Category Archives: African American

Angie Kariotis talks Walking the Beat and its August 25 final presentation: BLACKOUT 2021

Angie Kariotis, co-creator of Walking the Beat

by France-Luce Benson

Among the many lessons learned in 2020, the most crucial may be our urgent need to have open and honest conversations about race in America. As the grisly video of George Floyd’s murder surfaced, it became painfully clear that we could not afford to look away. Protesters spilled into the streets of cities across the country with a powerful message: If we are silent about injustice, we are complicit.

Angie Kariotis, Program Facilitator and Curriculum Director for Walking the Beat Los Angeles, has devoted her work to fostering these difficult conversations. Kariotis, along with Fountain Theatre Board member Theo Perkins, created Walking the Beat as a tool for community building for high school students. The nine-week multi-media workshop combines performance, creative writing, film, and research to initiate positive interactions between youth and police.

The Arts Education program began in New Jersey in partnership with Elizabeth Youth Theatre Ensemble, and in 2019 the Fountain Theatre launched Walking the Beat Hollywood. This year, the Fountain expanded the program, making it possible for students and police officers outside Hollywood to participate. On August 25, the Fountain will screen Walking the Beat Los Angeles’ culminating multi-media presentation, BLACKOUT 2021.

I had the pleasure of talking to Kariotis about the evolution, impact, and future of this vital program. 

What kind of impact did the events of 2020 have on the students, based on your work with them this past month?

If we are scared as a nation, we will forget all the lessons hard learned. You can see it happening already. No one is talking about all the changes we want to keep. What do we want to keep? Instead of rushing to “normal” (which wasn’t!), 2020 necessitated an activation. We’re activated. One thing the students are is ready.

Was it difficult getting the officers and students to open up?

No, it wasn’t difficult for anyone to open up, by themselves and with each other. People, and I believe most people, want to do just that. But they need permission and they don’t want to be alone doing it.

How has the program evolved since its inception, particularly in the last year?

We got research-heavy this year. We turned this workshop into a popular education. We practiced critique and analysis. We studied. We grew into our work as research-based performance artists. We aimed to challenge public policy formally. We are working to move our practice into the theater that is public policy.

How have your own background and experiences prepared you to do this?

I am studying design thinking and collaborative group processes. This framework is about divergent thinking, collaboration, experimentation, and honoring failure. Creativity — and not just the art-making transactional kind — is a necessary skill. We need people who are able to identify problems before they become problems.

Who should see BLACKOUT 2021? Why?

Anyone who wants to know how to have hard conversations with others. People interested in learning how to get people to the table. How to talk about things no one knows how to talk about. Right now we all want to talk about a lot, but we don’t know how.

What is your vision for the future of Walking the Beat and beyond?

For Walking the Beat, my vision is doing policy brief work, where we move beyond survivance and reconnect with the Earth. I wonder how our workshop can tackle the larger theme of power and how that affects our relationship with the planet.  We talk about public safety. Do we have planetary safety? What does that mean? How is the way we treat each other impacting climate? This is the ethos moving me into this space and beyond.

* * *

It is this passion and progressive vision that have inspired the ensemble of students and officers to create work that is bold, brave, and charged with the urgency of this moment in our country. In addition to serving as Program Facilitator and Curriculum Director of Walking the Beat, Kariotis offers community workshops for parents on How to Raise Anti-Racist Kids, works at Brookdale Community College as Director of Diversity and Inclusion/CCOG, and has published a chapter in Musing the Margins, an anthology examining the influence of culture and identity on the craft of fiction.

BLACKOUT 2021 will premiere on the Fountain Theatre’s outdoor stage this Wednesday, August 25, at 7pm. It will also be available to view on Fountain Stream in the fall.

France-Luce Benson is an award-winning playwright and the Community Engagement Coordinator at the Fountain Theatre.

Fountain Theatre hosts Monday press conference celebrating “Save the Performing Arts Act”

State Senator Susan Rubio in front of the set for An Octoroon at the Fountain Theatre’s Outdoor Stage

On Monday, August 16th, from 9:30-10 a.m., performing arts leaders and Hollywood celebrities will join State Senator Susan Rubio (D – Baldwin Hills) and Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell (13th District, City of Los Angeles) on the Fountain Theatre’s Outdoor Stage to celebrate Governor Gavin Newsom signing into law Senate Bill 805, entitledSave the Performing Arts Act of 2021.” Fountain Theatre Artistic Director Stephen Sachs will emcee the event.

“This bill is recognition from the State of California that intimate theater companies matter,” says Sachs. “I applaud Senator Rubio for her tireless advocacy in crafting this bill, and thank her for taking action to support the needs of small nonprofit theaters across the state.”

The “Save the Performing Arts Act of 2021,” authored by Senator Rubio and co-authored by State Senator Benjamin Allen (D – Santa Monica)and State Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D – La Canada Flintridge), provides $50 million in much-needed immediate financial aid to small performing arts organizations with annual budgets under $2 million (including the Fountain.) The bill also includes $500,000 to set up payroll services support, which will be overseen by the California Arts Council. The public is invited, and encouraged, to attend this celebratory event. Please note: mask-wearing and social distancing will be in effect.

SB 805 is the first bill in the nation that will create a critical funding infrastructure to help assist Small Nonprofit Performing Arts Companies (SNPAC) with average adjusted gross revenues equal to, or less than $1.4 million, to be adjusted every five years based on the California Consumer Price Index. SB 805 will direct the California Arts Council to establish the California Nonprofit Performing Arts Paymaster, which will provide low-cost payroll and paymaster services to SNPACs. This legislation will establish the Performing Arts Equitable Payroll Fund to ensure that SNPACs can pay all workers minimum wage, particularly workers in marginalized communities. Small nonprofit theaters are incubators for playwrights, actors, designers, directors and other artists. They have historically provided networking opportunities and mentorship for Black, Indigenous and People of Color artists to facilitate connections necessary for career advancement by providing performance experience that helps to open doors to larger, less accessible companies. Furthermore, SNPACs contribute to the economic growth, social well-being and cultural vitality of the local communities they serve.

Other confirmed attendees include:

Danny Glover, Co-Founder of The Robey Theatre Company; upcoming recipient of the 2022 Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award (an Honorary Oscar); BET Award, Cable ACE Award, NAACP Image Award and Asian Pacific Screen Awards winner, and Emmy Award-nominated actor. SB 805 Coalition Member.

Josefina López, Founding Artistic Director, CASA 0101. Theater, Emmy Award, Sundance Film Festival and Humanitas Prize Award-Winning Writer. SB 805 Coalition Member.

Ben Guillory (Co-Founder, CEO and Producing Artistic Director, The Robey Theatre Company, SB 805 Coalition Member. The Robey Theatre Company is a member of the Senate Bill 805 Coalition.

Kirsten Vangsness, tech-kitten Penelope Garcia on the Criminal Minds franchise, and a longtime member of Theatre of NOTE, which is a member of the Senate Bill 805 Coalition.

Snehal Desai, Producing Artistic Director of the award-winning East West Players, the nation’s premiere Asian-American theater company and one of the longest-running theaters of color in the United States.

Jon Imparato, Producer and Artistic Director of the Lily Tomlin/Jane Wagner Cultural Center at Los Angeles LGBT Center

Arianna Ortiz, Western Regional Councilor for Actors’ Equity Association

Martha Demson, President of Theater Producer’s League Los Angeles and Artistic Director of the award-winning Open Fist Theatre Company, both of which are members of the Senate Bill 805 Coalition.

Simon Levy, Producing Director of the Fountain Theatre

SB 805 Coalition Members, which include: Leagues: Alliance of Desert Theatres, Arts for LA, Californians for the Arts/California Arts Advocates, San José Arts Advocates, Theatre Bay Area, Theatrical Producers League Los Angeles; Theaters: 24th Street Theatre, Actors Co-op Theatre Company, Altarena Playhouse, Breath of Fire Latina Theater Ensemble, CASA 0101 Theater, Celebration Theatre, Chance Theater, Coin & Ghost, Collaborative Artist Bloc, Company of Angels, Dezart Performs, Downey Arts Collective, El Teatro Campesino, Flat Tire Theatre Company, Fountain Theatre, IAMA Theatre Company, Infinite Jest Theatre Company, The Inkwell Theater, Inland Valley Repertory Theater, Interact Theatre Company, Invertigo Dance Theatre, Latino Theater Company, Macha Theatre Company/Films, Moving Arts, New American Theatre, Novato Theater Company, Numi Opera, Open Fist Theatre Company, Ophelia’s Jump Productions, Playwrights’ Arena, Rogue Machine Theatre, Rogues Artists Ensemble, Sacred Fools Theater Company at the Broadwater, Santa Cruz Actors’ Theatre, Sierra Madre Playhouse, Skylight Theatre Company, SkyPilot Theatre Company, The Robey Theatre Company, The Road Theater Company, The Victory Theatre Center, Theatre of NOTE, Theatre Unleashed, Teatro Máscara Mágica, Teatro Visión, Theatre West, Town Hall Theatre; Independent Artists: Producer Michaela Bulkley, Performer Devon DeGroot, Actor Robert Fancy, Actress Cristal Gonzalez, Performer Julia Sanford and Performer Christopher Sepulveda.  

Larry Powell’s “The Gaze,” aired on Fountain Stream in 2020, earns 2 Daytime Emmy Award nominations

Writer/creator Larry Powell’s digital series The Gaze…No Homo has received two Daytime Emmy Award nominations, including Outstanding Lead Actress in a Daytime Fiction Program for Sharon Lawrence. Joey Scoma has been nominated for Outstanding Multi-Camera Editing for a Drama or Daytime Fiction Program.

The Fountain Theatre digital platform, Fountain Stream, partnered with Powell and Angelica Robinson of Tell Me a Story Productions in 2020 to present this bold and funny 12-part series. It later aired on Facebook Watch and YouTube.

The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced the nominees for the 48th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards Children’s & Animation and Lifestyle categories. The remainder of the year’s Daytime Emmys will be celebrated in two live-streamed events on July 17 (children’s and animated programming) and July 18.

For the full list of nominees, click here.

Fountain Theatre honors Juneteenth with free celebration and other events

The Fountain Theatre commemorates the emancipation of enslaved women and men in Texas on June 19, 1865 — the last state to abolish slavery in the U.S. following the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 — with a special event at the Fountain’s new Covid-safe outdoor venue in East Hollywood. The Fountain’s Juneteenth Celebration will take place on Saturday, June 19 beginning at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free and open to the public.

The Fountain event will feature dancing with D.J. Earry Hall as well as special guests. Food and handcrafted items will be available for purchase from Black vendors and artisans, including Mama Aunties Vegan GoodiesGloria Shelby-Dyer (SoBeltClothing.com and Affirmation Mirrors); Nappilynaturals/Sharon WilliamsB.T. Williams Handmade Jewelry; and Brilliance Ltd.

The celebration will immediately follow a 5 p.m. matinee performance of the Obie award-winning play An Octoroon by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, a Los Angeles premiere production that is inaugurating the Fountain’s new outdoor stage (separate, ticketed admission).

Counting down to the June 19 event, the Fountain will also host a virtual Juneteenth panel discussion, moderated by playwright, performer and founder/artistic director of Minneapolis-based Carlyle Brown & Company Carlyle Brown and featuring panelists Miami Herald journalist Bea L. Hines; performance artist, educator and linguist Vanya Allen; and playwright/screenwriter Keith Josef Adkins, on Monday June 14 at 1 p.m. PT. The discussion will be available live on Zoom, and will also be live-streamed on the Fountain’s social media platforms, where it will remain available to view on demand throughout the week.

On Tuesday, June 15, the Fountain will post a spoken word video created in honor of Juneteenth by Loyola Marymount University’s Theatre in Color. The LMU video will also remain available to view on demand throughout the week.

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day and Emancipation Day, has been celebrated by African Americans on June 19 every year since the late 1800s.

Earlier this year, the Fountain received approval from the City of Los Angeles to install the outdoor stage for the purpose of safely presenting live performances and other events during the pandemic. Construction is now complete, with the opening of An Octoroon slated for June 18.

An Octoroon is Jacobs-Jenkins’s gasp-inducing deconstruction of a moustache-twirling melodrama by 19th century playwright Dion Boucicault that twists a funhouse world of larger-than-life stereotypes into blistering social commentary.

For more information about the Juneteenth events, An Octoroon and the Fountain Theatre, call 323-663-1525 or go to www.fountaintheatre.com.

Intimate. Excellent. Leading the way.

by Logan Myles Stacer

For 31 years, the Fountain Theatre has proudly maintained its identity as Intimate and Excellent. With the opening this month of An Octoroon, we are doubling down on our commitment to leading the way.

June 18th marks a turning point, not just for the Fountain Theatre but for Los Angeles theatre writ large. The opening of Branden Jacob-Jenkins An Octoroon brings with it a re-centering of the role that theatre can play in helping communities to heal.

The Fountain holds the distinction of being the first intimate theatre in Los Angeles granted permission by Actors’ Equity, the union that governs stage actors and stage managers, to re-open in the wake of falling COVID-19 infections. The timing of that approval also allows us to acknowledge Juneteenth in a more expansive way, by building out programming that continues the conversation on the themes of both An Octoroon and that important day.

Logan Myles Stacer

Juneteenth is a national holiday that commemorates June 19th, 1965 – the day that the news of emancipation finally made it to the state of Texas, officially marking the end of chattel slavery in the United States. While President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1st, 1863, it still took two and a half years for that news to travel to Texas. There are many different theories as to why this happened, but the fact remains that the Texas economy was able to benefit from slave labor for more than two years after the rest of the country abandoned it. Appropriately, in 1980, Texas became the first state to recognize Juneteenth as a state holiday. Today, 47 states and the District of Columbia also accept Juneteenth as a state or ceremonial holiday.

Black independence, Black commerce, and Black solidarity will be on display at the Fountain Theatre throughout the week of Juneteenth. On Monday, June 14th, at 12pm, we will host a virtual panel discussion moderated by Carlyle Brown, noted playwright/performer/artistic director of the Minneapolis-based Carlyle Brown & Company. On Tuesday, June 15th, we’ll be sharing a poem performed by LMU’s Theatre in Color. And during our actual Juneteenth celebration, we’ll be hosting Black-owned businesses such as MamaAunties Vegan Goodies, Nappily Naturals, B.T. Williams’ handmade jewelry, and more, at the theatre. There will also be art from the New Black City art exhibit on display.

We encourage you to join us in experiencing An Octoroon and our additional Juneteenth programming as we celebrate the grand re-opening of the Fountain Theatre and our beautiful new Outoor Stage. Previews for An Octoroon begin June 11; opening night is June 18. Performances are Fridays-Mondays at 7pm through Sept. 19. Tickets range from $25-$45; Pay-What-You-Want seating is available every Monday night in addition to regular seating (subject to availability.) Tickets are on sale now via the Fountain box office at (323) 663-1525, or on our website at www.fountaintheatre.com.

Logan Myles Stacer is the Assistant Community Engagement Coordinator at the Fountain Theatre.

Countdown to Fountain Theatre’s Juneteenth event starts today

Join us as we count down to commemorate Juneteenth, the holiday celebrating the end of slavery in the United States. On Saturday, June 19th — the date known as Juneteenth — come to the Fountain to enjoy a DJ, dancing, food, handcrafted products by Black artisans, and other events to be announced. The performance of An Octoroon will have a 5pm curtain time that afternoon, to allow folks to experience the play and the gathering immediately following.

We are also planning a thought-provoking series of online events on our Fountain Stream platform throughout the run of An Octoroon, bringing together some very cool and fascinating people. More on that soon.

Juneteenth has been celebrated by African-Americans since the late 1800s. But in recent years, and particularly following nationwide protests over police brutality and the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and other Black Americans, there is a renewed interest in the day that celebrates freedom.

The celebration continues to resonate in new ways, given the sweeping changes and widespread protests across the U.S. over the last year and following a guilty verdict in the killing of Mr. Floyd.

Each day leading up to Juneteenth, we will share interesting facts, highlight Black artists, swap personal stories, and celebrate the spirit of freedom while recognizing that much still must be done in this nation to ensure every that citizen is treated equally.

Let the Countdown begin!

Meet the cast of An Octoroon

by Terri Roberts

The Memorial Day holiday may have been a three-day weekend for most, but at the Fountain Theatre the cast and crew of our Los Angeles premiere of An Octoroon were digging in to rehearse the show and prepare for the long week ahead of loading in set, lights, video, and sound, all leading up to the all-important tech weekend.

It seems like we only just started, yet our fabulous cast has not only been hard at work for a few weeks now, but they recently donned costumes, hair and makeup for a publicity photo shoot.

Meet the wonderful actors from An Octoroon here:

And check out the photo shoot for An Octoroon here:

Tickets for Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ Obie Award-winning Best American Play, An Octoroon, are on sale now. The show runs June 18 through Sept. 19, with performances on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays at 7 p.m., with the following exceptions: Saturday, June 19, the performance is set for 5 p.m. and will be followed by a special Juneteenth event. More on that coming soon! And the weekends of July 30 – Aug. 2 and Aug. 27 – Aug. 30 will be dark for An Octoroon so that our acclaimed dance series, Forever Flamenco, can shake up the stage! More on that to come as well.

Tickets for An Octoroon range from $25–$45; Pay-What-You-Want seating is available every Monday night in addition to regular seating (subject to availability). The Fountain Theatre is located at 5060 Fountain Avenue (at Normandie) in Los Angeles. For reservations and information, call (323) 663-1525 or go to www.fountaintheatre.com.

Terri Roberts is a freelance writer and the Coordinator of Fountain Friends, the Fountain Theatre’s volunteer program. She also manages the Fountain Theatre Café and outdoor concessions.

Casting complete for the Fountain’s L.A. premiere production of An Octoroon

Casting is complete and rehearsals begin this week for the Los Angeles premiere of a radical, incendiary and subversively funny Obie award-winning play by MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” recipient Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. Performances of An Octoroon will inaugurate the new outdoor stage at The Fountain Theatre on June 18. Performances will continue through Sept. 19, with four public previews set for June 11, June 12, June 13 and June 16, and a special press preview on June 17.

Judith Moreland directs Jacobs-Jenkins’s outrageous deconstruction of a moustache-twirling melodrama by 19th century playwright Dion Boucicault. Matthew Hancock (LADCC, Stage Raw and Ovation award-winner for Hit the Wall at the L.A. LGBT Center, previously seen at the Fountain in Between Riverside and Crazy, Hype Man, The Brothers Size, I and You) stars as a modern-day Black playwright struggling to find his voice among a chorus of people telling him what he should and should not be writing. He decides to adapt his favorite play, Boucicault’s The Octoroon, an 1859 melodrama about illicit interracial love.

The Black playwright quickly realizes that getting White, male actors of today to play evil slave owners will not be easy… so, he decides to play the White male roles himself — in whiteface. What ensues is an upside down, topsy-turvy world where race and morality are challenged, mocked and savagely intensified. A highly stylized, theatrical, melodramatic reality is created to tell the story of an octoroon woman (a person who is one-eighth Black) and her quest for identity and love.

The cast includes Rob Nagle (Human Interest Story at the Fountain, The Judas Kiss at Boston Court) as Boucicault; Hazel Lozano (America Adjacent at the Skylight, Othello at Griot Theatre) as the production assistant; Mara Klein (The Judas Kiss at Boston Court, Sucker Punch at Coeurage) as the octoroon, Zoe; and Vanessa Claire Stewart (Louis & Keely: Live at the Sahara at the Geffen, Finks at Rogue Machine) as Dora, a rich Southern belle in love with the plantation owner (who is also played by Hancock). Meanwhile, Leea Ayers (BLKS at Steppenwolf, Incendiary at the Goodman Theatre), Kacie Rogers (NAACP award-winner for No Place to be Somebody at Robey Theatre Company and An Accident at Griot Theatre Company; The Heal at Getty Villa) and Pam Trotter (And Her Hair Went With Her at the Fountain, national tour of The Color Purple) portray three startlingly modern slave women.

An Octoroon brutally satirizes racial stereotypes in a funny and profoundly tragic whirlwind of images and dialogue that forces audiences to look at, laugh at, and be shattered by America’s racist history.

“The more you experience this play, the more it turns into something else,” says Moreland. “It’s an extraordinary piece of theater — hilarious, but also shocking, profound, moving… and designed to provoke and offend. We have a terrific group of actors who are completely game and up for the challenge. It’s a celebration of how theater can both move you and change lives.”

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellows Program, commonly but unofficially known as the “Genius Grant,” awards no strings attached cash prizes to individuals who demonstrate “extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.” The website described Jacobs-Jenkins as “a playwright [who draws] from a range of contemporary and historical theatrical genres to engage frankly with complicated issues around identity, family, class and race. Many of Jacobs-Jenkins’s plays use a historical lens to satirize and comment on modern culture, particularly the ways in which race and class are negotiated in both private and public settings. Although the provocation of his audience is purposeful, Jacobs-Jenkins’s creation of unsettling, shocking, often confrontational moments is not gratuitous; these elements are of a piece with the world he has established on stage and in the service of the story he is telling.”

The Fountain Theatre creative team includes scenic designer Frederica Nascimento, lighting designer Derrick McDaniel, sound designer Marc Antonio Pritchett, video designer Nicholas E. Santiago, costume designer Naila Aladdin Sanders; prop master Michael Allen Angel; choreographer Annie Yee; fight director Jen Albert; and dramaturg Dr. Daphnie Sicré. The production stage manager is Emily Lehrer, assistant stage manager is Deena Tovar, and production manager for the Fountain’s outdoor stage is Shawna Voragen. Stephen Sachs and Simon Levy co-produce for the Fountain Theatre, and the associate producer is James Bennett. Barbara Herman and Susan Stockel are executive producers.

The Fountain’s outdoor stage is made possible, in part, by the generous support of Karen Kondazian, Barbara Herman, the Vladimir and Araxia Buckhantz Foundation, Rabbi Anne Brener, Carrie Chassin and Jochen Haber, Miles and Joni Benickes, and the Phillips-Gerla Family.

The Fountain Theatre is one of the most successful intimate theaters in Los Angeles, providing a creative home for multi-ethnic theater and dance artists. The Fountain has won hundreds of awards, and Fountain projects have been seen across the U.S. and internationally.

An Octoroon runs June 18 through Sept.19, with performances on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays at 7 p.m., except Saturday, June 19, which will be at 5 p.m. and will be followed by a special Juneteenth event, and July 30 through Aug. 2 and Aug. 27 through Aug. 30 which will be dark. Four preview performances will take place on June 11, June 12, June 13 and June 16 at 7 p.m. There will be one press preview on Thursday, June 17 at 7 p.m. Tickets range from $25–$45; Pay-What-You-Want seating is available every Monday night in addition to regular seating (subject to availability). The Fountain Theatre is located at 5060 Fountain Avenue (at Normandie) in Los Angeles.For reservations and information, call (323) 663-1525 or go to www.FountainTheatre.com.

L.A. premiere of ‘An Octoroon’ by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins will launch outdoor stage at Fountain Theatre

Playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins

The Los Angeles premiere of An Octoroon by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins will inaugurate the new outdoor stage at the Fountain Theatre later this spring. Judith Moreland will direct.

Winner of the Obie Award for Best American Play, Jacobs-Jenkins’ landmark play has earned ecstatic reviews nationwide. The New York Times hailed it as “this decade’s most eloquent theatrical statement on race in America today.” The Guardian declared it “brilliant” and “extraordinary.”

An Octoroon is a radical, incendiary and subversively funny riff on Dion Boucicault’s once-popular 1859 mustache-twirling melodrama set on a Louisiana plantation. A spectacular collision of the antebellum South and 21st-century cultural politics, An Octoroon twists a funhouse world of larger-than-life stereotypes into blistering social commentary to create a gasp-inducing satire.

“I’m proud the Fountain will introduce this bold play to Los Angeles audiences on our new outdoor stage,” states Fountain artistic director Stephen Sachs. “It could not be timelier. The moment has come for our nation to confront its own racist history. Branden uses satire to get to the dark core of American slavery and the racial stereotypes that continue to plague this country today.” 

Earlier this year, the Fountain received approval from the City of Los Angeles to install the outdoor stage for the purpose of safely presenting live performances and other events during the pandemic. Construction is set to begin this month, with the opening of An Octoroon slated for June.

Before that can happen, a number of tasks remain on the Fountain’s to-do list to inaugurate the outdoor venue. The first step is to repave the parking lot, where the stage will be installed. Lighting, sound, and video equipment will be loaded in. New chairs will be positioned according to COVID guidelines to accommodate 84 viewers. The entire site will meet all safety requirements for artists and audience members.

“Everything now depends on the COVID numbers,” says Sachs. “Once they drop to a level where the County Department of Public Health allows a gathering outdoors of one hundred people, with safety guidelines in place, we’re good to go.”

The new outdoor performance area is made possible, in part, by the generous support of Karen Kondazian, the Vladimir and Araxia Buckhantz FoundationRabbi Anne BrenerCarrie Chassin and Jochen HaberMiles and Joni Benickes, and the Phillips-Gerla Family.

For more information about the Fountain Theatre, go to www.fountaintheatre.com

Conversations with Black Artists, Part III

by Terri Roberts

In this final segment of our Conversations with Black Artists series, we talk with director Shirley Jo Finney, and actors Gilbert Glenn Brown and Theo Perkins. We are grateful to all of the wonderful performers and creatives who have been so generous with their time and shared their thoughts about issues around race and their relationships with the Fountain Theatre. We hope you have enjoyed getting to know them a little better, as well.

Shirley Jo Finney

Director: From the Mississippi Delta, Central Avenue, Yellowman, The Ballad of Emmett Till, Heart Song, In the Red and Brown Water, The Brothers Size, Citizen: An American Lyric

1. When/how did you first come to the Fountain Theatre?

My first directing job at the Fountain was in1997, with From the Mississippi Delta by Endesha Ida Mae Holland.

2. How has your experience been working here?

I find the Fountain Theater supports their artists.

3. What Fountain shows that you’ve worked on hold particular meaning for you, and why?

All of them. Each of the shows are socially relevant and have impacted my artistic awareness as well as my expansion as a human being. It is the creative journey with the actors that hold the most meaning for me and not a particular show.

4. Last summer’s civil unrest brought an increased focus on racism, both in general and within the theatre world. We also saw the emergence of the BIPOC movement. How have these issues impacted you and your work in the theatre? 

Not so much.

For me, the emergence of BIPOC is a continuation of the Civil Rights Movement of the 60’s and 70’s. That movement changed laws and stopped a war. The cultural and black arts movement of that time laid the foundation for the raised fist we are experiencing now. I am a child of that time and my foundation as a creative was shaped by that time. It is the work I am called to do. Each generation is defined by their time. 

5. Why is Black History Month important

It brings a microscopic lens of awareness to a culture that historically has been erased. There would not be a need for a month if it were an intricate part our education system.

6. What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects?

I hope many more active and healthy years!

I have adapted creatively during “the time of Covid.” It has opened up a whole new world of Zoom lectures discussing my journey and body of work as a director. I also am relishing the world of Zoom productions using the “mashing” of stage and digital to create story.

Gilbert Glenn Brown

Actor: Direct From Death Row: The Scottsboro Boys, In the Red and Brown Water, The Brothers Size, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek

1. When/how did you first come to the Fountain Theatre?

My very first audition and show with Fountain Theatre was early on when I first arrived to Los Angeles from NY and that was Scottsboro Boys.

2. How has your experience been working here?

My experience at the Fountain in one word… community. Truly the closest experience I’ve had in LA to a NY theatre experience. I feel that a sense of community in theatre is necessary. I enjoy being part of it, and the Fountain is able to foster that to an incredible degree,

The commitment to presenting productions that not only entertain, but transform, educate, and energize is so key. It breaks down walls, opens eyes and allows dialogue. The Fountain does that extremely well. I consider the Fountain my LA theatre home.

3. What Fountain shows that you’ve worked on hold particular meaning for you, and why?

I have to say that every single show I’ve had the honor of being a part of at the Fountain has been transformational for me. Every opportunity I’ve had to step onto that stage and look out into that small, yet giant, space, has changed me and allowed me to grow as an artist and as a human being. As an artist, that’s what you want – because if it moves you in that way, it will no doubt move the audience as well.

I have had the opportunity, at the Fountain, to be directed by some of the best: the incredible Shirley Jo Finney, the wonderful Simon Levy and the late, legendary Ben Bradley.

4. Last summer’s civil unrest brought an increased focus on racism, both in general and within the theatre world. We also saw the emergence of the BIPOC movement. How have these issues impacted you and your work in the theatre? 

Honestly, it has reinforced my conviction to continue doing exceptional, meaningful work as an artist. The projects I gravitate toward speak to the conditions of the world and ask the important questions, then set the stage for dialogue to occur.

There is a space for entertainment, for laughter, for fun – all that and more are a part of life and living. They exist even in classic tragedies, as they do in everyday issues and everyday life – but the responsibility of looking at all sides, of presenting the pleasure and the pain, falls on the artist. The unrest has always been there. The causes for that unrest have always been there. It’s just that now, due to social media/technology, that unrest is being broadcast and streamed 24/7 in real time and in living color. That doesn’t make it any easier, but it does make it more apparent.

Look at George Floyd, or the Capitol riots! Watching those events happen, live, presents the opportunity to either step up and be an active participant, or just sit back and watch. And that is something the Fountain stands on: Yes, of course, sit back. Please watch what’s happening. Go ahead and be uncomfortable by what you see on stage. Let it sink in, and let it transform you in some way. Let that experience provoke discussion, challenge your way of thinking or the way you see the world. That is the amazing opportunity that theatre presents.

5. Why is Black History Month important?

Black History? Well, I’ve been educated and enlightened to see that it’s not just “Black” History or just a month. It’s really World History. It’s really American History. The truth is that much that exists now wouldn’t exist at all without Black input, and, for that matter, without the input of many other cultures, races, religions, etc. America is an amalgamation of all that’s been added to the mix. There really shouldn’t be a limit to the reality of the impact that any culture has had on life in America. If we were to really embrace that truth, that inclusivity, what would, or could, America be?

6. What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects?

Right now I’m working on the CW/DC show Stargirl. I will be seen as Martin Luther King Jr. opposite Jennifer Hudson in the Aretha Franklin biopic Respect, due out this August. And I’m always creating, writing and being part of projects that address what I see is missing from the world.

Theo Perkins

Actor: In the Red and Brown Water, The Brothers Size, Raise Your Voice – Vote!

1. When/how did you first come to the Fountain Theatre?

Shortly after graduating from UCLA, I received an audition for In the Red and Brown Water. This was my first introduction to the Fountain Theatre.

2. How has your experience been working here?

Transformative. The intimacy of the space really expanded my approach to performance in amazing ways. I’m proud to say the Fountain Theatre is my theater home.

3. What Fountain shows that you’ve worked on hold particular meaning for you, and why?

This is tough one. Each production is close to me to this day. I’d say, In the Red and Brown Water. Not only did it introduce me to Tarell McCraney’s work, but I also gained a tribe of amazing humans, all of whom I still talk to today.

4. Last summer’s civil unrest brought an increased focus on racism, both in general and within the theatre world. We also saw the emergence of the BIPOC movement. How have these issues impacted you and your work in the theatre?  

Well, I believe it served as a reminder of how important it is to have diverse voices in our theaters. Not only in terms of playwrights, but in all departments. The events of this summer shined a light on the years of inequity within our community. And it has pushed us all to do and to be better.

5. Why is Black History Month important?

It’s an intentional acknowledgment of the undeniable contributions African-Americans have made in this country. It’s a reminder that our history should be honored. And studied. And used to inspire younger generations.

6. What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects?

During the quarantine, I wrote and produced a film project that will come out this Spring. Look out for it! Also excited to re-launch Elizabeth Youth Theatre Ensemble’s social justice program, Walking the Beat, both in New Jersey and in Los Angeles at the Fountain Theatre. Both productions will actually be virtual.