Dec 302009
 

Helena Modjeska by Tadeusz Ajdukiewicz, 1880 I’m very humbled to introduce to you Madame Helena Modjeska  (Modrzejewska), the Polish-American Shakespearean icon of the 19th Century, in  whose footsteps many actors would have loved to follow. Thanks to Professor  Braun and his writing, I was inspired to further research the life of this  mysterious and intriguing personality. I started to dream about all the amazing  roles she performed in her life, and fantasized about her railway car tours of the  United States. I even thought of building a special train to take our shows on the  road, all in the name of Helena. Who was Helena Modrzejewska? How can we  suppose to know when, during her life, she asked herself the same question? Mr.  Braun in his work conveys this palpable uncertainty in Modrzejewska’s own  words: “Who am I in reality?…Helena Modrzejewska, or Countess Modjeska…A  fake, or an aristocrat? A player, or a woman?..An usurper, or a legitimate queen?…American or a Pole? I do not know.” Do we know who we are in reality?  Although we are not playing our roles on stage as Helena did, we inhabit the  various roles in our lives, that of the father, the mother, the friend, at work, at home,…with the same fervor. With the development of technology and information, and the increasing speed our lives gain, we take upon ourselves unfamiliar roles and tasks. The line between reality and artifice is blurred. This dichotomy is one that fully concerned Modrzejewska. We see it in the passion of her performances, both on and off the stage. The conviction with which she lived her life is an emblem of the powerful sense of mystery and enchantment the theatre holds over all of us. Most amazing to me is the innate ability of my American actors to take on the ambitious task of portraying a group of iconic Poles! Without their commitment to their roles, and their eagerness to learn more about the rich lives of Modrzejewska and her friends, the intimate portrait we present to you tonight would have been impossible. A toast to you Madame Helena and to you, her audience!