From 1919 to 1929, a group of artists, writers, wits and actors met in New York City’s Algonquin Hotel for lunch. This celebrated group became known as the Algonquin Round Table.
Members included writers Dorothy Parker, Harold Ross (founder of The New Yorker) and Robert Benchley; columnists Franklin Pierce Adams and Heywood Broun, and Broun’s wife Ruth Hale; critic Alexander Woollcott; comedian Harpo Marx and playwrights George S. Kaufman, Marc Connelly, Edna Ferber and Robert Sherwood. They became famous for satire, witticisms, wisecracks, and artistic creativity.
Fayetteville’s own Lynn Pryer hosts our city’s version of the Algonquin Round Table. Lynn is the creative genius and founder of Fayetteville’s innovative community playhouse — the Gilbert Theater. As a patron of the arts, he brings together an eclectic mix of artists, musicians, writers, poets, actors and bon vivant philosophers every Sunday for brunch.
Pryer started this salon movement to promote interaction among Fayetteville’s arts community. No venue existed for the arts crowd to meet socially and exchange ideas — in an informal setting.
In his lifetime, Pryer observed the gradual isolation of modern man. People would rather text than talk face-to-face. He saw how quickly “we are caught up in life; disconnected from one another in a highly modular society”.
“People today are victims of the technology of isolation,” said Pryer.
The weekly roundtable breaks barriers, builds bridges and connects individuals.
The “group with no name” meets at the Marquis Market on Hay Street. Every Sunday Pryer invites a new group of 14 epicurean arts-lovers. A different group each week brings together many creative people over time. The literati have been meeting since February 2013.
Pryer carefully prepares his invitation list. I call him Maestro because he orchestrates the selection of guests to insure compatibility and creativity.
At every brunch he circulates a sketch pad for everyone to doodle.
Upon arrival participants meet and greet over coffee then adjourn to a theme-decorated dining table. Every week Pryer has different decor. Past themes include Easter; famous writers; famous painters; dance; the African veldt; music; the Fourth of July; movies; vintage cars; great actors and actresses.
Interspersed with the dinner conversations are amusements. Pryer holds an auction for a coffee-table-type book. The book is related to the theme of the day. This is not an auction where money is the coin of the realm. Participants bid acts of kindness. I bid 17 acts of kindness to win the book The Art of Edward Hopper. Successful bidders must keep a journal and give a full report to the group after four weeks.
Dinner conversation is fresh and sparkling. Discourse covers a colorful spectrum from fashion to philosophy; to music, art, plays, writing and “wuz up” in town. This is a cornucopia of laughter, good cheer and frivolity.
The atmosphere is upbeat, warm and inviting. A vintage jazz combo usually provides cool music in the background. The atmosphere is reminiscent of a 1950s Greenwich Village coffee house.
A fresh venue … stimulating our vibrant arts community.
This is Fayetteville’s own Algonquin Round Table.
Photo: The Algonquin Round Table: (l-r) Art Samuels, Charles MacArthur, Harpo Marx, Dorothy Parker and Alexander Woollcott (circa 1919-1929)