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The Polish Cultural Institute in New York

American theater icon,
utopian pioneer, national celebrity,
a woman ahead of her time,
on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of her death:


Sunday, April 5, 2009, 1:15 PM
following a 12:00 mass dedicated to Helena Modjeska

Saint Stanislaus Bishop & Martyr Church
101 East 7th Street, New York, NY

The Polish Cultural Institute commemorates Helena Modjeska - an iconic Polish-American Shakespearean actress of the 19th century - on the occasion of the centennial of her death. From humble origins, Modjeska became a dominant force in Polish theater and a star of Warsaw high society. For reasons both political and personal she left Poland together with her aristocrat husband and founded a utopian community in California. The immigrant actress was considered by many American critics to be the best American female Shakespearean of her generation, a one-woman theatrical institution comparable only to the great Edwin Booth in her achievements. Truly a woman ahead of her time, godmother to both Ethel Barrymore and Witkacy, Modjeska's fame and impact extended well beyond her status as a Shakespearean actress. Susan Sontag's award-winning 1999 novel, In America is based on Modjeska's extraordinary life.

On Palm Sunday, April 5, 2009, following a 12:30 mass conducted in Polish and English in memory of the great actress, the Consul General of Poland, Krzysztof W. Kasprzyk, and the Director of the Polish Cultural Institute, Monika Fabijanska, will unveil a plaque commemorating Helena Modjeska at St. Stanislaus Bishop & Martyr Church, the oldest Polish Roman-Catholic parish in Manhattan. Ralph Modjeski, Helena's son and a famous American civil engineer and bridge builder, was married here in 1886. And on July 2, 1909, Modjeska's funeral mass took place in this church, after which her remains were taken by ship to Poland.

Panel discussion at MESTC, CUNY Graduate Center

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