Celebrating the life and art of Václav Havel
New York City, October through December 2006


Translated by Jan Novák

The first of the Vanek plays, the character closest to Havel himself, it tells of a dissident writer who is forced to work in a brewery, so that he can contribute to society rather than be an intellectual bourgeois burden. The brewmaster calls him in for a friendly talk, or possibly an interrogation, but though it is clear that the brewmaster desperately wants something, it is not at all clear what that something is.

A Butterfly on the Antenna
The English language premiere translated by Carol Rocamora and Tomas Rychetsky

A play about intellectuals who sit and talk about a play about intellectuals who sit and talk while in the other room, a flood is beginning. There is a plumber onstage, but in the play they are talking about or possibly in, they are too absorbed about talking about the play to wake him. The play was originally produced as a teleplay, but before it had a chance to air Havel’s work had already been banned.

The Increased Difficulty of Concentration
A new translation by Stepan Simek

Dr. Huml, a social scientist and writer, has a life that’s fragmenting around him. He has troubles with his wife, troubles with his mistress, and troubles with a malfunctioning form of artificial intelligence called Puzak. His life goes round and round, repeating itself until Huml barely knows where he is or who is his current lover, as he struggles inside a metaphysical French farce.

Largo Desolato
Translated by Tom Stoppard

A dissident writer sits at home, terrified that the next knock on the door will be the police, come to take him to jail for his political writings. Paralyzed with fear, he is visited by friends, lovers, and well-wishers, each of whom torture him in their own way.

The Memo
A new translation by Paul Wilson

Under the nose of the Gross, the Managing Director of a large bureaucracy, a mysterious new official language has infected all office communications. The new language is completely logical and almost completely incomprehensible. The key to the whole affair lies in a Memo, but since the Memo is written in the new language, no one seems able to read it. This play helped bring Havel to the attention of the American public, winning an OBIE in 1969 for its production at the Public.

The world premiere

A cast of absurd puppets perform this one-act satire about a dread disease that is turning people into cars. This play was cut from the performance of Hitchhiking, and so it has never been performed before this festival.

In a new translation by Jan Novák

The final Vanek play. In this play, another writer named Stanek appeals to Vanek to help start a petition protesting the arrest of Stanek’s daughter’s fiance. However, when Stanek discovers the petition has already been started, he has to decide whether to sign it himself.

Translated by James Saunders

The government has declared that a beautiful old castle should be redeveloped to be something more socially constructive. Protestors and petitioners are jailed. Meanwhile, the architects continue to plan, hoping that there are people left who, unlike them, are idealistic enough to care.

Translated by Jan Novák

Another Vanek play. In this one the writer is invited to the home of married friends who desperately want to show him how incredibly happy and fulfilled they both are.

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