BWW Features: Going PLACES with Nazimova and Parity Productions
Anyone who appreciates early Hollywood and the talents of performers most people forgot about will love Parity Production's new solo multimedia performance by playwright and actress Romy Nordlinger.
Places tells the story of Alla Nazimova, a flamboyant Broadway and Hollywood who lived to break all the rules. Nazimova (née Miriam Edez Adelaida Leventon or Marem-Ides Leventon, Russian name Adelaida Yakovlevna Leventon) was born in Yalta, the Crimea, in 1879 to Russian Jewish parents who divorced when she was just eight years old. The tumult she experienced at home made her stronger and ready to take on the world. She studied at the Academy of Acting in Moscow and performed with Constantin Stanislavski's Moscow Art Theatre. By 1903, she was a major star in her native country. She toured Europe and moved to New York City in 1905 with her actor-producer boyfriend, Pavel Orlenev. The Russian language theatre they founded in the Lower East Side failed, as did their relationship.
Again, she emerged, this time on Broadway in a 1906 critically acclaimed and popular version of Hedda Gabler. Even the tart-tongued hard-to-please Dorothy Parker thought she was the best Hedda she'd ever seen and Nazimova earned a standing as the consummate interpreter of Ibsen. She became a major Broadway star and later had a theatre named after her. Hollywood beckoned and Nazimova made her silent film debut in War Brides in 2016. Within a year, she learnEd English and negotiated a contract with Metro Pictures (which later became part of MGM) at an impressive weekly salary of $13,000, which was higher than Mary Pickford's). Acting wasn't enough to satisfy Nazimova. She began to write, direct, and produce films from the works of Ibsen and Wilde and developed her own innovative filmmaking techniques.
She was no stranger to controversy, either as an artist or private person. There is speculation about an early marriage in Russia and possibly a child, whose father was not determined. She had a "lavender marriage" with British-born actor Charles Bryant, during which she kept her marriage to Sergius Golovin secret. Later, Bryant married someone else and listed his marital status as single when he applied for the license. It was Nazimova who bore the brunt of the scandal and it harmed her career. Her film, Salome, was considered scandalous for its time. (You can see it on youtube.com.) She hosted parties for F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tennessee Williams, Dorothy Parker, and Marlene Dietrich at her mansion at 8080 Sunset Boulevard was called the "Garden of Allah." She also created a women's "sewing circle" for meetings of lesbian and bisexual actresses. As she became box office poison, she turned her mansion into hotels and faded from the screen. Nevertheless, she earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and there is an active Alla Nazimova society (www.allanazimova.com.)
"Telling Alla Nazimova's story is relevant now more than ever as we face a new age of civil liberties being under attack, a backlash against women, against the LGBTQ+ community, and against immigrants," says Places director and co-developer Kate McHugh. "If Nazimova could have faced those kinds of obstacles and still flourished, then it gives me faith that we can do the same. If we could call the voices of our past to come back and speak to us, Nazimova would be on the top of the list. What is happening now in our world is an opportunity to listen to the predecessors who paved the way for us as we strive for equality."
See Places (tagline: The most famous star you never heard of) at 59E59 Theatres (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison) on Friday, July 21 at 8:30 pm; Saturday, July 22 at 6:30 pm; Sunday, July 23 at 4:30 pm; Friday, July 28 at 8:30 pm; Saturday, July 29 at 8:30 pm; and Sunday, July 30 at 4:30 pm. For tickets call 646-737-5180. After its limited premiere in New York, Places will be performed at the Edinburgh Theatre Festival. For tickets call 646-737-5180.
Places is a co-production between Yonder Window Theatre Company and Parity Productions and is made possible in part by the support of Jack Sharkey. Civil Disobedience is an international producing team and the on-the-ground producers of Places in Edinburgh. With a passion for ensuring that world-class acts find their place in the UK market and internationally, Civil Disobedience brings the finest talent from around the world to global stages, arts festivals, and events.