West Coast Premiere of GARDEN OF ALLA is Coming to Theatre West This Summer

Lorca Peress directs the three-week limited engagement July 7 through July 23.

By: May. 23, 2023
West Coast Premiere of GARDEN OF ALLA is Coming to Theatre West This Summer

The 1920s was the time of flappers, flamboyance, and the face of Alla Nazimova. This summer, Nazimova — Jewish immigrant from Tsarist Russia, Broadway and silent film superstar, visionary Hollywood director and producer, and LGBTQIA trailblazer — makes her triumphant return to Hollywood when Theatre West presents playwright and performer Romy Nordlinger in the West Coast premiere of Garden of Alla: The Alla Nazimova Story. Lorca Peress directs the three-week limited engagement July 7 through July 23.

Using immersive video and original music to invoke the Roaring Twenties and create a panoramic, live silent film, Nordlinger brings the life and times of this groundbreaking pioneer to vivid life.

“I am so excited to bring this play to Theatre West, which is located only a few miles from Nazimova’s infamous Garden of Allah estate on Sunset Boulevard,” says Nordlinger. “The razed estate — which inspired the Joni Mitchell lyric ‘paved paradise and put up a parking lot’ — still languishes today, much like Nazimova’s trailblazing legacy. She was an iconoclast who speaks to our time as no one else can. Homophobia, sexism, racism, antisemitism, ageism: Alla was fighting these contemporary struggles back in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but alone and without a Twitter account.”

An immigrant fleeing persecution, censorship and pogroms, Nazimova’s meteoric rise began as a performer in Yiddish theater on New York’s Lower East Side. She soon went on to become a Broadway sensation, playing to sold-out houses and selling $4 million ($123 million in today’s dollars) in tickets — leading The Shuberts to build and name a theater after her. A disciple of Stanislavsky’s Moscow Art Theatre, she helped introduce America to Strindberg, Ibsen and Chekhov, and was the muse to such great playwrights as Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Williams and Noel Coward. In 1916 she left for Hollywood, where she starred in more than a dozen blockbuster films and became the industry’s highest paid actress, earning the unheard-of salary of $13,000 a week from Metro Pictures. One of the first women to become a powerful director and producer in Hollywood, Nazimova’s Salome is acknowledged as the first art film and a landmark gay film in cinematic history.

Nazimova’s Garden of Allah mansion, dubbed the “Camelot of Hollywood,” was a haven of sexual and intellectual freedom decades before its time, hosting a who’s who of Hollywood’s literati and glitterati including Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Errol Flynn, Rudolph Valentino, Cole Porter and F. Scott Fitzgerald, to name just a very few. Reputed to be ground zero for the industry’s lesbian and bisexual women’s community (which Nazimova referred to as her “sewing circle”), Nazimova earned a reputation as a “lady-killer” whose legendary conquests included actors Tallulah Bankhead, Eva Le Gallienne, Jean Acker and Anna May Wong; director Dorothy Arnzer; and writer Mercedes De Acosta.

Nordlinger’s Garden of Alla has previously been seen in critically acclaimed productions all over the country, including at the Kennedy Center, The Players Club, TheaterLab, The Cutting Room, 59E59, HERE Arts Center, Theater 555 and internationally as a hit at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. All About Solo calls it “a spellbinding homage to an oft-forgotten trailblazer… a remarkable solo show.” Theatre Pizzazz writes, “This enlightening production’s currency is chilling… a superb, striking must-see,” and Theatre is Easy enthuses that “Nordlinger breathes life into hazy legend, imbuing Nazimova with an earthy sensuality, indomitable will, and clear passion for the art, people, and places that sustained her.”

The production features video design by Adam Jesse Burns, and the original score and sound design are by Nick T. Moore. Anne Leyden and Benjamin Scuglia (Behind the Bar Productions) produce in association with Theatre West and Georganne Aldrich Heller.

Nordlinger’s other plays include The Feeling Part (Jimmy’s No.43/Playwriting Collective, and live streamed internationally by LoNyLa), Sex & Sealing Wax (Estrogenious Festival, MITF), Broadville (Source Theatre, Clurman Theatre), Lipshtick (New York International Fringe Festival/Dixon Place), and Amazing Grace and NYSeeing2020, both livestreamed at Nuyorican Poets Café. Her solo show about women's choices, Mother of All Choices, was awarded a grant from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Center and will be performed there later this year with direction and dramaturgy by Tania Inessa Kirkman. As an actor, she appeared off-Broadway as Ginger in Lancelot by Steven Fechter (The Woodsman) at Judson Gym; in Shakespeare's Slave at the Clurman; and in Caligula at the Kirk Theatre Row, as well as regionally at Actors Theatre of Lousiville and the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia, among others. Her TV roles include guest and co-starring roles on Bull, Manifest, FBI and Law & Order (Officer Talbor). She can be seen in numerous independent films, most recently as Agent Farrow in The Good Egg, and as the lead in the soon-to-be-released The Feeling Part, which she adapted for the screen from her stage play of the same name. An award-winning, bestselling audiobook narrator, Romy has recorded over 350 titles. As a teaching artist she has used theater as a learning tool to teach literacy and self-awareness to underserved communities in every borough of Manhattan for the past 15 years.

Established in 1962, Theatre West is celebrating its 61st year as the oldest continually running professional theater company in the City of Los Angeles. A membership collective of actors, playwrights, directors and technicians, Theatre West’s alumni members include Ray Bradbury, Beau Bridges, Richard Dreyfuss, Sally Field, Betty Garrett, Martin Landau, Lee Meriwether, Jack Nicholson, Carroll O’Connor, Sherwood Schwartz, Joyce Van Patton and Paul Winfield. Theatre West has produced more than 300 plays and musicals; of these plays, nearly 70% are original works developed in its workshops, and many have led to Broadway, regional tours and feature films, including A Bronx Tale by Chazz Palminteri, A Very Brady Musical by Lloyd Schwartz and Hope Juber, and, most recently, Our Man in Santiago by Mark Wilding which transferred to off-Broadway.

Garden of Alla: The Alla Nazimova Story runs from July 7 through July 23, with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $35 with online advance purchase, or $40 at the door.

Theatre West is located at 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. West in Los Angeles, CA 90068 (across the street from Universal CityWalk, between Barham and Lankershim); metered street parking available, and there is a paid lot ($10 cash only) across the street from the theater.

For reservations and information, call (323) 851-7977 or go to TheatreWest.org.


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