Jim Haynes newsletters

Newsletter No. 738

The Prague Fringe Festival
30 May to 4 June 2016

click to visit the Prague Fringe Website!


Monday, May 30th: This will be my second Prague Fringe Festival. I went last year and shared my superb hotel suite with Seamas McSwiney and Susie Parker. This year the lovely Alexandra Buijsman could not get off from her new job and I had the hotel rooms all to myself. My dear friends, Paul Allman and Mary Bartlett, were also attending for their second time. And they had a bunch of friends with them from the USA. Up when the nurse comes at 7 to check on my blood sugar level and to give me an injection of insulin. Quickly wash and dress and finish packing. The lovely Amanda Fisher and Bar Zalel join me for breakfast. Amanda will guard the atelier until next Friday when she flies away to North Carolina. (And will be greatly missed.) Bar is going to Amsterdam on Thursday to play a gig and will be back on Sunday evening. (He arrived very late after everyone had left the dinner party.)
Call Uber and soon I am at the Gare de l'Est and ready to board the train for Frankfurt. Like last year, we are late arriving and I miss the connection to Dresden. (It seems a tree fell on the tracks.) And like last year, I take the train to Nürnberg and share the ride with five Italian-American sisters from Brooklyn. When I report I am from New Orleans, they ask me about the Hotel Monteleon. It seems a member of their family was an owner. I rush to get the bus to Prague. I make it with a few minutes to spare. Nothing exceptional happens in the ride to Prague except there is a pretty young American girl sitting in the seat just in front of me who provides 'eye-candy'. I call the Hotel Nicholas to report I am arriving an hour earlier and Tina Cavar says she will have me picked up when the bus arrives. And she does!

Soon I am back in my old wonderful suite at the hotel. It feels good but I wish Seamas, Susie or Alexandra were with me to share it. Go out and cross the street and walk the short distance to the Fringe Club. I thank in my head Steve Gove for getting this hotel for me. It is a perfect location. Take the elevator up to the first floor and bump into the beautiful Rose Bekkenkamp from Amsterdam. We met last year and like everyone who meets her, I fell madly in love with her. She is doing a production again this year. I ask her if she would like to dine. She says yes, but we have to meet in about an hour when she finishes her performance. No problem. I will wait for her in the Club Bar. Meet Gilles Burton, the Technical Director of Prague Fringe, and he is back to run it all again. Find myself a comfortable table and begin to study the Fringe programme. This is interrupted when a young lad walks up to me and asks if I am Jim Haynes. I say yes and that he is to sit and join me. Fraser Stevens is from Canada and he was here last year with a production with Rose Bekkenkamp. We talk a long time and I learn that he will move from Amsterdam to attend the University of Maryland this autumn. I suggest he join Rose and me later for dinner, but he politely declines. In the distance I spot Rose and say farewell to Fraser. Rose and I go downstairs to the Beseda restaurant and find a table on the terrace. We have a superb dinner and an even better talk. She tells me about her production which she does about five times daily. She takes four people for a walk and I promise to go on one. She says that she will come to my production as well. Very late I reluctantly walk the short distance to my hotel.

  Rose Bekkenkamp and Gina, photo R.R.
Rose Bekkenkamp and Gina
Tuesday, 31st: Wake very early. Go back to bed for a bit more sleep. Lazy morning. My tests are good. Coffee and cheese for breakfast. Eat an apple. Late morning I call Steve Gove and he will come over in thirty minutes. Before he arrives, I go out for a copy of the International New York Times and two bottles of water. Steve arrives and is his usual over-the-top self. He reports the Festival is going well and that my production is sold out the two performances. Paul and Mary are suddenly at the door. Steve has things to do, so rushes out.

Paul, Mary and I cross over to Beseda for lunch. Three large salads. Robert McNamara, from Washington, D.C., stops by our table to chat with Paul and Mary and I am introduced. Robert is directing War of the Worlds!, the Orson Wells radio broadcast that panicked the USA. He asks if I know Douglas Kennedy in Paris. Yes, Douglas is a friend. More friends of Paul and Mary, Charles and Katy Bayless from Portland, Oregon, stop and sit briefly with us. Charles has a vineyard and Paul often helps out. Later I go up to the 2nd floor and bump into Rose Bekkenkamp and she introduces me to an attractive young woman from Amsterdam. Her name is Gina. Also meet a fellow named Nick Abrams and a woman named Rachel. Coffee with Nick. Nick runs Venue C at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He and I talk about the Adam House Theatre and I explain that I was once an off-stage voice in the Tennessee Williams play, Orpheus Descending. Jane Alexander played the lead and was outstanding. I started the Traverse Theatre for Jane. Nick Abrams and I discuss the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He and the new Chief Executive of the Edinburgh Fringe, Shona McCarthy, are here to discuss the Fringe and we all go inside to hear how to present a show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Shona is here with her assistant, Rachel Sanger. Shona, Rachel and Nick sit on a wee stage and talk about Edinburgh. I report that this coming August will be my 60th Edinburgh Festival. After the talks, we are all photographed.
I slip away to the hotel to rest for a while. End up watching Roland Garros Tennis on television. Suddenly it is time for me to head back to Malostranska Beseda and I make my way slowly there. On the way encounter a young woman who has been sent to fetch me. She tells me that she has an American father and a Czech mum. When I arrive, I realize that I have forgotten my mobile phone which I need for the performance. One of Steve's team, Rosie Dwelly, rushes back to the hotel to get my phone and returns in minutes.

  Steve Gove, Shona and Jim, photo R.R.
Steve Gove, Shona and Jim

We sit in a circle. An audience of 12. I explain the rules and ask the first question. And so it begins. The participants include Jan Thompson, the British Ambassador to the Czech Republic and a Patron the the Prague Fringe. Rose Bekkenkamp and her friend, a young woman who was born in Krakov, Poland and currently lives in Wales, Lorraine Scorsone and Chip Krezell (both from New York City), Mel from Newcastle and his wife, David and his lawyer wife, and another fellow whose name I sadly cannot remember.
Drop my bag at the hotel and chat with Petra. Walk to Jo's restaurant and it is closed. Order a milk shake from next door. Then it is down to Studio Rubin to see A Special Day. I saw it in Edinburgh when they presented it in 2013, but it is fun to see it again.
Walk to the Fringe Club. Decide to have an early night. Meet Robert McNamara on the way and he introduces me to two Swedes and I use my limited vocabulary to chat briefly with them in Swedish.

Wednesday, June 1st: Up early once again. Get a call from Iris Alter in Paris who wants a telephone number. After coffee and my medical chores, I call a few people. First Michael and Vlasta and we agree to meet at the Cafe Savoy tomorrow at High Noon. Then call Steve Gove and get no answer. Same with Michael Prochazka. Ivana Bozdechova answers and asks if I can call her again in 20 minutes. I do and never get her. I want to call Eva Kacerova, but do not know her current number. Steve Gove calls and asks if I can make my way to the British Embassy on my own.
Take a taxi and am soon there. Get out and spot Paul and Mary immediately. The door soon opens and I am allowed to go up via a private elevator. One of the first people I encounter is Vanessa Welbsy. She and I wander into the living room and sit on a comfortable couch. We catch up on our news. Mirek Romaniv joins us briefly. Then we go out to the garden to hear various performances. I am given a chair because the pain in my back makes it difficult to stand a long time. The garden is very large and very beautiful. The performers seem to be enjoying themselves. Steve Gove has a few words to say and Jan Thompson welcomes us all to her home. Back into the living room. Then it is time to go. I look around to thank Jan, but she has disappeared. Vanessa offers to drop me back at my hotel. Paul, Mary, Vanessa and I all go down in the elevator. Paul and Mary have no distance to go to their apartment. It is located next to the Embassy. In the short car ride to my hotel, I sign a copy of my book, To Fuller or Not for Vanessa's daughter, Antonia. She has just won an acceptance to Charles University.
Go up to my room and watch some tennis at Roland Garros. Then it is time for me to host my second Getting to Know You performance. Over I go. It goes extremely well. Maybe even better than yesterday. This session we are only 11 in the circle. A question is asked and everyone answers the same question. Then another question until it completes the circle.

  Jim at the British Embassy, photo R.R.
Jim at the British Embassy

Afterwards I go downstairs to the first floor and sit with Paul, Mary, Charles, Katy, Chip and Lorraine. Then move to another table and sit with two people who had been in my performance, Vishu Madapathi (from South India) and Hanka Vranova (from Prague). They tell me that they enjoyed the production and found it stimulating. I suggest we go downstairs and have dinner. They agree. We find a round table and order. I have duck and red cabbage. It is very delicious. And lots of good talk. Hanka insists upon treating us. I make them promise to visit me in Paris. Then it is time for them to depart. (Back in Paris, I posted them three books of mine.) On the way out, the two actors in A Special Day greet me and I end up joining them. Ana Graham and Ettore Vega are from Mexico, but live in New York City. We talk about their performance in Edinburgh in 2013 and I tell them I enjoyed it then as well as a few nights ago. They promise to come and see Casablanca - the Gin Joint Cut when it opens off-Broadway. Next Spring I hope.
Time to head for bed. See Carol Gove outside talking with two or three people and we exchange greetings. Over to my hotel and dive into bed and head for Dreamland.

Thursday, 2nd: Again an early start to the day. Coffee and cheese for breakfast. And an apple. Shave and shower and shampoo. Watch Roland Garros on television. About 11.30 head out to take the tram two stops. When I get out, I have only walked a few steps when there is a tap on my shoulder. It is Michael March. He was on the same tram. We walk the short distance to the Cafe Savoy. We are both not hungry, so decide to share a salad. The Cafe Savoy is very beautiful. If I lived in Prague, I would be a regular client. Michael also loves the place. I give him Susie Parker's greetings and ask that both our love and greetings be passed to Vlasta, Michael's wonderful wife. He tells me about the next Writers' Conference that will open the 7th of October and run to the 18th. Michael insists upon picking up the bill.

  A Special Day, Ana Graham and Antonio Vega
A Special Day, Ana Graham and Antonio Vega

We walk the short distance to take the tram back to Malostranske. And on the tram a few seats away from us sit Paul and Mary. What a pleasant surprise. When we get off, I introduce Michael to Paul and Mary. He continues to his office. Paul and Mary walk to the Fringe Club. And I return to the hotel to rest a bit.
Have dinner in a restaurant called By Three Golden Stars with Chip Krezell and Lorraine Scorsone. Super delicious. Then select to go next door to see Madame Senorita: Who Are Tu? Super silly.

Friday, 3rd: Go downstairs and pay my hotel bill. Walk to the newspaper shop and purchase the International New York Times, and a couple of magazines to read on the train to Paris. Walk across to Beseda for a morning cup of hot chocolate. In the New York Times, there is a superb review of Alan Furst's new novel, A Hero of France. Alan is a dear friend and I love his books. Steve's wonderful mum, Carol, and I chat briefly. Cross over to the hotel. In the room a few minutes when Steve Gove calls and suggests lunch at the Beseda. I say OK. Am the first to arrive and find a table. Steve and Mirek join me and we have the daily special. Mirek insists upon treating us. Then he heads for his office. Steve departs as well. I call Rose and she suggests an almost immediate walk. I say OK. She will collect me at my table. I see several people looking for a table and signal to them that they are welcome to mine, that I am departing shortly. Soon I am surrounded by Italians from Calabria. I tell them I am waiting for a beautiful Dutch actress. And true to my word, Rose soon arrives, looking her usual wonderful self. Her real name is Roos, but I call her Rose. Her show is called Together. She gives me a choice of four categories and I select 'Lover". And off we go. I am given head phones and listen to the delightful Goran Bregovic CD, Music for Funerals and Weddings. She leads me down towards the Charles Bridge and then via small back streets to Shakespeare & Co Bookshop where we sit briefly. It is all very sweet. An old codger walking with a young beautiful woman. Rose has promised Steve to deliver me to the Golden Key Hotel for a special cocktail to celebrate 15 years of the Fringe Festival. She calls a taxi and soon we are zooming up the hill to Nerudova and the hotel. Rose leaves me and goes back down the hill. I am early. The party begins at 3.30, so I sit in a corner and wait. Vanessa Welbsy joins me. She thanks me again for the book I gave her yesterday for her daughter. And shows me a photograph of her daughter, Antonia, holding the book. She is certainly beautiful - like her mother! People begin to arrive. Steve gives a very sweet talk. He even includes how we met.

Then, Jan Thompson says a few words. Annie Moir reads her delightful poem about the Prague Fringe. Drinks flow. Cake arrives. Carole Wears, the Co-Founder and Co-Director of Prague Fringe, gives me a bar of chocolate that is produced by a friend in Newcastle. It is a superb event.
I decide to see Dear Mister Kaiser and am told it starts in fifteen minutes just down the street. Walk the short distance and manage to enter just before it starts. It is a bit silly, but also sweet. About a British prisoner of war in the first World War writing a letter to the Kaiser asking to be released from prison to visit his dying mother. Permission is granted.
Walk back to the hotel to rest. Then out again to the Divadlo Inspirace Theatre to see the play, Echoes by Henry Naylor. A 15 year-old schoolgirl jihadi. A Victorian blue-stocking, born 175 years apart. Facing the same horrors in the East. A quote from The Sunday Times critic: ..."The performances of two-piece cast Felicity Houlbrooke and Philipa Braganca were outstanding..." And I agree. A superb piece of theatre. It is sad, but a true picture of life. I love it.
Walk down to see if I can find Paul and Mary. They said that they would be in the Bistrot de France. Find the restaurant and they report they are closing, but that maybe I should look across the street. I do and they are there. They are with Chip Krezell & Lorraine Scorsone and with Charlie & Katy Bayless. But they have finished and are off to see Stuart Lightbody's performance. Just as they are about to depart, two more of their friends arrive. Bill & Cecy Durkin join me and Bill orders a bottle of red wine. I order a 8-hour pork dish, but I am a bit disappointed. It is not as good as Mary's. Paul, Mary, Chip, Lorraine, Charlie and Katy are soon back with us. Walk slowly back to the hotel with Chip and Lorraine. Wish them a safe journey to New York City tomorrow morning. I go upstairs. Pack and go to bed.

  Echoes, a play by Henry Naylor
Echoes, a play by Henry Naylor

Saturday, 4th: Up early. Wash, dress, and finish packing. Go downstairs. Soon my taxi arrives and I am off to the Central Train Station. Make my way up to the platform. Attempt to speak with an Australian woman traveling alone to meet her daughter, but she is not interested. I do talk with a man and his son from Oklahoma. I mention Dewey Bartlett, the mayor of Tulsa and of course, they know him. Dewey is Mary Bartlett's cousin. It feels strange to be leaving Prague once again. I loved the five days and nights I spent here at the Fringe Festival. And I did not get to hug Steve a warm thank you and goodbye. Still we will see each other in August in Edinburgh. Arrive in the Gare de l'Est about 8 pm and thank the train manager, Daniel Elliot, for his kindness. Taxi home and am alarmed to see how high the Seine is. Stella Manukyan is in the kitchen busy with the preparations for tomorrow's Sunday dinner feast.

Sunday, 5th: We are 38 men and 45 women tonight for a grand total of 83. Stella has done a great job. One woman, Justine Gabion, writes on her guest form: "the best meal I have had in Paris thus far!"Everyone is happy with the evening. Everything is delicious. So many interesting people: the regulars: David Turner, Alladine Lacroix, Jimmy Page, Amanda Napier, Masha Mombeli, Pascal Legrandeau, Bar Zalel, Martin Lehberger, Maurice Vague, Evgenija Demnievska, Ana Marti Baron and an old friend Lori Thicke plus interesting guests from all over the planet including Wachuka Gichohi from Kenya and Carla Destro and Bruna Prospero from Brazil. Todd Hendricks from Omaha, Nebraska, writes on his guest form: "Very inspirational. Lovely to meet so many new and interesting people. Will always remember Paris this way!". Carla Destro writes on her form: "Lovely evening! Great people plus great food = amazing experience!" Long live the Sunday dinners!

Note: For the first time, there is now a Paris Fringe Theatre Festival. I attended the first performance on the 24th of May, along with over 20 friends, to see Sarah Tullamore's new production, London Paris Roam. It was wonderful! She is taking it to Edinburgh this August where I urge you all to see it. And I think Sarah should take it to the Prague Fringe next year!

visit the Prague Fringe Website!


Jim Haynes
June 2016

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




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