Category Archives: Art

Fountain Theatre awarded $50,000 grant from Ahmanson Foundation

FT night flags August 2019The Fountain Theatre is pleased to announce that it has been awarded an Arts and Humanities grant from the Ahmanson Foundation in the amount of $50,000, doubling the amount awarded to the Fountain by the Foundation last year.  The Ahmanson Foundation strives to enhance the quality of life and cultural legacy of the Los Angeles community by supporting non-profit organizations that demonstrate sound fiscal management, efficient operation, and program integrity.

“We are deeply grateful to the Ahmanson Foundation for its continued partnership and support,” states Fountain Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs. “This grant will allow us to enhance our ability to serve the Los Angeles community.”

The Ahmanson Foundation directs its giving toward the areas of the arts and humanities, education, human services, and health and medicine. The foundation’s grants in these areas are largely dedicated toward capital projects that support the nuts-and-bolts-type needs of non-profits.  The vast majority of the foundation’s philanthropy is directed toward organizations and institutions based in and serving the greater Los Angeles area.

The grant award reflects the success of The Fountain Theatre’s ongoing campaign under the guidance of Director of Development Barbara Goodhill to increase the levels and broaden the sources of contributed giving to the organization.  Today’s announcement follows last month’s news of a $40,000 award  from The Wallis Annenberg Foundation to the Fountain for general operating support.

“This generous award from the Ahmanson Foundation is another extraordinary endorsement and affirmation of The Fountain’s continued growth and prestige within Southern California’s cultural landscape and the funding community, ” states Goodhill.

FOUNTAIN THEATRE AWARDED $40,000 GRANT FROM THE ANNENBERG FOUNDATION

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The Wallis Annenberg Foundation has awarded The Fountain Theatre a $40,000 grant for general operating support.  The Annenberg Foundation is one of the top private philanthropies in the country, and is dedicated to using its resources to support organizations that are fostering positive change in the world.  As Wallis Annenberg stated in an article in CSQ Magazine, “To me, the future of philanthropy – the true value of philanthropy in a world of massive needs—comes down to a single, simple word: innovation. Finding it, supporting it, growing as much of it as possible.”

 
“This generous unrestricted award from The Annenberg Foundation is a profound validation of the innovation that The Fountain Theatre has brought to the Los Angeles community for 29 years.  From our MainStage productions, to our arts education and outreach programs, The Fountain strives — through art — to illuminate and uplift the diverse communities of Los Angeles,” says Director of Development, Barbara Goodhill. “We are deeply grateful to The Annenberg Foundation for its generosity and partnership.”

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The Annenberg Foundation’s Mission, Values & Vision:

The Annenberg Foundation is a family foundation that provides funding and support to nonprofit organizations in the United States and globally. The Foundation and its Board of Directors are also directly involved in the community with innovative projects that further its mission to advance the public well-being through improved communication. The Foundation encourages the development of effective ways to share ideas and knowledge. The Foundation is committed to core values of responsiveness, accessibility, fairness and involvement.

 
The Foundation believes in funding organizations that have a deep level of community involvement, are led by effective leaders and tackle challenging and timely problems. Specific organizational attributes valued by the Foundation are: visionary leadership, impact, sustainability, innovation, organizational strength, network of partnerships plus the population being served.

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. 

“Hope you close your faggot show.”

Pride Flag

The Pride flag flies over the Fountain Theatre.

by Stephen Sachs

Some days, our building is tagged by graffiti. That’s life in East Hollywood. Some mornings, I arrive at the Fountain front door and discover a freshly sprayed scribbling on our beige stucco facade. It happens. The scrawling is usually small and, most often, gang related. A badass in the hood staking territory. A banger bearing witness. Once inside my office, I let my Technical Director know we’ve been hit.  Then I make myself coffee. The graffiti is soon wiped away. No big deal. 

I rarely decipher the message. Gang slogans are a code I can’t break. And though the phrase is sometimes personal, about “Diablo” or “Beast”, it never directly targets the Fountain. The statement could have been sprayed anywhere, anytime. It has nothing to do with us.

This time, it did. This time, the message was personal. And it wasn’t graffiti.

Last weekend, we were forced to reschedule a performance of our hit play, Daniel’s Husband. A cast member had booked a TV gig and needed to fly up to Vancouver. This is Tinseltown, right? We’ve been to this rodeo before, many times. We know what to do. Our box office staff contacted our audience for that night and set them up for other performances.  As a precaution, we posted a sign on our front door stating that the night’s show had been cancelled. In case someone walked up.

Someone did.

The next morning, we found that a person had scrawled on our sign in black ink: “Hope you close your faggot show.”

Daniel’s Husband is a play about gay marriage. The men in the cast are gay. This hate-note was inscribed on our front wall the final weekend of Pride month, when our city and our nation celebrate equality and inclusion.

Let’s be real. This written slur from an anonymous homophobe is insignificant compared to the gay men and women beaten and killed in this country. I know that. Our nation has a savage history of discriminating “others.” Ask Native Americans.  Blacks. Mexicans. Asians. Jews. Women. Compared to the systemic prejudice our nation has inflicted on these groups, the note is a small thing, a trifle. No question. Still, it hurts, is upsetting. More so because though tiny, what larger truth does it tell? Like in a well-written play, the more specific a thing is the more universal it becomes.  

In thirty years, I can’t remember the Fountain Theatre ever being hit with a message of hate like this. Sure, every so often we’ll get a heated email of complaint from an unhappy theatergoer. The political and socially conscious nature of the plays we produce often trigger passionate responses from our patrons. That’s the point. Our artistic goal is to engage our audiences in the difficult issues of our time. A free exchange of conflicting ideas is what makes a good play and a free democracy.   

This is different. In today’s incendiary political and cultural climate, it’s not too far a leap to imagine that the individual who scrawled that vile message with a pen next time might bring a bomb or a gun.  

“Something rotten is afoot in America,” posts a gay friend of mine on his Facebook page.  In the last month alone, the word “faggot” has been hurled at him three times. “The word no longer has the power to make me want to erase myself, to spare those associated with me embarrassment. But I can’t help worrying how this climate must be affecting those who are younger and more vulnerable, especially transgender Americans who face far more dangerous threats than a nasty cliché.  Is this the America we want?”

No, it is not. But this is who we are.

Others on my friend’s Facebook page chimed in. “This happened to my son,’ says one. “It’s unbelievable what is going on. A disgrace and a return to ignorance and vile barbarism.” Another states simply, “I literally get called a faggot on the streets of LA at least once or twice a week.”

The mournful words of Paul Simon call to me in his achingly beautiful “American Tune.”

“When I think of the
Road we’re traveling on
I wonder what’s gone wrong
I can’t help it, I wonder what has gone wrong.”

The number of hate crimes in this country are on the rise. Los Angeles, in particular, reported a decade-high increase in hate crime from 2017 to 2018. Hate crimes targeting Jews and Latinos increased in California in 2018. The trigger for this bigoted hostility is no mystery. Our country’s moral leadership comes from the top.

“Things are polarized in ways we haven’t seen in recent memory,” says Jonathan Greenblatt, the Anti-Defamation League’s national director and chief executive. “People are on edge in part because they are following their leaders. When leaders at the highest levels use incredibly intemperate language and repeat the rhetoric of extremists, we shouldn’t be surprised when young people — let alone others — imitate what they see.”

Hate crimes are defined as “crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, gender or gender identity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity,” according to the Hate Crime Statistics Act passed by Congress in 1990. Hate crimes can be committed against people, property or society, and can include vandalism. Minor as it may be, is this gay-slurring note scrawled on our Fountain sign a hate crime? Before scoffing: What if it were a swastika?

For three decades, The Fountain Theatre has produced new plays about racism, women’s rights, gay rights, anti-Semitism, immigration. Whatever the issue, it has sometimes been lamented to us that we’re preaching to the choir. The claim is that issue-driven plays are produced for like-minded people, and those who most need to be changed by our work never see it at all. Clearly, the perpetrator of that homophobic hate-note will never step inside our theatre walls. But beyond our walls, he is out there. Somewhere. In our world, on the street, in our city, he exists. With thousands, maybe millions, like him. We, as artists, must see the world as it is before we can dream of what it can be. 

In the theater, we know what our job is. Our job “… is to hold up, as ’twere, a mirror to nature; to show scorn her image, to show virtue her appearance, and the very age its form and pressure.” Our job is to hold up a vision to America of who we are as a country. The good, the bad, and – yes – the ugly.  That’s what theater is supposed to do. That’s what the Fountain Theatre will continue to do for another thirty years.

And the Pride flag still flies over the Fountain. 

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

VIDEO: Cops and students share stories in Fountain Theatre’s new outreach program ‘Walking the Beat’

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Summer intern Melina Young is thrilled to be back in LA and at the Fountain Theatre

Melina Young

Melina Young at the Fountain Theatre.

by Melina Drake Young

Hi.

My name is Melina Drake Young and I’m the new Development Intern at the Fountain Theatre. This is supposed to be a chatty-get-to-know-me kind of piece, so let’s chat and get to know—well—me. I would say each other, but since this isn’t a real conversation I can’t, so I didn’t.

Relax. Take off your shoes.

Pour yourself a glass of Rosé.

Did you do it?

Me neither. I’m at work. But it’s nice to pretend.

That’s what I like to spend my time doing—playing pretend. Since I was a little girl I’ve wanted to be a pretend-player—a storyteller—so naturally I wound up in The Theatre. (I hope you read that to yourself in the voice of Katherine Hepburn because that’s exactly how I hear it in my head.)

I’m an actress and writer (a rare bird in Los Angeles, California?) and a (VERY) recent graduate of Bard College’s Theatre & Performance and Literature programs. I was born in Silver Lake just before it became Silver Lake. And I think I liked it a little bit more when the neighborhood wasn’t italicized. What I mean is, LA is my home. Oh mother LA, how I love you. When I was studying in the Hudson Valley, I would often identify LA in movies (as one does) by its light. It’s golden, warm, heavenly, distinctly-LA light.

I’m thrilled to return to it and to re-discover LA’s artistic vibrancy as a young adult. How lucky am I to be starting my theatrical career at the Fountain?

A typical day in the life at the Fountain Theatre for this Development Intern includes time spent discussing theatre, organizing, crafting surveys, writing, chatting with co-workers, and being dazzled and moved by the students participating in Walking the Beat . Created and led by Angie Karoitis and Theo Perkins in Elizabethville, New Jersey, Walking the Beat is new to the Fountain and new to me. The program seeks to create a discourse between and eventually a performance devised by and starring ten remarkable students from LA high schools and LAPD officers.

Melina at WTB Orientation

Melina guides students through paperwork at the orientation for Walking the Beat.

Before my time at the Fountain, I would like to say that you’d have found me traipsing around the beautiful Hudson Valley, but the truth is more likely than not I was in rehearsal. If I wasn’t, I was writing at my desk.

This is still true.

The setting, however, has changed.

TIME: The present.

LOCATION: 5060 Fountain Ave, Los Angeles, CA.

CAST OF CHARACTERS: A blonde 20-something who doesn’t like to be identified as such. She wears glasses sometimes. Her eyes are myopic, but she isn’t. She’s grateful to be where she is and she hopes that you can tell.

The Fountain Theatre thanks the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the LA County Arts Internship Program.   

Fountain Theatre awarded $25,000 grant from the Shubert Foundation

FT night cars 2018The Fountain Theatre is pleased to announce a grant award from the Shubert Foundation in the amount of $25,000 for general operating support to the organization. The Shubert Foundation provides grants only to organizations that have an established artistic and administrative track record, as well as a history of fiscal responsibility.

The award marks the fourth consecutive year that the Fountain Theatre has received support from the Shubert Fountain. Each year the award amount has increased.

“We are very pleased and proud of our association with the Shubert Foundation,” commented Fountain Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs.  “The Shubert name is synonymous with excellence in the American Theatre. We sincerely thank the Shubert Foundation for its ongoing support.”

The Shubert Foundation is especially interested in providing support to professional resident theatre companies that develop and produce new American work.

“We want to help lift some of the financial burden,” said Foundation Chairman, Philip J. Smith. “So that the companies we support are able to focus on producing thought-provoking, relevant work for the widest possible audience.”

This year, The Shubert Foundation has awarded a record total of $30 million to 533 not-for-profit performing arts organizations across the nation. This marks the 38th consecutive year that the Foundation has increased its giving. The Shubert Foundation, Inc., was established in 1945 by Lee and J.J. Shubert, in memory of their brother Sam. Since the establishment of the Shubert Foundation grants program in 1977, over $443 million has been awarded to not-for-profit arts organizations throughout the United States. 

Award winning fine art photographer Sarah Hadley adds style to set design of ‘Daniel’s Husband’

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Fine art photographer Sarah Hadley

Rave reviews for our acclaimed current production of Daniel’s Husband have included hails for the beautiful living room set, designed by DeAnne Millais. The LA Times swooned over the “stylish panache of scenic designer DeAnne Millais’ Architectural Digest-ready spread.” A key element to the scenic design are the framed photographs adorning the walls. These were provided by award winning fine art photographer Sarah Hadley.

To fulfill director Simon Levy’s wish to have the set filled with beautiful high-end elements, scenic designer Millais remembered being struck by Sarah‘s ethereal photography recently seen at LA’s Brewery Art Walk. DeAnne thought it would be the perfect complement to the play and its scenic environment.

Sarah Hadley was named one of the “jeunes talents” by Paris’ Le Monde at the Fotofever Art Fair in 2015. In recent years, Hadley has been invited to exhibit at Fotofever in Paris, France, the Porto Photo Fest in Porto, Portugal, the Lishui Photo Festival in China; the Worldwide Photography Biennial in Buenos Aires, and the Ballarat Festival in Australia. She has had solo exhibitions at the Griffin Museum of Photography in Boston, the Loyola Museum of Art in Chicago, Afterimage Gallery in Dallas, and Fabrik Gallery in Los Angeles. Hadley’s work is held in many public and private collections around the world, and has been shown in many museums and galleries including the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts in Tampa, FL, the Robin Rice Gallery in NY and Building Bridges Gallery in Santa Monica.

Hadley’s work has also been featured in publications and online blogs including ELLE Italia, B+W Magazine (UK), PDN, L’Oeil de la Photographie, ArtTribune, Shots Magazine, Don’t Take Pictures, and Lenscratch.com. She has received grants from the California Center for Cultural Innovation, the Illinois Arts Council, and several fellowships from the Ragdale Foundation.

Sarah was flattered to be asked to provide her photographic artwork for the production.  “I am excited to see the play,” she beams.

You can explore Sarah Hadley’s work on her website. And view it live on the set of Daniel’s Husband, now playing to June 23.

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Young people from East LA say ‘Hype Man’ at Fountain Theatre was “awesome”

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Variety Boys & Girls Club of Los Angeles

A fabulous group of young people from Variety Boys & Girls Club enjoyed an unforgettable Saturday afternoon seeing Hype Man a few weeks ago. Today, a large hand drawn thank you card arrived at the Fountain Theatre office from the kids expressing their gratitude and describing their experience.

Variety Boys and Girls Club has a 68-year tradition of providing meaningful activities and programs to young people of the community.  There are no geographical limitations to membership, although most of the members come from areas surrounding the Club in East Los Angeles.

Club Executive Director Patricia Siqueiros conveyed her appreciation to Fountain Outreach Coordinator Richard Gallegos.

“For many of our Club members, it was their first time watching a theatre production,” Siqueiros related. “I feel fortunate to connect with individuals like you who introduce our kids to a world beyond their surroundings.”

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Thank you card from Variety Boys & Girls Club

The kids sent Richard a large handmade thank you card, writing to him their thoughts and feelings about experiencing the play.

Hype Man is my first live performance.” – David (age 17)

“Hype Man touched on race and racism which I find challenging to speak about with other kids my age.” – Jessica (age 15)

“I like the changes in lighting. Helped set the scene.” – Yael (age 12)

“I loved it! I understood the sarcasm.” – Johnathan (age 15)

“Hype Man was super engaging.” – Yolanda (age 17)

“Thank you for a great show!” – Danny (age 17)

“It was good seeing the friends got together to overcome disagreements.” – Marcelo (age 13)

“I enjoyed watching Hype Man because it touched on relevant topics.” – Alaize (age 14)

“It made me very happy to witness the conversation about gender inequality.” – Evelyn (age 14)

“I liked the cast going through the audience during the social protest.” – Aimee (age 20)

“This is the first time I ever sat through a Q&A.” Aracely (age 14)

Hype Man was very fresh and educational. The music really got my attention.” – Jesus (age 12)

“We need more plays like Hype Man!” – Jocelyn (age 18)

Zen and the Art of Theatre

tea ceremonyby Stephen Sachs

In Japanese tea ceremonies, the term Ichi-go ichi-e describes the concept of treasuring the unrepeatable nature of a moment. Translated as “for this time only” or “one opportunity, one encounter,”  the phrase reminds us to cherish any gathering that we may take part in, citing the fact that any moment in life cannot be repeated; even when the same group of people get together in the same place again, a particular gathering will never be replicated, and thus each moment is always a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Treasure every encounter, for it will never recur again.

Such is also the ephemeral nature of theatre. 

Each performance is alive, in that instant, never to be repeated.  Like a tea ceremony and life itself, theatre is experienced in ‘each moment, only once’ and the value of each stage performance is that it happens only once in a lifetime. There is no other opportunity. Only this time.

The duality of the “one moment” reality of theatre is that it comes after endless repetition. Actors labor through weeks of rehearsal, reworking scenes dozens of times, with countless hours drilling the same lines over and over. In rehearsal, the director’s mantra is “Do it again. ” Basketball great Larry Bird said that in high school he would shoot 500 free throws every morning before his first class. Actors, like athletes, rehearse the same scene repeatedly so the mechanics of the lines and the blocking become second nature. They no longer have to think about what they’re saying and doing, so they can be “in the moment.” Repetition brings freedom. Release.  As Prince once sang, “There’s joy in repetition, there’s joy in repetition.”

In film-making, it is the norm to perform a task dozens of times before you get it right. Some movie directors are notorious for shooting multiple takes. Stanley Kubrick was famous for it. He reportedly made Tom Cruise walk through a door 90 times while filming Eyes Wide Shut, and had Shelley Duvall repeat a scene 127 times for The Shining. On the set of David Fincher’s Gone Girl, each scene averaged approximately 50 takes. One scene in the first Spider Man movie with Tobey McGuire took 156 takes to get right.

In the theatre, however, there is no such thing as “getting it right.” Not ever.  That film concept is foreign to theatre people because the essential essence of live performance is that it is never right, never the same, never perfect. Even in the long run of a play or musical over hundreds, even thousands of performances. Not only is each performance unique, so is each scene, each line within each scene, each moment within each line. A word, a phrase will never be uttered that same way again. A light cue, a swell of sound, the flurry of dazzling costumes, affects each audience member differently night to night. Each moment is unrepeatable and special in its own right.

The routine of theatre — the drilling of lines, the daily rehearsals, the nightly performances — are essential to its devotional life.  Devotional life is deepened by repetition. A true practice is a repeated activity with no expectation of result. It’s the doing of it that matters. We do it over and over again, but it’s really not so much because we think we are going to get it perfect, or even exactly right. We do it for experiencing truth in the moment. A daily meditation practice, for example. If your purpose for meditating is “to become enlightened,” you will never achieve it. If that is your destination, you’ll be lost. There is no destination. There is only the present moment.  It’s only when seeing the present moment that enlightenment may come.  The origin for the word “routine” comes from route, or “way, path, course.” Therefore, routine, practice, rehearsal is a journey. 

For my twenty-nine years at the Fountain Theatre, the “one opportunity, one encounter” concept of ichigo ichie is proven true over and over again with our audiences. After seeing a play in our theatre, our patrons spill out onto Fountain Avenue changed, not the same people they were going in. An alchemy happens. In that moment. That can not be repeated. For tomorrow night’s audience, it will be something else. 

I have learned to embrace the truth of “one moment” as a way to understand and celebrate the impermanence of life and the art form I practice. My other art-love is jazz, and a line from a famous jazz ballad from 1949 called “Again” lays bare the same message. There is nothing Zen about the lyrics or their origins, of course, but the words remind me that life, love and theatre are all ecstasies of the moment, each instant unique and unrepeatable.  

Again, this couldn’t happen again
This is that once in a lifetime
This is the thrill divine

What’s more, this never happened before …
We’ll have this moment forever
But never, never again.

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