The art of playing patriot: The polish stardom of Helena Modjeska
When Helena Modrzejewska, Poland's premier actress, quit the Warsaw Imperial Theaters in 1876 for a year's leave of absence in the United States, she secretly planned an English-language debut in San Francisco, a sophisticated yet less demanding theatre town than New York. Her triumph under the Americanized name of Modjeska at the California Theater in August 1877 led to almost three decades of American stardom and critical acclaim as the greatest American Shakespearean actress of her day. Yet American and Polish theatre historians have yet to analyze how this accomplished player managed a bi-national career up until her death in 1909. Modjeska did not abandon Poland for America, but discovered that the United States best served her professional and patriotic aims, garnering her greater fame and fortune as an English-language performer and enabling her national service in advertising Polish artistic genius abroad and underwriting Polish theatre at home. This essay explores how Modjeska retained and enhanced her Polish stardom by distancing herself from her homeland and perfecting both overseas and incountry modes of playing the faithful patriot. © 2010 by The Johns Hopkins University Press.
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