Havel's Audience at LaMama

Czech Marionette Theater Adds Puppets to Wild Brew

By: - Feb 14, 2023

Vaclav Havel’s Audience circulated widely in a sanitized form during the Soviet occupation of his country after the Second World War. During the invasion of Czechoslovakia in August, 1968, Havel provided a narrative of the invasion on Radio Free Czechoslovakia and was banned from his work in the theater. To survive, he took a job in the Kraknos brewery in Trufnov. This is the setting of Audience.

Audience is now being presented at La Mama in New York.  The Czech Marionette theater has made the play absurd by a doubling of the real actor who speak with marionettes, whose size indicates their sense of self-importance.  The brewmaster becomes huge.  Ferdinand Vanek, a worker, remains small, yet survives.

Vanek is Havel, and he became a recurring character in other playwrights’ works.  He represents dissidence.

An introduction on screen reminds us of Prague Spring which provoked the invasion. Havel became well known when he wrote the Charter 77 Manifesto in response to the trial and imprisonment of members of the psychedelic rock band The Plastic People of the Universe.  Havel attended their trial, in which they were convicted of long hair, using obscenities in their music, and their support of political freedom.

It is hard to think of an American politician working at Coors in Golden, Colorado to survive, but in fact Havel worked in its Czech equivalent.  Although reminders of Soviet oppression abound in Europe, today Europeans too struggle with the survival of democratic political forms. There is more hope in Prague and Berlin because reminders, like Havel’s plays, surround the people in these cities.

The principals in this production are Vit  Horejs, Theresa Linnihan and Kika Van Kluck.

Horejs is translator/director, and plays the role of Van?k. He was born in Prague and escaped  Communist Czechoslovakia in 1978. In 1990, with fellow émigrés, he  founded Czechoslovak-American Marionette Theater (CAMT) in New  York. He has translated, written, adapted, and directed over two dozen marionette plays for CAMT, is a resident artist at La MaMa Theater and  has performed on stage, film, and TV. Published works: Twelve Iron Sandals  (1985); Pig and Bear (1989); and Faust (1993). During the Pandemic, Vít,  his marionettes and longtime musical collaborators streamed a series of  16 installments of Naptime Stories for the Absurd Times from a number of  US and worldwide locations, starred in an Onur Tukel feature Film, Scenes  From an Empty Church, (release July 2021) and Carnegie Hall/Centro Primo  Levi film The Scandal of the Imagination. He co-produced “Faust on a String,”  an award-winning documentary about Czech puppetry, and wrote the  lead essay for Czechoslovak-American Puppetry (GOH Productions, 1994).  

Linnehan is Brewmaster and puppet maker. She joined the company of  CAMT in 1996 playing Polonius in their production of Hamlet. For the next two decades, she served as performer, designer and associate director as  the company developed original, provocative productions, re-imagined classics and toured puppet festivals in Turkey, Pakistan, Korea and the Czech Republic. In 2016 she relocated to Minneapolis, Mn. There, for the past five years she’s worked with In the Heart of the Beast Puppet  and Mask Theater and Barebones Puppets, building and performing for  parades and pageants which reflect the sorrows and celebrations of a  community that ignited a global call for justice and healing. Theresa is also  a long standing member of The Puppeteer’s Cooperative and produced an online, animated version of The Tempest as well as The Decameron of Now, an online invitation for stories in the era of Covid. 

Von Kluck is the Spy. She was born in Brazil during the military dictatorship.  After graduating in Theater, she arrived in New York City in 1992 and went to NYU Film School to study Film Editing. Throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s, she defined herself as a Multimedia Facilitator and worked as a Fashion Stylist, Art Model, Translator and Interpreter, Researcher, and Photographer. She wrote and compiled reports on Cultural Trends,  Demographic Segmentation and Behavior Economics. 

This terrific production reminds us that theater informs and inspires. 

Tickets are here.