In cooperation with the Bohemian Benevolent and Literary Association, the New York branch of the Vaclav Havel Library Foundation organized an annual fundraising gala. The funds raised are used to support the Foundation’s programs spreading the legacy of Václav Havel in the United States and around the world. This year’s gala, titled The Play’s the Thing (a quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet), was held on September 23 at the Czech National House on the Upper East Side and was dedicated to the writer, playwright, and friend of Václav Havel – Sir Tom Stoppard.
“We dedicated the program to two areas that brought Václav Havel and Tom Stoppard together – theatre and human rights. I would like to thank all of our guests who attended the gala and all of our supporters who could not come but still supported us financially and morally,” said Havel Foundation director, Pavla Niklová.
The meeting of supporters, fans, and friends of the Foundation, which includes Michaela and Zdeněk Bakala, is always a special event. Among the 100 guests this year were Czech Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhánek and several Czech and Slovak diplomats in the US. Not only did the guest of honor Sir Tom Stoppard appear in the live online stream, but Dagmar Havlová also sent greetings from the Czech Republic.
Other famous names also graced the gala evening. The star-studded line-up included acclaimed and award-winning American actress Christine Baranski, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and President of the PEN Club of America Ayad Akhtar, Polish journalist and former dissident Adam Michnik and others. In addition, the audience gave special applause to Belarusian poet Dmitri Strotsev. Mr. Strotsev was this year’s recipient of the Disturbing the Peace Award to a Courageous Writer at Risk by the Václav Havel Library Foundation.
The program included excerpts from Tom Stoppard’s play Rock ‘n’ Roll, as well as Václav Havel’s Largo Desolato. Michael Sexton, director of the New York Public Shakespeare Initiative The specially adapted production was directed by Michael Sexton, director of The Public Shakespeare Initiative in New York. He produced the staged readings in collaboration with his theatre colleagues – actress Nicole Ansari and actors Arian Moayed, Ken Marks, Michael Braun, and Peter Francis James.