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Theatre

The Increased Difficulty of Concentration

March 09, 2012

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The Increased Difficulty of Concentration by Vaclav Havel
Performances on March 9 & 10 and March 15, 16 & 17 at 7:30pm.

Director: Associate Professor Stepan Simek
Scene Designer: Senior Kaye Blankenship
Costume Designer: Associate Professor Michael Olich
Lighting Designer: Staff Technical Director Matthew Robins

Dr. Hummel, a peculiar kind of a social scientist, has a life that is literally fragmenting around him. He has troubles with his wife, troubles with his mistress, troubles with the vaguely oppressive authorities, and troubles with a malfunctioning form of artificial intelligence called Puzak. His life goes round and round, repeating itself until Huml barely knows where he is, who is his current lover, and what are his beliefs, as he struggles inside a world that increasingly makes no sense whatsoever.

The Increased Difficulty of Concentration combines elements of classic door-slamming sex farce, complete with pratfalls, false entrances and exits, and slapstick, the theatre of the absurd, political satire, and metaphysical ruminations on the nature of language.

Perhaps best described as a “Metaphysical Farce With a Nod to Wittgenstein, Marx, and Beckett” the play bears all elements of Vaclav Havel’s writing and philosophy. Havel is mostly known as the first post-communist President of the Czech Republic, a kind of a Platonic  “philosopher king,” who led the Czechs towards a sort of humanistic reawakening following more than forty years of Communist dictatorship. At the same time, he is known as the writer of hard-to-understand absurdist plays with a political undertones. However, what is less known is that Havel is also thoroughly a man of the theatre, completely at home on the physical stage with living and breathing actors, directors, designers, and crews. As a matter of fact, Havel started his theatre career as a stagehand at a small studio theatre in Prague in the late 1950s. He is therefore well acquainted with the physical dimensions of the theatre, and The Increased Difficulty of Concentration is – among others – Havel’s homage to that “physicality” of the theatre.  Therefore, rather than a broodingly difficult work of a political and philosophical giant, the play is a comic masterpiece with no “farcical stone” left unturned.

The director, the Associate Professor and Chair of the Theatre Department, Stepan Simek will present the play in his own translation which was commissioned by Vaclav Havel himself. Simek is the leading US authority on contemporary Czech theatre, and the authorized translator of Havel’s plays into English. The play will feature undergraduate students in all roles, and the set will be designed by Kaye Blankenship as a part of her Senior Thesis in Design and Technical theatre.

View an interview with director Stepan Simek here.

View the image gallery in full size.

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