wolf (laughs). A fish I guess, something slow..

Thanks a lot for your time and the best of luck with the film!

Be sure book tickets to the premiere of Siciliana this Friday the 23rd of May at 8pm in Lucerna. For more details, go to their Facebook page.

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Written and transcribed by Ryan Keating. Photography by Petr Kurečka.

Comics Centrum’s Václav compares Prague to ‘Hellboy’

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Comics Centrum have just released the new Czech translation of ‘Hellboy Volume 10: Paskřivec’ or ‘The Crooked Man and Others’ in English. The Hellboy comics are based around a team of supernatural misfits combating evil spirits and demons, almost like a darker and sexier version of Ghostbusters. Volume 10 even sees the red guy and his team dealing with headless pirates and who doesn’t like a headless pirate? WHO? Comics Centrum is a Prague based company that transforms the darker and more adult side of the comic world into Czech language, they also publish the popular ‘Sin City’ graphic novels which have also been made into films. Václav Dort is the company’s director and also helps with translating the comics into Czech. Read our interview below for some details on the comic world in the Czech Republic and its connection to Hellboy!

Thanks for your time today. So tell me, what benefits are there from reading comics?

For foreign people who live in Prague and want to learn Czech and Czech slang, it is the perfect way. Czech people do the same, we all learn English from film subtitles or books.

Who would you compare yourself to? Which hero/villain character?

I prefer stories and the graphics, not the heroes. I like when people are more into the stories than the heroes.

Have you ever written anything yourself?

No, but my grandfather was quite a famous author of many detective novels. Eduard Fiker – he was published in Germany a lot.

Tell us a little bit about Comics Centrum…

We’ve been going for 11 years now and are perfectionists with translating, so the words in the Czech versions are really similar to the originals. The last ‘Sin City’ (Volume 7) that we translated is actually one of the best we have done so far. It is the best for foreigners too I think. And if they liked the film, they can also purchase the big collection ‘Kurva Velky Sin City’ – all seven volumes including the two that have been made into films.

Wow… that’s a lot of Sin City. What about Czech comics? Are there any that foreigners should read?

Czech authors don’t understand comics yet nor do they understand how to do them. They have not learned to properly use comic means of expression and to distinguish between illustrations and comics.

How do you begin translating a comic? How long does it take?

It’s completely different from comic to comic. I used a professional translator but had to rewrite and correct a lot of mistakes myself; it had lost reason and rhythm. It’s all about feeling. You need to spend a lot of time in the comic’s world to understand it. First main thing – It goes to someone who knows English well for the first draft corrections, and this guy is actually Slovak which is really interesting because he has a different perspective and feeling as well. Then it goes through language and grammar correction before it comes back to me. It gets read so many times. After all, just one change to a speech bubble can change the whole meaning of the page.

What is the most difficult thing you’ve ever had to translate? I couldn’t imagine translating Shakespeare into Czech…

For Shakespeare, I like to use E. A. Saudek translations. Today he is not that popular, but his translation of Shakespeare is the best ever in my opinion. And for the Bible I used translations from the first edition in Czech language – Bible Kralická. The text has best quotes, but has inaccurate translations in some places because it was mostly translated from Greek. So I needed to fine tune it. This was reflected most in the translation of the ‘Se7en’ comics.

What is your favourite comic?

‘The Crow’ – I’m fascinated by how many emotions are put forward. I don’t know any other literature that would ever come close to the amount of emotion used in ‘The Crow’. I also had a chance to meet the author and he is a very cool and interesting guy.

What is the difference between a comic and a graphic novel?

A graphic novel is longer and more for adults. But here, people still don’t know the difference – to us they are all comics. But it’s starting to change, there is a border developing. Before they didn’t know the difference between ‘Hellboy’ and ‘Spiderman’.

How would you describe Prague? Is it a bit like the Hellboy world?

I’d say yes. One of the books is called ‘Prague Vampire’, which we actually got permission to change the name to. Originally it was called ‘Troll Witch’, and this short story is actually set in Prague. The second book from the series: ‘Wake the Devil’ is set in Karlstejn castle, but in the comic it is known as Giurescu castle in Romania. So we created a special cover for the book with Karlstejn on it. We had to get authorisation from the author Mike Mignola to do that.

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The movie Hellboy (2004) and the sequel Hellboy 2: The Golden Army (2008) were actually filmed in Prague, were you involved in the process?

Yes, I was. I got to meet the author of the books Mike Mignola, the director Guillermo Del Toro and the main star Ron Perlman. They all signed a copy of the book for me and were all very nice.

If you could immerse yourself in any comic world, which would you choose?

I don’t think I want to be in any. Maybe in ‘The Goon’ – this is a fantastic world. It’s an incredible mix of zombies and gangsters.

Thanks for your time and I look forward to upcoming titles!

For more information on Hellboy, Sin City and other popular comic translations. Check out Comics Centrum

Written and transcribed by Ryan Keating. Translated by Ivana Marcinová. Photos: http://www.comicscentrum.cz