3LD Art and Technology Center and Untitled Theater Company #61’s production of The Pig or Václav Havel’s Hunt for a Pig by Václav Havel and Vladimír Morávek is nothing short of a work of wry genius. Edward Einhorn who adapted the play into English was instrumental in re-imagining this work for an American audience.
Wonderfully directed by Henry Akona, the production incorporates multi-media in heightened artistic expression. The innovative and interesting forms elevate and enrich the themes culminating in an empathetic celebration of freedom. To achieve this heightened aspect, all the arts are represented: the dance, live instrumental music, stylistic cabaret songs, tweaked rock songs (e.g. “I’m Waiting for the Man” by The Velvet Underground) light opera, graffiti-art video projections, closed-circuit TV, and ironic, comedic structure with a deep underlying message.
The musicians/dancers/actors/artists/technicians ingeniously employ their talents in these forms to create a unique and transformative experience for the audience. United psychically, the audience and players collaborate in the jubilee. It is as if they are participating in a necessary cultural revolution, creating their own inner moments of reform for our time in our country. The production massages all the senses, even the sense of taste and smell; there is pig in a delicious langosch of pulled pork, (and a vegetarian langosch for those empathizing with the pig), as well as beer and sweets for the finale. Touché.
Edward Einhorn is well acquainted with Havel’s works. In his collaboration with the Untitled Theater Company #61, The Havel Collection, a five-volume set of new translations of Havel’s plays, has been published. Their intimate knowledge of Havel’s work was demonstrated during their 2006 Havel festival in NYC. As a result it was not surprising when in 2010 upon Havel’s request Einhorn was flown to The Czech Republic to see the premiere of The Pig or Václav Havel’s Hunt for a Pig, the centerpiece of a June theater festival in Brno. What Einhorn experienced while watching the production at the Brno festival gave birth to Akons’ and Einhorn’s conceptualization which four years later is appearing at 3LD in this soul-lifting, interactive, multimedia English version.
This production has been effected like Havel effected the Velvet Revolution swirling into the independence manifested by The Czech Republic. Initially, Havel wrote a humorous dialogue about how he tried to get a pig to roast for a feast with his friends. (Is the pig metaphoric?) The sketchy 1987 dialogue appeared in an underground magazine; during Communism it was surreptitious photocopies of photocopies. In 2010 Vladimír Morávek rediscovered the dialogue and staged it, and the idea grew and developed a life of its own as an all-encompassing production.
Morávek added more characters who were seamlessly interwoven into sections of a Czech operetta, The Bartered Bride. The operetta is a nationalistic work from the 1860s written in the Czech language; it was a groundbreaking move toward independence in defiance of the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s rule, for the Czech language was never the language spoken. The comedic action of Havel trying to buy a pig for his roast and the plot of the folk opera of a bride who may or may not get married and be at her wedding were beautifully fused in the Havel/Morávek production. Czech culture past and present were affirmed with dry humor and celebration reaffirming that the independent spirit of the Czech people can never be contained.
What Einhorn witnessed in the 2010 Czech premiere was an amazing tribute to Czech history and the uplifting of the Czech spirit over oppression, from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, through fascism, through communism, through The Velvet Revolution (the Czech overthrow of the old regime after the Berlin Wall fell), and the eventual emergence after Havel gained the presidency of the Czech Republic, the idea of freedom was ever-present. In seeking a path to define their own way out from control, the Czech people had already defined themselves. It was only a matter of going.
Though communism brutally suppressed any outward show of freedom in 1968, the spirit was roiling underneath in the cultural currents. In a slapdash, seemingly random style, Havel, an artist, and others moved on a path from which there was no turning back. Havel recognized that despite domination by others, independence was the only inner path the culture knew to truthfully follow toward the light. From their seeking of it in the 1860s to their gaining it after the Berlin Wall fell, their generational energy is transparent. Anyone looking closely at their culture and ethos would know the eventuality of this demonstration of the Czech spirit coming to pass. Independence and freedom could not and would not be stopped. What is interesting to comprehend is that it was fomented via the arts. The 3LD Art & Technology Center and the Untitled Theater Company #61 production of Václav Havel’s Hunt for The Pig underscores how the arts are paramount in fomenting independence and freedom.
By adapting the play using all the forms of artistic expression in this production, Henry Akona, Edward Einhorn and the incredibly talented production team and ensemble are not only shouting out Havel’s legacy, they are reminding us of our own. They are encouraging the expression of our inner drive toward independence and self-definition through the arts, innovation and interactive media. They are urging us to establish and maintain a cultural and political unity between and among enlightened artists, innovators, techies, writers, dancers, musicians, singers, cabaret stylists, indeed anyone who manifests his or her expression of independence and freedom through any medium, modality or tool. As this expression grows widespread, its currents flow globally. Other global artists are inspired and renewed by the uplifting spirit winds. Reform and transformation are reborn again and again, and there is a renaissance of interaction which pushes the very deepest part of the human spirit to overthrow the most nullifying and damaging impulses of materialism-soaked oppression.
Havel and the Czech Republic’s inspiring revolution led predominately by artists against the Philistines is an example for all time. By revisiting it again and again in such works as this, we are encouraged not to despair of the oppressive political vicissitudes of our time. In the play by Havel and Morávek and in this production Einhorn and Akona counsel us not to accept the lies and gross injustices of a ruling political oligarchy which prizes money and profits over people’s welfare. Our history has shown that like the Czechs, Americans have been driven to achieve freedom, equality and justice. Einhorn and Akona’s production strengthens us to continue the fight against similar types of domination that the Czechs faced and overcame. As the struggle toward overthrowing lies and hatred transformed and rebirthed us in the past, we, together with innovators and artists, must continue this work in unity so additional change is achieved. Ultimately, the work is in freeing each human heart through vehicles of the arts. This is work that is never finished.
Along the way there is the jubilee and a constant reminder of the distance traveled; there is the pig roast to which we call our friends in a celebration of the past that has morphed into and melded with the present. The feast encompasses historic and ongoing revolutionary action. It represents a lifting up after tearing down the walls of hypocrisy. Each transformation brings on the next wave of action, and that wave inspires and energizes us to continue ferreting out the lies. For where there are lies, there can be no good thing for anyone, least of all those who control with lies. As Havel believed, “truth and love must prevail over lies and hatred.” Only truth and love benefit the cross-cultural whole.
This is a smashing must-see jubilee for the joy, the revolution, the transformation, the brilliance. It is running at the 3LD Art + Technology Center until March 29.