Homage to Valeska Gertby Tennessee Williiams
starring Valeska Gert
The European avant-garde artists who washed ashore in Ptown as refugees during WWII had different relations to the town. Surrealist Max Ernst was in and out, caricaturist George Grosz lost the focus of his satire and painted dunes. Hans Hofmann made history by founding an art school – and pointedly bought up the building of the old art school. His models, often dancers, came from New York at his invitation.
Among these dancers were Kip Kiernan (briefly TW’s lover), Joe Hazan (TW’s friend and roommate), and Valeska Gert. Valeska can be thought of as George Grosz in mime: satiric, stridently comic, bitter, coarse, dirty in all senses, grotesque – and she performed in Ptown introduced by Williams in his white dinner jacket. In Germany, Valeska had starred in movies with Garbo and Louise Brooks. Brecht had her play Mrs. Peachum in the 1931 film of The Threepenny Opera. “Famous on the moon” is what’s said about the Gnadiges Fraulein, a character in TW’s play of the same name, based, in part on TW’s anecdotes that Gert snacked off raw fi sh she found on the Ptown beach. She returned to Europe after WW II and made films with Fellini and Fassbinder. Susanne Foellmer, Berlin-based author of a new biography about Valeska, hosts film clips of Valeska from the 1920s to the 1970s.