Playing the European Fool's Circuit; Friend's Roadshow in France
Bonjours Mes Amies;
Here I am in front of the Auberge de la Jeunesse in Meuil, a small town near the somewhat larger town of La Rochelle; where the companies of Friends Road Show have been the freak attraction of a rather high culture French festival of the arts. The only inexpensive things here are wine and cheese. . .guess what we have been consuming? This Auberge is a former seminary. . .and though it is presumably a youth hostel, there are more of us rather old folks than anything else.
This month on the Continent-most of it spent with the three Friends Road Show companies-has revealed a very different concept and series of possibilities for performance. There are many places to play and few with that overwhelming bar atmosphere. The whole idea of the Friends Road Show as an. international concept has proven very ture. The English Company travel a great deal in their amazing double-decker bus, which is printed in circus colors and elaborate stylizations that make it not only a work of art but it opens up to a three level stage. The London troop of about fifteen are a fine and multitalented collective.
Amsterdam Friends is a small-six people-group of very high-technical wizards with multi-media work of a very serious sort as their main concern. Altogether these fifty people or so combine as an extended family, with much exchange of personnel over the years. They are actually rarely together, and as a matter of fact the three companies have never performed in the same place at the same time.
I spent three weeks up in Amsterdam for the Festival of Fools; an international extravaganza of 33 performance groups and bands from U.S. (U.S. Friends and Salt Lake City Mime Troupe), England, Germany, Holland, France, Argentina, South Africa and Tenafly, New Jersey. Terrific few weeks. . .lots of outdoor shows, lots of energy spent on thing like a daily Fool's School in both performance skills and technical knowledge. Given the loose ambiance of Amsterdam this was all quite wonderful. A number of companies have performed before at the Festival locations-the three theaters and in the Vondelpark, but this was a series of concentrated bookings with some added pizazz.
Ah the three theatres. . .now here is Amsterdam. Number One: the infamous MELKVEG (that's Milky Way to you bub), a 19th century milk factory converted into a so-called youth center and subsidized by the Dutch government. Whatever any true hippie wants out of life they get it at the Melkveg. There is plenty of dope. . . so much hashish that the restaurant conjures images of a opium den. The food is fantastically good and cheap, with a fair shake for both vegetarians and carnivores. Around the bend is a market where the enterprising sell old clothes they found and remade or goods they have gathered on trips to the exotic east. The Melkveg also has an excellent bakery, library, bookstore, cinema, two theatres, and plenty of productive work coming out of a silk screen and woodshop. The Melkveg is the ultímate in scenes.
Similar though unique in its way is the Paradiso, another Festival performance center. This joint is at first glance a cosmopolitan version of San Francisco's old Filmore. Light show, heavy acid rock between acts on the speakers, and like the Melkveg, a working staff of very open and high people with surprising dedication to the institution and the idea of a sort of community performance center. The Paradiso is a former church and its high ceiling and large stage are ideal for music though not for theatre.
The third center is the Shaffy, a building with three theaters, one on each floor and all this topped by the headquarters of the Dutch Communist Party. Nice performance spaces but nothing unusual.
Here in France all is crazy and yes French. Last night in La Rochelle's central plaza, which is dominated by the seventeenth century town hall, the London and American Friends did a marathon performance, much of it in French, with a varying band of six hundred French people of all ages flowing through the plaza and laughing a lot.
Ellen Frank, France
(Ed. note- Ellen Frank, SUN movie critic, is now touring Europe with the Friends Road Show, a familiar theater group to many in Ann Arbor. Watch for future report s from England and anywhere else by Ellen.)
When Ken Moses told the Lightning Red Band that he was looking for a permanent group to play the Huron Hotel Lounge, they were naturally interested. Mr. Moses promised the Band a steady gig if they would play an audition for $50 on Thursday, June 12. He stated if the Band was good enough, they would be "in." Lightning Red took Mr. Moses at his word and the audition was set.
After performing a good first set to a generally appreciative crowd, the Band was informed that not enough dancing was going on and that they should play some regular songs. (Mr. Moses had a copy of the Band's 45 and knew what type of material the Band performed.) He then suggested the Band play one more set and he would give them a chance to prove themselves to him. (The audience needed no further proof of the Band's musicianship.)
After a second set that was even better than the first and had a goodly number of folks on the dance floor, Mr. Moses informed the Band that he had not been in the club and he requested a third set for the Band to prove themselves.
At this point, L.R. realized that they were being taken advantage of, and they asked what the possibility of a return engagement was. Mr. Ken Moses proceeded to inform them that he was already booked up for the summer and the Band learned that 30 other bands had been tricked into these so-called audition gigs. To the disappointment of their audience, the Band then packed up their equipment and left without any compensation for their performance.
I hope that by alerting the public and other musicians to this ripoff practice that Mr. Ken Moses can be stopped or at least slowed down. The people should be informed of what their favorite musicians are being subjected to.
During this summer many young people will be resorting to hitch-hiking as a mode of travel. By relating an experience that happened to me over the spring break I hope I can help the reader to avoid the trouble I went through. A friend and I had decided to hitch-hike home to Jersey over the spring break to visit friends and relatives. We brought along a small quantity of grass to make our trip more pleasurable. Outside of Albany, New York we were stopped by two state troopers. Because hitch-hiking is technically illegal in New York they were able to "skin search" us. Naturally they found the dope that we had so cleverly concealed. When the trooper told us that we were under arrest New York's tough drugs laws carne to mind so I ran.
The trooper took chase, tripping and breaking his wrist in the process. I was able to elude him and five other troopers for a short period of time until they caught up with me in a train station outside of Albany. They grabbed me off the train and smashed my head repeatedly against the wall of the train necessitating three stitches in my lip. In the trooper's car they hit me repeatedly on the way to the station for trying to evade arrest. At the station, after a visit to the hospital, I was told that the fact that I ran complicated matters and if I stated that my cuts and bruises were the result of my tripping and falling off the train my sentence would be reduced. I foolishly agreed and was charged with possession of marijuana under a quarter of an ounce and resisting arrest.
I pleaded guilty and was fined five hundred dollars and placed in the Albany County Jail and Penitentiary until it was paid. Fortunately I only stayed there for six hours, but it was an eyeopening six hours. If you do bring dope and get caught do not give the troopers or police a hard time because in some cases they will let you go without being charged. This applies only to small quantities of grass though. Hopefully with this advice you will be able to avoid an experience like the one I went through.
"When asked to play an audition at the Huron Hotel Lounge, Lightning Red took Mr. Moses at his word. Later we found over 30 bands had been tricked into these so-called audition gigs."
"While hitchhiking last spring, we were stopped and searched by two New York State Troopers. Naturally they found our small quantity of grass and we were under arrest."