Modjeska! The Artist's Dream - Synopsis

Photo by David Miezal

We proudly bring you a unique look at the greatest Polish and American actress, Helena Modjeska, one of the most prominent figures in American history. Through Helena Modjeska's story, we wish to inspire all, especially those who cannot see or believe in their own capabilities.

In this solo performance Ewa Boryczko displays the extraordinary journey of the famous Polish actress Helena Modjeska. Her beginnings in Anaheim, her breaking into the American theater scene in San Francisco and New York, her demanding lifestyle and her tremendous love for Art, Arden and Poland. Despite many obstacles in her life, Modjeska prevails and reigns as the most successful Shakespearian actress during the second half of the 19th century. She performed alongside such prominent figures of the American Theater as Edwin Booth and Maurice Barrymore.

This play is based on actual reviews, poetry, fragments of autobiography and letters written by Helena Modjeska.

One of the most important themes of the play, "ambition versus happiness", is expressed in the poem The Artist's Dream, written by Modjeska herself and translated by Oscar Wilde, the famous Irish writer whom she met while she performed in London (1880-1882).

Upon translating her poem, Oscar Wilde wrote: "…If there is any beauty in this poem, it is the work of subtle imagination and passionate artistic nature of Mme Modjeska. I myself am but a pipe through which her tones full of sweetness have flown". Her poem serves as a connecting thread to the entire play.

Modjeska! The Artist's Dream tells the gripping and entertaining story of a pursuit of a lifelong artistic ambition, as well as a search for happiness and redemption.

Watch video with sound.

Author's Note

Photo by David Miezal

Looking back on my life I realize that Helena Modjeska has been influencing me for a long time. When I was 22 years old I came to see a solo performance about Modjeska's life written by Professor Kazimierz Braun, at the Chopin Theatre in Chicago. As I was sitting in the audience, the director of the theatre (Zygmunt Dyrkacz) approached the stage and asked: "Is there any girl in the audience who is brave enough to perform a very small part in tonight's play?". I raised my hand without hesitation, having aspirations to one day become an actress.

After the intermission I was taken backstage and given a costume. The lovely actress Maria Nowotarska, who was playing Helena Modjeska, explained to me the "demands" of my role. I was to portray a young Helena Modjeska as she is walking across veranda of her home in Arden and meets with her mature self (portrayed by Maria Nowotarska). I remember that moment vividly. I walked across the stage (Arden's imaginary veranda) in silence. I joined Miss Nowotarska in the center of the stage. We faced each other and touched the palms of our hands as if becoming one. The lights went black.

Being 22 at the time, I did not only had the privilege to walk across the real veranda of Modjeska's home, but was also allowed to perform on its steps!

Today I am pleased to present Modjeska! The Artist's Dream, my own unique portrait of the great Polish and American actress. I have based this performance on actual reviews written about the actress as well as poetry, fragments of autobiography and letters written by Helena Modjeska herself.

It is important for me to keep Modjeska's own voice alive as much as possible. Enjoy the show!


Costumes were designed by Malgorzata Grzywnowicz and Malgorzata Wegiel, graduates of the Cracow School of Art and Fashion Design. This designers' duet created stunning gowns which reflect the romanticism and craftsmanship of Modjeska's era. Pictured on the left is a replica of Helena Modjeska's Rosalind costume from Shakespeare's "As You Like it".

Ewa Boryczko - Actress/Writer

Photo by David Miezal

Ewa Boryczko is a native of Krakow, Poland. In 1990, after graduating from the High School in Krakow, she came to study English in Chicago's Truman College, She continued her education at Wright College, where she received her Associate of Art Degree. From 1992 - 1997, she worked as a model for Arlene Wilson Talent Agency.

In 1998 she entered the acting program at Chicago's Columbia College and in 2002 graduated with honors. While still in college, she collaborated with Oobleck Theatre, writing and producing her first short play entitled "Moth".

From 1997-2004, she performed at local theatres in Chicago, working with Hermit Productions, Prop Theatre, Chicago's Cultural Center and Ping Chong Company from New York. From 2000-2007 she wrote and directed several children's plays and worked with over 400 kids and teenagers. In Chicacgo, she helped to establish a Youth Program, Stop Violence in collaboration with Polish - American Association.

Currently she shares her time between Poland and United States working in theater, commercials and modeling. Recent projects include Poland - Promotional Film for European Union, Poland; Delma National Commercial, Poland; Aviva National Commercial, Poland; Ballade of Warsaw's Mermaid, Poland; Helena, Solo Performance, Los Angeles, Liberty Direct National Commercial, Poland.

Jon Kellam - director

Jon Kellam is currently co-artistic director and so-founding member of Zoo District Theatre, a resident director and member of the Actor's Gang and a member of Ensemble Studio Theatre LA, three critically acclaimed theatre companies in Los Angeles.

Theatre companies he has worked with nationally include Steppenwolf, The Organic Theatre, New Crime, The National Jewish Theatre, American Blues Theatre, Absolute Theatre, Baliwick, Chicago Actors Ensemble, Strawdog in Chicago, Playwrights Horizons, PS 122, Lincoln Center, Circle on the Square, Workhouse Theatre in New York City. The Los Angeles Center, Open Fist, Sacred Fools, EST LA, REDCAT in Los Angeles and The Powerhouse Theatre in Brisbane, Australia.

Directing credits in Los Angeles; at the Actors' Gang, Tartuffe, Drums In The Night, The Exonerated, national tour, The Trial of the Catonsville Nine which also toured nationally and to Brisbane Australia. Kellam assisted Simon Abkarian on Loves Labours Lost. For The Edge-of-the-World Theatre Festival, The Ass by Parviz Sayyad. For Zoo District he directed and co-created the award winning production of Nosferatu… Angel Of The Final Hour, and co-directed and co-created Home…The Search For The Lost Tablet Of Ur. For Theatre Theater served as fight director on Beggars In The House Of Plenty, directed by Larry Moss and also served as fight coordinator and movement consultant for the Ruskin Group production of Cowboy Mouth in Santa Monica, and Orpheus Descending at Theatre Theater. In New York City, Kellam directed and co-created Monsoon Child at the Harold Clurman.