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Havel's Actors

  • Michael L. Quinn (a1)

Extract

In Václav Havel's first published essay, ‘The Poet in the Contemporary Era’, he proposed a theory of interpretive understanding that emphasized a poetic response to the world, a combination of imagination with hermeneutic engagement. In this Heideggerian perspective, the things and events in the world, and the people, too, have aesthetic qualities—whether valuable or banal—that a poetic attitude toward perception can discover, and perhaps even communicate. Moreover, poets are supposed, in the same essay, to be unable to separate the quality of their literary efforts from the quality of their lives, i.e. ‘someone who writes kitsch poems on love has presumably had a kitsch love in life, too’.

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Notes

1. Havel, , ‘Basník dněsní doby’, Květen, 2 (1956): 146.

2. See Veltruský, Jiří, ‘Acting and Behavior: A study in the Signans’ in Herta Schmid and Aloysius van Kesteren, The Semiotics of Drama and Theater (Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1984).

3. For an example of the Prague School work see fan Mukařovský's study of Chaplin in City Lights, ‘An attempt at a Structural Analysis of a Dramatic Figure’, in Structure, Sign and Function, ed. Steiner, Peter and trans. Burbank, John (New Haven: Yale UP, 1977); I have adapted the Prague School model to account for individual effects in ‘Celebrity and the Semiotics of Acting’ New Theatre Quarterly, 6, 11 (1990): 154–61.

4. See my study, ‘Vaněk for President: Václav Havel and the Semiotics of Identity’, in Small is Beautiful, ed. Schumacher, Claude (Glasgow: Theatre Studies Publications, 1991).

5. I have discussed this theory at greater length in ‘Delirious Subjectivity: Four Scenes from Havel’, Essays in Theatre/Etudes théâtrales 10, 2 (1992): 117–32.

6. Havel, and Procházka, Jan, ‘Záludný dar’ [Crafty Gift], Divadlo 13, 7 (1962): 2122. Translations from Havel's essays are by Štěpán Šimek and myself.

7. Havel, , ‘Bohdanová na houpačce’,[Bohdanová on the See-Saw] Divadlo, 14, 1 (1963): 48.

8. Havel, and Procházka, , ‘Herecká osohnost Rudolfa Hrušínského’ [The Personal Acting of Rudolf Hrušínský] Divadlo, 12, 8 (1961): 575.

9. Havel, and Procházka, , ‘O Josefu Kemrovi a nejen o něm’ [On Josef Kemr and Not Only on Dumbshow] Divadlo, 12, 1 (1961): 40.

10. Havel, , ‘Kolem herectví Miloše Kopeckého’, [About the Acting of Miloš Kopecký] Divadlo, 13, 5 (1962): 7.

11. ibid., 7.

12. Havel, , ‘Divadlo ABC: Krize a její příčiny’, [The ABC Theatre: A Crisis and Its Causes] Divadlo 13, 2 (1963): 40.

13. Havel, Programme for Nejlepší rocky Paní Hermanové; any other programme quotations are also from this otherwise unpublished note. Some of the programme photos were re-published in Léta a rocky’, [Flying, and Rock, ] Divadlo 14, 2 (1963): 5054.

14. I refer throughout to the facsimile xerox text that I have from Havel's personal files; it has many changes—deletions and additions—written into the play, and I have no way of knowing to what extent it represents the final performance text of the play. Nor have I consulted any recordings.

15. For those who are interested in Havel's compositional process, there is an analysis of The Increased Difficulty of Concentration in my forthcoming paper, ‘Dramatizing Delirium: Havel's Ztižená možnost soustředění and the Don Juan Myth’ in Don Juan and Faust in the 20th Century, ed. Sormova, Eva (Prague, 1993?).

Havel's Actors

  • Michael L. Quinn (a1)

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