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Sunny Stalter-Pace

Imitation Artist

Gertrude Hoffman’s Life in Vaudeville and Dance

Northwestern University Press 2020

New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in Gender StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in MusicNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Performing ArtsNew Books in Politics & Society July 31, 2020 Kristen Turner

Gertrude Hoffman is one of many entertainers who were big stars in vaudeville before World War I, but whose celebrity faded as the American...

Gertrude Hoffman is one of many entertainers who were big stars in vaudeville before World War I, but whose celebrity faded as the American public was seduced by radio and film after the Great War.

Sunny Stalter-Pace recounts Hoffmann’s groundbreaking career and contextualizes her work as a dancer, comedienne, producer, and choreographer in the American cultural landscape in Imitation Artist: Gertrude Hoffman’s Life in Vaudeville and Dance (Northwestern University Press, 2020).

Hoffman brought European modern dance to a mass American audience through her imitations, vaudeville revues, and touring show recreating some of the Ballet Russes’s iconic dances. She served as a conduit between the avant-garde and commercial theater through a deft combination of highbrow and lowbrow in each of her projects.

More than a simply a stage performer, Hoffman was also the first woman stage manager and choreographer on Broadway, and a prolific producer both during and after her stage career was over. Intersecting with figures such as Florence Ziegfeld, George M. Cohan, and Oscar Hammerstein I, Hoffman was part of the network of impresarios and performers who created popular entertainment in the United States at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Sunny Stalter-Pace is the Hargis Associate Professor of American Literature at Auburn University. She is interested in the intersection of modernist performance and literature in urban spaces. A prolific scholar, Imitation Artist is Stalter-Pace’s second book.


Kristen Turner is a lecturer in the music and honors departments at North Carolina State University. Her research centers on race and class in American popular entertainment at the turn of the twentieth century.