Vaclav Havel, 1936-2011

Remembering the noted playwright, dissident, and statesman

When it was his turn at the podium, clutching the framed Obie certificate to his heart, he spoke evenly and modestly, with no forced brightness and no solemn gravity. "I write plays only to ask questions,” he said, “never to preach, only to ask a question.” His half-smile was earnest, but you could see the imp dancing in his eyes. This, too, was funny: laboring as an artist, battling as a dissident, suffering as a political martyr, ruling as a national hero, and then being honored as an artist-citizen. It’s all relative, his eyes said, it’s all comedy.

Havel gets his Obies--finally--in 2006: Olympia Dukakis, Havel, and Michael Feingold
Cary Conover
Havel gets his Obies--finally--in 2006: Olympia Dukakis, Havel, and Michael Feingold

After he’d gotten the gigantic standing ovation he deserved, we all headed out into the Public’s lobby, where wine was being poured for a toast to the playwright-hero-statesman. Mobbed by the swirling crowd, while photographers tried to put the three of us in position for a photo op—they had to explain to Havel that he should turn the Obie frontwise for the photograph—we tried to converse over the noisy, joyous, jostling crowd. “I wish we could just go somewhere quiet and talk,” I told him. Havel smiled his rueful half-smile. “This is democracy,” he said. And the imp danced again in his eyes.

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Doug Frost
Doug Frost

Thank you, Mr. Feingold, for your portrait of this remarkable man and, as always, for your own remarkable contributions to the life and mind of the theater.

Doug Frost

 
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