Fountain Theatre co-founder Deborah Lawlor passed away Tuesday, May 2, at the age of 83.
After graduating from Bennington College, Lawlor’s extraordinary career began in the ’60s as a dancer, choreographer and actor in New York, where she was a member of the storied Judson Church/Caffe Cino scene in the Village.
She moved to South India in 1968. There, she pioneered Auroville, a 12-square-mile utopian international community created for human unity that now holds 3,000 inhabitants from around the world. While there, she also created two full-length outdoor dance/theater pieces celebrating the community. After India, she spent ten years in Australia and France studying ancient cultures of India and Egypt.
As an author, she translated the French philosopher and mystic R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz’s work on sacred architecture in “The Temple in Man” (1977), Egyptology in “Symbol and the Symbolic” (1978), and esoteric philosophy in “Nature Word” (1982).
Returning to the U.S. in 1986, she independently produced plays in Los Angeles’ burgeoning intimate theater scene and, in 1990, she and Stephen Sachs co-founded the Fountain Theatre.
Dubbed the “Fountain Theatre’s godmother of flamenco” by the Los Angeles Times, Lawlor was responsible for the Fountain’s extensive dance program, including the company’s renowned “Forever Flamenco” series. Deborah’s 25-year collaboration with Maria Bermudez and Sonidos Gitanos at the Ford Amphitheater and the Fountain began in 1995. Other dance projects at the Fountain include The Women of Guernica, Lawlor’s flamenco-based adaptation of Euripides’ The Trojan Women, which she also directed, and three full-evening dance-theater pieces which she created and directed: Declarations: Love Letters of the Great Romantics; The Path of Love, which she also directed in South India; and the dance opera, The Song of Songs, with music by Al Carmines.
In 2006, she directed the West Coast premiere of the delightful Taxi to Jannah. In 2017, the Fountain, in partnership with the Los Angeles City College Theatre Academy, premiered Lawlor’s play Freddy, the tragic story of legendary dancer Freddy Herko who was a denizen of Andy Warhol’s Factory and a personal friend of Lawlor’s during her Judson Church days. In 2010, Actor’s Equity Association honored Lawlor with its Diversity Award for her dedication to presenting work at the Fountain that is culturally diverse. In 2013, she received special commendations from the City of Los Angeles and the Spanish Consulate for her contributions to the art of flamenco
Deborah grew up in Riverside, California. Her father, Arthur A. Culver, was president of the Riverside Press-Enterprise newspaper from 1969 to 1984. He remained on the board of directors until his death in 1994. Deborah’s brother, Tony Culver, passed away in 2002.
“The Fountain Theatre, as it now exists, would not be if not for Deborah Lawlor,” says Sachs. “More than anyone I’ve ever known, she is the foremost example of utilizing one’s privilege for the benefit of others. She will be deeply missed, but she lives on: in Auroville, at the Fountain, and in the hearts of those she touched and the countless lives she changed.”
A memorial celebration to take place on the outdoor stage at the Fountain will be announced at a later date.