Acting Out: Qui pro Quo in the Context of Interwar Warsaw

Published

Journal Article

In the turbulent context of interwar Polish politics, a period bookended by the right-wing nationalists' repression of an ethnically heterogeneous state, several popular high-quality cabarets persisted in Warsaw even as they provoked and defied the nationalists' harsh criticism. In their best, most influential incarnation, Qui pro Quo (1919-1932) and its successors, these literary cabarets violated the right's value system through their shows' insistent metropolitan focus, their stars' role-modeling of immoral behavior and parodic impersonation, and their companies' explicitly Jewish-Gentile collaboration. In the community of the cabaret, which was even more bohemian and déclassé than that of the legitimate theater, the social and ethnic antagonisms of everyday Warsaw society mattered relatively little. Writers and players bonded with each other, above all, in furious pursuit of fun, fortune, celebrity, artistic kudos, and putting on a hit show. This analysis details how the contents and stars of Qui pro Quo challenged right-wing values. Its shows advertised the capital as a sumptuous metropolis as well as a home to an eccentric array of plebeian and underworld types, including variations on the cwaniak warszawski enacted by comedian Adolf Dymsza. Its chief female stars-Zula Pogorzelska, Mira Zimińska, and Hanna Ordonówna-incarnated big-city glamour and sexual emancipation. Its recurring Jewish characters-Józef Urstein's Pikuś and Kazimierz Krukowski's Lopek-functioned as modern-day Warsaw's everymen, beleaguered and bedazzled as they assimilated to city life. Qui pro Quo's popular defense against an exclusionary nationalism showcased collaborative artistry and diverse, charismatic stars. © 2012 Sage Publications.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Holmgren, B

Published Date

  • May 1, 2013

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 27 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 205 - 223

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1533-8371

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0888-3254

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1177/0888325412467053

Citation Source

  • Scopus