In fact, I wrote a blog about the peculiar tradition called "British Pantomime Theatre" exactly a year ago to this day, last January 10, 2009.
Click to read that blog: British Pantomime in Venice
Okay. Did you click over to read what I wrote about British Panto? You did? Good. Then you will know a bit about this tradition, where men dress up as women, and women dress up as men, and that I played the title role of Aladdin in the very first production, way back in 2002, in the company that eventually began calling themselves The Pantalon Players.
John-Henry Bowden, the former Priest-in-Charge of the St. George’s Venice Chaplaincy from 2004 to 2009 -- and, yes -- the very person who assaulted me before the Sunday service at St. George's Anglican Church this past July 19, 2009! (I found that photo of John-Henry Bowden on the British Consul's page: http://www.ukve.it/visit-giavera.htm).
Click here to read that blog: JOHN HENRY BOWDEN, CHAPLAIN OF THE ANGLICAN CHURCH IN VENICE, ATTACKS AUTHOR CAT BAUER BEFORE CHURCH SERVICE
Almost immediately after writing that blog, I received two bizarre emails. One email I will discuss in the future (May 29, 2011 - see below). The other was from Laurie Graham, the director and writer of Cinderella, the Pantalon Players' 2010 production in which I was to play the title role. The email basically said that I was fired.
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Date: Sunday, 26 July, 2009, 9:10 AM
> Dear Cat
> I just read your latest blog.
> Pantomime is an ensemble piece and good relations within
> the company are paramount, so when I cast you as Cinderella for 2010 I
> did so with some reservations. There were several occasions during the
> 2008 production when you were at best difficult and at worst abusive.
> Nevertheless I wished to keep you in the company and trusted your
> behaviour would have improved.
> Now, having so publicly vilified John-Henry, you have crossed a line
> I cannot ignore. The role of Cinderella will now be filled by an
> I wish you the very best through your present troubles.
I received that email during my lowest point when Cleopatra, my cat, and I were literally starving and out on the street as the locks had been changed on the front door of my apartment building and at St. George's Anglican Church where I had been staying. (That image is not me, but it gives you the idea of how Cleo and I looked when we slept in Campo San Vio the night that John-Henry Bowden refused to open St. George's Church -- we literally "slept" on the ground. Or, to be more accurate, I slept on the ground while Cleo crawled into a long cement tube -- I had to plead with her for about an hour to come out). On the night I read the email, Cleo and I were sleeping in a youth hostel. Access to the internet was difficult if not impossible, my cell phone had been blocked, and no one could call me from the United States. I wrote that blog about John-Henry Bowden because I had no other method of communicating with the outside world and I was terrified.
To me, normal behavior on the part of a normal human being would be to email and ask if I was okay, and was there anything she could do to help -- not to do what Laurie Graham did and send me a note firing me as Cinderella, accusing me of alleged "difficult" and "abusive" behavior! What sense does that make? What about the behavior of an Anglican Priest-in-Charge who smashes a woman in a door right before church service, hollering "you must have the devil inside" at the top of his lungs? In fact, at the time I received the email, I was so preoccupied with surviving that I filed it in the basement of my mind. Looking back, I remember exactly where I was when I read it -- at the youth hostel, using the computer of one of the students to quickly scan my email. Reading it now, to me, it seems like part of a strategy -- a preemptive strike, accusing me of the very behavior that John-Henry Bowden was guilty of. Making unsubstantiated accusations in an email, as Laurie Graham did, is nothing concrete. On the other hand, I have witnesses, medical reports from the hospital due to the bruises he left, and a police report. (I have since been told by the wife of a British diplomat that they feel they do not have to compensate me for anything.)
Prior to that email, the last time I had seen Laurie was at a luncheon on Saturday, May 30, 2009, which she had given to thank her friends for their support during the difficult period she had during the brain surgery of her husband, Howard Fitzpatrick. He was supposed to go in for a quick surgery for a cyst, and ended up in critical condition in intensive care. Even though I was having my own problems at that time (they originally tried to evict me on May 20th), I kept in contact with Laurie as much as I could, and was ready to go up to the hospital in Treviso if she needed me there. In fact, during the luncheon, Laurie had put her arms around me and hugged me. Another cast member had gotten something stuck in his throat, and was choking, gasping for breath, and I helped get it out. I remember Laurie said to him, "I will leave you with Nurse Bauer." To go from that tender moment, to a nasty email... I still cannot make the leap. Something else must have happened in between, even though Laurie claims it did not.
I didn't see Laurie again until this October. When I saw in my agenda that the Cinderella panto rehearsal was scheduled for October 24, 2009, I called Laurie on the phone. She was antagonistic, the same way that so many people have been antagonistic towards me for absolutely no reason. She said I was most definitely fired. I said it make no sense, and asked who she had spoken to. She said no one. She said that John-Henry Bowden was someone that she "deeply respected" and that he was coming back to Venice specifically to perform in the panto, and that there was no way I could be on the stage with him after what I wrote.
I then called her back and said, "I want to be very clear. You are firing me from being Cinderella because of something I wrote on the Internet?" Laurie said, "Yes." I said, "You are a writer! That's censorship!" Laurie said, "Oh, please," and that she was busy and got off the phone.
After I recently, finally got back into my apartment, I realized it was as if a pack of hyenas had gained up on me. I slowly got back my strength, and started organizing my thoughts. On December 9, 2009, I finally sent off this email to Laurie Graham in response to the email she had sent me:
Dear Laurie Graham,
This is to confirm our two telephone conversations on October 23, 2009, in which you stated that the reason you "fired" me from being Cinderella was because of a blog I had written on July 24, 2009, regarding the physical assault upon my person by the Anglican Chaplain, John-Henry Bowden, an excerpt of which follows:
"Cleopatra and I were sleeping in the Anglican Church of St. George until those locks, too, were changed without notifying me. Cleo and I slept in the Campo of San Vio in front of St. George's Church on the night of July 18th, morning of July 19th. When I called the Chaplain, John-Henry Bowden at 2:00AM on Sunday and begged him to let us in, he said, "Have a good night." The next morning, John-Henry Bowden physically slammed the side church door on my right arm and leg in front of several witnesses right before church service. After going to the hospital and being physically examined, I went to the police and denounced Bowden, and the entire Chaplaincy Council, as I was informed by Hilary Wild, the Secretary of the Council, that the Council itself decided to change the locks without informing me with my possessions locked inside."
I sorted through my email and found the email you had written dated July 26, 2009 after reading my blog, which is below. Due to the continuing attempts to defame and undermine my character, I request that you list, in writing, the instances where I was "abusive" during the 2008 production, together with dates and witnesses.
Also, during our telephone conversation, you said I used "foul language" in front of the children. Again, please state, in writing, the alleged "foul language"I am accused of using, and to which child and/or children this alleged "foul language" was directed.
As my editor will inform you, I am extremely cautious about using "foul language" in the books I write for young people, and take these allegations very seriously.
Catherine "Cat" Bauer
--30125 Venice, Italy
San Polo 622
San Polo 622
As of today, January 10, 2010, I have had no reply to that email.
To try to understand the reason behind their behavior, I recently read the blogs of Laurie Graham, and her husband, Howard Fitzpatrick, owner of Venice Art Tours. First, I was surprised to discover their strong political views. I was also surprised to discover they had lost the regular theatre in Campo Santa Margherita because the price had quadrupuled. I was even more surprised to discover that this past October they had rented Villa Saracena, a Palladian villa in Vicenza for an overnight rehearsal and a black tie dinner. See Howard Fitzpatrick's blog: A Dark Day
In Howard Fitzpatrick's words:
Anyway, this past weekend our budget permitted us to rent a Palladian Villa, called Villa Saracena, near
for us to practice some dancing and rehearse a few scenes and also get to know each other better. Vicenza
The villa has hundreds of rooms and lovely dining and living rooms, all in Palladian style. Frescos abounding. It's available for holidays - contact the National Trust which has dozens of similar grand properties available. We practiced our dance numbers in the ballroom seen below.
I also read Laurie Graham's blog, in which she complained about the bureaucrats at Ca' Foscari University after they raised the rent of the theatre:
When you're a nine-to-fiver, shuffling papers and bearing no personal responsibility for delays or errors, raising an obstacle is about as creative as you can get. I know because I was once a bureaucrat myself. And I'll confess that it used to bring a little pleasure to my dreary day to throw a form back at a solicitor's clerk and say, 'Take it away, you illiterate chancer, and try again.' Maybe this is payback time.
I have never been a bureaucrat, and I had no idea as to their level of creativity -- I would not even use the term "creative" to describe such behavior! To me, raising an obstacle is not the least bit creative. It is destructive; there is nothing noble about it, and that Laurie publicly confesses her "pleasure" at doing such a thing is a shocking character flaw I did not know she had. More from Laurie:
And as for those Ca Foscari bureaucrats, who mugged us and left us for dead... well, recovery may be the best revenge, but I'm not done with them yet. I think I feel a press conference coming on.
Last Sunday, I saw Laurie Graham at a private social gathering. I said that what they had done was pure evil. I said, "You are threatening to hold a press conference? Well, I am going to come, and the first question I am going to ask is: 'Why are you complaining about the price of the theatre going up if you have enough money to rent a Palladian Villa for an overnight rehearsal -- with dinner -- for sixteen people? How much did that cost?'" Laurie made a zero sign with her index finger and thumb and said, "Nothing. We have friends." I said, "Really? I am happy to know that you have such important friends! Who are they?" Laurie replied, "None of your business."
Of course that response piqued my curiousity. Now, if we google "Villa Saracena Vicenza," we will arrive at a British charity called The Landmark Trust, the organization that owns the Palladian Villa where -- according to Howard Fitzpatrick -- the Pantalon Players, another charitable organization, had their black-tie dinner, dance lessons, and overnight get-to-know-ya session. Apparently The Landmark Trust was founded by the late British Conservative MP, Sir John Smith, and his wife, Lady Smith. Since October, 2009 is past, I discovered that the price for October, 2010 is 2,130 British pounds for three nights, or $3,420, or 2,370 euro. Hhhmmm....... Even if we divide that by three, how does one charitable organization give another charitable organization such a gift for free? And what did they have for dinner?
Even more alarming is that other members of the "Pantalon Players" have been antagonistic to me to this very day and I have no idea whatsoever why. Also last Sunday, one member told me it was not a conspiracy, and not political, and only paranoia. Strange words to say when I never said such a thing! Well, I have nothing at all to hide, so I have no problem in stating publicly what happened to me, and welcome all intelligent comments and responses. Again, I will state the usual: sue me for slander or libel if it is not true.
I deeply resent being sucked down to such a low level of interaction, and I genuinely dislike my Venetian Cat - Venice Blog being hijacked by these type of characters. It is another example of Ex-Pats Behaving Badly, and, to me, if you don't like it here in Venice, then get out -- which, apparently, the Fitzpatricks have decided to do and trot off to Ireland. To get the full picture, I strongly suggest you read both Laurie Graham's and Howard Fitzpatrick's blogs, as they seem to have no qualms whatsoever about speaking their very strong political and social point of views.
In any event, I have created a new blog called VENETIAN CAT - THE INTERNATIONAL SCANDAL. Somehow I managed to record what was happening in my agenda while it was happening. It was like a super-Cat did it, not me; that a bigger-Cat knew that what was happening was scandalous and important on a very great level, that I had to write it down under any circumstances, and that these creatures needed to be stopped. Everyone can decide for themselves whether or not it is a conspiracy or whether or not it is political and whether or not it is only paranoia. It is going to be a work in progress because not only is there a staggering amount of information, every time I start writing it, and see the pattern that forms, I become overwhelmed by the memories. While it was happening, it was so outrageous and incredible, it did not feel real. Now I am slowly realizing that I was in extreme danger and was operating on a fight-or-flight instinctive level. I have lived such a different life that I had no idea that such worlds existed, or that human beings could be so evil. I am hoping that soon I will understand the reason why.
Ciao from Venice,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog
LAST YEAR ABOUT THIS TIME: Cat wins the Grand Prize: her very first bottle of Scotch -- Glenfiddich -- by drawing the number "9" at the New Years Day Pantalon Players fundraiser brunch, January 1, 2009.
Update: May 29, 2011: The second bizarre email, mentioned above was received from Sara Jane Boyers on July 24, 2009. Here it is, and my reply: