The Talented Ms. Eva Le Gallienne
Eva Le Gallienne lived a long, full life with a number of credentials to her name: actress, producer, director, translator, writer, and teacher.
She was also a recipient of New York’s cultural award, The Handel Medallion, for her heroic efforts in building up the theatrical world.
But behind her achievements were a world of sorrows, regrets, mistakes, and demons that always haunt great achievers.
Eva Le Gallienne’s backstage experience
Born in London in 1899, Eva Le Gallienne was the daughter of the poet and journalist Richard Le Gallienne and the Danish journalist Julie Norregard Gallienne.
When her parents divorced at age 4, she and her mother moved to Paris where she first experienced what was to be her calling.
After watching a Sarah Bernhardt play, she went backstage to meet the legendary actress. It was then she realized what she wanted to do with her life: become a stage actress.
She went to New York with her mother to launch a theatrical career. After many stops and starts, she saw success by the age of 20 in an Arthur Richman play, Not So Long Ago.
In 1926, she founded the Civic Repertory Theater Company which showcased classics but at reasonable prices.
A year later, she established a free school for actors, The Apprentice Group. Most of these companies were funded by one of her lovers, the gold mine heiress, Alice DeLamar.
Eva Le Gallienne:”Nothing but tragedy”
Throughout her life, Eva Le Gallienne never denied her lesbianism. One of her earliest relationships was with the Russian actress Alla Nazimova, who was fiercely jealous.
She also had a relationship with Mercedes de Acosta, who was also a lover of the dancer Isadora Duncan.
She became a media target when word got out of her affair with the married actress Josephine Hutchinson.
Hutchinson’s husband had divorced her and pointed at Eva Le Gallienne as the reason for the breakup.
While Hutchinson was willing to be a faithful wife to Eva Le Gallienne, the latter was abusive to her. She wanted to be free to do what she wanted and refused to stay faithful.
At one point, when Eva Le Gallienne met another actress, Marion Evensen, the three of them lived under one roof.
She soon lost Hutchinson, her greatest love. Evensen became her long-time companion, taking care of barnyard and forest animals in her estate.
Still, while Eva Le Gallienne’s lesbianism was an open secret, she had regrets about it.
She reportedly told a neighbour, “If you have any thoughts about being a lesbian, don’t do it. Your life will be nothing but tragedy.”
Eva Le Gallienne died at age of 92 in 1991.