Thursday, 22 June 2017

Places Dramaturgy: Romy Nordlinger @ Edfringe 2017

 At the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, 
Places is playing at the New Town Theatre (Venue 7).

The performance dates are August 3rd -14th and 16th -27th at 5 pm. 

Places, a tour-de-force one-actor multimedia show, tells the story of Alla Nazimova, the rule-breaking lesbian Broadway and Hollywood legend. From a Jewish immigrant fleeing Tsarist Russia to Hollywood’s first female director and producer, Nazimova was a trailblazer who wouldn’t be silenced. 

What was the inspiration for this performance?

I was performing a short piece that I wrote about Alla Nazimova in a collection of pieces about great actresses from our past who might otherwise be forgotten. I was absolutely awestruck by Nazimova, her character, her harrowing and triumphant story and her amazing accomplishments. 

 She was at one time the highest paid actress in Hollywood’s silent movies and had a Broadway theatre named after her. She was also the first female writer, director and producer in Hollywood.

 A trailblazer who was incredibly outspoken and openly bisexual, her mansion on Sunset Boulevard coined ‘The Garden Of Allah” became the watering hole for the great luminaries of literature and the performing arts such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Greta Garbo and a haven for intellectual liberty and freedom. It also was the setting in which the term the ‘Sewing Circle’ was born; an acronym for her all women’s lesbian gatherings. Where did her story go? 

Why was she virtually erased from the history books and how could we forget such a giant? In writing my solo show about Nazimova, I was determined to set the record straight and to tell her magnificent story. We are all the stories we tell and an artist is only dead when the last person to remember them dies.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

To me theatre will always be the most powerful of all medias. The immediacy of being together in one room at one time and sharing our humanness, our stories, is a transformative experience. I’m not saying theatre is always good, but the very act of assembling together and telling our stories live is cathartic. 

Abstract ideas and news are very important of course, but in theatre one is able to feel, to empathize, and most importantly to share the human condition out loud and together. In our increasingly polarizing society, theatre is more important than ever – telling our stories out loud and live.

How did you become interested in making performance?

I am interested in the human condition. I feel less alone when I can express my feelings, and hear other’s feelings expressed. I feel most alive when I write, when I act. This propels me to make performances – the sharing part of it.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?
I read everything about Nazimova that I possibly could. Watched her movies, read her journals, looked at her pictures. I isolated quotes that she’d said that particularly struck me, moved me, and made me feel that I understood her.

 In the end, her story is an amalgam of herself and myself. As she was not here to interview, her story is told through the lens of my perspective.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

I’ve primarily been an actress in my life and in the past six years began writing plays. The productions of the plays I’ve had are vastly different. This story is unique as it is a solo voice and it is multimedia. The characters I am writing about dictate the landscape of the play.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

I hope the audience feels hope. I hope they feel less alone knowing that others long before them have triumphed over adversity, have spoken their truths, and have found strength even when they’ve been beaten down. I hope they feel jazzed to be alive knowing that every day is a chance to begin anew.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?

I wanted the audience to see this not as a ‘museum’ piece but a piece that was very relevant today. Nazimova was fighting the things in the 19th century and early 20th century that we are still fighting today, but alone and without a twitter account: sexism, racism, homophobia, ageism. I made sure to juxtapose her life through the lens of her being an all seeing ghost who is able to peer into the life of the 21st century and reflect on the past and present simultaneously.

 As Nazimova says, “By opening our eyes to the past, we are better able to see our present.” I also wanted to include the cinematic look of her life with the multimedia elements of the play. As she was a film star and director and so much of her life was on screen, it was vital to use the same mediums to tell her story – the story and visions that were brushed under the rug because they were so ahead of her time.

Nordlinger’s solo performance reimagines one of the most daring and censored artists of the 20th century who tells it like it was… and still is.

Long before innovative and outspoken performers such as Madonna and Lady Gaga, the world was enamored of Nazimova. 
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. If Nazimova could have faced those kinds of obstacles and still flourished, then it gives me faith that we can do the same,” says director and co-developer Katie McHugh adds, “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. ”
Nazimova was born Adelaide Yakovlevna Leventon, the daughter of an abusive father. 

Facing persecution for her Jewish heritage and having lived in foster homes, she finally found her true home with the Moscow Art Theatre and Stanislavsky. She adopted the name Alla Nazimova and became a major star in Moscow and Europe before fleeing to America in 1905. Her Broadway premiere in November 1906 was in the title role of Hedda Gabler. Nazimova became a major success and box office draw, helping to launch the careers of Ibsen, Strindberg, and Chekhov as well as inspire the careers of others including Tennessee Williams.

Nazimova was open about her sexual preference, often to the chagrin of the New York entertainment establishment. She ultimately fled to Hollywood where, by 1917, she wielded considerable power and became the highest paid actress there. Not to be beaten by the ‘boys club,’ she formed her own production company—Nazimova Productions—to become the first female producer, director, and writer in Hollywood. 

Her production of ‘Salome,’ helmed by an all-gay cast, ushered in the birth of art cinema. But the homosexual themes and experimental filmmaking proved too forward for the 1920s, leading her to a reputation as box office poison and to her artistic demise.
At Nazzy’s mansion on 8080 Sunset Boulevard - dubbed the “Garden of Allah” - she hosted parties frequented by such luminaries as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Marlene Dietrich, Dorothy Parker, and Tennessee Williams. There she created her all women’s “sewing circle,” a term she coined to describe her infamous meetings of lesbian and bisexual actresses in Hollywood.
 Eventually, with the public and studios turning against her, Nazimova had no choice but to turn her Garden Of Allah into hotels and was eventually forced into obscurity. Her contributions to the film industry have since been recognized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

RomyNordlinger (Actor/Playwright) Selected credits: “Edna Hoffman” (VO role) in Florence Foster Jenkins dir. Stephen Frears, WOMG and The Ruthless Spectator (Web Series), Lancelot by Steven Fechter (The Woodsman) of which she is also in pre-production for the feature film & “A Separation”. Co & Guest starring roles on Law & Order CI (Officer Talbor), All My Children, Gotham, One Life To Live, plus numerous indie films. Selected theatre: "Rose"/ Shakespeare's Slave @ Clurman with Resonance Ensemble; Between Here and There @ New Perspectives; The Woman On The Bridge workshop dir. Ludovica Villar-Hauser; January dir Lorca Peress/Multi Stages, R Culture by Cecilia Copeland @ IRT, Stage Struck helmed by Mari Lyn Henry and The Society For The Preservation Of Theatrical History @ Snapple Theatre, The Players Club, Metropolitan Playhouse. Regional credits include Actors Theatre of Louisville, Wilma, Fleetwood Stage, Emelin. Playwriting credits include Liptshick @ FringeNYC , The Feeling Part with LoNyLa & The Playwriting Collective, Broadville @ Manhattan Theatre Source & her solo show Sex and Sealing Wax @ MITF. Romy is also an audiobook narrator and voice-over artist with over 200 titles to her credit as well as numerous international voice-over spots. Romy has also been a theatre-teaching artist for the past 15 years working with underserved communities in every borough of New York City. Member of The League Of Professional Theatre Women. Member of NY Madness, Resonance Theatre Ensemble, Flux Sundays and The Playwrights Gallery. B.F.A University Of Arts. 

Katie McHugh (Director) is a New York-based director, teacher and producer of theatre with an MFA in Directing from The New School for Drama. She is the Founding Director of the Southeastern Teen Shakespeare Company, Co-Founder of the Teen Shakespeare Conservatory at the Actors Movement Studio, and Artistic Director of Yonder Window Theatre Company. Katie is an award-winning director who specializes in devised and experimental theatre. Selected New York directing credits: Euripides’ Medea at the New School for Drama’s New Visions Festival, and The List by Jennifer Tremblay in the New York International Fringe Festival 2012 (Winner of Overall Excellence in a Solo Performance). The List was chosen to perform internationally in the first Mexican Fringe Festival of San Miguel de Allende. After directing her second production in Mexico in February of 2015, Waiting for Goddreau preceded by Shut up Kathleen, Katie was named an Artistic Ambassador of the Mexican Fringe Festival San Miguel. She spent two months last winter in Mexico working on the third annual Fringe Festival as well as co-producing Enemy, an adaptation of Ibsen’s Enemy of the People directed by Emmy award winner, Dorothy Lyman at the San Miguel Playhouse Theatre. Her new theatre company, Yonder Window, made its maiden voyage this year with a multidisciplinary, multi-cultural, bi-lingual international production called The Dream Project, premiering at Muv arte, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Katie is a five-time director for the Writopia World Wide Plays Festival sponsored by David Letterman, as well as a regular guest director with the NYU dramatic writing program. She also runs a program for young actors focused on auditioning for college called the Audition Prep Intensive and is a member of the League of Professional Theatre Women.
On Places, Adam Burns is the creative force behind the graphic and video elements. Nick T. Moore is the sound designer and composer. Places is production managed by Tamara Geisler and assistant directed by Jason Beckmann.

CivilDisobedience 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.

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