Forty years after Ganna Walska had a small outdoor theatre built at Lotusland to resemble the one at her French chateau, there was little left except the stone steps. Isabelle set about designing a renovation that would “join hands” with Walska’s whimsical creativity throughout the Lotusland gardens. She planted tall fern pine hedges to form new wings on the stage and “vegetative” dressing rooms for the actors, breath-of-heaven along the aisles to release fragrance as patrons brushed by, scented chamomile to edge the lawn where they might sit, and fanciful small-scale surprises such as hidden “box seats” skirted by floppy lace-cap hydrangeas.
Walska’s collection of grotesques from France was brought out of storage. Although Isabelle’s original design called for pairs of them to symmetrically march throughout the theatre, when she saw them off-loaded from the truck in a group at the theatre edge, she laughed out loud, seeing a “flock of gremlins” about to swarm into her space. She decided to leave many of them where they stood so that others could enjoy the humor. Beyond the group, one cheeky grotesque showing his tongue peeks out behind an olive tree, while a flirtatious female displays her leg to an ogling monk nearby.
Arriving, one finds a space already animated, and full of Walska’s love of surprise. Sometime during the performance, an actor, true to Shakespearian theatricals, is likely to drop out of a tree that Isabelle left in the way on the stage.
2.5 acres; 2-year project; completed 1988.