Jim Haynes newsletters

Newsletter No. 733

The Prague Fringe Festival
21 to 30 May 2015

 
Prague Fringe Festival 2015 logo

 

Thursday, May 21st: Up before 7. Estelle Pilade, one of my two wonderful nurses, calls. The door code has changed and she cannot enter. Give her the new code and she is soon with me. I have done my medical chores, so she only has to wish me a bon voyage and to warn me about my bad eating habits. I have breakfast with Steven Ullman. He arrived yesterday evening from California and will be watching the atelier while I am away. He will also be preparing the tiramisu dessert for next Sunday's dinner. Patricia Sherer will be the principal chef and Steven will assist her. Steven will also co-produce our planned production of Morag Fullarton's Casablanca - the Gin Joint Cut scheduled for next February off-Broadway.
Ece Ger arrives. She wants to see me off this morning. We walk out front and the taxi is there. We zoom to the Gare de l'Est and more coffee. What an angel Ece is. Soon it is time to board the TGV to Frankfurt. Wave goodbye to Ece and I am on my way to Frankfurt. I have twenty minutes in Frankfurt and must change to another train to Leipzig. We are running at least ten minutes late, so begin to panic. We arrive in Frankfurt (Main) Hbf and I learn the worse. There is a strike and there is no train departing this morning for Leipzig. Go to the information desk and am advised to take the train to Nuremberg and the bus from there to Prague. OK, I will do it.
Soon am travelling South on the train to Nuremberg. Read and watch the beautiful countryside glide pass. Arrive in Nuremberg and go to the ticket office (with assistance from a lovely woman I talked with on the train). The bus is a part of the German train system, so I do not need another ticket. And in fact it will put me in Prague ten minutes earlier than I would have arrived via Leipzig. So far so good. Talk with an elderly couple from the USA and tell them that I am being met at the train station in Prague and that I can drop them at their hotel if they wish. His name is Alan and I cannot remember her name. Maybe Sara. We drive through more beautiful countryside and soon arrive in Prague Central Station. The driver soon arrives and we speed off into the night to Alan's hotel. Then I am dropped at the Hotel Nicholas.
Deposit my bag and elect to go out for something to eat. The fellow at the hotel desk recommends a restaurant nearby, but when I walk down the street I realize that I have not remembered the name, so end up in J.J.Murphy's, Irish bar where the lovely waitress, Kristyn, recommends a chicken dish. It arrives and I have just started eating when Séamas McSwiney arrives. He flew from Paris and arrived in the hotel just a few minutes after me.
I call Steve Gove and he is soon with us as well. Steve created the Prague Fringe Festival ( with Carole Wears) some 14 years ago. And he has urged me to attend ever since. Neither he nor I can believe that I have finally made it to the Festival. We three walk the short distance back to our hotel. Steve promises to come for coffee in the morning. My suite of rooms is superb in every way. Séamas has his own room up the stairs. We are both delighted.

Friday, 22nd: Up at 6. Shave, shower and shampoo. Blood sugar level is OK. Call Michael March, an old friend. Michael with his lovely wife, Vlasta, directs the Prague Writers' Festival for the past dozen or more years. (I have attended two or three times.) We agree to meet tomorrow. He has a medical appointment today. Try to contact Eva Kacerova. No luck. Do manage to talk with Ivana Bozdechova, only to be told that she is leaving Prague for a week. Séamas and I walk towards the Charles Bridge and I withdraw 6,000 Czech Crowns from an ATM machine. We continue to the Charles Bridge, then return to Starbucks for coffee, croissants and cheesecake.
Back to the hotel and a package has arrived from Scotland for me. My publisher has posted a box containing ten copies of my book, Everything Is! Thank you, Martin Belk. After a brief rest in the hotel, Séamas and I cross the street and have lunch. Our waitress is Michaela. Late afternoon we walk up towards the castle to our first fringe theatre performance. in the Museum of Alchemists at 18h00. We sit in the courtyard for snacks. Sausages with mustard and horseradish. Chat with Carole Gove, Carol Wears, and Michael Colcott. Michael is the ex-Ambassador from Canada to the Czech Republic and now serves as the official blogger for the Fringe Festival.
The first production is called Kafka's Belinda and a New York company is presenting it. It's sweet. Really for children. Then we see Harry Gooch's Three Star Show. Funny and delightful. Séamas and I head back down to our hotel and stop in a restaurant for a meal. I have duck. Delicious. Another Michaela is our waitress.

  Jim and Steve Gove
Jim and Steve Gove

Saturday, 23rd: Up at 8 after a great night's sleep and immediately perform my medical chores. High blood sugar levels again. Damn. Call Paris. All well. Call Grace Teshima. She is looking after my Airbnb site for me. Quiet morning. Read the London Review of Books article by Seymour M. Hersh about the killing of Bin Laden.. Call Michael March and we agree to meet at 3 this afternoon at the Hotel Josef.
Go downstairs and meet Rado, the hotel manager. Give him copies of Everything Is! and Workers. Thank him for the superb hotel room. Séamas and I elect to go out early for my meeting with Michael. We purchase tram tickets plus The Guardian and the International New York Times. We catch two trams and make our way to the Hotel Josef. I am surprised to discover that I remember the way without a problem. We continue to stroll about and seek a restaurant for lunch. We end up sitting outside in the warm sunshine in an Indian restaurant called Indian Jewel. We have a delicious lunch. Our waiter, Gurdev Singh, is a sweetheart.
Later I call Michael and suggest he meet us here at the restaurant. In the end we meet him back at the Hotel Josef. We then walk the short distance to the Paris Café in the Hotel de Paris for coffee and pastry. Michael gives me two of his new books of poetry and I give him a copy of Everything Is! We tram back to Mala Strana and we again cross paths with Michael Calcott. Briefly visit my hotel room, then cross over to the Fringe Club. Chat with Jacqueline and Ewan from Edinburgh. And give Jacqueline a copy of Everything Is! They are both volunteers for the Fringe Festival. A local Czech woman suggests I might like a restaurant called Jo's. So Séamas and I agree to dine there. I order a Ceasar salad and it is one of the best I have ever had. Our waitress, Veronica, is a delight. We sit at a table next to an interesting couple. He is a professional mime from Majorca. His lovely companion is from Paris. They are attending a mime festival in Prague. Their names are Pau Bachero and Sandrine Penda.
Afterwards Séamas and I walk to see a Fringe performance, but we go to the wrong theatre. We head back to the Fringe Club and manage to get slipped into Men with Coconuts which we both greatly enjoy. Afterwards we meet Stuart Lightbody who is from Capetown, South Africa. He has a show in the Fringe. We get a preview when he performs some amazing card tricks for Séamas and me. Hotel and bed.

Sunday, 24th: Up at 8.30. Blood sugar level is perfect. Shave, shower, shampoo. Starbucks again for coffee. Back to the hotel and chat with Rado. He gives us directions to Mosaic House. My mobile rings and it is Steve Gove. He will come to the hotel in fifteen minutes and we will go together for the brunch (or Frunch) at Mosaic House.
Séamas and I wait outside in the morning sunshine for Steve and he is soon with us. We three board the tram No 22 and are soon at Mosaic House. I am introduced to the Director, Gilles Dulevey. Also meet Rosie Dwelly, who assists Steve and Carole in running the Festival. Also meet Rosie's family who are over from England. Gilles makes a few photocopies of the Chicago Tribune article about my Sunday dinners and I give one to him.
Steve, Séamas and I take the No. 22 tram back to Mala Strana. Chat with a lovely young woman from Bogotá and tell her about the Fringe Festival. Upstairs in the Fringe Club I find a place to sit for the unfolding of the Fringe Sunday event. A fellow named Bob Matuska sits next to me. He is a lawyer and Steve's neighbour. See a minute or two from about 30 Fringe productions. Later meet Jan Thompson, the British Ambassador. She is lovely. Meet the actor J.B. Alexander and ask him if he is related to my dear friend, Jane Alexander. He is not of course. Chat with a woman named Marketa and I thank her for her recommendation of the restaurant named Jo's.
Later wander to the hotel. Séamas and I decide to dine in Jo's again. This time our waiter is Tomas. No sign of Veronica. We order a Caesar salad and a hamburger and share both. Back to the Fringe Club. Chat with Michael Colcott and give him a copy of Everything Is!

Monday, 25th: Up at 8.30. Test blood sugar levels and it is perfect. Shower and dress. Go downstairs to the change place next to the hotel and change 200 Euros. Séamas and I have breakfast. He treats. Séamas goes to the hotel and I go up to the Fringe Club. Wander across the street and purchase a 'doughnut' on the street. Up to the hotel room and share my 'cinnamon doughnut' with Séamas. Read two articles in the Guardian literary revue. One about the Czech novelist, Milan Kundera, and the second about a battle in the Second World War. Call Paris and talk with Steven Ullman. The dinner yesterday was a big success.
We go downstairs to Café 22, next to the hotel, for our lunch. It's OK, but my favourite is still Jo's. Back up to our room. Then at 17h30 we take the tram two stops to Kavarna 3 + 1 to see three shows. We have a drink and talk to lots of people. I talk with an actress from Virginia named Lily Kerrigan who will be performing in Kafka's Metamorphosis. I tell her I produced it in the Arts Lab in 1967. And we talk about Steven Berkoff. She reports her production is based on Steven's texts.
Our first show is called Who Waits at the Top of the Stairs. In this new monologue, receiving its world premiere, John Arthur Sweet makes his third trip to the Prague Fringe. I greatly enjoy this production. Then Séamas and I have toasties and quesadillas. Also greatly enjoy it. We next go into Richard III at 20h00. It is a one-woman performance, but the actress, Emily Carding, uses the audience. We are all a part of the production. Another delightful performance. Then Who Made Me?, another monologue about a fellow surviving Catholic School in New York City. It's again interesting. I have greatly enjoyed this evening in the Kavarna 3 + 1 small theatre. We rush back to the Malostranska Beseda to catch Tomas Ford: The Final Chase. Not our cup of tea, so we slip out after a few minutes. Head for our hotel room and bed.

Tuesday, 26th: Up at 7 and test blood sugar levels again. Again perfect. Estelle and Barbara, my nurses in Paris, would be pleased. Go back to bed for an hour. Séamas will fly to Paris this afternoon and the lovely Susie Parker, from Sydney, will arrive and take his bed. I have a quick shower, shave and shampoo. We go out for a late breakfast at 11. Coffee and strudel. Back to the hotel and study the Fringe programme. There is something at Mosaic.
We take the No 22 tram there. See lots of people I know: Mary Bartlett's friends, Charlie & Katie Bayliss. Steve and Carole are there. See Gilles and give him a copy of Everything Is! Give Carole and Richard a copy of Workers. Maria Af Klintberg comes up to me and reports she is a friend of Jesper's and has stayed in my atelier in Paris. She is performing here in the Fringe.
Séamas and I take the tram back to the hotel. He finishes packing and departs for the airport and Paris. I await Susie Parker's arrival. She is soon with me and looking beautiful. We take the tram to the Josef Hotel and I tell her about the time John Flattau and I took Susie Wyss to Prague and we stayed in the Josef. Chat with Octavia Baz who is one of the receptionists. And is extremely beautiful. She is from Romania and I tell her I edited a guide book to Romania. Give her an invitation to dine chez moi in Paris.
Michael March and Vlasta arrive plus a young man from America. His name is Elan Fessler and he is an architect. Hana Newman and Jani arrive. We walk the short distance to the Chapeau Rouge where we are introduced to Dr. Martin Stransky and Spyder. Martin is a doctor. He is a Czech-American and we discover we both love New Orleans. He wants to give up medicine and become a full time musician. We have a delightful jazz concert. After the first set, I suggest to Susie that we return to the hotel. She is tired from her travels and readily agrees.

  Jim, Hana Newman and Susie Parker
Jim, Hana Newman and Susie Parker at Chapeau Rouge

Wednesday, 27th: Awake at 6 but decide to stay in bed for another hour. Get up at 8 and discover that Susie is up and has had her shower. Sugar level is a bit low this morning. We go out for breakfast below the Fringe Club. Coffee and pastry. It's a sunny Prague day. Susie decides to go back to the hotel to get her sun glasses. Tell her I will meet her in Starbucks. Purchase today International New York Times. More coffee and another pastry. Susie joins me.
We walk back to the hotel and one of the old fashioned cars is parked in front of the hotel. Susie wants to take it for a tour of the city as its her first visit to Prague. It is not my habit to do it, but what the hell, why not? We climb aboard and are soon rolling about the city in style.
Up to the castle, down pass the Intercontinental Hotel (where John Flattau and I once stayed), around the old town square. We drive past McCaffrey's Irish pub (near the Hotel Josef), then back up the hill to our hotel. Susie insists upon paying because this was her idea.. Up to our hotel room. Susie calls her fella, Denver, in Sydney. And we three chat a bit. I call Steve Gove. It was he who called while we were driving about the city. He tells us we are invited to a reception in the British Embassy at 2. I suggest to Susi that we head out early because I am slow when walking up a steep hill. We stop on the way for a delicious hotdog.
We are a long way up the hill when Susie stops to ask for directions and we discover we are on the wrong street. Back we go down the hill and we encounter Steve Gove. It is a short walk to the Embassy. I ride in an elevator to the third floor private apartment of the Ambassador. Jan Thompson greets her guests. A delightful reception unfolds in the gardens. Give her a copy of Everything Is! Tell her about delivering a letter to Václav Havel from Solidarnosc in 1981.

  Steve and Susie at the Birtish Embassy
Steve and Susie at the Birtish Embassy

Talk with David Wadmore. He and his wife have a home in the South of England and a small apartment here in Prague. He tells me that he has been a fan of mine for years. We talk about the Arts Lab, I.T., and The European, a newspaper which he designed. Talk as well with Carol Gove, Steve's 'big sister' and with her fellow, David Kirk. Thank Jan Thompson for her hospitality and Susie and I head back to our hotel to rest.
We have a date with Michael & Vlasta to attend a reception for the National Day of the Republic of Azerbaijan. We tram to Narodi 37 and meet Michael outside. He introduces us to Lucien Zell. I tell Lucien that I saw his production of The Piano Man. Michael and Vlasta give us a tour of their offices. Michael gives me a copy of his new book of poetry and books for me to pass to John Calder. Vlasta gives Susie a few presents. We go out and find a taxi and are soon zooming to the Hotel International and the reception. We meet and have a talk with the Ambassador, Farid Shafiyev. Also meet Souriya Otmani, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco in Prague. And spot the British Ambassador, Jan Thompson. The cuisine is delicious. But I am quickly tired and I suggest to Susie that we head for our hotel.
We say our thank-yous. And get a hotel car to drive us to Mala Strana. We elect to see Kafka's Report to an Academy in the Studio Rubin at 20h00. I produced this play with the great Tutte Lemkov in the Arts Lab way back in 1968. Then at 10, we decide to see Kafka's Metamorphosis in the Divadlo Na Prádle. This is the play that Steven Berkoff wrote and directed in the Arts Lab in 1967. I have to say that the two productions in the Arts Lab were much better. Susan Galbraith's production was thirty minutes too long. Susie and I hail a taxi and ride back to our hotel. It's after midnight.

Thursday, 28th: Again awake at 6, but go back to sleep for another hour or so. Susie produces a breakfast for us. And makes a pot of coffee. Blood sugar level is perfect this morning. Call Michael & Vlasta to see if they would like to attend Neruda Nude this evening with us. Get their answering machine, so leave a message. Steven Ullman calls from Paris.
Call Steve Gove and we have a catch-up chat. We agree to meet in 20 minutes in Starbucks. Go to Starbucks and discover that Steve has ordered our coffee. Susie joins us. Purchase today's Guardian. Susie goes out to walk up to the castle. I sit in our hotel room and read The Guardian. Then go to Jo's for a Caesar salad. Delicious as always. Back to the hotel room.
Michael March calls. He and Vlasta will attend Neruda Nude with us this evening. We will meet downstairs in the hotel at 7. Go to the Fringe Club. Talk with the lovely Rose Bekkenkamp, from Amsterdam, and she introduces me to Alec Hughes, from Bristol. They are both with the production, The Fruits of Failure. I compliment her on her cleavage.
Back to the hotel to await Michael & Vlasta. They arrive. They plus Susie Parker and me take the tram two stops to attend Neruda Nude in the Divadio Na Prádle. To quote from the programme notes: "There is something we all have in common with those sitting around us in the audience; under our clothes, we are all naked." And this company, Brojo from Western Canada, perform their show in the nude. It is always a delight to see young healthy bodies.
Afterwards we four stroll the short distance to the Café Savoy where I have a wonderful salad. Susie and Vlasta have a delicious warm apple strudel. I remember this place from an earlier visit to Prague when I had lunch here with Steve Gove and others. Tram back to the hotel and Michael & Vlasta continue to their home.

  Jim, Susie and Michael at the Divadio Na Prádle
Jim, Susie and Michael at the Divadio Na Prádle

Friday, 29th: Up again about 7. Susie also up. She reports her mother is not well. Susie makes coffee for us. I try to call Steve Gove, but get no answer. Go downstairs. Petra, at the front desk, tells me that Eva Kacerova has called and wants me to call her back. Do so. She wants to meet me at 8 pm tonight at the Fringe Club and then see the 9 pm performance together. I agree. Susie goes to Starbucks and I go for today's newspaper and agree to meet her in Starbucks. I almost have a major accident as I miss judging a step and almost have a terrible fall. But I catch myself just in time.
Read the New York Times while Susie calls Sydney to talk with her fella, Denver. He and I exchange greetings. Susie goes for a walkabout and I return to our hotel room. More or less pack up all my stuff for our early departure tomorrow morning. Call Steve Gove and this time success. He will come to the hotel in an hour.
Susie returns. She has a lunch date with Vlasta. The two of them have bonded. We go downstairs to await for Vlasta and Steve. Vlasta is the first to arrive and the two of them depart for the afternoon. I tell Petra that if Steve arrives, I will be at Jo's. Maybe I will go to a 5 pm show.
We end up enjoying drinks with some English friends and then seeing the 9 pm show, A View from the Street. I expect to see Eva Kacerova, but somehow we fail to connect. This performance is mainly music with images flashed on a screen behind the musician. The musician, Geordie Little is excellent, but I find the film distracting.

Saturday, 30th: Both Susie and I get up very early this morning. We soon pack and are ready to go. I paid the hotel bill yesterday afternoon. After coffee and a wee breakfast, we begin to take our bags downstairs in the elevator. Our taxi is waiting for us. Goodbye and many thanks to the hotel Nicholas and all the helpful staff.
We are off to the Central Station and the first train to Dresden. Train pulls out of the station on schedule at 8h30 and we roll through the beautiful countryside. We arrive at Dresden Central Station at 10h45 and have 34 minutes to find the train to Leipzig. We board the wrong train to Leipzig and it could have been a tragedy. The train we take is a commuter train that stops at every small town. But we nevertheless arrive in time to make the connection to Frankfurt/Main. We even manage to grab a delicious bratwurst in the station.
We depart Leipzig at 13h11 and arrive in Frankfurt Hbf at 16h37. We have twenty minutes to get the TGV to Paris Est which departs at 16h58. The TGV is incredible with speeds of 400 kilometres per hour. It has been a long trip but surprisingly very pleasant. Even our commuter train mistake.
We pull into Paris Est at 20h54. Susie and I head for the taxi stand, but discover it is no longer there. Nevertheless with help from three police men, Susie's smile gets us a taxi. We are soon on our way to Tombe Issoire. And it is so good to be home. Get the letter package with keys for Susie and she keeps our taxi to go to Odeon and her apartment.
It is always great to be home from any trip. But Prague was delightful in every way. Steve Gove (and Carole) and their team have done an excellent job. The Fringe in Prague is just like Edinburgh in the 60s: intimate, friendly and fun. It is a wonderful festival and I hope to be there again next year. Again in the wonderful Hotel Nicholas. Thank you, Steve, for pushing me to attend. I am only sorry it took me so long.
Now all I have to do is receive 80 people for dinner tomorrow evening...

 

 

Jim Haynes
June 2015

Atelier A-2,
83 rue de la Tombe-Issoire,
75014 Paris France

 

 

 

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