National Theatre honours Havel at 80, kicking off festival putting focus on human rights

Dagmar Havlová, photo: CTK

This week Václav Havel, who died in 2011, would have turned 80 and events in his honour are being held around the country. Some will celebrate his works as a playwright, others his importance as a dissident and later as the country’s first post-communist president.

Václav Havel | Photo: Tomáš Adamec,  Czech Radio
October 5th, Václav Havel, playwright, former dissident, champion of human rights and president, would have turned 80 years old. Even five years after his death, his loss is still acutely felt in both artistic and political circles – perhaps no more than in the realm of politics where former rivals or successors have appeared to have chipped away at or to a degree overshadowed Mr Havel’s legacy. It is no surprise that many events honouring Mr Havel are echoing his commitment to human rights, political and artistic freedom, civic responsibility and human decency.

In an interview for Czech TV on Tuesday, Mr Havel’s widow actress Dagmar Havlová said that her husband would have been pleased by events including the National Theatre’s Prague Crossroads Festival which will feature performances not only by troupes from the Czech Republic but most significantly countries like Russia, Ukraine or Belarus. Here’s what Mrs Havlová said:

'Time of Women',  photo: archive of National Theatre
“I think that this festival will focus attention on countries where human rights and freedom are not respected. I think that Václav would not have forgotten them.”

The director of the Czech National Theatre, Jan Burian, discussed the Belarussian troupe Belarus Free Theatre, originally based in Minsk, which will open the festival in Mr Havel’s honour.

“They will be performing a work called Time of Women. It is about women fighting for human rights in Belarus. It was first performed illegally in Minsk in 2014, a year later at the Old Vic in London, and now here. I am glad people here can see it legally.”

Dagmar Havlová,  photo: CTK
Besides Prague Crossroads, the National Theatre is marking Václav Havel’s 80th birthday with sculptures by the Havels’ family friend, Kurt Gebauer. He completed pieces in the shape of hearts, a reference to the symbol which always accompanied Mr Havel’s signature, echoing the slogan that “truth and love must prevail”. One of the pieces is in plastic and the others from wire symbolizing Mr Havel’s imprisonment by the communist regime in Czechoslovakia, Czech TV reported. Those works are on view at the National Theatre’s plaza or piazzetta which is being renamed after Mr Havel in his honour. Other events celebrating Mr Havel’s birthday this week include a special concert at Prague’s Lucerna, film screenings, performances of his plays, and various happenings all across the country, in cities and towns like Brno, Zlín, Ostrava and many more.