Ines and Ana Novacic, two Serbian-born, Dublin-dwelling sisters who founded Dublin’s newest production company, Tokyo Blue, are alluring, debonair, and just plain cool. With dark hair, striking features and effortlessly edgy ensembles, these young and beautiful sisters stand out in the sea of fair-skinned, light-eyed Dubliners. But not for their exotic looks alone. It only took a few minutes of casual conversation with the Novacic sisters for me to realize that this was a duo of exceptionally talented girls with big dreams and an ambition and drive to be reckoned with. They both studied at Trinity College—Ines in the field of English and Ana in Russian literature—where they cultivated a mutual love and appreciation of theatre. After working on several shows with the Trinity Players, they decided to take the plunge and create their own production company, despite their lack of any formal education in the field of theatre; thus, Tokyo Blue was born—Ines as the producer and Ana, the director. With sky-high aspirations and open minds, the girls commenced Tokyo Blue’s first project: an original theatrical adaptation of the Russian novel The Master & Margarita, quite an ambitious undertaking for these entirely self-taught young ladies. After one full year of unparalleled perseverance, the girls had created a script they were thrilled with. But with no formal training in scriptwriting, how would the script fare in the big leagues, among trained playwrights and theatre connoisseurs? Evidently, exceptionally well. For the Novacic sisters, their experience with the Trinity Players and innate brilliance and passion for the theatre more than sufficed for them to create a script that wowed its readers. The Samuel Beckett theatre accepted it with open arms. Cue the incipience of Tokyo Blue’s debut production: an original adaptation of The Master & Margarita, which premieres this Friday, July 8th at the Samuel Beckett Theatre.
Why did you choose this book, in particular, for your first production?
Ana: I read the book in school, and completely fell in love with it.
Ines: So then I stole it, read it, and fell in love with it too. We each read it once more, and just couldn’t get it out of our minds. It is so exciting because although it is one of the great novels, it is not very well-known in Dublin, which means we are exploring unfamiliar territory. It is so great, but so unfamiliar as well.
Ana: Which makes it daunting, but all the more exciting.
Ines: It’s really a perfect first piece for us because this play premiering here in Dublin really represents the whole concept of “East meets West,” which is what we are all about. I find the lack of Eastern literature in the Western world quite appalling and a shame because Ireland has such a rich literary history. So one of our greatest goals is to bring great literature from the Eastern world to the Western world and popularize it.
So what is the book about? What are the main themes and ideas that you explore?
Ines: I would say one of the main themes is the relationship between art and society and the artist and society. And then there is the whole allegorical aspect to it, involving the devil, who represents Stalin. This taps into the whole question of human values and the image that humanity projects itself to be. When the devil arrives, he plays to peoples’ weaknesses and exposes their innate, raw humanity as their virtuosity essentially crumbles around them.
What was the writing process like?
Ana: It was a huge challenge turning a book of this weight and significance into an hour and a half long play with a clear, understandable plot.
Ines: We started with the dialogue, read it out loud to each other, and edited from there.
Ana: It definitely helped to have someone there to reaffirm what should be kept and what should be cut. When creating a script, we learned that it is so important to never be married to anything because things change all the time. It was a challenge at times to accept that what we envisioned in our minds was not always how it would play out on stage, but that is such an important part of the learning process.
Tell me a little bit more about Tokyo Blue. Why choose now to start a production company?
Ana: Why not now? We are both leaving Dublin at the end of the summer, so I think that played a big part in our decision to start Tokyo Blue now. We wanted to go out with a bang.
Ines: Once we had the idea for the company and Master & Margarita, we couldn’t not do it. If you put your mind to something, at least in our case, that’s it. You have to do it. We live in the mindset that whatever you do, you can always do better, so for us, this was the necessary next step in our careers and in our lives.
What is it like for you two to work together as sisters?
Ines: It is fantastic because we are so, so different. We have such different strengths but similar interests, so we complement each other perfectly. She’s the creative one, and I’m the more organizational one. But even though we are so completely different, nobody knows me half as well as Ana, and I think that closeness is what makes us work so well together.
Do you ever fight?
Ines: Oh of course. We want to kill each other every day, but it’s always expected, so it lasts for like five minutes and then we’re done.
What has been the best thing about the process for you thus far?
Ana: For me, as the director, the best thing by far is to see the actors enjoying the rehearsals and growing and loving the show in the same way we do. We’ve learned that you really get what you give, and we have given so much of ourselves to this show, that it is so amazing to get so much back from the actors.
Ines: It’s also nice to be able to actually sit and watch the show. That can be really stressful too, but for the most part, it’s great to watch it all come together.
What’s the most unexpected thing that has arisen?
Ana: You know, in this industry, you really have to learn to expect the unexpected. It’s all about learning from experience and being flexible, so even when “unexpected” things do arise, they’re not really all that unexpected.
Ines: The other thing is, you have to learn that you can’t control everything. Prior to this show, we were used to having to do everything—the lights, the costumes, all of it. But now, we have costumers and lighting designers to do those things, so it’s been difficult letting go of some of that control but also incredibly nice and rewarding to watch it all come together so beautifully.
At the end of the summer, Ines plans to enroll at Columbia University in New York City to study documentary journalism, while Ana is jet-setting off to Milan to study art. Is she concerned about the language barrier? Well, that would be a non-issue since she spent the last year teaching herself Italian. I know; these girls do it all. So what’s next for Tokyo Blue? They’re not exactly sure. But they already have ideas marinating in their minds that will likely come to realization next summer. What they are certain of is that this is only the beginning of Tokyo Blue.
Ines: We will constantly be working on our next project. It’s not as if we are putting it on hold for the year until next summer.
Ana: No, not at all. We are constantly thinking about what we want to do next and tossing ideas around.
Ines: If you have the passion for it, which we absolutely do, you can’t just forget about it. I can’t wait to see what’s next for us.
Neither can I. In my opinion, I think they should just go straight to conquering the world.
Master & Margarita plays at The Samuel Beckett Theatre 8-10th July @ 7:30pm with an additional performance 9th July @ 2:30pm.
To support Tokyo Blue’s production of Master & Margarita visit http://www.fundit.ie/project/master-and-margarita and receive exciting rewards with your donation.
For more information about the show, visit http://www.tcd.ie/Drama/samuel-beckett-theatre/events/index.php
Words Laura Burdine