Other Plays by Václav Havel
Other Plays by Vera Blackwell
Havel, Václav (Czechoslovakian playwright, writer, politician, b. October 5, 1936-____), “Protest,” a __-minute _____ in English, translated by Vera Blackwell (American translator from the Czechslovakian, broadcaster, writer, and researcher, 19__-____) from the Czech original, set in a comfortable, middle-class home, Czechoslovakia, 1978,
© 1978 in Czechoslovakian by Václav Havel; © 1991 in English translation by Vera Blackwell;
• in DramaContemporary: Czechoslovakia: Plays by Milan Kundera [and others], edited with an introduction by Marketa Goetz-Stankiewicz (New York: Performing Arts Journal Publications, 1985), ISBN 0933826753, ISBN 0933826761, LCCN 84-61622, 222 pp.;
• also, in Václav Havel’s Three Vanek Plays (Winchester, Massachusetts, U.S.A.: Faber and Faber, 1990), ISBN: 0571144918, 96 pp., Samuel French item #18976;
• in Plays in One Act (Hopewell, New Jersey: The Ecco Press, 1991), edited by Daniel Halpern, ISBN 0-88001-305-2, containing Lynne Alvarez’ “On Sundays,”, a fantasy drama, 1m1f + m or f non-speaking beast; Robert Auletta’s “Stops,” a drama, 2m2f; Amiri Baraka’s “Jack Pot Melting: A Commercial,” a comedy, 2m2f; Christopher Durang’s “Naomi in the Living Room,” a drama, 1m2f; Richard Ford’s “American Tropical,” a drama, 1m2f; Maria Irene Fornes’ “Springtime,” a drama, 1m2f; A. R. Gurney, Jr.’s “The Problem,” a comedy, 1m1f; David Hare’s “The Bay at Nice,” a drama, 2m2f; Beth Henley’s “Am I Blue,” a comedy, 1m2f + 2m and 2f extras; Gert Hofmann’s “Our Man in Madras,” a comedy, 1m1f; Tina Howe’s “Teeth,” a comedy, 1m1f + voice of radio announcer; Adrienne Kennedy’s “She Talks to Beethoven,” a drama, 1m1f + frequent voices; Harry Kondoleon’s “Linda Her,”an absurdist comedy, 1m3f, 1f is girl; Arthur Kopit’s “Success,” a comedy, 1m2f; Romulus Linney’s “Can Can,” a comedy-drama, 1m3f; David Mamet’s “A Life with No Joy in It,” a drama, 1m1f; Grace McKeaney’s “Chicks,” a comedy, 1f; Cassandra Medley’s “Waking Women,” a drama, 1f; Arthur Miller’s “The Last Yankee,” a drama, 2m; Joyce Carol Oates’ “Tone Clusters,” a tragicomedy, 1m1f + m voice; James Purdy’s “Heatstroke,” a drama, 1m1f; Sam Shepard’s “Excerpts from Slave of the Camera,” a drama, 1m; Perry Souchuk’s “The Pleasure of Detachment,” a drama, 1m2f; Tom Stoppard and Clive Exton’s “The Boundary,” a comedy, 2m1f + voices; Andrew Vachss’ “Placebo: A Monologue,” a drama, 1m; Wendy Wasserstein’s “Tender Offer,” a drama, 1m1f; Tennessee Williams’ “The Chalky White Substance,” a drama, 2m; August Wilson’s “Testimonies: Four Monologues,”
a drama, 1m or 2m; and Lanford Wilson’s “The Moonshot Tape,” a drama, 1f;
• also, in Antæus: Plays in One Act, edited by Daniel Halpern, no. 66 (Spring 1991), ISBN 0-88001-268-4;
• script/rights available from Sanford J. Greenburger Associates, 55 Fifth Avenue, New York City, New York 10003, U.S.A.
Ferdinand Vanek (m), __, writer, political activist; Stanek (m), __, an old friend, dissident colleague.
“Writer uses logical linguistic evasions when dissident colleague asks for his signature on petition.”—Yaakov and Greenfieldt, p. 162.
“Vanek has escaped the hellish office to visit the comfortable, middle-class home of one of his friends. He is hoping to convince his old friend Stanek to sign a petition renouncing the regime. However, while Stanek is outwardly different to the foreman, he is very much the same - indeed, they are played convincingly by the same actor . . . [in the 2004 London production]. Stanek realises that his support could be crucial to the resistance, but he has grown pessimistic from the failure of the earlier revolution, and is fearful of losing his job and being sent to prison (like Vanek).” [David Bowden, see below Comment.]
• Vera Blackwell has translated all of Havel’s major plays, including Vanek, a trio of three one-act plays, “Audience,” “Private View,” and “Protest.”
• Research should include Vera Blackwell’s translation into English from the Czech original of Vaclav Havel’s Sorry . . . : Two Plays [Vernisaz], Play for Today series (London: Eyre Methuen [since Routledge, Chapman & Hall] [for the] British Broadcasting Corporation, 1978), containing “Audience” and “Private View”;
• see also, Vaclav Havel’s Protest: Einakter / Vaclav Havel, translated into Deutsch by von Gabriel Laub (Rheinbek bei Hamburg, Deutschland [Germany]: Rowohlt, 1978), LCCN 86-873400.
• Czech original in Václav Havel’s O lidskou identitu : úvahy, fejetony, protesty, polemiky, prohlásení a rozhovory z let 1969-1979 / Václav Havel ; usporádali a k vydání pripravili Vilém Precan a Alexander Tomský (London, England: Rozmluvy, 1984), LCCN 86161563, 397 pp.
• German translation in Václav Havel’s Protest: Einakter / Václav Havel, German translation by Gabriel Laub (Rheinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1978), LCCN 86873400, 57 pp..
• “'Audience,' along with 'Unveiling' and 'Protest,' was published under the collective title of The Vanek Trilogy or Three Vanek Plays. Recently retired president of the Czech Republic, a former dissident imprisoned for four years by the Czechoslovak Communist regime, and champion of human rights, Vaclav Havel originally wrote 'Audience' - an absurd encounter between a Brewmaster and his employee - for a gathering of fellow writers, all of whom had their work banned in their native countries. The protagonist of the play, Vanek, a dissident playwright, is not so much a person as a catalyst or filter; the character/principle Vanek has proved so appealing that other playwrights have since written their own Vanek plays. Havel says in his Forward: 'The Vanek plays... are essentially not plays about Vanek, but plays about the world as it reveals itself when confronted by Vanek.'"—Eastenders Repertory Company, http://www.eastenders.org/archives_Audience.html, accessed April 21, 2006.
• “Havel was born in Prague. Following the Moscow-backed coup of 1948 his family suffered a fate similar to most wealthy capitalists - confiscation and denunciation. During his dissident years the Communist government repeatedly accused his father of being a pro-Nazi collaborator. As a result he had difficulties studying beyond the basic level, but took evening classes and studied briefly at the Czech Technical University (1957). After military service (1957-59) he worked as a stagehand in Prague (Theatre On the Balustrade - Divadlo Na zábradlí) and studied drama by correspondence at the Theatre Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (DAMU). His first publicly performed play was The Garden Party (1963). His best known play in the West is Largo Desolato. In 1964, Havel to the despair of his mother married Olga Šplíchalová. Following the suppression of the Prague Spring in 1968 he was banned from the theatre and became more politically active. This culminated with the publication of the Charter 77 manifesto, written partially in response to the imprisonment of members of the Czech psychedelic band Plastic People of the Universe. His political activities cost him five years in prison. He became famous for his brilliant articulation of 'Post-Totalitarianism' (see 'Power of the Powerless'), a term used to describe the modern social and political order that enabled people to'live within a lie.' A passionate supporter of nonviolent resistance, he was a leading figure in the Velvet Revolution of 1989. On December 29, 1989, as leader of the Civic Forum, he became president by a unanimous vote of the Federal Assembly. After the free elections of 1990 he retained the presidency. Despite increasing tensions, Havel strongly supported the retention of the federation of the Czechs and the Slovaks during the breakup of Czechoslovakia, known as the Velvet Divorce. On July 3, 1992 the federal parliament did not elect Havel - the only candidate for presidency - due to a lack of support from Slovak MPs. After the Slovaks issued their Declaration of Independence, he resigned as president on July 20. When the Czech Republic was created he stood for election as president there on January 26, 1993, and won. Following a legal dispute with his sister-in-law, Havel decided to sell his 50 percent stake in Lucerna Palace on Wenceslas Square, a legendary dance-hall built by his grandfather Václav M. Havel. In a transaction mastered by Marián Calfa, Havel sold the estate to Václav Junek, a former communist spy in France and leader of soon-to-be-bankrupt conglomerate Chemapol Group, who later openly admitted he bribed politicians of Czech Social Democratic Party. In December 1996 the chain-smoking Havel was diagnosed as having lung cancer. He underwent successful surgery at the University hospital in Innsbruck. The disease reappeared two years later. In 1997, less than a year after the death of his wife Olga, who was beloved almost as a saint by the Czech people, Havel remarried to actress Dagmar Veškrnová. Havel was re-elected president in 1998. One parliamentarian (ultra-nationalist Miroslav Sládek from SPR-RSC( - Sdružení pro republiku - Republikánská strana Ceskoslovenska) was in police custody just during the Czech presidential elections in 1998. This single vote determined the result of the presidential elections. Havel left office after his second term as Czech president ended on February 2, 2003; Václav Klaus, one of his greatest political opponents, was elected his successor on February 28, 2003. Samuel Beckett's play Catastrophe is dedicated to him.”—Václav Havel - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaclav_Havel, accessed April 21, 2006.
• David Bowden wrote a pertinent article about the Etcetera Theatre (London) production: “Audience and Protest are two short one-act plays by the celebrated Czech playwright Vaclav Havel. The two works barely stretch over an hour, but they raise important questions about the role and freedom of artists in a political context. Havel has been a key figure in Czech public life for the past half century. As one of Czechoslovakia's leading dissident intellectuals, he became the president of the country's first post-Communist government. Allowing for very different circumstances, Britain's closest equivalent may well have been George Orwell, but minus the poor health and with a much higher and more varied output. After the failure of the 'Prague Spring' in 1968 - when revolutionaries tried to overthrow the Communist regime, only to be beaten into submission by the Soviet military - Havel became a notorious political dissident and formed the forefront of the intellectual renaissance of the country that gave us Franz Kafka and Milan Kundera, amongst others. Written in 1978, 'Audience' and 'Protest' deal with the travails of Havel's alter-ego Ferdinand Vanek - recently released from jail for anti-government activities. In Audience he is stuck in the bleak office of the foreman of the brewery where he has been forced into menial labour. The tedious bureaucracy and constant paranoia of life under the Communists have driven the foreman to alcoholism and to the brink of insanity - he is prone to bouts of rage and despair. In a bleakly humorous half-hour, reminiscent of the work of Samuel Beckett, Havel uses endless repetition of dialogue and action in order to build up a sense of the claustrophobia with which the Czech people were forced to live. He does provide a small glimmer of hope though: Vanek refuses to compromise his principles and inform on his colleagues, despite the promise of promotion, and while the play ends with the same conversation that it began with, it is Vanek who sits in the foreman's seat, and vice versa. This time when asked how life is treating him he responds honestly, rather than with an apathetic platitude: things are not 'OK', but a 'bloody mess.' In 'Protest,' Vanek has escaped the hellish office to visit the comfortable, middle-class home of one of his friends. He is hoping to convince his old friend Stanek to sign a petition renouncing the regime. However, while Stanek is outwardly different to the foreman, he is very much the same - indeed, they are played convincingly by the same actor, James Hedges. Stanek realises that his support could be crucial to the resistance, but he has grown pessimistic from the failure of the earlier revolution, and is fearful of losing his job and being sent to prison (like Vanek). Havel here demonstrates how the cloying nature of restrictions of freedom of speech and thought are spreading uniformity across all sections of society but slowly eroding their basic humanity (Stanek drinks too much too). The point of these two brief set-pieces is to show the responsibility of the artist to fight social ills. While many plays carrying this message can often be seen annoying pontification, it must be remembered that Havel backed up his rhetoric with real action and brave defiance. 'Protest' sets out a dilemma that he himself must have faced, both personally and from other intellectuals. Following the collapse of Communism it might be tempting to dismiss this viewpoint as irrelevant and outdated. There is an admirable attempt in Audience to counter this criticism: the scattered crisp packets and over-filled in-tray reminds us that this could be any menial office job anywhere, swamped down by petty bureaucracy and constant check-ups. The acting of Hedges and Laurie Tallack (as Vanek) is impressive and never allows the performance to slip either into meaningless misery or to see the plays as comic parodies. This is certainly more inspiring and enjoyable than the self-congratulatory and faintly loathsome political activities of certain contemporary celebrities (I'm looking at you, Bono). However, at a time when we are seeing a resurgence in political writing and a growing re-appreciation of Orwell, it is pleasing to be reminded that enjoyable theatre and socially-conscious polemic are not mutually exclusive.”—Audience/Protest, http://www.culturewars.org.uk/2004-01/audience.htm, July 12, 2008.
• “Havel was born in Prague. Following the Moscow-backed coup of 1948 he and his family were shunned for having been wealthy capitalists and pro-German collaborateurs (collaborants according to the Communist party daily Rudé Právo from 23.2.1989) and he had difficulties studying beyond the basic level, but took evening classes and studied briefly at the Czech Technical University (1957). After military service (1957-59) he worked as a stagehand in Prague (Theatre On the Balustrade) and studied drama by correspondence. His first publicly performed play was The Garden Party (1963). In 1964 he married Olga Splichalova. Following the suppression of the Prague Spring in 1968 he was banned from the theatre and became more politically active. This culminated with the publication of the Charter 77 manifesto. His political activities cost him five years in prison. He was a leading figure in the Velvet Revolution of 1989. On December 29, 1989, as head of the Civic Forum, he was elected president by the Federal Assembly. After the free elections of 1990 he retained the presidency. He strongly supported the retention of the federation of the Czechs and the Slovaks, despite increasing tension. On July 3 1992 the federal parliament did not elect Havel - the only candidate for presidency - due to a missing support by Slovak MPs. After the Slovaks had issued their Declaration of Independence, he resigned as president on July 20. When the Czech Republic was created he stood for election there on January 26, 1993, and won. Despite illness and three operations he was re-elected in 1998. He left office after his second term as Czech president ended on February 2, 2003; Václav Klaus, one of his greatest political opponents, was appointed his successor on February 28, 2003.”—Upto11.net - Wikipedia Article for Václav Havel, http://www.upto11.net/generic_wiki.php?q=vaclav_havel, July 12, 2008.
activism, Czechoslovakia, dissidence, evasion, logic, petition, politics, signature, writing.