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Theater: Kaleidoscope - A Dramatic View of Václav Havel

(This article expired 27.10.2013.)

On November 16 (two shows: 7 pm and 9 pm), American University (AU) theater students, under the direction of Gail Humphries Mardirosian, will premiere a moving original work, KALEIDOSCOPE: A Dramatic View of Václav Havel, at the local Czech restaurant Bistro Bohem. The performances, presented in collaboration with the Embassy of the Czech Republic, pay tribute to the extraordinary citizen, president, and human rights activist Václav Havel and commemorate the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution.


The students are devising KALEIDOSCOPE through the rotating topics course Improvisations at AU. In creating the piece, the AU students use Havel’s Letter 133 in its entirety from Letters to Olga, which Havel wrote to his wife Olga during his political imprisonment. A politician, playwright, dissident and an intellectual, Havel gained international fame with Charter 77, a human rights manifesto for which he was imprisoned several times by the Communist regime. During his time in prison, his wife Olga served as his only personal contact. The Letters became an outlet for him, a way to delve into the spiritual and philosophical realm and ultimately towards his own enlightenment.                

The students have constructed the opening of the piece accentuating titles of Havel’s work in a physical and vocal pastiche―Power of the Powerless, Living Truth, The Art of the Impossible, Temptation, Garden Party―leading up to the entrance of the actor playing Havel. The work is divided into seven sections up to the complete presentation of the letter with such headings as “Wonderment: Spontaneous Enlightenment,” “In Pursuit of Meaning,” and “Death and Fullness of Being.” The performance involves a dramatic enactment of these sections using movement and spoken word and ends solely in movement with musical underscoring. Director Gail Humphries Mardirosian spoke about the students’ work saying, “Theatre is used as a vivid enactment of the very mystery of human existence through the lens of Havel’s words and outlook.”            

Music also serves as an element to weave the components of the letter and unite the segments in the dramatic performance, capturing the mood and ambience. Selections of music include classical excerpts from Janáček’s Intimate Letters and Sinfonietta, Smetana’s Bartered Bride, and dissident underground musicians of the time including the Plastic People of the Universe and the Velvet Underground to reinforce the emotional content of the dramatic presentation.    

Director Humphries Mardirosian, who has done extensive work in international theater and was a Fulbright Scholar in Prague, revealed the importance of students delving into work such as Havel’s saying, “I view Václav Havel as a great leader and humanitarian.  I find his work particularly fascinating as he permeates his art with his specific experiences while offering a world view.  As such, the particulars are viewed through a lens that has wide application and significant impact.”

KALEIDOSCOPE will also be performed in May 2013 at the Embassy of the Czech Republic during the EU Open House. The event serves as a bridge to the Embassy’s Mutual Inspirations Festival 2013-Václav Havel, celebrating the life and work of Havel throughout the Washington, DC, community (www.mutualinspirations.org). 
Event Details: Bistro Bohem
Location: 600 Florida Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001

R.S.V.P. jarek@bistrobohem.com

Václav Havel (1936-2011), playwright, essayist, poet, dissident, and politician, was one of the writers of Charter 77, a document that criticized the communist government for failing to implement human rights provisions. After the Velvet Revolution, Havel became the tenth and last President of Czechoslovakia and the first President of the Czech Republic. He was the first head of state from a former communist block to visit the U.S. and give a speech to the joint session of Congress. Havel has received numerous state decorations, honorary doctorates, and international awards, including the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom. After leaving office, he continued to work in human rights, creating the Forum 2000 Foundation. Havel passed away on December 18, 2011.      

GailHumphries Mardirosian has directed 134 productions to date.  Her most recent efforts include: producing The Good Doctor at American University with Synetic Theatre, involving five Russian directors under the auspices of a grant from the Open World Leadership Center; directing the American premiere of an Egyptian play entitled The Visitor for Ambassador Theatre; and touring Talking With, which American University students performed in St. Petersburg, Russia in spring 2012 through Project ARTS (American Russian Theatre Symposia).  She also continues work on Voices of Terezín, a project which started as part of her Fulbright appointment in Prague, Czech Republic. This spring, her chapter entitled “Giving Voice to the Silenced Through Theatre” was published in The Power of Witnessing chronicling the journey of the project in Prague and the on-going artistic expansion in the US. She is delighted to continue her work with the Czech community as she prepares Kaleidoscope: A Dramatic View of Václav Havel, collaborating with the Embassy of the Czech Republic. Humphries Mardirosian has presented workshops and lectured in Greece, Sweden, Slovakia, the UK and Russia.