When I visited New York in September I heard nothing but praise for the work of the city’s Czech Center in recent years. Much of the credit for this belongs to Barbara Karpetová, its tireless director, whose tenure is now coming to a close. The Czech Center is located in the magnificent Bohemian National Hall on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. When we spoke at its well-stocked, stylish library, I asked Karpetová who the institution’s visitors tended to be.
Karel Gott is unquestionably one of the most successful figures in the history of Czech show business. Over the course of his career, spanning over six decades, he collected more than 40 Golden Nightingales Awards as the country’s most popular singer and recorded over 100 albums. At the age of 79, Karel Gott is still going strong. He has successfully overcome cancer to return on stage and release a new album.
You may be surprised to hear that one of the events to mark the hundredth anniversary of the foundation of Czechoslovakia was held at the Faculty of Divinity at Cambridge University in Britain. On October 29 a plaque was unveiled commemorating a secret academic link set up between the university and Czechoslovakia at the height of normalisation in the 1980s. Czech and Slovak students who found themselves unable to go to university because they or their families were out of favour with the communist regime were given the opportunity to study secretly
David Kraus’s administration building in Strančice won this year’s annual Czech architecture award. The building was praised by an international jury for its regional uniqueness and received the prize on Monday at a ceremony, in Prague’s Forum Karlín. The design, along with the winners of partner prizes, will be shown at special exhibitions in Prague and Brno.
Taking advantage of relative liberalisation at home, the young Václav Havel visited New York in the spring of 1968 for the US premiere of his second major play, The Memorandum. It was staged by the Public Theater, which had just had a huge hit with Hair and was headed by director Joseph Papp. He and his wife Gail Papp got to know Havel at that time – and later visited the then dissident at his country home in communist Czechoslovakia.
The Archa Theatre in Prague is renowned as a space where artists and companies from around the world meet and cooperate on projects ranging from contemporary dance, theatre, music, film and multimedia performance. The theatre’s similarly eclectic band in residence – the Allstar Refjúdží Band – emerged a decade ago as part of an Archa project to tell the stories of some refugees in the Czech Republic, in part through their own music.
Novelist and screenwriter Martina Forman settled in the United States in the 1990s after meeting her husband, the great film director Miloš Forman. When we spoke at her apartment overlooking Central Park, the conversation took in her life between New York and Connecticut, her twin sons’ connection to all things Czech, and her husband, who passed away in April at the age of 86. But I first asked Martina Forman about her early days in America.