interviews

Amber ‘Ambryzy’ on MCing and childhood

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By Ryan Keating-Lambert

Unbelievably wicked sense of style and an unbeatable wit are things that spring to mind when thinking of Amber, also affectionately known as Ambryzy. She’s at the heart of expat life in Prague and all who know her will surely crack a smile reading this interview, and those who don’t know.. Well, how the hell do you not know her anyway? She’s MCing at ‘FIERCE’ party in Café v Lese this Friday night from 11pm. Be there.

Also, she’s basically from Lake Placid.. Has anyone else seen that giant crocodile movie?

Where are you from originally?

Originally I’m from a small town in the mountains of upstate New York. I grew up on a farm.

What was it like growing up there? What is NY state known for?

Well, growing up in upstate New York you had to make your own fun. I spent a lot of time outside playing pocketbook in the road and I’ve built many forts. I also built a raft once and still enjoy fishing. And just generally growing up on a farm was an amazing life experience. I learned responsibility at a young age and I’ve seen and done things that you’d never imagine. Hahaha. Also barn cats.. lots of barn cats.

I’m not sure what NY state is known for.. maybe high taxes.. ha, but where I’m from it’s known for the Adirondack mountains and Lake Placid is pretty popular as it was the site of the 1980 winter Olympics. I miss the mountains.

What did you want to be as a kid?

When I was 11 I wanted to be a trucker, an Olympic diver and a hairstylist. I actually had it all figured out, that I could drive my mobile hair salon to each of my Olympic events.

What brought you to Prague?

My family hosted a Czech exchange student named Tereza, who became like a sister to me and convinced me to move here ten and a half years ago.

I really dig your postcard tattoo, what’s the significance?

After living in Prague for 7 years I started missing home and the mountains so I actually got a postcard of them tattooed on my leg. It shows Heart lake, McIntyre, Colden and Mt. Marcy of the Adirondack mountains.

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Tell us about your music and MC work..

I got into rapping after hanging around my friend’s studio for years and just being around the music. I was also fortunate enough to collaborate with the Czech artist named Klara and since then different opportunities have opened up to me including MCing the upcoming ‘FIERCE’ vogue party this Friday night.

Who would play you in a movie about your life?

Either the love child of Amy Poehler and Tina Fey or the little girl who played Annie in the original movie.

If you could go back in time and see anything, what would you see?

I’ve thought about this and… I’m going to keep it simple and say I wish I could have seen the Notorious Big in concert.

What’s your favorite word in Czech and in English?

Favorite word in English is ‘wonderful’, because it can be used in so many different ways… and in Czech my initial thought was ‘pivo’.. because I love that stuff… so I will go with that.

 

Photos from Amber Sayward

Interview: Osamělý Králíček / The Lonely Bunny

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By Ryan Keating-Lambert

 

Scroll down for English

Odkud pocházíš?

Já jenom vím, že můj otec je Čech a nikdo mi nikdy neřekl, kdo je má pravá máma.

Jsi z velké rodiny?

Jsme tři bratři: Bob, Bobek a já.

Jak jsi se dostal do Prahy?

Přijel jsem sem jako oficiální maskot na Mistroství světa v ledním hokeji, společně s mými bratry.

Proč se citíš tak osamělý?

Protože komise vzala Boba a Bobka jako maskoty, ale mě vynechali :((( Moji bratři byli slavní a já ne. Opustili mě a nikoho jsem neměl…ale potom jsem potkal Bobinu, super sexy bílou králici s úžasným ocasem a velikánskýma černýma očima. Zamiloval jsem se do ní. Byla tím jediným důvodem, proč znovu začít žít. Potkal jsem ji na Letné, a pak přišel sníh, Praha byla zasypaná sněhem, všechno bylo tak bílé…jeden druhému jsme se ztratili. No nebyl bys nešťastný, kdyby se ti něco takového stalo?

Jaké jsou tvé sny, čeho chceč dosáhnout?

Chci najít Bobinu, prochodím celé město, každé místo, každý kout, jsem si jistý, že tu někde musí být.

Co rád děláváš v neděli odpoledne?

Čekám na svou princeznu. Sám, samozřejmě.

Jak bys popsal Prahu jen v několika slovech?

Praha? Je úžasná, skoro jako Bobina.

Jaké je tvé oblíbené jídlo?

Moravská mrkev :))) samo sebou :)))

Čeho se nejvíc bojíš?

Troubení tramvají, vždycky mě to vyděsí! Ne ne ne prosím, blázniví lidé!

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Jak udržuješ svou krásnou srst tak bílou a nadýchanou? Jaké je tvé tajemství?

Ráno piji mrkvový džus, k obědu si dávám mrkvový salát s několika bio mrkvovými párečky, a večer…DIETA!

Připravuješ se nějak na Velikonoce?

Dokud nenajdu Bobinu, nikdy nebudu na nic připravený.

Where are you from originally?

I just know that my father is Czech, nobody told me who my real mum was.

Do you come from a large family?

Three brothers: Bob, Bobek and me.

How did you get to Prague?

I arrived here to be the official Ice Hockey World Championship mascot with my brothers.

Why are you alone now?

Because they took Bob and Bobek as mascots and the Commission excluded me 😦 My brothers are successful now and I’m not. They left me and I had nobody… but then I met Bobina – a super sexy white bunny with an amazing tail and big big black eyes. I fell in love with her. She was the only thing that gave me a reason to live. I met her in Letna Park, but then the snow came, everything was white so… we lost each other… Wouldn’t you be sad if something like that happened to you?

What are your future dreams and goals?

To find Bobina, I will travel the whole city, every place and every corner. I’m sure she is here somewhere.

What’s your favourite thing to do on a Sunday afternoon?

To wait for my princess. Alone, of course.

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How would you describe Prague in just a few words?

Prague? It’s amazing, almost like Bobina.

What’s your favourite food?

Moravian Carrot :-))) of course.

What’s your greatest fear?

Tram horns that alert pedestrians. They make me so scared! No, no, no, please! Crazy humans!

How do you keep your beautiful fur so white and fluffy? What’s your secret?

Carrot juice for breakfast, carrot salad for lunch with a few little bio carrot sausages, and in the evenings… DIET!

Are you getting ready for Easter?

I won’t be read for anything until I find Bobina.

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Follow the white rabbit here

Photos by The Lonely Rabbit. Translation by Misa Rygrova.

Maya on casting, fashion and film

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By Ryan Keating-Lambert

There are some incredible expats living in this city. Each and every one as inspiring as the next, especially for an expat like myself who is constantly searching for the next step; the next challenge. Maya is probably one of the original expats in Prague. Arriving shortly after the Velvet Revolution, she has seen it all and has played a huge role in this insanely addictive city. Her influence can be felt all over the art and fashion scene and speaking to her in her hidden Ujezd studio of Myrnyx Tyrnyx was not just an interview, but invaluable advice about creative life in Prague from one generation of expat to another. Hopefully in the future I can pass down the same wisdom. And also.. her first great love was superman! Read more. Now!

Where are you originally from?

I’m from California, from Santa Monica.

What was it like growing up there?

I grew up during the 80s. Performance art was just emerging and the punk scene was happening. It was so thrilling and new for me! The scene was the beginning of a rebellious voice that I could relate to. That doesn’t exist now. It’s hard when everything has been done.

Why did you come to Prague?

Well, I knew that I didn’t belong in the United States. I wanted something much more challenging. My idea was to set up some kind of business that would be successful but also would be beneficial to the city. Originally it was a little squat in Betlemske namesti where we made a performance centre for about 4-5 months. But after talking to local artists, I eventually decided on a vintage clothing store. But I chose the Czech Republic out of absolute serendipity.

I read that your casting agency Myrnyx Tyrnyx has been pushing racial and cultural boundaries since the beginning. Tell me a little bit about it.

There was a very homogeneous commercial industry here at the time – everybody was white, and not just white but very straight and classically attractive. To me, this was very boring. I tried to shake up the scene a bit with some fashion shows so that people could understand how to wear the clothes I was selling in the store. It was 1995 and at that time people here had just come out of communism. They weren’t individuated. They were very careful not to stand out. And I’d come from this internal and external universe of people shining and being themselves in L.A. So I invited talented interesting people, pierced, dreadlocked, African, South American and Asian, all different body types. And this was the first time the Czech Republic had seen multicultural elements, and I added other elements such as a man wearing a dress, and looking gorgeous! I was also not pro models being thin and classic, I was pro models being healthy and alive.

So you’ve recently started casting for films as well. Tell me about The Zookeeper’s Wife which was recently filmed in Prague Zoo with Jessica Chastain, I’m a huge fan of hers.

She is incredible, isn’t she? It was a unique project. Very deep. A wonderful director from New Zealand, Niki Caro. Something that was very unique about this project and something that I’d never seen before, was that she pretty much didn’t leave the set. She stayed within the mood of the scene that she was shooting. You never saw her floating around and gabbing with people nor did you see her in a classic director’s chair. It’d been said that the film would get some attention for the Academy Awards, so there was a lot of pressure around it but it was actually very calm on set and everyone was in good spirits. I cast 54 roles from people that live in the Czech Republic, and other Eastern European countries.

What are some of your favourite films?

Well, I love The Great Beauty, You, Me and Everyone We Know, and also What About Bob!

Who would play you in a movie about your life?

I’ve been thinking about that and they’re all dead (laughs). Maybe Gilda Radner, she’s from ‘Saturday Night Live’. She was my first idol, or maybe it was superman?.. No, actually superman was my first great love. He was also the only person that I had a poster of on my wall. I went to see one of the old superman films one night and my mum and I were seated behind Christopher Reeves… I saw him kissing a girl and was absolutely flabbergasted!

That’s such a good story.

My heart was crushed! He was MY superman.

How would you describe Prague?

Sparkly and unknowable. In these streets there are possibilities for things to happen that don’t happen anywhere else. You are thinking of someone and they run into you or other coincidental things. There is a lot of that going on here. If your eyes are open and you’re here, a lot of amazing things can happen. It can be very heavy though, especially in the winter.

What is your favourite word in English and in Czech?

I love the word embark. In Czech.. maybe my favourite is one of the first difficult Czech words that I was able to say. So mine is trychtýř, which is a funnel! Whyyyyyyy? (Laughs).

Mine is ‘zmrzlina’.. for the exact same reason.

What advice to you have for creative people that want to establish something in this community?

Have tolerance and compassion. It’s the same advice I’d give to someone who wants to stay in a relationship. Be prepared to stand your ground and persevere, but be diplomatic. Always look for the next challenge and the next adventure.

Photo: www.marielletepper.com

Kateřina on women’s rugby in the Czech Republic

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By Ryan Keating-Lambert

Prague born Kateřina’s lust for life and appetite for experience is inspiring and addictive. She gives off a kind of infectious energy and is an essential drug for the dark winter months of Prague.. AND, she’s also the captain of a women’s rugby team. Check out the interview below to delve into her travels and the growing rugby scene in the Czech Republic. Take a moment to watch their kick-ass promo video too…

 

What did you want to be when you were a kid?

A journalist or some kind of traveling job. I spent hours on my special little pink chair pretending I was on a train or plane.

What sports did you do back then? How did you discover rugby?

I played tennis for my entire childhood, my mum is a tennis trainer. I wanted to start playing some team sports and being a teenager I also wanted to play a sport that my parents didn’t choose for me. And then I read an article about the first rugby club in Prague. It was very random when I think about it..

You recently went to Switzerland for the European trophy, tell me about that.

We went to the Swiss tournament not to win but to try our best against much better and older teams and get the experience of high level 15s rugby. But we found out that it’s actually possible for us to win after intensive preparation! We trained together just a couple of times before going to Switzerland and that was our biggest problem, especially in the technical parts of the game like in line-outs or scrums where you need to spend a lot of time and training. However, the tournament was great motivation for us and a kick off for (hopefully) a brighter future for Czech women’s 15s rugby.

How do Czechs generally respond to rugby? Is it becoming more popular?

Recently rugby is gaining popularity due to the Rugby World Cup that is broadcasted by CT. Rugby is a very attractive sport to watch and even people that don’t know the rules can watch and learn something. People are usually either curious or totally freaked out when I tell them that I actually play rugby. I usually try to postpone that info until later in a conversation, just because people never look at me the same way after they find out I’m a women’s rugby player.

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I heard you also studied in the US for some time?

Yes, I studied film production in Santa Monica College and spent two years on the west coast. I had my dream beach life, but it is good to be back in Prague 🙂

Film production sounds cool, do you have a favourite movie?

Hard to say, I don’t really have a favourite, but my favourite book is ‘Tracey’s Tiger’ by William Saroyan.

What else are you currently doing in Prague? Any other hobbies or interests?

I work for an amazing crew of artists at DRAWetc. I don’t usually have time for anything else besides work and training but these things keep me pretty happy. I like skateboarding and spending time with my friends though.

How would you describe Prague in only a few words?

Friends, family and freedom.

If you could go back in time and see anything, what would you see?

Either The Velvet Revolution in Prague in 1989 or the days I spent laughing with my friends.

Who would play you in a movie about your life?

Drew Barrymore.

Nice choice! What is your favourite word in English?

Asparagus, it feels so good when I pronounce it right. It’s hard to make people have a casual conversation about asparagus though.

What is your favourite word in Czech?

It is hard to choose just one, but one of my absolute favourites is to call someone ‘jantar’ – amber.

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Written by Ryan Keating-Lambert. Photos from Kateřina Pokorná

5 more people in Prague that you should know

By Ryan Keating-Lambert

1. Mirek

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How would you describe Prague in only a few words?

Sometimes beautiful, crowded and very historic.

Where do you like to hang out in Prague?

Anywhere near the train station.

If you could go back in time and see anything, what would you choose to see?

Having this chance, I would like to meet my grandpa in his twenties.

What’s your favorite word in English and in Czech?

’Pusillanimous’ in English – I like the way it is pronounced; and ’jídlo’ in Czech – as I’m always hungry and love eating.

Who would play you in a movie about your life?

Brad Pitt. He also has chicken legs.

2. Javier

Javier

How would you describe Prague in only a few words?

An open air museum. A world of contradictions.

Where do you like to hang out in Prague?

Due to my work, I always hang out in the historical center, you can find not so touristy places if you look for them hard enough. Other than that, you can find me in Vinohrady and sometimes in Letná.

If you could go back in time and see anything, what would you choose to see?

The time of Rudolph II, the Renaissance era in Prague must have been wonderful.

What’s your favorite word in English and in Czech?

Maybe ’fashionable’ in English, I like the sound of it. ’Ahoj’ is one of the few words in Czech that I find optimistic, too bad they don’t use it that often, at least with me.

Who would play you in a movie about your life?

Leo DiCaprio or Daniel Craig.

3. Tish

Tys

How would you describe Prague?

Prague is a haggard old woman who’s got her claws in your heart. Prague is magic.

Where do you like to hang out in Prague?

Prague 1,2,3,7,10. Everywhere.

If you could go back in time and see anything, what would you see?

I would like to go back around 80 years and see Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong play in a Harlem blues joint.

What is your favourite word in English and in Czech?

My favorite Czech word is ’sbohem’ (godspeed). It is so wonderfully finite and loving and tragic. My favorite word in English is ’grace’.

Who would play you in a movie about your life?

Russell Peters.

4. Jan

Jan Kopecky

How would you describe Prague?

A magnificent historical city where even low-income students can live a rich life.

Where do you usually hang out in Prague?

Náplavka, Riegrovy sady and Havlíčkovy sady.

If you could go back in time and see anything, what would you see?

Ancient Egypt, Greece or Rome to see some of the great wonders being created.

What is your favourite word in English and in Czech?

’Air’ because it brings about the lightness. ’Život’ (life) because the sound of it is in soothing harmony with the meaning.

Who would play you in a movie about your life?

Michael Fassbender, Bradley Cooper or Alexander Skarsgård.

5. Martina

Martina

How would you describe Prague in a few words?

Still running, endlessly stunning.

Where do you usually hang out in Prague?

Well, when I’m with my friends I don’t care that much where we hang out. Company is more important for me. But usually I prefer underground pubs or bars, restaurants or café anywhere in Prague 3 – Žižkov.

If you could travel back in time and see anything, what would you see?

I wish I could go back to the 60s and see Elvis Presley in concert!

What’s your favourite word in English and in Czech?

In English, ’fluffy’ – sounds so funny. In Czech, ’hovnožrout’ which means ’shit-glutton’ – so funny.

Who would play you in a movie about your life?

I can’t decide between Renée Zellweger (before that awful plastic surgery) and Tom Hanks – they both fit perfectly to my role and actually sometimes I’m on ’The Edge of Reason’ like Bridget Jones and sometimes I feel like I’m a ’Cast away’.

Written by Ryan Keating-Lambert.

Bartender Ondra – the king of cocktails

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Written by Ryan Keating-Lambert.

Ondra was recommended to me by a friend after I fell in love with the cocktail scene in Prague, it’s really something impressive and kind of measures the fast growth of Prague as a city for me. Every year there are new bars experimenting with new ambiance, drinks, and styles of service. We’ve already spoken to AnonymouS Bar as well as Hemingway, two of my favourites on the scene right now. But with Ondra being an award winning bartender, it was impossible to resist some tasty advice on where and what to drink in Prague. Ondra gives a special personal touch to all of the questions I threw at him. A very cool interview, check it out.

Where are you originally from?

I come from Prague, the wonderful city full of history.

What did you want to be when you were a kid?

Well, a garbageman at first as they have a huge car. Later it was a professional football player and a car mechanic. But in the end I have a job that fulfills me and I enjoy it. To communicate with people and come up with new creative cocktails? That’s definitely my cup of tea.

What was the first drink you ever had?

It’s been a very long ago but I remember it quite right, it was vodka and juice. And after that maybe a Cuba Libre…?

What was the last drink you had?

Hopefully I will have some more but the last so far was a Whiskey Sour. 🙂

What competitions have you competed in/won?

I’m not the kind of a bartender who would enter each and every competition up for grabs. The appeal of further possibilities and experience, that’s what draws me in. The first big competition for me was undoubtedly the ‘Jameson Bartenders Ball’. I managed to win the national finals twice. And then, at the world finals in Dublin, I came third. Some other wins include:

The Havana Club Grand Prix 2014 – Czech winner

The Ron de Jeremy Competition – winner (with Michal Durinik)

The Chivas Masters 2015 – Czech winner, 2nd at the world finals in New York

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That’s an impressive list of wins! How would you describe Prague’s bar and cocktail scene? Where should we go for a cocktail?

Prague is a historical city and always will be (hopefully). There are many wonderful places that make your heart beating faster and make you come back again. The bar scene has grown in the past few years, not only in Prague but in the whole of the Czech Republic; there are new businesses open with huge potential to become some of the TOP places in the world. There’s also a wide range of bars, old as well as total newbies; everyone can find something they like, there’s such a variety. When it comes to bars – you can do the best in one evening. Hemingway bar, Bugsy´s, Cash Only, Black Angel´s, L´fleur, AnonymouS and La Casa de la Havana Vieja are only a fragment of what the city of Prague has to offer.

But it’s not only Prague that offers great bars. If you happen to be in Brno, don’t forget to visit Bar, který neexistuje (the bar that does not exist, in English) a Super Panda Circus, it would be a shame to miss it!

Do you have any advice for young bartenders or bar owners?

To be diligent, responsible and enthusiastic, that’s how you can be successful in this job.

How would you describe Prague in only a few words?

Beautiful – historical – irresistible

If you could go back in time and see anything, what would you choose to see?

I would definitely like to be a bartender in a bar during the prohibition in the US. The atmosphere and the
adrenalin that any minute a cop could come in and we would all be in a big mess.. this attracts me. And if I had another chance to go back in time, I would love to visit the beginning of the 90s when electronic music started to get popular. I would like to experience the atmosphere in the clubs and big parties of that time.

Who would play you in a movie about your life?

Well, Tom Cruise tried in Cocktail and failed 😀 Matthew McConaughey would be the right one. He may be a bit older and not as handsome as me but he’s the best choice. And if he’s too busy, then Adam Sandler, Ben Affleck or Jon Snow could be good candidates.

What’s your favourite word in English?

Together, massive or huge?

What’s your favourite word in Czech?

Thank you (děkuji) – I use this word each and every day. And I am always happy when I find that other people can use it, too.

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Photos from Ondřej Hnilička.

Film artist Kurt on Sense8 and other work

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Concept and storyboard film artist Kurt van der Basch is surely a name that many in the Prague art and film scene would recognise. Originally from Canada, he moved to Prague to pursue a career in art which inevitably led him to film. Like many of us expats, he began teaching English. Kurt’s journey and career has been incredibly diverse and I’ve personally been looking forward to this interview for some time. On top of that, I’m also a major movie nerd so editing and listening back to this interview took a while – there were moments that I had to say to myself ‘Ryan, just shut up…” From working on recent Prague based films like Child 44 to sketching 100s of storyboard frames for the new Netflix series Sense8, there are some interesting insights into the film industry in Prague, and Central Europe… Not to mention some of Kurt’s early obsessions that got him into drawing in the first place. Enjoy!

Where are you from originally?

The east coast of Canada, Nova Scotia.. Halifax. Well, not really from Halifax, but from a suburban little town near there…. But we moved around a lot.

And what are your greatest memories of growing up in that part of Canada?

The landscape and the weather. The long winters, meter-high snow.

Do you miss the snow?

Sure, because I’m not into driving so it’s never really affected my day. I just love it. And there’s something cozy about the snow reflecting off the ceiling too – it kind of lights up a whole room.

What did you want to be when you were a kid?

I really wanted to be an Egyptologist. I had that worked out for years. I took it so seriously. I even had a newspaper cut-out of me somewhere saying “I want to be an Egyptologist” when I was about 12. 1986 I think it was. There are actually a lot of Czech egyptologists. It’s a specialty here, it’s always been a dream to go there but it would be really hard now.

When did you get into drawing?

I was always into it, as far as I can remember. I was always into drawing black and white, in pencil. My Mum would just sit me down and I would draw.

And what would you draw? 

Well, I would obsess and draw one thing over and over again. I had a mermaid obsession, and the egyptology was a part of a lot of the stuff that I would draw too – I think that had a big impact on my drawing because it was so graphic and standardised. You know, a hand always looks exactly the same, so does a foot. So I’d really try and nail it. But then I got into music which became a huge diversion in my life. So then I would draw pictures of Beethoven over and over and over.

That’s really nice. To be so young and drawing Beethoven? That’s quite unheard of.

When I was 12 I broke my arm doing gymnastics in rubber boots on the grass… the wet grass (laughs). And it hurt so badly – it was coming out at a 90 degree angle.

Ouch!

Yes.. anyhow, I was in the cast for about a year and when I got it off I met a girl who played the piano and she was really good and she taught me some Beethoven so then I became obsessed. So my parents got me a used piano and a teacher. And as an obsessive gay boy with no friends, I would go home and practice and practice and all of a sudden I went from a total beginner to quite advanced in just a few years. Then I went to university and studied music. Everything was music. But the whole time I was drawing and drawing and drawing. You know, we have sort of a romantic idea of artists – that they should suffer and it should be really hard, and practise 7 hours a day. A lot of people, including me, find that very attractive. So I was a good artist, but because it came easily to me and there was no romantic suffering involved, I didn’t feel like it was a very special skill. The whole time my Mum was saying “why don’t you go to art school?” and I thought “please, I’m a pianist” (laughs). So then in my third year of studies I realised that I wasn’t mean to be a pianist, but an artist.

How did you get to Prague?

I was finishing music at university, and I sort of wished that I wasn’t because I wanted to be an artist. Originally I thought I wanted to be a painter, so I thought I had to go to Europe. I had a friend, Moira, who had moved to Prague to teach English, so I just copied her and came here to teach for three months and then all these fateful things happened… and that’s why I’m still here 16 years later.

Wow, a long time.

Yeah, I arrived the summer of 99.

That almost sounds like that Bryan Adams song.

Yes! Canadians roll their eyes at Bryan Adams, because he’s Canadian. We often give people from our own country a hard time.

How did you make this transition from teaching into art?

It’s so weird, you know when you think, oh god if I hadn’t met that person at that time.

Sure.

I had a friend who was a teacher and he had a friend who was working for Barrandov studios here. And she said that she knew some guys doing a movie who needed an art department assistant… Which means tea and photocopies but you have to sort of know something about art. So we got in touch and I brought them my sketchbook and they gave me the job, and yeah I did a lot of tea and a lot of coffee. But it was a fantasy movie and one time some things needed to be designed and drawn up earlier so they gave me a chance at it. So I just kept drawing and making photocopies. I could draw and also speak Czech which was good for them. Eventually I became a set painter and did that for three jobs and it was so great, I could have almost done that as a career actually. You’re filthy all the time and building scaffolding and stuff.

It’s nice to be able to use your hands like that.

Yeah, it was really great and we would go for lunch together and some people wouldn’t let us in because we were so dirty and black. 90% of what you paint is black. When we did Blade 2 we had to paint a big tunnel that was just hundreds of metres of white plaster bricks that we needed to paint to look like real bricks. Brick, brick, brick, brick (laughs).

(Laughs) Could get a little monotonous?

Monotonous but fun and the guys we worked with were really great. At the end of the day I just wanted to draw, so I left the set painting and got into the illustration side of film making.

How long did it take you to learn Czech?

Well I met my boyfriend after working here for two months and he didn’t speak any English – we’re still together after 16 years. I was gung ho because I’d just arrived and wanted to learn Czech. But you learn Czech mainly from arguments, so you know I would write words on my hand to arm myself for the next argument, like “irresponsible” (laughs). Hmmm I have to remember to say that to him. And I worked in bars too where my Czech improved a lot.

At what point did you think “I’ve made it, I’m living out a dream job”

The first time I saw my name in the credits, that was pretty cool. But cooler than that was the first time my parents and my sister saw my name in a credited movie that they went to the cinema to see. That was really cool.

Would you have any advice for other expats that come here and want to pursue their dreams?

Well, for me it was really useful to learn the language. I mean in Holland or Germany it’s hard to learn because everyone speaks English, but here it’s possible to learn it and really integrate with it. So that’s a big one. Learn the language. And also to get friends who are Czech.

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What are some of your fondest memories on film sets?

Me and my friend Chris who also works in the movies, we worked on this movie Doom and we were doing this bio lab filled with hearts and lungs, and a veiny dildo that we snuck into the background 🙂 Anyway, we rigged them up with LEDs, it looked really cool. And during the filming we had to lie under the tables aqueezing air pumps to make them beat and move which was great. So that was a funny one.

(Laughs) That sounds brilliant. Now from what I understand, you’ve worked with some directors and filmmakers more than once. Tell us about some of them.

Well I have worked with Tom Tykwer on several things now and through him Wachowskis. Tykwer always uses the same team who I met on Season of the Witch. That was an amazing gig in Budapest but I also just fell in love with this art department and we’re really close now. And it was around this time that Tykwer’s designer Uli Hanisch said I had to buy this book called ‘Cloud Atlas’. This was in 2008 and he said a movie might happen, and then a couple of years later it did so I went over to Berlin to do a week long illustration workshop and then they used this as a pitch for the studios while the Wachowskis were doing the same thing with their art department in Chicago. Then a couple of years later it happened. I also had a job working with a Dutch designer on a children’s film. We really hit it off together so I’ve worked with him a bit. And there are also some commercial directors I always go back to, particularly those who specialise in hair. So for a long time the only commercials I did were hair commercials. Have I told you about this hair world?

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Cloud Atlas

No, please do.

Well with these hair commercials, the directors really guard their tricks. There is this one trick where they use a phantom slowmotion camera and there is this big rig that the hair model sits in like a guillotine with all these holes in it and they’ll bring the hair up in strands and spend about an hour setting this up. Then when they drop it, the weights fall down and it flies into the air and you think her head’s going to come off but instead the hair falls in these beautiful individual locks that they catch with a phantom camera. Then you get this slow beautiful Lars Von Trier look (laughs). They always want to use the same people, it’s very close. Commercials are great.

Now, you worked on Child 44 that was released recently, and it was actually filmed in Prague. For people that see the movie, can they recognise Prague there?

Constantly. Any exterior, even if you can’t see exactly where it’s done, you can still tell the sidewalk or a doorway and know that it’s Prague.

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Child 44

I really look forward to seeing it. So, tell us about Sense8. Everyone is talking about this on the internet at the moment.

Wow, Sense8 is crazy. The crew said it was the hardest job they have ever done. It was filmed in Nairobi, Berlin, Chicago, Deli, Iceland.. everywhere. But I only worked on the Tykwer parts in Berlin, there was a director for each section. I think it looks really good, the trailers look great. Also Darryl Hannah seems so interesting and weird. All the crew on Sense8 pulled really long hours – I did too. For scheduling and budget reasons, Tom Tykwer could only bring me over to Berlin for a few days with the plan to storyboad only the trickiest action sequences but as we were considering them there was always one more and one more that would be great to have boarded out. SO in the end we were hammering them out in rough form at an incredible speed. I did more frames per day on this job than I ever have on any other one. I counted 280 drawings in 3 days. Though it shows! They’re awful but they do the job. It’s great to see how positive the reaction to the show is after the divided reception of Jupiter Ascending (another Wachowski film) and Cloud Atlas.

SENSE8 Page

I think your hard work paid off. What work are you most proud of so far?
Cloud Atlas definitely. I think it’s a masterpiece. And as far as drawing work goes I really liked what I did on Child 44. I was quite impatient for that to come out. And also Jupiter Ascending. There were over 30 concept artists on that film.

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Cloud Atlas Mural

It was stunning, and I also remember seeing the Prague dancing house in that movie!

Yeah! I noticed that too! That was funny. It really worked in that scene and in that environment, it doesn’t work here in Prague.

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Jupiter Ascending

You don’t like it?

No, I don’t. It sticks out like a sore thumb. I think it’s arrogant to take such a beautiful vista and do something so attention-grabbing.  I also did a comic book prologue for Dead Snow 2 which they passed out at Norwegian cinemas – that was nice.

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I also saw on IMDB that you worked on the new Star Wars.. What can you tell me about that?

Nothing at all. The NDA on that job is major.

And what are you working on at the moment?

I’ve been in London for nearly six months on a big studio movie with another crazy strict NDA so you’ll have to wait for it to come out 🙂 Something else I’ve worked on that is due to come out soon is a Tom Tykwer and Tom Hanks film called A Hologram for the King. That was a really enjoyable Berlin job and I think it will be a good movie.

For the first time this July I’m also teaching a one week course at the university of West Bohemia about storyboard illustration and I’m very nervous about it.

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Sounds great! I’m sure you’ll be fine. How would you describe Prague in a few brief words?

Prague is trashy and chic all at once – a great combination.

If you could go back in time and see anything, what would you see?

I would love to go back to ancient Egypt or late 18th century Vienna with Beethoven and Mozart around. That’d be really cool.

What is your favorite word in English and in Czech?

Does Polari count as English? Because I do like ‘Zhoosh’. In Czech I think Jejda is funny.

Who would play you in a movie about your life?

Some friends used to say I looked like Jonathan Rhys Myers, which I didn’t see. But then recently there were some pictures of him looking puffy and sad drinking straight out of a bottle of vodka on the street and I thought ok now I can sort of see it (laughs).

Where do you like hanging out in Prague?

Well actually I’m not a big hanger-outerer. Once in a while I go crazy but I spend a lot of time on my own. I really need it. So I hang out in our kitchen with our three cats a lot (laughs) and I also like going to the movies a lot. I’m also learning to play the accordion.

Keep updated with Kurt’s work on his Facebook page.

Check out the Sense8 trailer below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9c_KSZ6zM

Written by Ryan Keating-Lambert. Photos by Ryan Keating-Lambert and Kurt van der Basch.


René on martial arts and the sexy saxophone

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Photo by Martin Něrgeš

René’s interview was full of interesting wisdom. Rarely do you meet an individual so dedicated to sport and fitness that also happens to play the saxophone very very well – a hell of a combination. He gives us a rundown on Wing Tsun martial arts and the odd connection it has to the saxophone as well as telling us about a real fight he was in on a Prague tram. A fine edition to the People in Prague hall of fame. Enjoy!

Are you originally from Prague?

Actually, I’m not. I’m from a small town called Hořovice. It is about 50km from Prague on the way to Plzen. But I’ve been living in Prague for more than 10years.

Tell us a little bit about how you began playing the saxophone?

The reason why I picked the saxophone was because nobody wanted a clarinet 🙂 Sounds funny but it was the sad truth. I had been playing clarinet for 10 years before I had my first band experience. I didn’t find any bands that wanted me. I always heard “Rene you play well but you should buy a saxophone!”, so I did and I got 3 offers from different bands and I still didn’t even know how to play it!

What kind of work do you do with it now?

I’m still focusing on performing and doing shows.

What has been the greatest moment that you’ve had playing so far? Any special performances that you’ll never forget?

Ohh…yeah….I’ve had lots of great experiences, like playing for a packed Sasazu or traveling abroad. But I will never forget one wedding at Žofín in Prague. It was a Czech-Australian wedding and right before me there was a philharmonic couple playing a beautiful Dvořák symphony and I was up next with house music on the saxophone! So different! I was a bit scared because I didn’t want to spoil the romantic atmosphere, but I was told by the wedding coordinator to stick to the plan. To my surprise the people loved the music I played and in one minute the wedding turned into a crazy disco party!

Where is a good place for jazz and blues in Prague?

I think Jazz Dock is interesting to see. It’s a place on the river with great food and great sound.

Are you influenced by any great saxophonists or other musicians?

I’m influenced by many great saxophonists and also other musicians. But it would be a really long list if I name them all. Some though include, Dake Koz, Everette Harp, Michael Lington, Candy Dulfer, Boney James, Steve Cole… Brian Culbertson (piano), Peter White (guitar).

Many say that the saxophone is one of the sexiest instruments around, would you agree?

Yes, it is one of the sexiest instruments in the world…I can confirm it. When I walk into a club nobody pays attention to me but when I blow some tunes I’m immediately the sexiest guy there. 🙂

Any girls ever thrown their underwear at you on stage?

Heh…Not yet…still waiting for that.

Do you play any other music?

I play various styles of music from smooth jazz, latino, R&B or pop to modern electronic house music. I also do live improvisations with DJs.

Tell us about your other hobbies.

My second love is sport, especially martial arts. I’ve been doing it for 12years and believe it or not, it influenced my saxophone playing the most.

And how it influence that?

That is a very good and hard question to answer. Music and martial arts have a lot in common, although lots of people would put it differently. I started to play the saxophone when I had almost a 1st Technician grade in Wing Tsun (which is something like a black belt) and I had my own martial arts school. Wing Tsun is a great system (Bruce Lee did it before he went to the USA) and I met the right people who understood it. It completely changed the quality of my life. Wing Tsun teaches you fighting principle abilities like Timing, Sensitivity, Discipline, Attention, Balance, etc…which are necessary skills not only for music but for life in general. I can say that I would never have started playing the saxophone if I hadn’t done martial arts.

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Photo by Jiří Schwertner for EWTO

Have you ever been in a real fight?

Yes I have. I was approached by a random guy in a tram. He’d had some alcohol and a bad day I guess. He probably thought beating somebody would make him feel better. In the end his mood was worse and so was his nose.

How would you describe Prague?

Small but beautiful.

If you could go back in time and see anything, what would you see?

The dinosaurs.

Who would play you in a movie about your life?

I have never thought about it before…but definitely Robert Downey Jr.

Nice choice! What is your favourite word?

Pyjamas in both Czech and English.

René is available for weddings and private parties and can be contacted via email: info@renejunior.cz

Also check him out at these performances coming up…

23.5 Občanská plovárna (Praha) – XS Retro Párty

29.5 Cafe Bar Top (Kladno) – saxophone show

30.5 M1 Lounge (Praha, Masná ul) – club show

16.6 Fashion club Prague – Charitativní vystoupení pro pomoc pacientům s onkologickým onemocněním

27.6 Jazz Dock (Praha) – Brazilian latino night with Kleberson Oliveira band

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Singer-songwriter Kate slept on the Great Wall

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After almost 6 years living in the Czech capital, Kate has been dubbed the girl who ‘knows everyone’, and it’s easy to see why. Aside from being extremely approachable and witty, Kate is a talented singer-songwriter and plays regular gigs at expat hubs like the Globe, James Joyce and the Red Room. A couple of weeks back I sat down in Kate’s flat for a chat and stripped everything back to her raw beginnings. One of the most interesting things I learnt was that she actually spent 5 months working on a ship and went around the world, which led to a lot of insanely cool experiences including sleeping on the Great Wall of China.

Where are you from originally?

So, I’m from Muncie, Indiana. It’s a small town in the mid-west in the US. Lots of corn and John Deere tractors. It’s a university town actually. There’s a university there called Ball State.

????? (laughs).

It still brings a hilarity to me, because I know that I’m telling it to foreigners most of the time. It actually has a lot of nicknames.. like testicle tech, but that’s the only one I can think of right now. I have a diploma from there, if you want to prove the legitimacy of Ball State (laughs).

Nice, and what did you study?

I studied education, secondary education in undergrad at Indiana university and then my masters was in university administration at Ball State, so that’s kind of how I found myself in this mixture I do now of teaching and administration.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be?

I went through phases. When I was really young I told my Mum I wanted to be a teenager. She was happy to report that I probably would achieve that goal. I also wanted to work at McDonalds when I was 6. I wanted to be a doctor when I was in high school and I did a two week internship stint. But with my first interaction with bags of blood I nearly fainted so that soured me.

Both of my parents were teachers so I kind of grew up thinking I would never be one even though I played school with my friends and dolls. My favourite game when I was a kid was actually ‘librarian’ (laughs). I made a library out of my living room and I made my family come through and check out books. Yeah it didn’t take much for me to get engaged in something.

And how did you get here?

Well, I worked for a study abroad program called Semester at Sea which is a university study program on a ship, I was on there for 5 months as a councillor. We were in 13 different countries and circumnavigated the globe – it was an amazing experience, I would totally do it again. But basically, I met a lot of English teachers on that journey and before that I hadn’t realised that teaching English abroad was a way to live abroad. I did my student teaching in the UK so I kind of always new I wanted to relocate to Europe at some point. So I came back from working at Semester at Sea and decided to book a one way ticket somewhere abroad. I chose Prague because I was there for 3 days in 2004 and loved it. I remember thinking it was one of those cities that I could live in. At that point there were a lot of cities in Europe that I thought I could live in, but I fell in love with Prague.

That experience at sea sounds great, tell us something that happened there.

Well, we were in Brazil for Carnival, in Bahia which was incredible… I’ve seen my fair share of partying, but these people… thousands and thousands on the street from all ages being out day and night. You thought it was going to end at some point, and then a concert or something would start again. I also went skydiving in Brazil, that was my first and only time.

Would you do it again?

Yeah, I would! It’s definitely thrilling. I’m trying to think of other stuff I did in Semester at Sea… What was it that I did?.. Oh yeah! I slept on the Great Wall…

Wow, really?

Yeah, I even have a t-shirt saying that (laughs). I had a really tight group of six friends also working on the ship. We all did this great wall experience. When you see documentaries people usually go to the same part of the Great Wall, but the part we were on was quite far from there. We took a bus with migrant workers going to the fields for their weeks worth of pay and we had gotten the phone number of a man from a friend of a friend. We went and stayed with his family for a night and he somehow had a key to one of the guard towers on the Great Wall with some cots. He walked us up there and gave us a huge basket of Chinese beer and whiskey and whatever else we wanted and just said “ok, here you go! See you in the morning!” That was amazing, an unforgettable experience.

That’s incredible. So you’re a singer-songwriter too!

Yeah!

When did you start that?

Well I started playing guitar when I was in college. I grew up actually playing piano and singing in a choir, but I started playing guitar in university in my sorority house and it kind of turned into an open mic thing and from there I got gigs!

And what is one of your favourites to play?

One of the first songs I learnt and still one of my favourites is Joni Mitchell – Both Sides Now. It sort of changes with the crowd and my mood at the time though. I like older stuff, I like singing Bob Dylan. An accoustic version of a pop song always really surprises a crowd and I really like that too. If I play Miley Cyrus or Justin Timberlake, people really like it. And sometimes you learn what a great song it is when you hear it stripped down.

You’ve been playing since you moved here?

Yeah, I started at the Oak which is now U Kravaty, they still do open mics and live music. I started going to the open mic there. It’s still a great scene for expat musicians because you can really connect with people who know the scene around Prague. Since then I’ve been playing more in here than I ever have in the States. I had a weekly gig in the States in a sandwich shop and they would give me $50 and a sandwich.

Ok, I thought for a second you were going to say that they gave you $50 worth of sandwiches! (laughs)

(Laughs) I would’ve taken it! It was such a funny gig because it was just a sandwich place, so my gig was 5-7pm.. and it was a takeaway place – ‘We have some music while you stand in line.’

Have you ever had any rowdy or drunk people try to use your microphone or anything like that?

You’ve just described my Friday night! Hmmm, a few things happen regularly. On Sunday I saw this group of people drinking, I knew how much they’d been drinking. They were a stag group and on my break a guy was like ‘hey, I play guitar! Can I go up and play something?’. So I usually say ‘no, the bar doesn’t allow it’. I mean if they haven’t been pounding jagermeisters all night then sometimes I’ll have them up. But I guess the most memorable thing is people constantly asking for songs I don’t know. Even if I don’t know it, they insist that I play it anyway.

What famous musician would you like to have dinner with?

Ummm, I would love to have dinner with Ingrid Michaelson. She’s an American singer-songwriter and has a lot of cool and quirky stuff, but also stuff that’s really easy to listen to.. and she’s alive! A lot of the people I’m thinking of are dead (laughs).

Which famous musician would you not like to have dinner with?

I feel like having dinner with Bob Dylan, even though I love his music, would be so intimidating. I would so be on a different plane than him. I would dread that dinner.

Ok, a change of topic. People dressing up as Santa, singing songs around town and collecting money for charity with the beer stops in between – this is SantaCon, which you started here in Prague! Tell us a little about it.

I heard about it from a friend that initiated it in Indianapolis and he just sort of chose a charity and got some friends together on Facebook. So I contacted some of the local bars I played at here and it just blossomed from there. Between the first and second year it’s grown a lot, now it’s kind of a mix between the English teaching community, couchsurfers, random Facebook people – it’s hovering at around 50-60 people at the moment, which is good because Prague deals with a lot of annoying stag parties and I don’t want it to be like that. A small group of people, but enough to make some smiles and be noticed.

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How would you describe Prague?

I would say manageable, in terms of size. Liberal… livable. Let’s see, what else… Open-minded. I feel like every time I think of an adjective, I can think of something to contradict it.. It’s open-minded but it’s not.

What do you miss about home?

In order of importance, Coffee Mate. It’s this powdered fake creamer.. it’s flavoured, but I can sort of get it here so that’s ok. I miss Target as well. Ok, now we’re done with material things. I miss people more than anything because most of my friends and family are sort of spread out around the US. I miss English speaking banter at a bar or just making a joke about something.

Who would play you in a movie about your life?

Ok well in terms of people that I look like, I often get Sheryl Crowe. I don’t really know what she is like as an actress though. I feel like Anna Paquin is a bit of a bad-ass. I guess if I was thinking high of myself, I would choose Tina Fey!

She’s awesome, I could see that! And finally, if you could go back in time, what would you see?

Hmmm. The pressure! Maybe the milestones of the 60s, like the moon landing. I would also like to see major milestones here like the Velvet Revolution, people protesting and celebrating in Wenceslas Square and also the fall of the Berlin Wall…. and the big bang!

 

Written and transcribed by Ryan Keating-Lambert. Photos by Ryan Keating-Lambert.

 

 

 

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.