by Isabel Espy
I grew up in a town that brushed up against a desert where not much grew except for the occasional towering cactus. When I would come across a huge Eulychnia Acida covered in red flowers, it would always catch me by surprise. How could such an arid womb give birth to something so affirming?
Theatre is like a cactus. Not because it can be shockingly painful when experienced – which it can be – but because it often gives the impression of springing up out of nothing. But what I learned living next to a desert is that if you dig down around a cactus you will always find roots that can stretch for miles, connecting it to everything. And boy, does theatre have roots!
While you may see one amazing show, one brilliant performance, if you dig you will find a community of passionate artists who provide lifeblood to the show. Much like the roots of cacti that hold a desert’s topsoil from beneath, a strong healthy theatre community, though often invisible, keeps the fabric of a community in place.
After 3 years in the Theatre School at UCLA I have found a hidden world of amazingly talented souls. I am a rising senior at UCLA, and I love the family of performers, designers, directors, and writers I have accumulated. What I hadn’t realized was just how far these roots extend outside and beyond UCLA’s School of Theatre, Film and Television . I have already run into so many people through the LA County Arts Commission internship community and through working here that I know from the larger theatre world.
During one of my first days here at The Fountain, as I was making one of my many trips to the kitchen to refill my coffee mug, I slipped past an early design meeting for our upcoming play, Citizen: An American Lyric. I recognized Pablo Santiago, an amazing lighting designer who I have been lucky to work with on a couple shows at UCLA, and found out that he designing the lights for the show. A day or two later James Bennett asked me if I would like to read the script of The Better Part of Forever. It turns the play was written by a classmate of mine, Leland Frankel.
I met Leland my first week at UCLA, have spent many an hour working on group projects with him, and just last month accidentally crashed his graduation party. Leland knows how to throw a great soiree, but he knows how to write an even better play.
I read The Better Part of Forever on my lunch break, which shows you how absorbed I was, as usually I spend that half-hour hopelessly trying to get a hold of my sister on Skype, my only means of reaching her in The Hague. I was so invested in The Better Part of Forever that on my commute to work the next day I found myself vaguely musing over what Jules, one of the two protagonists of the play, would do if asked to join an ice cream sundae eating contest. These random thoughts are usually reserved for bad TV show characters or absorbing books, and it took me a while to locate Jules within the context of Leland’s play.
Anyway, last week I snuck into one of the rehearsals for The Better Part of Forever and got to catch up with Leland and watch the reading being staged. I am super excited about seeing it on the 12th of July as part of the Fountain’s Rap Dev Series, and so should you! Dig and find the roots that hold up amazing artistic work – you might just stumble upon a flowering cactus.
Don’t miss the staged reading of Leland Frankel’s The Better Part of Forever on July 10 & 12. Get Tickets/More Info
Isabel Espy is the Fountain Theatre’s summer intern from UCLA. We are grateful for the support of the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and its Arts Internship program.