The Velvet Oratorio
An Interview with Edward Einhorn

Indie Theater Now asked Edward Einhorn a few questions about his play The Velvet Oratorio.

What real person/event is the subject of this play, and why did you select this?

This oratorio commemorates the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. That in itself would be a reason to perform it, but modern events have truly shown the relevance and resonance of the revolution: from the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, to the student protests in Hong Kong, to all the complicated revolutions of the Arab Spring. This is a revolution that succeeded, and it is worth examining why. It is also worth acknowledging that no success is a final success and that running a country well is a complicated prospect.

What’s the playwright’s obligation as a reporter of fact? How do you figure out what’s actually “true” (or can you even do that)? Can stretching/shaping the facts ever be justified?

I have confronted that question a few time. I use a lot of found text here, so that is "true", though of course I select the text. In the end, this is just my perspective on the event, and I do this the work acknowledges it as such. It cuts between the major events and rallies, which are very documented, to obviously fictional moments in which I follow the actions of one single fictional character.

What kinds of research did you do in the creation of this play? What sources did you consult – books, movies, memoirs, websites, etc.?

I consulted books and newspapers, as well as primary documents such as speech transcripts, manifestos, etc. I also interviewed many people who were present during the revolution.

Did your feelings about this topic change as you created this play? If so, in what way? What did you learn about yourself in this process?

I learned how even those leading the revolution were in the grip of events that were beyond their prediction and control. For the average person in Czechoslovakia, it seemed unlikely that the revolution would succeed, until suddenly, it seemed obvious that it would. I learned how difficult it is to see beneath the surface even when you are intimately acquainted with the circumstances.

Is there a particular playwriting school/style/genre that you particularly subscribe to? If you had to describe the style of this play in just a few words, what would you say?

Vaclav Havel is a student of the Theater of the Absurd, and I used his absurdism in my work, which deliberately echoes his. It is also based on the oratorio style of Stravinsky and others of his era.

posted December 3, 2014