Acts of Courage: Vaclav Havel's Life in the Theatre

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V?clav Havel - dissident, activist, essayist, philosopher, politician, founder and president of the Czech Republic - is known throughout the world as a hero of the human rights movement and a martyr for the "right to write" (he was imprisoned many times under Communism in his country). But few in the West know that he is also his country's most famous playwright. This book tells the dramatic story of his life in the theater during three dark decades under Communism and the ...
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Overview

Václav Havel - dissident, activist, essayist, philosopher, politician, founder and president of the Czech Republic - is known throughout the world as a hero of the human rights movement and a martyr for the "right to write" (he was imprisoned many times under Communism in his country). But few in the West know that he is also his country's most famous playwright. This book tells the dramatic story of his life in the theater during three dark decades under Communism and the extreme risks that he and many others took to perform his works.

Havel's ten full-length plays and seven one-acts are also discussed - plays that not only tell the story of his country but also helped to change it, plays that have a significant place in twentieth-century world drama. For those who love the theater, his story is a powerful and moving one about what it means to be a playwright, a story wherein writing for the theater is an act of courage.

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Editorial Reviews

Bryn Mawr Alumnae Bulletin
"Vaclav Havel's, human rights activist and founder and president of the Czech Republic, was imprisoned many times as a martyr for the "right to write." Carol Rocamora's book tells the dramatic story of Havel's life in the theater during three dark decades under Communism, describing the extreme risks that he and many others took to perform his works. She discusses how the plays tell not only the story of Havel's country, but also how his work shaped and changed it. Milos Forman says that Acts of Courage is "a book worth reading about a man worth listening to." Edward Albee writes that this is "an essential book for anybody interested not only in Havel's life and personal journey, but also in making clear the creative artists' political and social responsibilities - both in dictatorships and in democracies." Rocamora's translations of the complete dramatic works of Anton Chekhov have been published in three volumes. Her play, I take your hand in mine..., premiered at the Almeida Theatre in London and at the Theatre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris, directed by Peter Brook. She is on the faculty of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts."
Choice Magazine
"A playwright translator of Chekhov, Rocamora (New York Univ.) was inspired to write this biography when she met then-president Havel while teaching in Prague. Though the author focuses not on Havel the honored human rights activist but on Havel the barely known (albeit, his country's greatest) playwright often jailed for his courageous writing, she correctly argues that the man, his writings, and his times are difficult to separate. Adopting a fragmented, chronological arrangement, Rocamora divides her discussion of Havel's life into five decades paralleling Czechoslovakia's history. Bringing both English and Czech materials to the discussion, she analyzes Havel's ten plays, moving between and quoting from scripts, production notes, Havel's essays and letters, and interviews with Havel's colleagues. An epilogue includes tributes for Havel from contemporary playwrights--e.g., Albee, Beckett, Miller, Stoppard. In a valuable section titled "Curtain Call," Rocamora discusses the plays' distinguishing characteristics and themes and evaluates their significance in the international theater world. Appendixes provide a chronology with premier dates and lists of key people and places; the bibliography lists English and Czech resources, including videotapes. Despite its choppiness, this is the first book in English that pulls all the literature together and as such it is valuable.
Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty."
July 2005
Edward Alexander
"In this massively researched, lucidly written and cogently argued narrative, Kenneth Levin tells the appalling story of what has been called the greatest self-inflicted wound of political history: Israel's embrace of Yasser Arafat and the PLO in the Oslo Accords of September 1993 and its dogged adherence to its obligations under them even as its "peace partner" was blatantly flouting its own. The book is divided into two sections. The first recounts Jewish political failure in the Diaspora, where Jews lived with a constant burden of peril, as the background for the self-deluding rationales that engendered Oslo. The second traces the same self-delusions in the history of Israel itself. Levin shows how a tiny nation, living under constant siege by neighbors who have declared its very existence an aggression, was induced by its intellectual classes to believe that its own misdeeds had incited Arab hatred and violence, and that what required reform was not Arab dictatorship and Islamicist anti-Semitism, but the Jews themselves.
Reversing cause and effect, Israeli leaders blinded themselves to the (obvious) fact that it was Arab hatred and aggression that repeatedly led to Israeli occupation, not occupation that caused Arab hatred and violence. Although Levin argues strongly that Israeli leaders like Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Barak and the ineffable Shimon Peres hallucinated moderation in a murderous enemy, his book is not a polemic that excludes all opposing points of view; on the contrary, we get the fullest possible account, and "in their own words," of those Israelis (and their American-Jewish supporters) who deluded themselves into believing that Oslo would bring a new heaven and a new earth. When the accords were signed in 1993, Minister of Education Shulamit Aloni announced that "no more parents will go weeping after the coffins of their sons" and Israeli novelist and "peace activist" Amos Oz said confidently that "death shall be no more."
And all this because Arafat had - not for the first time - promised to renounce terror and recognize Israel's "right to exist." It was the used Buick he had already sold several times over. By autumn 2000, and as a direct (and in Levin's view entirely predictable) result of Israel's endless unreciprocated concessions to Arafat's demands, the country was faced with Intifada II, "the Oslo War," in which all Israel became a battlefield, and getting on a bus or going to a cafe or a disco meant risking your life. One of Levin's central themes is the influence of Israel's cultural elites on the governments of Rabin and Barak. In Israel as in America the motto of many intellectuals is "the other country, right or wrong"; but whereas in America leftist intellectuals now aspire only to take over the universities, in Israel they aspired to (and in one sense did) take over the government. The consequence: Israel was soon reminded of Churchill's judgment of England's intellectual appeasers: "Mr. Chamberlain was faced with a choice between surrender and war; he chose surrender, and he got war."
New York Post June 13, 2005
Shannon Hendrickson
"While most books about Vaclav Havel are concerned with his role as dissident, activist, and then president of the Czech Republic, Rocamora's (New York University's Tisch School of the Arts) examines Havel's life as a playwright. She tells his story chronologically, from childhood in the 1940s, through presidency in the early 2000s, and addresses his work in theater in great detail, along with his relationships with other writers, and his legacy as a playwright. The book includes a chronology of plays, and photographs of productions. "
Associate Editor, Book News Inc. -May 2005
Library Journal
Vaclav Havel, former president of the Czech Republic, is mainly known for his leadership and politics, but as Rocamora (theater, NYU Tisch Sch. of the Arts) illustrates here, his theatrical writings are just as important and illuminating, and in fact the two are inextricably bound. His ten full-length plays and seven one-act plays are thoroughly discussed both in the context of their performance and in the political climate of the day. Rocamora also offers a wealth of biographical and theatrical information and anecdote-this reviewer was particularly amused by Havel's managing to convince Communist government officials that his (first major) play, The Garden Party, was pro-Communist because it was about bureaucracy, when it was in fact hostile to the current regime's politics. Even at the tender age of 27, he understood the power of words and their ability to subvert and misdirect. Not surprisingly, Havel was imprisoned for his writings many times during the four decades of the Communist regime. This first major English-language study on Havel as a playwright is highly recommended for academic and larger public libraries.-Susan L. Peters, Univ. of Texas, Galveston Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

Table of Contents

Contents
Preface...................................................................xi
Acknowledgments...........................................................xiv
Prologue..................................................................1

Part I
The Fifties: The Education of a Writer
Scene One..................................................................5
1951-1955: The Education of an Outsider....................................7
1956: A Young Writer Makes His Debut.......................................17
1957-1959: A Soldier Plays.................................................21

Part II
The Sixties: Enter Václav Havel
1960: Learning the ABCs.....................................................25
1960: The Playwright Finds a Home...........................................29
1963: The Garden Party......................................................39
1963-1964 in Prague: A Cultural Awakening...................................49
1964: A Season of the Absurd at the Theatre on the Balustrade...............51
1964: Marriage..............................................................55
1964: Anticodes.............................................................57
1965: The Memorandum........................................................59
1965-1968: From the Balustrade to the Theater of Politics...................69
1965-1968: The Increased Difficulty of Concentration........................71
1968: Guardian Angel and A Butterfly on the Antenna.........................79
1968: Prague Spring.........................................................86
1968: New York Spring.......................................................88
1968: Summer................................................................94
1968-1969: The Aftermath....................................................99
The 1960s: Conclusion.......................................................102

Part III
The Seventies: The Playwright at a Crossroads
1970: A Dark Decade Begins..................................................107
1970-1971: The Conspirators.................................................110
1970-1976: Mountain Hotel...................................................113
1971-1974: Writers in Search of a Home......................................118
1972-1975: The Beggar's Opera...............................................125
1974-1975: "Second Wind"....................................................144
1975: Audience and Vernissage...............................................148
1976: A New Theatrical Home.................................................160
1976-1979: Living in Truth..................................................162
Charter 77..................................................................165
1978: Protest...............................................................178
The Vanûk Plays: A "Light on a Landscape"...................................184

Part IV
The Eighties: Far from the Theater
May 29, 1979-January 23, 1983: Serving the Sentence.........................196
1979-1983: Letters to Olga from "the Convicted Václav Havel"................203
1983: Mistake...............................................................221
1984: Largo Desolato........................................................227
1985: Temptation............................................................241
1986: "Far from the Theater"................................................254
1987: Redevelopment.........................................................261
1988: Tomorrow We'll Start It Up............................................268
1988-1989: Prologue for a Revolution........................................275
November-December 1989: Writing and Staging a Revolution....................282
Opening Night...............................................................288

Part V
The Nineties and Beyond: Politics and Theater as One
Curtain Up..................................................................290
1990-1992: Havelmania.......................................................293
Return to the Theatre on the Balustrade.....................................304
The Coming of Age of the Theatre on the Road................................307
1993: After Havelmania......................................................319
2000: In Search of a New Play by Václav Havel...............................322
2003: Havel and the Theater Today...........................................326
King Lear...................................................................329

Part VI
Epilogue

I Think About You a Great Deal: Albee, Beckett, Miller, Pinter, Stoppard....332
Homes Away from Home........................................................349

Part VII
Curtain Call

Encore........................................................................368
A Legacy......................................................................371
A Place in Twentieth-Century Drama............................................386
More Than a Body of Dramatic Work.............................................400
Final Bow.....................................................................405

Production Photos.............................................................407
Appendix A: Chronology of Plays...............................................415
Appendix B: Dramatis Personae and Other Names.................................418
Appendix C: Czech Pronunciation...............................................430
Selected Bibliography.........................................................431
Notes.........................................................................438
Index.........................................................................471

The Author....................................................................491

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