She has played almost everything on screen, from Pope Joan to terrorist, and now Johanna Wokalek is working in a Berlin theater for the first time. We meet the 48-year-old actress in the canteen of the Berliner Ensemble, before the premiere of "I dreamed the night" by director Andrea Breth. The two have known each other for a long time and have celebrated great success together at the Burgtheater in Vienna.
Wokalek has also worked for the theater with greats such as Luc Bondy, Peter Zadek, Thomas Vinterberg and Pina Bausch, and her breakthrough in cinema came with films such as “Aimée
Johanna Wokalek talks to WELT about her dreams and explains why the theater is a special experience for her.
WORLD: Johanna Wokalek, everyone dreams at night, not everyone remembers in the morning. What do you remember?
Johanna Wokalek: They are mostly concrete scenes. Maybe it's more the early half-awake dreams. I might help stage them a bit myself and design them, so I remember them particularly well. There's also something theatrical about it. I am then the director of my own dreams, without consciously knowing it.
WORLD: A dream stage, like you do with Andrea Breth in "I dreamed the night" in the Berliner Ensemble?
Wokalek: I've known Andrea Breth for a long time and in all previous work I've always had the feeling that dreams are a big topic for her. It didn't surprise me that she chose the theme for this evening, which she builds, designs and creates with us. It's a big but nice challenge for the stage, because there's something floating about dreams. We are aware of dreaming, but it is not as grounded as when we are awake. Floating has a great fascination for me and it is very appealing to make it tangible for the spectators.
WORLD: Also nightmares? They frighten us, but can be inspirational for art, if you think of Frank Kafka's literature or Surrealist painting.
Wokalek: The dream enlarges the imagination, the nightmare enlarges the dark fantasies. Extremes appear, in the feelings and the scenes. It can be love and beauty, but it can also be fear and terror. It is the same when writers write down or painters draw. This is actually the almost impossible attempt to objectify or visualize an inner image and an inner feeling. That is also our task in “I dreamed the night”, also the great attraction.
Andrea Breth designed the dream image that we show together on stage with us. We make it come alive, also with the help of the great pianist Adam Benzwi. Music reaches us like dreaming before we speak, it hits us emotionally straight away. The music carries us through the evening, which is like a fine fabric - a dream construct of music, light, costume, language and images.
WORLD: You have been working with Andrea Breth for over 20 years. What do you appreciate about her and the collaboration?
Wokalek: Andrea Breth is incredibly humorous. She also has a great imagination. And she also understands my imagination and gives it space, which makes it particularly beautiful. It is a great effort of hers - and also of ours - to bring something like poetry to life. It's not easy in this noisy and demanding world. That doesn't exclude everyday life, but it doesn't reflect it in a day-to-day political way. We want to question reality through our world of poetry and reflect it differently.
WORLD: "I have a dream" is the famous saying of Martin Luther King. What about the political dreams?
Wokalek: We always have to keep dreams alive, that's essential for our existence. These are the political, the poetic and the personal, it's part of being human. Let's see what dreams we can fulfill for ourselves or for others, maybe they are unattainable, but we have to dream. And, like Martin Luther King, there are dreams for many and others that are meant for just one person.
WORLD: You recently worked with Pina Bausch in the theater, and you will also appear as a commissioner in the "Polizeiruf 110" in the future. Is that a contradiction?
Wokalek: In „Sisi
WORLD: The stage has a place. It's your first time in a theater in Berlin, isn't it?
Wokalek: We were invited to the Theatertreffen with the Burgtheater, so I know the Berlin audience a little bit. Apart from that it's my first time on a stage here, I'm looking forward to the full house, the audience and the reactions. I'm curious whether there are any differences with my many years of experience in Vienna. After all, people are connected to the area they come from and their history. Vienna and Berlin are completely different cities and mentalities.
WORLD: You recently worked with Pina Bausch in the theater, and you will also appear as a commissioner in the "Polizeiruf 110" in the future. Is that a contradiction? You took on the role of Verena Altenberger in the Munich police call. The first episode has already been filmed and will be broadcast later this year. Do you like crime films?
Wokalek: I love genre films that are narratively and visually sophisticated. What I'm looking forward to most about “Polizeiruf 110” is the diversity, the different authors, directors and actors with whom you work. And every time you want to make the best of it. These are great encounters. Art is about exchange, which always creates something different. I look forward to that every time.