Thursday, August 28, 2008

Halka Kaiserova, Consul General for the Czech Republic in New York

Halka Kaiserova, the Consul General for the Czech Republic in New York, is ending her term here at the end of this week. The ending is premature, in my opinion, not to delve too deeply into Czech politics. I can say that during her tenure here she has been a great ambassador for the Czech people and a great friend to theater, and I will be sorry to see her leave her post.

Halka (it seems awkward for me to say Ms. Kaiserova, for I feel over time we have become friends) took her post shortly before the Havel Festival, and she was, from the very beginning, an enthusiastic and active advocate for our festival. She has reason to be attached to Havel--she is an old member of his administration and she was a participant, from the very beginning, in the protests that led to the Velvet Revolution. She is also knowledgeable and experienced in theater. We could not have asked for a better match.

She arranged the launch party for the festival on Havel's birthday. It was the first major use of the Bohemian National Hall, which will officially open, finally, this October. The trek to open the building has been a long and hard one, but that first day was greatly celebratory and a wonderful way to begin the Havel Festival. She provided Czech food and a space and we provided what entertainment we could - music, video, and some live performance. Czech television came and broadcast the event on primetime. It was an amazing introduction to the Czech community, which continued to be supportive throughout.

Once Havel had arrived, she scheduled his appearances at the theater and accompanied him each time (he came on nine occasions). She also attended on her own, sometimes with her husband Petr Kaiser, who works at the United Nations and has been a great support throughout as well. I still remember the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution where she, Havel, Madeleine Albright, Ambassador Martin Palous, and many others crowded into the tiny Brick Theater to see a production of Temptation, directed by Ian W. Hill. Afterwards they all stayed, drank with us, and made speeches. Halka translated for me as Havel declared that there was no place he would rather spend the anniversary of the Revolution. It was the highlight of the whole festival, for me. I have included a photo of Havel and Trey Kay, the leader of the band playing...Halka is not seen, of course. Her work was most always behind the scenes.

Since the time of the festival, Halka has consistently advocated for us, and we in turn have been excited to continue to explore Czech theater. It has been her welcoming spirit, in part, that has really encouraged the company to concentrate on promoting the Czech Republic here in New York. I love the Czechs, but when I say that I mean of course I love those Czechs I have met like Halka, who have warm, generous spirits and open hearts. Who have great intellectual curiosity and enthusiasm for the arts.

Halka is not the only one I have met to have these qualities, far from it, but she is one of the outstanding examples. I wish her luck in her future pursuits, and I am sure that wherever she is posted she will continue to bring her intelligence, energy, and heart.

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