Czech visual artist, puppeteer, director, and teacher. By the time Jan Dvořák had graduated from a school of applied arts in Jablonec nad Nisou as an engraver he had already been connected with the puppet theatre for several years. In 1951, he was hired as a puppeteer in the Prague Divadlo Spejbla a Hurvínka (Spejbl and Hurvínek Theatre) where he distinguished himself as a stage director, visual artist, and technician. In 1957, he became one of the key members of the Salamandr company that contributed to the revitalization of Czech puppet theatre, in particular by introducing the technique of black light theatre during a cabaret show in 1957.
From 1964 to 1985, Jan Dvořák was the director of the Východočeské loutkové divadlo DRAK (Eastern Bohemian Puppet Theatre DRAK; see Divadlo DRAK). Under his leadership, DRAK returned to the works of the traditional folk repertoire, such as Posvícení v Hudlicích (The Fair in Hudlice), Faust, and in 1975 an interesting Czech-Slovak-Polish international project, Jánošík. His astute managerial skills brought into the company eminent artists that included Miroslav Vildman and Josef Krofta. Jan Dvořák also directed puppet films such as Loupežníci na Chlumu (Robbers at Chlum, 1969) and Ali Baba a 40 loupežníků (Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, 1967).
Jan Dvořák took part in founding the Muzeum loutkářských kultur, Chrudim (Chrudim Puppetry Museum). He illustrated children’s books and collaborated with foreign theatres in Belgium, Germany, and Hungary. His pedagogical contribution to Czech puppet theatre is extensive. He taught, since 1954, in the Department of Puppetry of the Academy of Performing Arts – Divadelní fakulta Akademie múzických umění or DAMU – in Prague and, from 1981, with the Institut International de la Marionnette in Charleville-Mézières, France.
Jan Dvořák led many workshops with Czech and foreign amateur puppeteers. His articles have appeared in the journals Československý loutkář (Czechoslovak Puppeteer) and Loutkář (Puppeteer). He popularized manipulation techniques and the various types of plays using puppets. From 1980 to 1988, he was a member of the Executive Committee of UNIMA.
(See Czech Republic.)
- Dvořák, Jan. Bylo nebylo [Once Upon a Time]. Loutkář [Puppeteer]. Nos. 2-9, 1995; Nos. 11-12, 1996; Nos. 1-5, 8-12, 1997.
- Dvořák, Jan V. Herectví s loutkou [The Art of Playing with Puppets]. Praha: NIPOS, 1997.
- Dvořák, Jan V. Zahrajte si divadélko [Play the Theatre]. Praha: Orbis, 1955.