Marking this year’s festival in honor of former Czech President Václav Havel, U.S. President Barack Obama sent a celebratory letter reiterating the importance of the enriching ties between Czech and American cultures as well as the extraordinary example that Havel was for both nations. In the letter he said, “With unwavering courage and immense conviction, Havel not only inspired Czech and Americans, but also brought hope to millions of people across the world who yearned for freedom, democracy, and human rights.” The Mutual Inspirations Festival in the last four years has spread its wings to over 25,000 people in Washington, DC, and the United States, bringing engaging programs to the public and garnering bonds with over 40 institutions. The festival has become a tradition in the heart of the American capital, generating new ideas, bringing together artists, communities, and further instilling the value and importance of the arts in America, the Czech Republic, and beyond.
Photo: Embassy staff gather holding the Presidential Message.
The Embassy of the Czech Republic, in collaboration with Young Professionals in Foreign Policy, concluded the Mutual Inspirations Festival with a '70s-themed Peace Out Party on October 31. Over 200 guests came to the event sporting bellbottoms, funky hairstyles, and paisley dresses, grooving to tunes provided by DJ Tom from Prague. During the event, Ambassador Gandalovič remembered Lou Reed, music legend and member of the Velvet Underground. His music not only changed music history, but also inspired the Plastic People of the Universe (PPU), a rock band imprisoned by the communist regime in the 1970s. The imprisonment of the PPU thereby inspired Václav Havel to make a stand against the regime with Charter 77, a human rights manifesto. Music served as a catalyst, art as an inspiration, and hope turned into possibility. Freedom never tasted so sweet when the Velvet Revolution finally arrived in November 1989.
The Head of the European Reading Room at the Library of Congress, Grant Harris, opened the screening of documentary director Helena Třeštíková’s Sweet Century (Sladké století) in the Pickford Theater on October 25. The film revealed a portrait of several remarkable Czech women who endured harsh imprisonment under a communist dictatorship which Václav Havel stood against. Their stories of the horrors of communist prisons are intercut with old propaganda films and archival footage. The film won the award for best documentary at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in 1998. Director Třeštíková has made more than 50 documentaries in the Czech Republic. Sweet Century shows the women's unyielding courage during the tramatic days of their time as political prisoners. Even in the darkness, they held onto their hope for a better future, becoming friends and sharing their knowledge with each other.
Documentary director Petr Jančárek took viewers inside his filmmaking “kitchen,” as he shared raw footage from his latest film project tentatively titled HavelMovie at the Embassy of the Czech Republic on October 4. The workshop atmosphere provided an intimate setting for a Q&A with the director. In 2009, former Czech President Václav Havel offered Jančárek the opportunity to document his life. During the last three years of Havel’s life, unique material was created that captured both public and private activities of a world-renown figure. The film is projected to have its premiere in November 2014, during the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution (fall of communism). Through the film, Jančárek hopes to share a message not only about a great man and his fate, but also about the values which he represented and advocated, an example not only for Czechs but for people all over the world. During his U.S. visit, Jančárek also presented his documentaries Vaclav Havel, Prague Castle I. and II. at West End Cinema and the Avalon Theatre. The films serve as an exceptional record of an extraordinary man who went from being a dissident and prisoner to President of a free society.
We are pleased to inform you that all upcoming events will proceed as scheduled. The government shutdown has ceased and facilities are open. Thanks so much for your interest in the festival!
We regret to inform you that due to the government shutdown, events planned at the National Gallery for October 11-13 have been canceled. The event for Oct. 14 at the Czech Embassy has as well been canceled. Please stay posted for additional updates. Thank you so much for your interest in the festival.
The Mutual Inspirations Festival 2013 event at the Czech Embassy on October 3rd gave Washington, DC, a taste of the global reach of the Czech Republic. My peers in Young Professionals in Foreign Policy and I were fascinated by the film Patria o Muerte (Motherland or Death), which contrasts picturesque Cuba with the harsh reality of the daily lives of Cubans who remain on the island. The room was filled with Czechs, Cubans, and Americans alike, united not only by emotions evoked by the film but also by the common themes that revealed themselves as the night progressed. It is a sign of the globalized world we live in, that we spent our evening singing along to a Cuban rock band in Spanish inside of the Embassy of the Czech Republic. By hosting this Festival, the Czechs have demonstrated leadership in a movement toward the unity and appreciation of cultures, and within our own group it provoked new thoughts and discussion of culture, global reach, and all topics in-between.
Article contributed by Emily Jacobsen
Following the panel discussion celebrating the legacy of Václav Havel in Georgetown University's most prominent hall, dignitaries, faculty and students made a procession to Alumni Square led by Šimon Pánek, a former student leader of the Velvet Revolution. He carried the Czech flag alongside students from the Theater and Performance Studies Program. Before the event, the students chalked sidewalks with Czech flags and slogans from the Velvet Revolution, as well as handed out small Czech flags. They yelled, "Join the revolution" and greeted guests coming to the event. As panelists and guests gathered in the main hall, the students, under the direction of Director Maya Roth, placed hundreds of white flowers they had made, leading the path from Gaston Hall to the site of the dedication of Václav Havel's Place. They also gave out 1,000 white carnations to guests attending the ceremony. As keys rang in reminiscense of the Velvet Revolution, students yelled the famous revolutionary slogan "Už je to tady" (It is here!), a phrase that emobodied of the joy and liberation of the people after the fall of communism.
Photo: Georgetown students carry the sign Proč se učit nesmylsly - ""Why learn nonsense" as they reinacted peaceful protests that took place during the Velvet Revolution in 1989
Georgetown University welcomed guests to Gaston Hall for a panel discussion celebrating the life and legacy of former President of the Czech Republic Václav Havel followed by the dedication of Václav Havel's Place in Alumni Square on October 2. Professor Tomáš Halík from Charles University gave a poignant address about Havel's message: "Truth and love must prevail over lies and hatred." In his speech he stated, "The battle for the highest values is always an unfinished revolution." The event included a short film presentation created by documentary director Petr Jančárek, which revealed a collage of moments from Havel's life. The Dalai Lama spoke about his close relationship and admiration for the former president in a video message stating "I am one of the admirers of that great person...Now we have the responsibility to carry his spirit." Panelists included former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Professor Tomáš Halík, and Šimon Pánek, executive director of the nongovernmental organization People in Need and former student leader of the Velvet Revolution. The panel was moderated by Professor Angela Stent, Director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian and East European Studies at Georgetown University. The panelists spoke about Havel's character and leadership, touching upon special moments in their life with him.
The U.S. Army Concert Band "Perishing's Own" conducted by Col. Thomas Palmatier and the Cathedral Choral Society under the direction of J. Reilly Lewis joined together for a magical night of music in the concert The Power of the Human Spirit dedicated to the late Czech President Václav Havel at the Basilica of the National Shrine on Sept. 30. The tribute opened with Janáček's Sinfonietta: Fanfare performed by the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets. The U.S. Army Concert Band's performance of movements from Husa's Music for Prague, composed after Prague Spring 1968, and Petr Eben's Prague Te Deum, created during the time of the Velvet Revolution, was powerful and moving. The staccato of the brass, the runs of the woodwinds, the precision of the percussion were all in perfect unison. Then, the doors of heaven opened as the Cathedral Choral Society rendered Dvořák's Sanctus and Benedictus. Of particular note was the performance of Otčenaš (Our Father), featuring tenor soloist Staff Sergeant Matthew Heil. The crescendos and decrescendos, beautiful harmony and tone created such a divine atmosphere. The program also included Janáček's Glagolitic Mass performed by the talented organist Todd Fickly with such mastery. Monsignor Walter Rossi, Ambassador Petr Gandalovič and Monsignor Tomáš Halík opened the beautiful dedication with over 700 people in attendance, including the former First Lady of the Czech Republic, Dagmar Havlová. The inspirational concert brought the power of the human spirit to the forefront - the emotion of music, the echoes of history, the power of friendship across borders.
The National Gallery of Art will be closed on Saturday due to the government shutdown. Therefore, the screenings planned for this Saturday, October 5, will not be taking place. Please stay posted for any additional updates.
The Trinity Chamber Orchestra, under the direction of Jeffry Newberger, performed a truly memorable world premiere of Life in Truth (Život v pravdě) by composer Joseph Santo on September 29, at 4 pm. The powerful piece, dedicated to the late Czech President Václav Havel, included words from Havel's historic speech to the US Congress in February 1990, after the fall of communism. The new work had dark undertones and dischordance mixed with uplifting crescendos, stunning pauses and vibrato—perhaps a reflection of the inner turmoil and struggle, the darkness and light in the everyday world. Havel's words narrated by the Honorable Bruce Mencher were a reminder of what we have achieved but also the continued journey ahead. "(The) salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human humbleness and in human responsibility." The resounding words interlayed through runs and rhythms of the orchestra brought tears to the eyes of many, including former First Lady of the Czech Republic Dagmar Havlová. Over three hundred guests gathered to hear this new work at the Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Bethesda, MD. Composer Joseph Santo has created a piece that will continue to resonate in our lives. Through this masterpiece, Havel's words encourage us to be more humbler, letting words be backed by deeds in hope for a better tomorrow.
Václav Havel was a legendary man, a man of great moral integrity and authority. By a twist of fate, Havel became a playwright, an imprisoned dissident, a human rights advocate, and the first President of post-communist Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic. He became a citizen of the world through his actions, wisdom and humility.
“Have another beer.”
This phrase punctuated the otherwise wordless one-act play Antiwords, and it left me thirsty. Antiwords, brought to the D.C. area as part of the Czech Embassy’s Mutual Inspirations Festival honoring Václav Havel, is a masterful adaptation of Havel’s legendary play Audience. Based on Havel’s experience of being forced to work in a brewery and under constant harassment from the communist regime, Audience is part of Havel’s Vaněk Trilogy.
Article contributed by Catherine Provost.
Rudy Linka and Christina Prindle’s performance September 19, 2013 at The Shop was an evening Václav Havel would’ve been proud of. It was a little bit of love, a little bit of sorrow, a little bit of peace, a little bit of adventure, a little bit of humor, and a lot of soul. Linka and Prindle managed to pull out the very souls from musical classics (like The Beatles’ “Blackbird”) and take them for a casual stroll in the jazz genre. Between sets, they shared memories and personal anecdotes, and honored the memory of Václav Havel. Linka exhibited a devoted mastery to his art; the chords and riffs twirling in rhythm with Prindle’s beautifully warm and robust voice. In addition to the music, the entire evening was a friendly conversation; Fort Fringe’s The Shop provided the perfect intimate venue that furnished a rare connection between the musicians and the audience, as they exchanged commentary throughout the evening. Linka mentioned in one of his anecdotes that music is generally accepted as good for the soul. I am inclined to agree, and furthermore agree with Linka’s humorous addition: beautiful jazz is not only a recommendation; it’s a prescription.
Article contributed by Kristen Cornett
Photo: Jazz guitarist Rudy Linka and Cultural Attaché Robert Řehák
Classical WETA’s Bill Bukowski spoke with J. Reilly Lewis, music director of the Cathedral Choral Society, about the upcoming musical program entitled The Power of the Human Spirit, honoring the life and legacy of Václav Havel, that will take place at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on September 30, at 7:30 pm. The Cathedral Choral Society under the direction of J. Reilly Lewis will join Colonel Thomas H. Palmatier and the U.S. Army Concert Band for the special tribute that is free and open to the public. Click here to listen to Maestro Lewis' recent interview on WETA's Classical Conversations.
Photo courtesy of J. Reilly Lewis
Three directors gave their insight into directing the plays of Václav Havel at the Czech Embassy on September 13, at 7 pm. Oscar-winning director Jiří Menzel spoke about his approach to working with actors, including Czech actor Pavel Landovský, known for his exceptional performance in Havel's play Audience. Physical theatre actress and diretor Miřenka Čechová showed clips of her upcoming performance Antiwords and spoke in detail about the choice of using female actors for parts traditionally performed by male actors and utilizing masks to present the piece inspired by Havel's Audience. Gail Humphries Mardirosian, a professor at American University, presented a short excerpt of Protest performed by actors from the Ambassador Theatre. In her rendition of Havel's play, two females are reflecting a mirror image of two male actors. Over 130 people attended the event and were treated to goulash from Capitol Prague and a brew of Pilsner Urquell. The evening was a reminder that Havel's plays continue to challenge, offer humor, and live on through unique interpretations by directors presenting modern-day versions of his compelling works.
The 17th Forum 2000 Conference entitled "Societies in Transition," is currently taking place in Prague from Sept. 15-17, 2013. This year’s conference is inspired by the legacy of Forum 2000 founder, President Václav Havel, and aims to explore the challenges, opportunities, and risks in transitional processes from the post-Soviet region and the Arab World to Latin America and Asia. Over 100 distinguished participants will attend the discussions, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, folk singer and activist Joan Baez, former President of the Republic of South Africa Frederik Willem de Klerk, former Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Gareth Evans and Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez. The conference is open to the public and a number of sessions will be broadcast live on the Forum 2000 website at www.forum2000.cz.
A full house packed the Czech Embassy for the launch of the Mutual Inspirations Festival in a special evening entitled Václav Havel's Evening on September 5, at 6 pm. Petra Čáslavová (Political Prisoners.eu) and Tomáš Bouška (ASPEN Prague) presented the Prison Experience of Václav Havel in Memories and Documents. They engaged the audience with short video clips from Havel's brother Ivan and others, read short excerpts from Havel's works such as Letters to Olga, revealed pictures of his time as a dissident and gave context to his life during his years in prison. Representatives from ÚSTR Prague and the PANT Civic Initiative opened the exhibition Olga Havlová: In the Memories of Her Friends and in the Photographs of Bohdan Holomíček, an intimate selection of photographs of the former First Lady of the Czech Republic. Guests received festival t-shirts, savored a delicious brew of Pilsner Urquell and enjoyed goulash before the screening of Jan Novák's film Citizen Havel Goes on Vacation (Občan Havel jede na dovolenou), which concluded the event. The documentary perfectly complemented the evening, showing an inside look at Havel's life while he was surveilled by the communist regime. The spirit of Havel was certainly present in an evening of celebration and remembrance.
“The real test of a man is not how well he plays the role he has invented for himself, but how well he plays the role that destiny assigned to him.” ~ Václav Havel
The Embassy of the Czech Republic announces the launch of the Mutual Inspirations Festival 2013 - Václav Havel website www.mutualinspirations.org. This site features upcoming events, stories about Havel, US-Czech inspirational personalities, and more. Be sure to check the website periodically for the site is undergoing "construction" as new events and information are added, leading up to the festival this fall.
Photo © Pavel Štecha
This site is currently under construction. The Embassy of the Czech Republic will launch the website of the Mutual Inspirations Festival 2013 on May 11, during the EU Open House. We look forward to sharing upcoming festival events with you, as well as the life and legacy of Václav Havel.
Photo © Oldřich Škácha
1973 - Václav Havel Working at Sazava