The situation for actresses of the city theatre at the beginning of the 20th century was not easy. Work conditions were difficult; contracts obliged actors to, for example, learn two sheets of prose or one sheet of poetry within twenty four hours (up to 100 new titles and revivals were played in the season, the premiere was prepared in one week). Actors could not reject any roles they were given, whether it was a silent part, an extra, a participation in dances, singing or tableaus.
From 1893 the regulations concerning costumes were introduced into contracts: “Artists receive costumes; nonetheless, they are obliged to arrange modern wardrobe on their own, as well as underwear, leotards, hosiery, gloves and ties. Female artists must purchase all costumes at their own expense and they shall be provided with solely male costumes“.
This distinct disproportion (actresses earned much less than their fellow actors and, additionally, had to cover the costs of costumes which they wore on stage) frequently led to tragic situations — many actresses searched for rich sponsors, and those who failed to earn their living were often driven to the most desperate step (as in the case of the suicidal death of Jadwiga Orlic and Maria Brodzka, who committed suicide after several years spent on stage). This affair reverberated so loudly that in 1908 Ignacy Daszyński resolved to raise this issue at a forum of the City Council.
Jadwiga Mrozowska was one of the most prominent figures on the Polish stage of that time (during her guest appearances in Kraków theatres she was in a much better situation than her fellow actresses).
In accordance with common practice, she arranged the costume in which she played Lady Macbeth (on 4 January 1913 she guest starred in the play the premiere of which, directed by Maksymilian Węgrzyn, had been held at the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre on 30 December 1911) on her own, bringing it from Italy.
Along with the theatre, the second great passion of Jadwiga Mrozowska-Toeplitz were her travels. Already as the wife of the Italian millionaire, Józef Toeplitz, and hence being now well-situated, she abandoned the theatre in favour of studying foreign languages, history, astronomy and geography. She devoted herself to travel; on one of her Asian expeditions she discovered the mountain pass in Pamir, which was named Passo J. Toeplitz-Mrozowska.
She visited India, Ceylon, Burma, Iran, Tibet, Kashmir and Ladakh. As the first woman ever she passed through the eternally snow-covered Roof of the World.
Apart from the gallery of unforgettable roles and the discovery of unknown lands, she also created a collection of oriental culture (two hundred exhibits), which she donated to the National Museum in Warsaw in 1947 as the germ of the collection of Islamic art. Could it ever occur to her that her costumes, obtained with such difficulty, in which she entertained the audience on theatrical evenings in Kraków, would also become a part of someone’s collection? The costume for the role of Lady Macbeth in the collection from Małopolska’s Virtual Museums is only the germ, a prop activating the avalanche of stories that compose a colourful biography of the actress, traveller, and — above all — the woman who consistently realised her passions.
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