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Professor reflects on role as official translator for Vaclav Havel

December 22, 2011

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    Associate Professor of Theatre and Department Chair Stepan Simek (photo courtesy of The Oregonian/Doug Beghtel)

Fir Acres Theater

In the wake of former Czech President and playwright Vaclav Havel’s death, Lewis & Clark Associate Professor of Theater Stepan Simek, an authorized translator of Havel’s body of work, reflected on the statesman’s life in an extensive interview with The Oregonian.

Though the official connection began when Simek translated one of Havel’s plays for a celebratory festival in the 1990s, the lives of the two men intersected long before.

“The funny thing is that my parents and grandparents were very good friends with his parents,” Simek said. “When I was born, the Havels gave my parents this cradle—a pink, wooden painted cradle—that Havel himself was cradled in. And I was cradled in it and it still is in my family’s possession.”

Simek just completed a new English translation of The Increased Difficulty of Concentration, which Havel himself commissioned. The play will be the main stage production at Fir Acres Theatre in March 2012.

“This play is the most farcical of his plays, and he is just so much at home with the mechanics of the theater,” Simek said. “The treatment of language made me realize that for him the language in a play is a character. He is an absurdist playwright, whatever that might be, but in his plays there is an absolute iron logic to the nonsense.”

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