Václav Havel on Leaving, Playwriting, and Politics
30 Jul 2010
“Perhaps as a result of not being an adventurous sort, I was condemned to live an adventurous life.” —Václav Havel
Václav Havel, the late renowned playwright and former President of the Czech Republic, visited The Wilma Theater on May 26, 2010 to see the American premiere of his first play in 20 years, Leaving, a wry political tragicomedy about a recently retired chancellor of an unnamed European country who struggles with questions of truth and power. The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage hosted President Havel at the Wilma for an interview conducted in front of an audience made up primarily of theater professionals.
Watch an excerpt of this interview above, featuring President Havel, Tom Sellar, editor of Theater magazine, translator Paul Wilson, and Jiri Zizka. Then watch the full interview below (running time: 65:02) or download the transcript of the discussion as a PDF >
About Václav Havel
Václav Havel (1936–2011) was a renowned playwright and political activist who became president of the Czech Republic in 1990, the country’s first noncommunist leader since 1948. He was a prominent participant in the liberal reforms of 1968, and, after the Soviet clampdown on Czechoslovakia, his plays were banned. He continued to write plays that explored the self-delusions and moral compromises that characterize life under a totalitarian system. In 1977, he and more than 200 other dissidents founded the human-rights movement Charter 77, which established itself as a leading opposition force. In 1979, he was sentenced to a five-year prison term and his Letters to Olga, philosophical essays written from prison and addressed to his wife, quickly became a classic of anti-totalitarian literature. As Czech president from 1990 to 2003, he gained a reputation as a leader who prioritized human rights in his own nation and worldwide.