In 1876, Poland's leading actress, Helena Modrzejewska, accompanied by family and friends, emigrated to southern California to establish a utopian commune that soon failed. Within a year Modrzejewska made her debut in the title role of Adrienne Lecouvreur at San Francisco's California Theatre. She changed her name to Modjeska and quickly became a leading star on the American stage, where she reigned for the next 30 years. During this time, she established herself as America's most esteemed Shakespearean actress, playing opposite such celebrated actors as Edwin Booth and Maurice Barrymore. Starring Madame Modjeska traces Modjeska's fabulous life and career from her illegitimate birth in Krakow, to her successive reinventions of herself as a star in both Poland and America, and finally to her enduring legacy.
Beth Holmgren is Professor of Slavic and Eurasian Studies and Theater Studies at Duke University. She is author of Women's Works in Stalin's Time (IUP, 1993), editor (with Helena Goscilo) of Poles Apart: Women in Modern Polish Culture and Russia * Women * Culture (IUP, 1996), and translator and editor (with Helena Goscilo) of The Keys to Happiness by Anastasya Verbitskaya (IUP, 1999).
Winner of Association for Slavic, East European,and Eurasian Studies Kulczycki Book Prize in Polish Studies 2013 and Association of Women in Slavic Studies: Heldt Prize 2012.