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Tom and Zula: Jews and Gentiles at Play on the Interwar Polish Stage

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Friday, February 28, 2020
9:30 am - 11:00 am
Beth Holmgren

Join the Franklin Humanities Institute for its Friday morning series, tgiFHI! tgiFHI gives Duke faculty in the humanities, interpretative social sciences and arts the opportunity to present on their current research to interlocutors in their fields. Breakfast is served at 9am.

By the 1920s, Poland's newly independent capital of Warsaw had expanded from serious theater town into entertainment mecca, a quick change catalyzed by the investment of Jewish entrepreneurs in recording studios, sheet music publishing, and theater management, and the talents of young Jewish composers and musicians who eagerly switched from classical fare to American ragtime and swing. In the city's new cabarets - high-quality topical venues for a Polish-speaking majority culture that attracted a Christian-Jewish clientele - rising stars were both working-class gentiles and middle-class Jews, most of whom excelled as impersonators and improvisers and enjoyed pairing off with each other in satirical and pure nonsense sketches, the latest dances, and ensemble songs. To introduce these cabaret greats, who functioned as film stars for Polish citizens between the wars, this talk analyzes Warsaw cabaret's founding couple: Konrad Tom, a Jewish sketch-and-songwriter, elegant man about town, and character actor, and his gentile partner Zula Pogorzelska, a brunette bombshell who packed houses as an emancipated flapper and a versatile comedienne.

Beth Holmgren is Professor of Polish and Russian Studies

Contact: Sarah Rogers