fringe

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

Carole Wears

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!