Helena Modrzejewska was a Polish actor and theater artist, best known for excelling in Shakespearean plays in Poland and America. She became the most popular for her portrayal of Lady Macbeth in one of the plays. In October 2021, Google Doodle honored her on what would have been the actress’s 181st birthday.
Here is everything to know about Helena Modrzejewska.
Helena was born on the 12th of October, 1840, in Krakow, as Jadwiga Benda. She was the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy widow, Jozefa Benda. She wanted to become an actress from an early age. Helena joined traveling troupes very early. It was the same time she adopted her pseudonym, Modrzejeweska.
She performed on many provincial stages in Staninlawow, Bochnia, Przemysi, Nowy Sacz, and Brzezany.
A Performer that Even Critics Couldn’t Stop Praising
Her love for acting and performing is reflected in every work. Helena’s performances in the major cities of Poland were well-received by the critics, yet they did not bring the artist satisfaction. Time and again, she felt her talent surpassed the scope of the nation’s small venues.
When Helena Debuted in America
Helena wanted something big for herself. She made a new beginning in 1877 after debuting in America. It was a new stage for her ambitious career, and the artist didn’t disappoint herself, the audience, and the critics. Soon after she acted in many Shakespearean roles, she livened theater productions all across America.
Sometimes she would tour for up to 30 weeks and perform 8-9 productions each week. Helena not only toured as a lead actor but also as a producer, director, costume designer, and publicist. The actor sure had many feathers in her cap.
When She Stole the Show as Lady Macbeth
Out of all her performances, it was her role as Lady Macbeth that got her many accolades. Helena played this role not once or twice, but a staggering 520 times. Alongside this, she managed to steal some time to pursue her love for nature. When she wouldn’t perform, she would enjoy her time with plants as a gardener and botany enthusiast.
Some Lesser-Known Facts about Helena
- Helena Modrzejerska was known by several names throughout her life. She was born as Jadwiga Benda but renamed Helena Opid. After acting in the comedy ‘The White Camellia’, she had a stage name, Modrzejewska.
- Helena was known as the Brightest Theater Star of Poland for all the right reasons. She was a living legend in her time as a star not only in Poland but in America too. History calls her a perfectionist.
- Not many people know this about Helena, but the actress had a son in 1861. She named him Rudolf Modrzejeweski. Her father was Gustaw Zimajer. Her son became a famous engineer.
- Although she birthed her son with her lover, Gustaw, the two never married. She broke up with the actor and director and married a wealthy landowner, Karol Chlapowski instead.
- After attaining huge success in Poland and American theatres, Helena settled in America. She took her last breath on the 9th of April, 1909, in Bay Island, Newport Beach, near LA, California.
- Her repertory includes 260 Shakespearean and contemporary roles in both Polish and English languages.
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