Joni Mitchell, a resident in nearby Laurel Canyon, said it best: “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” She was referencing, in song, the demolition of a 2.5 acre property at the south-west corner of Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights, a site that is yet again under construction. But starting in 1927 gracing that busy gateway to Laurel Canyon once flourished the Garden of Alla, a charming, bucolic, bohemian inn run by, and named for, stage actress/movie star/film director Alla Nazimova.
She was Russian-born. She was Jewish (I did not know that.) She was gay — Natasha Rambova’s lover. She was a go-getter. These are the scant details we know about an actress known as the seminal interpreter of Chekhov and Ibsen in the New York theater. But a girl needs real estate as well. That means Los Angeles in the 1920s. Nazimova fitted out the property with 25 two-story villas, and proceeded to attract the likes of New York’s Algonquin Hotel literary set. Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker, Alexander Wolcott, the Marx Brothers, and many others enjoyed her secluded hostelry while in Los Angeles on assignments for the film industry.
Nazimova deserves nothing less than a one-woman show, which actress Romy Nordlinger seems to have taken on as her passion project. Garden of Alla, an original multimedia solo show tells the story of trailblazing lesbian iconoclast innkeeper. Norlinger has assembled a strong creative team in Lorca Peress, director; original score and sound design by Nick T. Moore; video design by Adam Burns.
Garden Of Alla: The Alla Nazimova Story | theaterlab, new york city | June 17 – 25