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Werich and His Passion for All the Things Good

on November 11, 2019

Prague Theater Scene

You might not know this, but Prague lives and breathes theater and I don’t mean only classical dramas or operas. Alternative scenes like Dejvické or Žižkovské divadlo literally pulsate with life and feed hungry souls starving for culture.

Jan Werich

One of the most influential personalities of the 20th century theater and cinema was undoubtedly Mr Jan Werich. Czech version of Ernest Hemingway – at least when it comes to the appearance.

Beginnings

But you cannot really talk about Mr Werich unless you mention his lifelong friend and acting partner Mr Voskovec, thus the abbreviation V + W.  They started a theater together in 1920s in Prague, at the time of cultural boom of the freshly created First Czechoslovak Republic. It was also a time when art had a meaning as it touched upon serious political and social events.

Fascism

In 1933 they wrote a play called “Ass and Shadow” (by “ass” I mean the animal) where they openly criticized growing fascism in Europe and replaced ass’s voice with the one of Adolf Hitler. This triggered outraged reactions among Nazi sympathizers who started causing trouble and bullied the two.

America

Eventually V + W had to flee to America where they struggled for 6 long years at the end of which they finally made it to Broadway and acted in Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ as many as 100 times.

End of War

When the WW2 ended, Mr Voskovec stayed in America. He dedicated his life to creative pursuits and even starred in the American film ‘12 Angry Men’. While Mr Werich returned to Czechoslovakia where he wrote and acted in several movies.

ABC Theater

Mr Werich became the director of ABC theater in Prague, but all was not well, as communist censorship started sticking nose in his creative efforts. That was supposedly one of his biggest regrets – losing creative freedom and as a result, inability to make more films.

The Films

The ones he filmed, however, made history and are undisputed gems in Czech cinematography. For instance: The Emperor and the Golem, which is an in-depth journey into alchemist Prague full of legends and colorful characters.  The film is based on one of V + W theater plays inspired by the legend of Golem. Worth mentioning is Werich’s dual role in the film, where he impersonated Rudolf II as well as his own underling Matej.

The Villa

Mr Werich spend the rest of his life in Villa at Kampa – an island in the Vltava river in central Prague on the side of Malá Strana. And luckily for his admirers, the Villa has been recently opened for the public. As it turned out, this place has a several centuries long intriguing history and many stories to tell. Nowadays, you can find a replica of Golem in the cellar.

The Cafe

The ground floor offers If Café that serves modern take on traditional desserts. And yes, Mr Werich was known for being a gourmet, especially when it came to… well, almost everything. He liked fishing, cigars, chequered shirts, worn-out slippers, a glass of good wine and a good company.

Favorite Dishes

He was a master when it came to cooking and dining. Among his favorites were fish lightly seasoned with caraway seeds, icy cold Pilsner beer, cracklings pancakes made by his housekeeper or cholent: a traditional Jewish stew made of meat, potatoes, beans and barley and cooked for over 12 hours.

The Kitchen

During his life, a big kitchen dominated the house as he often invited friends for a meal. A lot of them just stopped by to have a chat because Mr Werich had a unique gift to tell stories. He liked to share them with the visitors who would gladly listen to his soothing voice for hours.

The Stories

He surely had a lot to tell as he acted all over the world from New York to Hollywood, Chicago and Russia, traveled to France, Italy and met all kinds of people including several presidents and other personalities.

The Cook

In his later days he hired a housekeeper who took care of the housework and would cook his favorite meals, which you’ll find some recipes for in the villa – you can even peek into his supposed pantry.

Go There!

In the attic of the house there’s a small stage now, where various performances and cultural events take place. Anyone can visit or at least taste a delicious dessert from the If Café downstairs!

by  | Apr 6, 2018 |