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A series of never before published translations of the work of Václav Havel: five new books, including most of Havel’s important works.

A series of five new books of translation of plays by Václav Havel.  Every volume will include translations that have never before been available. 

Theater 61 Press, a division of the Off-Broadway theater company Untitled Theater Co. #61, plans a November book release of The Havel Collection. The series will include many of Havel’s important works, from his first to his final. Each volume not only includes his plays, but also a bounty of supporting material — 12 essays, photos, biographies, and more.  Together, the books will be a resource unavailable anywhere else. 

As a reward for your contribution, you receive copies of the books, or related books.  In fact, this is your cheapest way to get books from the collection--for $25 you receive 2, which otherwise would cost $30 (plus shipping, unless you are buying direct), and for $60 you receive the whole collection, which otherwise would cost $75 (plus shipping).

This is a labor of love on our part--we have been working with Havel since 2006, when we produced The Havel Festival, the first-ever complete festival of Havel's work.  Havel was with us for the full festival, and we established a bond and a working relationship with him that we valued above any.   Numerous new translations were commissioned for the festival and this collection will make many of them available for the first time.  Subsequent to the festival, Havel wrote a few more works, ranging from full-length to sketches. We translated and produced one of them, the English language premiere of The Pig, or Václav Havel's Hunt for a Pig.  In addition, we produced our own original tribute to the Velvet Revolution and Havel, when The New York Library of the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center commissioned us to write The Velvet Oratorio in honor of the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution.  Havel's character Vaněk reappears as the protagonist in the piece.

WHO IS VÁCLAV HAVEL?

Václav Havel first came to world attention as a playwright. Events and the power of his ideas launched him into the role of dissident, political prisoner, revolutionary, and finally, the President of Czechoslovakia (and later of The Czech Republic). Yet throughout all the world-altering events that placed him at the center of history, Havel felt that his essential calling was still the same: he was a man of the theater, a writer of absurdist drama. Václav Havel passed away in December 2011, but the series is being released in honor of what would have been his 76th birthday and commemorating the 23rd anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, the Czechoslovak revolution led by Havel which resulted in the downfall of the Communist regime. 

This series was planned two and a half years ago, and it has been a great pleasure to assemble and edit its contents. We are lucky to have Havel's blessing and approval of all the translations, although sadly he passed away before the books could be finished and released. However, we feel like this collection will be an important one, both as literature that can stand on its own, and as a way to make Havel's work available for future productions.

This is the largest endeavor of the press division of our theater company. We do not expect that it will make much money, as this sort of small press venture rarely does. But we do feel like these materials are important and should be shared. We are using POD technology to keep costs reasonable, however it poses a conundrum. To be effective, we need a stock of books, and print on demand is just that, on demand. We would like to have at least 100 of each book on hand by the time of official release on November 15 (timed to coincide with the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution). This kickstarter would allow us to move forward fully as a press.

WHAT BOOKS ARE IN THE SERIES:

The Memo. One of Václav Havel’s most popular plays, in a new translation by Havel’s most prolific translator, Paul Wilson. An office has adopted a new official language, Ptydepe, in an attempt to make communication more scientific. But the new language may really be a tool for power. Havel’s play was able to slip by the Communist Czech censors in 1965, despite its veiled political commentary. 

The Vaněk Plays. Perhaps Václav Havel’s best-known works. The character Vaněk became a symbol for Czechoslovak dissidents during the Communist era. In the plays, Audience, Protest, and Unveiling, Vaněk encounters people trapped by the moral dilemmas inherent in the Communist system. Also included is Havel’s recent sequel, the previously unpublished Dozens of Cousins. All translated by the noted Czech-American writer, Jan Novák.

The Increased Difficulty of Concentration. A metaphysical farce, written by dissident Czechoslovak playwright (and future president) Václav Havel. Hummel, an academic, juggles lovers, philosophy, and the questions from a strange machine called Pazuk, while trying to make sense of his life. A new translation by Štěpàn Šimek. 

Leaving. The first play written by Václav Havel after his final term as president. Inspired by King Lear and The Cherry Orchard, Havel writes of a man forced to leave the state-owned villa he has called home for years, when his time in public office ends. A drama of ethics and politics with, as always, a touch of the absurd. Never before published in the United States, this edition includes changes made by translator Paul Wilson during the American premiere. 

The Pig, or Václav Havel’s Hunt for a Pig. Václav Havel’s final theater piece, a shaggy-dog tale set at a pig roast and filled with music. Vladimír Morávek took an old dialogue of Havel’s, combined it with Smetana’s The Bartered Bride, and the resulting collage comments both on Communist Czechoslovakia and the post-Communist Czech era. Also included is Havel’s first ever one-act, Ela, Hela, and the Hitch. These plays, translated by Edward Einhorn, have never before been published in English translation. 

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

The hardest aspect of this project is that we are a small independent press, with a limited staff and with limited resources. Every step therefore has to be accomplished without the same sort of structure that a larger press has. Editing with a small staff, all of whom have other jobs, and making sure every mistype is found, having reviewers and press write about the book, getting it into libraries and bookstores, each of these steps presents its own challenges. In the past we have only had to edit one book at a time, this time we have five. In the past, we have had limited distribution, but we feel like it is important to get the word out to a larger audience with this series. It may be that the nature of the series gains attention, but that is to be seen. One hope we have with this kickstarter campaign is that it will also raise the profile of these important works.

On our side is a small but dedicated staff and a worldwide appreciation for Havel and the impact he has had in the world. We are confident that, if we are able to meet our challenges, the work will be met with enthusiasm.

FAQ

  • We are a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation, so contributions are tax deductible. However, since many of the rewards are equal to (or greater than) the value of the contribution, what you give is tax deductible only once is exceeds the value of the reward. For those who choose to give without claiming a reward, your contribution is of course completely tax deductible.

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    A copy of The Velvet Oratorio, a Theater 61 Press edition of Henry Akona/Edward Einhorn oratorio that commemorated the 20th anniversary of Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution.

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    Two plays of your choice from the Havel Collection (usually selling at $15 each)

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    All five books of The Havel Collection (full price would be $75)

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    The full Havel Collection AND The Velvet Oratorio (Full price would be ($90)

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    The Havel Collection and The Velvet Oratorio all signed by Edward Einhorn (translator of The Pig and Ela, Hela, and the Hitch, author of the introductions to all the books, and librettist for The Velvet Oratorio)

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    The Havel Collection, with each book signed by its translator, and The Velvet Oratorio, signed by composer Henry Akona and librettist Edward Einhorn

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    The rare book Castle Works, written in English and Czech; an examination of the Bořek Šípek's architecture at Prague Castle during the years 1992-2002 (while Havel was President). Signed by both Václav Havel and Bořek Šípek and given as a gift by President Havel to Untitled Theater Company #61 on the occasion of the Havel Festival. It includes numerous full page color plates of Borek Sipek's work. 175 pages. Plus the signed copies of the Havel Collection and The Velvet Oratorio, as specified in the $250 reward. ($4500 tax deductible)

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