Henry Akona | Director and Composer

Recent Production:

Václav Havel’s Hunt for a Pig

3LD Art + Technology Center
Directed by Henry Akona
March 2014

Described as an “operetta cum banquet,” by the New York Times, Václav Havel needs a pig to cook for a party with his dissident friends. An American journalist arrives for an interview. The villagers have a pig to sell, but where is it? And why is everyone singing The Bartered Bride? Food, drink, song, video and politics collide in this theatrical celebration. Get tickets

Text by Václav Havel
Adapted for the stage by Vladimír Morávek
With music from The Bartered Bride by Bedřich Smetana
Arranged and orchestrated by Henry Akona
Translation and additional text by Edward Einhorn

CRITICS’ PICK! When I left the 3LD Art & Technology Center the other night, I had half of a pulled-pork sandwich in my pocket, and Vaclav Havel was dancing around the room, singing a rambunctious version of the Velvet Underground’s “I’m Waiting for the Man” to live accompaniment. Such are the happy vagaries of a New York theater critic’s life. I was often adrift in the narrative ... This drifting was frustrating at moments but also felt purposeful, a structural reminder of the subterfuge required by dissident writers working against and within a society ruled by an oppressive bureaucratic regime. (These structural reminders worked on a more sophisticated level than some of the more explicit commentaries on Communism, though the Cold War material feels all too relevant given the evolving situation in Ukraine.) In such a world, simple tasks like, say, acquiring a pig, become maddening farces. Transactions are like song and dance routines, and so, of course, much of the action in “The Pig” is actual song and dance, offering mercurial yet robust shifts in tone. The New York Times

When is a traditional Czech pig roast just a pig roast? And when is it something more, perhaps an intimation of popular revolution? The Pig folk-dances atop this fine line with a wink and nod throughout its 80 perky minutes. Meanwhile, we spectators take part in the feast—and generate a little Velvet Revolution–style people power—by enjoying Slovak pork sandwiches and Czech beers. It’s an exacting and purposeful project, and we can hear echoes of Havel’s distress today from Cairo to Kiev. The Village Voice

On Friday night, I attended an extraordinary play at the 3LD Art & Technology Center, deep in Lower Manhattan. I have called it a play — but that is not exactly the right word. It’s a theatrical production, in any case. With lots of music. ... Everyone does everything in this show. Cast members act, but they also play instruments, sing, and dance. This was a goofy, charming, weird, and also serious evening. National Review

Wonderfully directed by Henry Akona, the production incorporates multi-media in heightened artistic expression. The innovative and interesting forms elevate and enrich the themes culminating in an empathetic celebration of freedom. The musicians/dancers/actors/artists/technicians ingeniously employ their talents in these forms to create a unique and transformative experience for the audience. United psychically, the audience and players collaborate in the jubilee. It is as if they are participating in a necessary cultural revolution, creating their own inner moments of reform for our time in our country.

By adapting the play using all the forms of artistic expression in this production, Henry Akona, Edward Einhorn and the incredibly talented production team and ensemble are not only shouting out Havel’s legacy, they are reminding us of our own. They are encouraging the expression of our inner drive toward independence and self-definition through the arts, innovation and interactive media. They are urging us to establish and maintain a cultural and political unity between and among enlightened artists, innovators, techies, writers, dancers, musicians, singers, cabaret stylists, indeed anyone who manifests his or her expression of independence and freedom through any medium, modality or tool. BlogCritics

I will do my best to convey my enthusiasm, but this show is one of the most enveloping, joyful productions of anything I have ever seen, which is a strange thing to say about a thinly-veiled critique of Soviet policies. [It] at times feels more like a celebration than a night at the theater. Despite the heady subtext, The Pig revels in its absurdist comedy and uses the mechanics of 3LD to magnificent effect. The ensemble is phenomenal, injecting the show with boundless energy. They sing, they dance, and they wield musical instruments like Robin Hood wielded a bow and arrow.

What makes The Pig shine more than anything else, more than the food, more than the comedy, more than the music, is love. You can feel in this show the great love that Havel had for his friends, his country, and his art as well as the love he inspired in others. That love is infectious and left me feeling fuller than any delicious Langos wrap ever could. Theater is Easy

In the play, Havel is the unwilling hero/fool/optimist thrust into the spotlight by trying to a simple deed for the local townsfolk. To say much more about this theatrical work would spoil the layers uncovered in song, dance, re-enactment, and vaudevillian puns sprinkled throughout the work. [S]pecial attention must be given to director Henry Akona, who brilliantly weaves all of these seemingly-disparate elements together for a smooth evening of feast, music, theatre, and dance. New York Theatre Review

A lower ticket price is offered for seating only, but if I were you, I’d spring for the food. The pulled pork is thoroughly delicious. It’s the downtown version of dinner theatre, a thoroughly original and unexpected treat. The cast is delightful, whether striking world-weary cabaret poses, acting out Havel’s little black joke of a story, joining their voices in lush operatic harmony, or partying on to the tunes of Lou Reed. Henry Akona’s direction imposes a welcome discipline on a program that could all too easily have descended into chaos. As a kind of mini-festival celebrating Havel and the circumstances that shaped him, The Pig wraps up food, drink, music, and politics into a memorable one-of-a-kind experience. Lighting and Sound Magazine

Technological innovators 3LD turn Vaclav Havel’s final play into an immersive and thoroughly enjoyable experience in their production of The Pig. … With the Kremlin once again sending troops to invade its neighbors, this comedy/musical could not be more timely. Flavorpill

[B]ackground isn’t necessary if you just want to enjoy The Pig as a piece of absurdist theater that integrates an entertaining musical score, dinner from Korzo, Czech beer and chocolate, and a live-feed broadcasting elements of the production on the four walls surrounding the stage and audience. … We had a lot of fun at this show. Maxamoo

I almost didn’t go as I was suffering with a stomach bug. But such is the magic of theatre that I felt no pain until the short hour show was over. It’s more a shaggy pig story than shaggy dog. ... This was such a fun, joyous show that it was hard to believe this was written in such a totalitarian government. It only got serious toward the end. I loved this. Hi Drama


The Velvet Oratorio

In honor of the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution
Directed by Henry Akona
November 2014

A retelling of the Velvet Revolution through text, music, and scenes inspired by Václav Havel’s Vaněk plays. The libretto draws upon U.S. State Department documents and corresponding Czechoslovak and Soviet documents and interviews with journalists, diplomats, and ordinary people who were in the streets of Prague in November 1989. Purchase the libretto.

Libretto by Edward Einhorn
Music by Henry Akona
Dramaturgy by Karen Lee Ott