March 30, 2023

Episode 102: The Scandalous Life & Career of GERTRUDE HOFFMANN

Episode 102:  The Scandalous Life & Career of GERTRUDE HOFFMANN


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My guest this week is Sunny Stalter-Pace whose wonderful new book is titled:

Imitation Artist — Gertrude Hoffmann’s Life in Vaudeville and Dance. 

And I am happy to say that this book covers her life on Broadway as well. 

As you will hear Gertrude Hoffmann is another of those dynamic women who played key roles in the invention of the Broadway Musical but unfortunately have mostly fallen out of the history books, and are nearly forgotten today.

Not only was she a scandalous and transgressive Broadway dancing star, she was also a producer, writer, director, and the first woman to choreograph a Broadway show — or at least the first to be credited for doing so. Her world-famous troop of Gertrude Hoffman Girls established a template for Broadway dance ensembles that is still very much with us today. 

Beyond Broadway her influence and innovations extend into the worlds of Ballet, Night Clubs, Vaudeville, and Modern Dance.

In this episode Sunny shares with us how Gertrude Hoffmann grew up in the vibrant theatrical world of late 19th Century San Francisco, and became a noted performer there while still in her teens. Soon after, she joined a traveling show that takes her to NYC and met her soon to be husband — music director and composer, Max Hoffman, who goes on to compose music for 12 Broadway shows.  

Gertrude Hoffmann was a trusted colleague and key collaborator with almost all the legendary figures of early Broadway including Florenz Ziegfeld, Oscar Hammerstein I, the Shubert Brothers, and George M. Cohan. She also mentored, collaborated with and/or feuded with many of the biggest stars of the era including The Dolly Sisters, Charlotte Greenwood, Eva Tanguay, and Anna Held.

Sunny Stalter-Pace is an Associate Professor of American Literature at Auburn University, and it is my great pleasure to join with her to give some long overdue recognition to this important figure in the development of early 20th century show business.

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