Arts news, New memorial of Voskovec and Werich

Jiri Voskovec and Jan Werich

Welcome to this week's Arts. In today's edition: Prague pays its debt to the unforgettable duo of Czech comedians Jan Werich and Jiri Voskovec, as a proper gravestone has been raised at last at the Olsanske cemetery in Prague above their graves. More on that a little later on, but first we start with the arts news.

Franz Kafka Society awards Peter Nadas

The Hungarian writer and Nobel Prize winner Peter Nadas was awarded the Franz Kafka literary prize on Wednesday. The prize was established two years ago by the Franz Kafka Society and it is the only international honour awarded in the Czech Republic to outstanding contemporary writers from around the world. The first winner of the Franz Kafka Prize was the American author Philip Roth. Last year the award went to Ivan Klima, a Czech writer whose books have been translated into many languages. Together with the prize Peter Nadas received a bronze statuette - a miniature of a Franz Kafka monument by sculptor Jaroslav Rona which should be raised in December in Prague's Old Town close to the Spanish Synagogue.

Theatre Na Fidlovacce celebrates fifth birthday

On Tuesday, the Prague theatre Na Fidlovacce marked the fifth anniversary of its reopening. It had been brought back to life thanks to a foundation bearing the same name. The theatre, located in the Prague district of Nusle, had been closed since 1978 and the building had fallen into some disrepair. In the mid-1990s, Prague actors Eliska Balzerova and Tomas Toepfer started a foundation to raise money to renovate the decrepit theatre; the eventual cost of renovation was 53 million crowns. Since the reopening five years ago, the theatre Na Fidlovacce has staged 27 premieres.

The original theatre was built by its first director, Stanislav Langer, in 1921. At first it focused on serious drama but later the repertoire turned toward operetta and musical.

Czech musicians to hold concert against Communist Party

Czech musicians are planning to hold a concert to voice their objections to the Communist Party. A recent poll suggests that support for the communists has been growing, something singers like David Koller of the rock band Lucie find unacceptable. The concert will be held on November 18 and it will be called "We don't talk with communists" after a petition of the same name. Among others it will feature singers Jaroslav Hutka, Ivan Hlas and Vlasta Tresnak, and younger bands like Krystof, and The Ecstasy of St Theresa.

Werich and Voskovec have "smiling" gravestone

Friday marks the 23rd anniversary of the death of one of the legends of Czech theatre, film and literature: actor, comedian and writer Jan Werich. Born in 1905, Jan Werich abandoned his law studies and opted for the career of an actor and playwright. Together with friends Jiri Voskovec and Jaroslav Jezek Werich founded the Osvobozene or "Liberated" Theatre in Prague in 1927. Jan Werich and Jiri Voskovec became an inseparable and highly popular duo thanks to their clever humour and sharp criticism of the economic situation of the Great Depression, but also the looming danger of Nazism in neighbouring Germany. After their theatre was banned, Jan Werich, Jiri Voskovec and composer Jaroslav Jezek, escaped to the United States. Jiri Voskovec stayed in the US and continued in his acting career.

After the war, Jar Werich continued the tradition of the Osvobozene divadlo and chose a new partner Miroslav Hornicek. Jan Werich died in 1981, Jiri Voskovec survived him only by a few months. They are buried at the Olsanske Cemetery. The ashes of Jiri Voskovec were brought to Olsany in 1990 and at that time two temporary granite slabs designed by sculptor Vladimir Preclik were installed on the adjoined graves of Jiri Voskovec and the Werich family. However, the "temporary plaques" stayed there for 13 years. The author of the plaques, Vladimir Preclik, decided it was high time to put things right. He describes what the new memorial looks like.

"The main motif is the two letters V and W, or Voskovec and Werich. We are used to that acronym and everybody knows at first sight what it means. I wanted to make a gravestone which would smile for these two giants of thoughtful humour. I designed it that way and sculpted it, too."

Although Mr Preclik worked for free on the monument, the material and transport cost a great deal of money. That's why three foundations supporting artists got together and announced a public collection for the memorial. Three hundred thousand crowns, about one half of the needed amount, was donated by the Prague City Hall. City councillor Igor Nemec.

"Of course, the city is trying to cultivate life in Prague. Prague is a European city of culture. Not only because we have the largest urban conservation area in the world but also because we hold a lot of events, and we remember our artists, such as Voskovec and Werich. I must admit that we felt guilty that there were only the two plaques and not a more decorous memorial - which will be installed there on Friday. Voskovec and Werich will at last have a memorial for which we have been waiting for 23 years."