Vaclav Havel had one of the most extraordinary lives of the 20th century. Born into an intellectually and financially prominent Czech family, he grew up under Communism, wrote plays satirizing totalitarianism, and eventually became the last president of Czechoslovakia and the first president of the Czech Republic.
His life and accomplishments will be honored in Dissident to Statesman - A Celebration of Vaclav Havel on Friday, October 5, 2012, at 6:30 p.m. at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St.
The evening features a Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre performance of Havel's comic play Audience. In this 1975 one-act the dissident brewery worker Vanek (performed by Ry Kinkaid) is called into his boss's office. While explaining that he has been ordered by the Communist Party to keep a close eye on Vanek's activities, the nervous manager (Robert Paisley) downs a half-dozen beers and soon finds himself siding with his uncooperative employee.
The character of Vanek was Havel's on-stage alter ego (the playwright, thrown out of his theater job, once took a position in a brewery). This common-sense fictional Every Man became such an underground phenomenon that other Czech playwrights began incorporating Vanek into their plays.
Prior to the performance, Consul General of the Czech Republic Dana Hunatova discusses Havel's political significance and University of Kansas historian Nathaniel D. Wood explains Havel's literary contributions.
Though for much of his life he was persona non grata with his country's leaders, Havel wrote six books of poetry and more than two dozen plays, many of which were distributed and performed in secret.
Havel's support for human rights was so well known that when the Communism crumbled in the late 1980s, the Czech Federal Assembly unanimously voted to make him president.
He was honored with the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Gandhi Peace Prize, the Philadelphia Liberty Medal, a Four Freedoms Award, and the Ambassador of Conscience Award.
Havel placed fourth in a 2005 global poll of the world's top 100 intellectuals. At the time of his death he was chairman of the New York-based Human Rights Foundation.
Admission is free. A 6 p.m. reception, featuring traditional Czech and Slovak food and drink, precedes the event. RSVP online  or call 816.701.3407. Free parking is available at the Library District Parking Garage at 10th & Baltimore.
Co-sponsored by the Honorary Consul of the Czech Republic, the Honorary Consul of the Slovak Republic, the Czech and Slovak Club of Greater Kansas City, and the Missouri Humanities Council.