Sept. 20, 1996

Satire on bureaucracy opens Inge Theatre Series

Vaclav Havel's satiric commentary on bureaucracy, The Memorandum is the opening production in KU's William Inge Memorial Theatre Series. Performances are at 8 p.m. Oct. 3 to 6 and 8 to 12 in the Inge Theatre in Murphy Hall.

Director Rick Jones, Lawrence doctoral student in theatre, calls the play a "farcical tragedy, ... an indictment of anything and everything that puts fetters on the human spirit."

Written in 1966 and aimed specifically at Czechoslovakia in the 1960s, the play is a "hilarious parody of bureaucratic silliness and recognizable by anyone who has ever held a job, registered for college classes or applied for a driver's license," Jones said.

In the play, the central character heads an unnamed government agency. After authorizing the circumvention of a silly office regulation, he is half blackmailed, half cajoled into approving a new synthetic language called Ptydepe.

"Although it is supposed to make communication more efficient," Jones said, "Ptydepe mandates that every word must differ from every other word by at least 60 percent of its letters. Words are also assigned to concepts by the relative frequency of their use. The more often a word is used, the shorter it is, so the word `whatever' is the shortest in the language, `ng,' and the word for `wombat' has 319 letters."

Although the play was written more than 30 years ago, Jones said Havel's "indictments of bureaucracy, of the irrational quest for rationality, and, most important, of moral cowardice, apply to every person in every society."

Havel, president of the Czech Republic, was dramaturg and resident playwright at the Balustrade Theatre in Prague when he wrote this play.

Joining Jones on the production team for The Memorandum are Alan Yeong, Lawrence graduate student, scenic and lighting designer, and Branka Grubor, Chanute senior, costume designer.

Tickets are on sale at the KU box offices. Tickets are $8 for the public, $4 for KU students and $7 for other students and senior citizens.


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