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News > In Conversation about “V+W: The Letters”

In Conversation about “V+W: The Letters”

BBLA 20 September, 2017

Theatre on the Balustrade (Divadlo Na zabradli) presents “V+W: The Letters” at the Rehearsal for Truth Theater Festival taking place in New York at Bohemian National Hall. The text of the performance is drawn from the correspondence of Jiri Voskovec and Jan Werich, the legendary founders of the Liberated Theatre in Prague, who had to flee fascist Europe and then separated in 1948 after the communist government got into power in Czechoslovakia. Their correspondence is a strong statement of life by two extraordinarily original and artistically mature personalities as they seek to understand a bipolar world full of iron curtains and cold wars. These letters are invaluable evidence of the intellectual and spiritual world of V+W and they are also the top literary work in Jiri Voskovec’s postwar period. “The form of abbreviation, short connections, theatrical allusions, plus the private codes and brilliant stylization, unbelievable addressing and signing” – these are the apt words the critics used to describe the correspondence.


We caught up with Jan Mikulasek (director), Dora Vicenikova (dramaturgy) and Anezka Kubatova (cast member – Zdenicka), to give us a little insight into the creation and inspiration for the production.



What is your role in the production and how long have you been part of this show?

Dora Vicenikova: I selected the letters from Voskovec and Werich for the script, about thirty pages, and asked the director Jan Mikulasek to direct. Everything else was a cooperation between me, Jan, stage designers Marek Cpin and Svatopluk Sladecek. The specific style of acting was discovered together with actors. They played an important role in creating the work during the rehearsals.


Jan Mikulasek: I have directed the show, but now it’s living its own life and I only make sure that its form doesn’t move too much from its original.

Anezka Kubatova: I mainly play the part of Zdenicka, the wife of Jan Werich. In some short passages, I represent Ann, the seriously ill first wife of Jiri Voskovec, and then hyperbolically also his second wife Christine.


What or who was the inspiration for the creation of this production?
Jan: The main source of inspiration were the letters between Voskovec and Werich, their lives and work.


What is the core political issue you are grappling with in the play?
Jan: Every ideology that separates instead connects, that builds fences and borders instead of taking them down, is dangerous and inhuman. Such an ideology prevented Werich and Voskovec from being and working together. However, our performance is not political, it speaks mainly about a very strong friendship that survived the obstacles and cruelties of that time.


How do you think Vaclav Havel still influences theater creation in Europe?
Jan: Vaclav Havel was a unique playwright; nevertheless, for today’s Europe his moral and political legacy is more important.

Who are your mentors? Where do you draw on your inspiration to create your work?
Jan: My role models are directors whose works are dominated by visual elements and who do not stick to the realistic theater. I look for inspiration also in film and visual arts. I work closely with stage designer Marek Cpin, who encourages my imagination, and then there are always the actors who inspire me.


What is your favorite moment in the show?
Jan: I like the parts where actors manage to tell serious themes through playful clown humor.

Anezka: There are many moments like that. I like the closing scene when Werich and Voskovec are sitting together, connected by life-long friendship, bent under worries, years, yet singing together, each in a slightly different key. 

Can you tell me a little about the chosen visual style of your production?     
Dora: The visual style is partly motivated by the avant-garde style of the 1920s, partly by the topic of the piece - the absurd separation of the World.
Jan: The acting is inspired by clown acting, movement and speech are highly stylized.

What are you most looking forward to about coming to New York City to perform?  
Dora: I’m happy that this text about the separation of the biggest friends will resonate in a country where Jiri Voskovec spent the second part of his life.
Anezka: I’m really looking forward to coming to New York! Experiencing the atmosphere of the city, seeing skyscrapers, jazz clubs, Manhattan.


>> see trailer of the production

Bohemian Benevolent & Literary AssociationHospodaThe National Czech and Slovak MuseumAmerican Friends of the Czech RepublicCzech CenterConsulate General