Most of the brief four or five times I got to speak with him was spent with Pilsner Urquells in our hands, with me leaning in to try and make out his soft-spoken words, and him seeming embarrassed by his perfectly fine English (I'm sure, of course, a man of his precision in thought would have preferred to be as precise in his speech). I still treasure those times. With all the great tributes going around today, the fact of him as "STATESMAN" suddenly struck me again as it hadn't since I first met him. My talks with him had very much been conversations between two theatre professionals talking shop (he SO obviously loved being around actors, directors, and all the people, places, and paraphernalia of theatre!), and I had gotten so used to thinking of him as a playwright first and foremost again that his other great accomplishment had comparatively faded for me until now.
Which was, to no small extent, the purpose of Edward Einhorn and Untitled Theater Co. #61's Havel Festival at The Ohio Theater and The Brick -- to remind everyone of Havel's work as writer. We presented his complete work in that festival, including some previous unproduced works, and a number being presented for the first time in English (and some in new, improved translations). I was lucky enough to direct Temptation in the festival, and do a pretty spiffy job of it with a terrific cast.
I am still, to this day, stunned, confused, and angry at the lack of press attention for the Festival. Every press outlet in the city KNEW about this, and apart from a preview piece in the Voice -- mostly a general summary about Havel, somewhat boring and not a great promo -- and some reviews at nytheatre.com, there was next to nothing in the press about the Fest. There were, to be sure, a couple of dud productions in there, but otherwise it was work of high quality, and, again, the man's COMPLETE goddamned works were all being done.
I know Michael Feingold at the Voice was told personally four times about the Festival, twice before and twice during, and on each of the last three occasions he said he'd never heard of it and why hadn't he been sent something? Strange.
In any case, the Festival was still a marvelous time for us, and provided one of the most special nights of my professional life, when Havel came to see Temptation on the 17th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution.
My original post about that special night is HERE.
That's the personal stuff. For more on Havel . . . well, my Twitter and Facebook feeds are full of tributes and links to tributes, quotes, and speeches. You can find plenty out there.
But most of all, READ HIS PLAYS. Please. If you care to, and you can, PRODUCE THEM. I'm not sure any more of them are right for me (unless I restage Temptation sometime), but one of them must be the right one for everyone out there. THAT is the tribute he deserves most, to have his work live on, and alive, onstage.
Thank you very much, President Havel, it was an honor.