How It’s New York: The plays of Václav Havel were performed at the Public Theater in the 60s, some before they were in Prague. After the brief Prague Spring, Havel was a dissident writer who could not be performed there. He accepted a long overdue Obie from Olympia Dukakis, who had been in The Memorandum at the Public in 1968, in 2006.
How It’s Irish: Many many Irish people lived in Prague during the 90s, shortly after Havel was elected President following the Velvet Revolution. It’s where Books Editor Michelle Woods, her husband Michael Reisman, and I met (in a Czech language class, in fact). And many Irish writers and artists have admired Havel’s stance to “live in truth,” the non-violent but deep revolt in thought that inspired a nation.
Václav Havel died today. Although Havel’s opinions have been used by ideologues, he himself was not one. He was an idealist and also a realist. He was the quintessential artist, and his work will always inspire.
I wrote this piece for WSJ’s Speakeasy blog, assigned because I had covered the opening of Leaving in Philadelphia for them, conducting an interview with director Jiri Zizka, himself a Czech who defected during the Communist era. I’ve included those articles after the jump. And here is the link to the coverage of the Havel Festival that I did for American Theatre in 2006, too– a good time to read it if you haven’t yet.
And I’ll put up the review of Leaving I did for Theatermania, too– because it was brilliant, and because it should have come to NY.
Vaclav Havel: A Life in Brief Scenes
By Gwen Orel
- Getty Images
- A portrait of former Czech President Vaclav Havel, with a text that reads: “Havel To The Castle,” a popular slogan during the Velvet Revolution of 1989, lies among candles left by mourners at the base of a statue of St. Wenceslas to commemorate Havel’s death on December 18, 2011 in Prague, Czech Republic.
With ‘Leaving,’ Vaclav Havel Returns to the American StageComments (3)
By Gwen Orel
- Jim Roese
- The cast of the U.S. premiere of Vaclav Havel’s “Leaving,” actor David Strathairn center.
- Jiri Zizka, left, and Vaclav Havel.
- Richard W. Kotulski
- From left, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, President Václav Havel, President Havel’s wife and Czech actress Dagmar Veškmová.