Vaclav Havel, a Czech playwright and president of Czechoslovakia had a special bond with Moravian College. In honor of Havel’s legacy and his ties to Moravian, one of his plays will be performed next week in the Arena Theatre.
The Memorandum is an absurdist political satire, written by Havel in the late 1960s. “He wrote multiple plays, short and full-length, but The Memorandum is my favorite,” says Christopher Shorr, Moravian’s director of theatre and director of the play.
The comedy was inspired by the absurdities of life in eastern Europe under Communism, and how the citizens react to the chaos. The story follows what happens in an organization when a false language, “Ptydepe,” is instituted to improve office communications, but only makes them worse. Other elements create a situation most people can relate to, such as impossible bureaucratic protocols, surveillance by office spies, reversals in the chain of command, and the importance of conforming in order to keep a job.
In addition to current students, the cast includes Christopher Jones, professor of biology, who plays Masat, director of the translation center, and Julia Gasdaska ’07, assistant director of leadership giving, in the role of Alice, Masat’s secretary.
Gasdaska, who performed in eight plays while a student at Moravian, says performing here has been a great creative outlet for her. “I haven’t performed in three years, and was interested in this play for a variety of reasons. I was happy I could fit it into my schedule. I like the play, and get a lot of satisfaction out of working with a cast to present important issues to an audience.”
This play was chosen because of several connections between Moravian College and Havel. The Moravian Church was founded in Czechoslovakia, and John Amos Comenius, on whose educational philosophy the College is built, was born there. In 1991, Havel visited Moravian College to rededicate the statue of John Amos Comenius on Main Street. When Havel passed away, Christopher Shorr, Director of Moravian Theatre, knew he had to perform one of Havel’s plays to honor him and his accomplishments.
Havel’s legacy was such an inspiration to Shorr that “he is part of the reason why I moved to the Czech Republic,” says Shorr, who worked in Prague during Havel’s presidency. In 1993, Czechoslovakia divided into two countries, known today as the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Havel then became president of the Czech Republic. “Havel was the last president of Czechoslovakia and the first of the Czech Republic, which I think is pretty cool,” says Shorr.
“The Memorandum will play in the Arena Theater in the HUB from Thursday, February 21, through Sunday, February 24. Show times are 8 p.m. on Thursday night through Saturday night, and 2 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.
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