Category Archives: actors

Fountain Theatre to present celebrity reading of 1972 “The Candidate” in 2020 election year

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Poster for 1972 political film “The Candidate” starring Robert Redford.

The acclaimed Fountain Theatre has obtained permission from Warner Bros to present a one-night celebrity reading of the Jeremy Larner screenplay for the Academy Award winning 1972 movie, The Candidate.  The event will take place in the City Council Chamber at Los Angeles City Hall in 2020, the cast, date and time to be announced.

The celebrity reading continues the Fountain’s ongoing program created in partnership with LA City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell to bring local government, the arts community and the public together in a unique setting to address timely issues of the day. The Candidate will follow the Fountain’s hugely successful 2018 celebrity readings of All the President’s Men, starring cast members from The West Wing and Scandal, and the 2019 all-star reading of Ms. Smith Goes to Washington, starring Bellamy Young  and Sam Waterston.

In the gritty, documentary-like film The Candidate directed by Michael Ritchie, Robert Redford stars as an idealistic, good-natured attorney whose high standards are soiled by his run for political office.  Jeremy Larner won the Academy Award for his screenplay.  The film is considered one of the top ten political movies ever made.

Fountain Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs, who directed the City Hall readings of All The President’s Men and Ms. Smith Goes to Washington, will guide the celebrity reading of The Candidate in 2020, stating “I can think of no better choice for the upcoming election year.”

PHOTOS: First rehearsal for Pulitzer Prize winner ‘Between Riverside and Crazy’ at Fountain Theatre

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Liza Fernandez, Joshua Bitton, Guillermo Cienfuegos, Victor Anthony, Lesley Fera, Montae Russell and Marisol Miranda

What happens when you mix a Pulitzer Prize winning script, a company of phenomenal actors and a skilled director together in one room? You get magic.  From the moment the first lines of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ funny and powerful Between Riverside and Crazy were spoken at Wednesday night’s first rehearsal, all knew they were in for a wild and joyous ride.

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In Gurigis’ profane and tender tale, ex-cop and recent widower Walter “Pops” Washington and his newly paroled son Junior have spent a lifetime living between Riverside and crazy. But now, the NYPD is demanding his signature to close an outstanding lawsuit, the landlord wants him out, the liquor store is closed—and the church won’t leave him alone. When the struggle to keep one of New York City’s last great rent-stabilized apartments collides with old wounds, sketchy new houseguests, and a final ultimatum, it seems that the old days may be dead and gone.

Directed by award-winning Guillermo Cienfuegos, the cast includes Victor Anthony, Joshua Bitton, Lesley Fera, Liza Fernandez, Matthew Hancock, Marisol Miranda, and Montae Russell.

At the first meet-and-greet, the company was joined by Fountain staff, Board members and donors.  The group enjoyed a brief welcoming reception and then gathered on the Fountain stage for the reading of the script. Director Cienfuegos commented that he was struck by the support of the Fountain Theatre Family. Never, he said, had he witnessed such a show of community at a first rehearsal, with such a large number of dedicated people so eagerly present. “This is wonderful,” he grinned. “Because the play, in addition to being about racism and class and police work, is really about family.”

Between Riverside and Crazy opens October 19. More Info/Get Tickets

PHOTOS: A night at the ballpark on Fountain Theatre Dodgers Game Night

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As retired Dodgers veteran sportscaster Vin Scully would declare, “It’s time for Dodgers baseball!”

With the warm nights of summer comes the annual Fountain Theatre Dodgers Game Night, a yearly tradition for Fountain staff, Board members, Fountain Family and friends to enjoy a night out at the ballpark.  Last night’s event brought thirty-four Fountain folks together for hot dogs, peanuts, beer and the joy of cheering our Boys in Blue.  For some, it was their first visit to Dodger Stadium. For a few, last night was their first time watching a baseball game ever.

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The evening ended in celebration: The Dodgers beat the Colorado Rockies 5-3.

“The Joy Luck Club” cast visits “Hannah and the Dread Gazebo” at Fountain Theatre

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Actors from “Joy Luck Club” and “Hannah” in Fountain cafe.

Ever question if LA has a real theatre community? A true sense of camaraderie? Doubt no more. Last night, members of the cast from the Sierra Madre Playhouse production of The Joy Luck Club swarmed to the Fountain Theatre to support friends and colleagues in our California Premiere of Hannah and the Dread Gazebo. After the performance, members from both companies gathered in our upstairs cafe to celebrate and congratulate each other.

It was fitting that the visit happened on Labor Day, the national observance of the value of work.  For people who work in the theatre, there is a fervent dedication to the art form and a palpable cord of goodwill between artists.

The bond between the Joy Luck and Hannah casts  — both with Asian actors — began when the company of Joy Luck sent a funny and warm-hearted good luck video from the Sierra Madre Playhouse to the Hannah group days before its opening at the Fountain.


The Hannah company replied, posting their own video to the Joy Luck cast.

Happy opening night to the cast and crew of Joy Luck Club at Sierra Madre Playhouse (Victor S Chi Shar Liu Christine Liao Tim Dang Yee Eun Nam Lee Chen-Norman Grace Shen Christopher Chen and everyone) !!!!! — ❤ the cast of Hannah and the Dread Gazebo at East West Players and Fountain Theatre 🎭🥰👏👏👏👏💐

Posted by Jully Lee on Saturday, August 24, 2019

 

Last night, cast members from The Joy Luck Club were at the Fountain supporting their fellow players. The Hannah cast will soon do the same. Theatre can be a competitive business. It can also be a haven for friendship and support.

Enjoy these photos from last night’s visit.

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Get tickets/more info on Hannah and the Dread Gazebo and The Joy Luck Club.

PHOTOS: Opening Night of ‘Hannah and the Dread Gazebo’ at Fountain Theatre

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The Hannah company gathers for a party photo.

A packed house of passionate theatregoers, donors and guests, friends and family, and the invited press enjoyed Saturday night’s Opening performance of our California Premiere of Hannah and the Dread Gazebo by Jiehae Park.  A collaboration between the Fountain Theatre and East West Players, the audience reflected a lively engagement from the communities of both companies.

Following the performance, guests enjoyed a catered reception upstairs in our charming cafe. The delicious Korean cuisine was served by Kimbap Paradise, with Korean beer provided by Lotte Beverage America.

Enjoy these photos!

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Hannah and the Dread Gazebo continues in a limited run to Sept 22.  Tickets/More Info

‘Hannah’ playwright Jiehae Park and director Jennifer Chang making magic together

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Jiehae Park

by Carolina Xique

It’s an exciting time to be an artist. In the last few years, the arts industry has been experiencing a high production value in diverse storytelling aimed toward better representation of people of color, and more specifically, Asian and Asian American representation. With groundbreaking films such as Crazy Rich Asians, Netflix’s Always be My Maybe, The Farewell, as well as the successful theatrical production of Cambodian Rock Band, people everywhere are becoming more exposed to the nuances of the Asian/Asian-American experience.

With a cast that is made up of Koreans and Korean Americans, Jiehae Park’s Hannah and the Dread Gazebo takes a family on a funny, heartbreaking adventure to reconnect with their roots in South and North Korea, and also into the forbidden Demilitarized Zone that divides them. Hannah premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2017, and is now set to open at the Fountain Theatre in association with East West Players, directed by Jiehae’s longtime collaborator, Jennifer Chang. So we thought we’d grab the chance to talk with them about their own adventure with this play.

Carolina Xique: First, let me say that I’m thrilled to hear about this new piece and that it’s making its way into Los Angeles.

Jiehae, as playwright, can you talk about how the idea for this play came to you? Is it personal to your own experience or indicative of the holistic Korean American experience? And Jennifer, as the director, what drew you to take on this piece?

Jiehae Park: I didn’t know I was writing a play. I was primarily a performer at the time (Jen and I both went to UCSD for acting). There were quite a few big questions I was trying to figure out—and I think the unusual shape of the play reflects that. I would sit down and write down stories that came to me in that moment, not realizing it was all going to add up to something bigger.

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Jennifer Chang

Jennifer Chang: I am a huge fan of Jiehae’s and have been following her career with personal interest for some time as we share an alma mater: we both went through the MFA Acting program at UCSD and have both diversified our careers.  She is a significant talent and I am so thrilled to have this opportunity to collaborate with her on Hannah and the Dread Gazebo. The musicality of the language and the inherent theatricality that emerges from her ability to weave a multiplicity of thought and theme are all very exciting and honestly a dream to be able to dive into.  Also, I love being able to support the telling of Asian American stories in their universality and three-dimensionality.

What kind of research did both of you dive into when writing Hannah?

JP: I didn’t research much initially, but I did do quite a bit before finishing the play (that’s been a recurring pattern in my writing process these last few years). The research didn’t directly go into the play but provided a richer historical and cultural context that helped me complete it.

A follow-up to that, in terms of your other plays and writing process, was anything different for Hannah and the Dread Gazebo?

JP: Broadly, I seem to have two general types of plays—super-quick, freight-train-speed linear ones; or messier, slower-baking plays where the structure is far less predictable. Hannah is definitely in the latter category.

Jennifer, what in your directing process is helping you with Hannah and the Dread Gazebo?

JC: Regarding research, the usual dramaturgical work of researching was involved: Korea, the DMZ, politics of North and South and Kim Jong Il. I wanted to lean into the magic-realism of the play, and early on knew that I wanted to consult with an illusionist, and also started doing some research into magic (I’m currently reading Spellbound by David Kwong). It’s been so great to have a cast that is Korean American.  There are some points of commonality amongst Asian Americans, but being able to tap into specific details, nuances, and experiences that the cast has so generously shared with the company and has contributed to the making of the show has been invaluable.  It’s illuminating to discover the tiny nuances of how gestures and thinking and sounds differ for Koreans in, and those from, Korea.  I love new plays and really view myself as a locksmith in my approach to collaboration.  I want to know what the play wants to be, the playwright’s intentions, what’s resonating with the cast and how they approach the work, and how best to facilitate the conversation and “the ride” so to speak, with the audience.  Having worked on Vietgone by Qui Nguyen has really helped.  These plays are vastly different but they both have scenes that shift at a cinematic pace in widely varying tones that need to be woven together in the same play.

East West Players is a theatre company known for its work lifting up Asian-American stories. How do you feel about bringing the LA premiere of Hannah in collaboration with EWP and the Fountain Theatre?

JP: Honored. I had a reading of my very first play—which had been my college thesis—at EWP over a decade ago…in the time since I figured out I wasn’t a playwright, went to grad school for something else, then re-figured out that I was.  And Stephen Sachs at the Fountain reached out about the play very soon after the OSF premiere—I’ve long admired the scripts he brings to LA area audiences. Additionally, Jen directed an early reading of the play at EWP years ago, and I acted in a show with Jully Lee (the Shapeshifter) that Howard Ho (Sound Design/Composer) music directed when I was right out of school. I’m bummed to not have been able to be out there for rehearsals, but happy that it feels all in the family.

JC: It’s an honor to be able to helm a project with the support of two highly respected institutions in Los Angeles.  I think it’s really smart theatre making to cross-pollinate and support the universality of human experiences and good work regardless of color.  A collaboration like this signals that this isn’t just work by people of color, but that it’s good work worth supporting, period.

What do you want audiences to take with them when they leave the Fountain Theatre after seeing Hannah and the Dread Gazebo?

JC: Garlic in their pockets.

Carolina Xique, is a theatre artist and arts nonprofit administrator. She is a member of the Los Angeles Female Playwright Initiative

VIDEO: Cast and director feel the magic of ‘Hannah and the Dread Gazebo’ at Fountain Theatre

More Info/Get Tickets

Our nation’s future depends on moments like this

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Fountain Board member Miles Benickes and Zoey Rosenzweig at Mueller Read-A-Thon.

by Stephen Sachs

First, she said no. She would not do it. When her grandfather asked her again in the Fountain Theatre lobby, she awkwardly took a step back in retreat, shy and embarrassed.  

“No,” she said, in a blushing 14-year old half-grin.

She would not join her grandfather, Miles Benickes, on stage to read a ten-minute section of the Mueller Report in front of a gathered audience of LA professionals and unseen viewers watching online via a simultaneous live stream on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. No way.

Then Zoey Rosenzweig changed her mind. I was thrilled and surprised when she strode out onto our Fountain stage with Miles and diligently read through the Mueller legalese with her grandfather. She may not have understood much of the gobbledygook she was reading. Who did? That didn’t matter. Something vital for the future of our nation was happening. Zoey Rosenzweig was getting involved.

Thursday’s 15-hour Mueller Report Read-A-Thon at the Fountain Theatre held dozens of unforgettable moments like this for me. The marathon event was emotionally overwhelming. The Fountain hummed with ecstatic energy all day and all night. A parade of politicians, actors, writers, and community leaders read from the podium as if declaring from a public square, each person high-charged by their call to duty.

I thought of the day as an Open House. The Fountain Theatre opening its doors – all day and all night — to democracy. At an Open House, all visitors are welcome. At an Open House, anyone who wishes may visit. An Open House is a gathering that’s open to anyone who wants to come by, any time. 

An atmosphere of community was everywhere. In the lobby, in the audience, out front on the sidewalk, in our upstairs café.  Theatre provides community. Los Angeles is one of the most diverse cities in this country, and our LA theatre network is large and widespread. But on Thursday our Mueller Report Read-A-Thon proved that, like the motto of our nation, Los Angeles and the LA Theatre Community is “out of many, one.”

For our nation to survive, engaging young people in the arts and politics of this country is essential. I studied closely as our twenty-two-year-old Fountain intern, Melina Young, sat in the front row watching respected LA theatre critic Sylvie Drake read from our stage. A proud grin spreading across Melina’s face. Sylvie Drake is Melina’s grandmother. Now Melina seeks a career in the theatre. Her grandmother, by example, reminding her how the arts and social action can intersect.    

An endless stream of memorable instants that day/night flood through me now, two days later. Images of celebrities, LA Theatre icons, government officials. But it was Zoey Rosenzweig, perhaps, who remains the most indelible. A fourteen-year-old girl reading this urgent government document from the podium while her grandfather somberly leans over her shoulder like a rabbi guiding her through the Torah.

Moments like this are the reason we hosted the reading of the Mueller Report in the first place. It gives me hope. We need Zoey Rosenzweig and Melina Young and millions more like them.

Our nation, and our art form, depend on them.     

Stephen Sachs is the Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director of the Fountain Theatre. 

Photo Slideshow: First rehearsal for CA Premiere of ‘Hannah and the Dread Gazebo’

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Director Jennifer Chang addresses the company.

Our California Premiere of Hannah and the Dread Gazebo is an opportunity for the Fountain Theatre and East West Players to bring their community of artists, staff, Board members and patrons together for the first time.  That commonality of purpose was on display last night with the large turnout from both organizations at the meet & greet/first rehearsal.

Held at the East West warehouse rehearsal space in South Los Angeles, the evening began with a brief mixer including food and drinks. Fountain  Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs welcomed the group with some opening remarks. Through the magic of technology, playwright Jiehae Park joined the gathering via FaceTime to provide her thoughts and encouragement.  Director Jennifer Chang then shared her production vision with the room, noting that the play moves at the speed of thought. Designers Rebecca Bonebrake, Howard Ho, Ruoxuan Li, and Michael Allen Angel offered their insights. Professional illusionist Dominik Krzanowski will design special magic elements for the production.

After a quick break, the cast read the script aloud for the first time. And the real magic began.

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In the play, Hannah is two weeks away from becoming a neurologist when she gets a strange package in the mail from her grandmother in South Korea, who may or may not have just ended her own life. A surreal, funny and heartbreaking adventure leads Hannah on a journey back to her homeland and the forbidden Demilitarized Zone that divides South and North Korea. A startling comedy about a daughter, a mother, a grandmother and the mystery that connects them.

More Info/Get Tickets 

Britney Spears and climbing to the theatre arts summit

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2019 LA County Arts Interns Summit at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

by Melina Young

I’m scared.

Terrified in fact. There, I said it.

But really, who isn’t?

It may come as a shock to absolutely no one that to be a recent college graduate is legitimately terrifying. I can almost hear Britney Spears’s dulcet (if a bit nasal) tones reminding me that, “I’m not a girl / Not yet a woman.” She knows something I don’t… or rather she knows something that I do know but that I am trying desperately to avoid admitting.

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“I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman.” Britney Spears (2002)

The Los Angeles County Arts Commission’s 2019 Arts Summit asked me to look Britney square in her wide set, brown eyes dusted with early 2000s glitter and acknowledge that we are the same—not girls; and not yet fully-grown.

It’s true. I will proclaim it loudly in my best Britney Spears impression (which, to my dismay, is not that good).  Britney and I have something else in common—something that she demonstrates in her 2002 smash hit—we’re both artists.

I have to take a moment here to thank LACAC for organizing day jam-packed with illuminating events and with equally (if not more) illuminating fellow interns.

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2019 county arts interns touring downtown Los Angeles.

I’ll continue my momentary digression by commenting on what a relief it was to look at the 2019 class of 203 LACAC arts interns sitting around me and see that the room was not overwhelmingly white and male. This was markedly different from my experience in college and was a refreshing reminder of what it actually looks like to be an Angelino.

Back to Britney.

To be clear, my goal is not to be a pop star, but it is no less ambitious. My goal is to have a fulfilling and sustaining career in theatre. That’s no easy trick.

Here’s what my whole Britney device was leading me toward: Is it possible to give good, actionable advice to someone in my situation? I don’t have an answer to my question. And I’m not sure that I’ve encountered someone who does. I hope that doesn’t sound ungrateful, because I AM GRATEFUL.

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Melina Young at the Fountain Theatre.

Overwhelmingly grateful. And at the same time, I’m still terrified. I don’t think anything that anyone could say or do would change that. Unless what they do is hand me a contract and what they say is: “Hi, I’ll be your agent for life and I can magically promise you job security, longevity, financial stability, and artistic fulfillment.”

That does happen, but only for the lucky few.

Here’s what’s heartening. Despite the fact that the odds are against us, Arts Summit represented the coming together of two hundred and three arts interns (out of four thousand applicants I might add) who are pursuing the arts in bold defiance of those odds.

We believe in ourselves; and what’s more, we believe in one another.

I think that’s what we might call hope and courage. Fear that’s said its prayers. Sure, it’s hard to be a recent college grad that wants to be an artist. But I’ll take it because I get to be hopeful and courageous and I’m in fabulous company. That’s exciting.

To my delight, I think I encountered good, actionable advice in my LACAC peer group. (I won’t name names to protect the innocent.) Here it is:

Sometimes making art feels like screaming into the void. That’s frustrating; but scream anyway, and use that frustration to scream louder.

So I’m screaming. I hope it’s loud enough that you heard it.

Melina Young is our 2019 summer intern at the Fountain Theatre. Our thanks to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the LA County Arts Commission for its Arts Internship Program.