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

Havel project

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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