Philip Solomon, Thomas Silcott “The Painted Rocks at revolver Creek”
The Fountain Theatre has been honored with 23 awards of excellence from StageSceneLA for productions in its 2015-16 season. Fountain productions awarded were the west coast premiere of Athol Fugard’s The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek, the world premiere of Dream Catcher by Stephen Sachs, the Los Angeles premiere of My Mañana Comes by Elizabeth Irwin, and the west coast premiere of Tennessee Williams’ Baby Doll.
Since 2007, Steven Stanley’s StageSceneLA.com has spotlighted the best in Southern California theater via reviews, interviews, and its annual StageSceneLA Awards.
The Fountain has been honored with the following awards this 2015-16 season:
YEAR’S BEST INTIMATE THEATERS The Fountain Theatre
OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION, DRAMA (INTIMATE THEATER) The Painted Rocks At Revolver Creek
OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION, COMEDY-DRAMA (INTIMATE THEATER) My Mañana Comes
Gilbert Glenn Brown and Suanne Spoke in ‘The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek’.
The Fountain Theatre has been honored with 4 Stage Raw Awards for its 2015 productions of The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek and Citizen: An American Lyric.
The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek was the West Coast Premiere of Athol Fugard’s new play about South African artist Nukain Mabuza. The world premiere of Stephen Sachs’ stage adaptation of Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric dramatized racism in America.
The Fountain nominees are:
Supporting Female Performance – Suanne Spoke, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek
Leading Male Performance – Thomas Silcott, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek
Adaptation – Stephen Sachs, Citizen: An American Lyric
‘Citizen: An American Lyric’ at the Fountain Theatre
Using multimedia and the written word, Stage Raw is a digital journal dedicated to discovering, discussing and honoring L.A.-based arts and culture. The Stage Raw Theater Awards are dedicated to honoring the swath of innovative works of theater in Los Angeles County, in venues of up-to-99-seats.
The STAGE RAW Celebration is Monday, April 25 at Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring Street (VIP reception 6 p.m.; doors Open at 6:30. Awards Program begins at 7:30pm), General Admission Tickets are $25, VIP Tickets $100, available atstageraw.com.
In addition to the glorious playwriting, acting and directing, our west coast premiere of Athol Fugard’s The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek has earned joyous accolades from critics and audiences alike for its exquisite set. Designed by Jeff McLaughlin, the Fountain stage has been transformed into a South African hillside decorated with exuberant, vibrantly colored rocks. Guess what? Now these rocks can be yours!
Because each of these marvelous hand-painted rocks are truly one-of-kind art pieces, the Fountain is offering them for sale. They are too unique and artful to be ignored when the production ends on December 14th. Each rock is being offered for only $100. All proceeds benefit the Fountain Theatre.
Looking for a unique holiday gift for someone with an artistic soul who would appreciate a present that is out of the ordinary? Or a one-of-a-kind decoration for your garden, yard or patio? An original art piece for your home?
Has been individually hand-painted by artist Clairfoster Josiah Browne.
Is a real rock with a unique size and shape. Each is approximately two feet wide and one foot high.
Is covered with a waterproof sealant.
Your rock will be available December 15th and must be picked up at the Fountain Theatre. Each rock fits easily into the trunk or on the seat of a car.
Is this cool or what? Get this one-of-a-kind holiday gift or unique decoration for your home — and support the Fountain Theatre!
She was sitting with friends in the third row of the center section. Good seats close to the aisle. She was enjoying our world premiere of Athol Fugard’s The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek. An older woman, she liked going to the theatre and had seen many plays over her long span of theatre-going. She also had a history of heart trouble.
Midway through the first act, audience members nearby noticed that she was becoming restless. She leaned forward like she was trying to stand. Suddenly, as the performance continued on stage, she passed out in her seat, unconscious. As the play unfolded, the woman’s friend dashed out of the theatre and alerted the house manager in the lobby. When paramedics arrived, the performance was stopped and the house lights came up. The stage manager stepped forward and made an announcement to the audience. The actors stood motionless on stage and patrons watched in hushed silence as the emergency team entered the auditorium, put the woman on a stretcher and wheeled her out to the waiting ambulance which then sped away into the night. Meanwhile, inside the theatre, the lights went back down. The performance continued. Shaken and dazed, the actors and audience then took on the shared task of rebuilding the imaginary world they both had created and were inhabiting together.
Emergency incidents like this are jarring and upsetting wherever they occur. And they feel strangely at odds and in sudden conflict with the imagined reality in a theatre when they interrupt a play being performed. Like that jolting moment in a movie theater when the projector suddenly breaks and the movie stops. The screen that one moment ago held glorious vistas of outer space or the intimate electricity of a lover’s kiss — without warning goes blank. The lights come up. You are violently thrust back into real life. You look around, disoriented, no longer on a faraway planet or in a seducer’s bed. You’re in a multiplex.
Over our twenty-five year history, the Fountain Theatre has endured a handful of emergency incidents in the audience and on stage during a performance or immediately after. A patron passing out in the front row, an actress collapsing in the middle of a performance, an actor having a heart attack on his drive home. And, of course, the murder of a director in his apartment prior to coming to rehearsal.
Each of these turmoils remind us of the delicate uncertainty of each of our lives and theatre’s seemingly impossible task to express it. Yet that is its aspiration. Then life intervenes.
Conflict is the engine that drives a good play. We go the theatre to witness human beings struggle to overcome a life-or-death conflict. Its one thing to watch a fictional character battle for survival on stage. Quite another to see it happening to the person sitting next to you in the audience. Drama is meant to erupt on stage, not in the auditorium. In plays, we watch bad things happen to good people to learn an important truth about ourselves. But when bad things happen to good people in the audience, perhaps a deeper and harder truth is enacted. One that no play can equal.
Good theatre, theatre that matters, is not an escape or diversion from the reality of life. It is an art form attempting to explore and shed light on human experience. A good play will try to make sense of what often seems senseless, to give meaning to that which feels meaningless, to illuminate the dark.
Hamlet instructs the band of players that the purpose of theatre is to hold a mirror up to nature. But, as these emergency incidents brazenly remind us, theatre is not real life. It is merely a reflection of the reality that stands before all of us. And when real life intervenes in the theatre, the mirror shatters, the spell is momentarily broken. We are shaken awake from the dream we have entered and are reminded of the precarious fragility of life and the “thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.”
Then the lights dim once again. And the performance goes on.
Stephen Sachs is the Co-Artistic Director of the Fountain Theatre.
Gilbert Glenn Brown and Suanne Spoke in ‘The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek’
by Darlene Donloe
The name Gilbert Glenn Brown has become synonymous with “good works” around the L.A. theater world.
A handsome gent with a bright, poetic smile, Brown enjoys a career that has spanned film, television and theater. His theatrical credits are extensive, and the list of directors and actors that he’s shared a stage with reads like a Who’s Who of Los Angeles theater.
On this particular day, as the sun is setting after an extremely warm afternoon, Brown is sitting on the upstairs patio of the Fountain Theater, dapper in a gray cap, blue-and-white rolled up checkered shirt and gray vest. He’s ready to talk about the actor’s life that he’s carved out.
Known for bringing all of himself—and none of himself—to his roles, Brown has delivered a number of stellar performances, playing vivid and memorable characters that have earned him the COLSAC Best Lead Performance Award, two Los Angeles Drama Critics Awards and an LA Weekly Award.
He made women swoon and men suck in their guts delivering an arousing performance as Shango, the neighborhood bad boy in Tarell Alvin McCraney’s original comedy/drama, In The Red and Brown Water, directed by Shirley Jo Finney. He was the intense and absorbing older brother Ogun Size in McCraney’s The Brothers Size, also directed by Finney. Most recently, he was probably the most sensually-charged Polyneices ever to grace a stage in the Ebony Repertory Theatre’s The Gospel At Colonus.
This production marks the Fountain Theatre’s 15-year relationship with the playwright that began in 2000 when Fountain Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs directed Fugard’s The Road to Mecca. It was then that Fugard, an Academy Award winner for Tsotsi (Best Foreign Language Film), recipient of the 2011 Tony for lifetime achievement—and a multiple Obie and Tony Award-winner best known for his plays rooted in the scars of South African apartheid—reportedly began to call the Fountain his “artistic home on the West Coast.”
Inspired by the work of real-life outsider artist Nukain Mabuza, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek is set in South Africa in the 1980s. It tells the story of elderly Nukain, a farm worker and self-taught artist who has spent years painting the rocks and boulders at Revolver Creek, transforming them into a garden of flowers.
The play, which also stars Thomas Silcott, Philip Solomon and Suanne Spoke, begins when the final, most challenging unpainted stone and a young boy named Bokkie (Nukain’s assistant) “force Nukain to confront his legacy as both an artist and a black man in 1980s South Africa,” where the horrible injustices of apartheid still prevailed at the time—dividing the country into black and white.
The minute he read the script, Brown jumped at the chance to play Jonathan, the grown-up version of Bokkie, who returns to Revolver Creek to restore the faded rocks as a tribute to Nukain, the friend he loved.
“What I like about Jonathan is the need he feels to come back and stand up for someone he loves,” says Brown. “He comes back to stand up for someone who wasn’t able to stand up and say I’m a man, or say that he mattered.”
Although he’s a “huge fan” of the playwright, this is the first time that Brown has tackled an Athol Fugard play. “I am familiar with his activism,” Brown says, “and using theater as a means of activism. I was groomed, in a sense, to look at issues head on. It’s about telling the truth with the material. I read the play and I was blown away by it because of the honesty of the material.”
“What’s wonderful about Gilbert,” says Simon Levy, who is directing the show, “is that he’s this beautiful combination of sensitivity and danger,” says Levy. “He possesses a deep well of emotion that reveals itself in surprising ways so that the character always feels kinetic and honest.”
“I think I understand where Simon wants to go with this piece,” Brown says. “He’s very clear on making sure that the audience can connect with the story and with the living, breathing human beings—not in a superficial way. It’s a wonderfully written piece.”
Brown is working with a dialect coach to get Jonathan’s South African accent right. “I want to honor the person I’m portraying [and] the people who actually speak that language…and be so connected, that I don’t think it’s an accent, it’s just how I speak.”
Now that Brown has had several weeks to ingest the material, he’s gained more insight into the meaning and intent of Fugard’s words. Comments from a documentary on apartheid that Brown watched as research added to his understanding:
“An activist said apartheid not only jails the people that are oppressed,” Brown recalls, “but also the jailers because they are caught in a cycle. You become dehumanized when you think someone is not as much as you are. Until you can say this happened, and acknowledge that it happened, there will be no movement. The people affected are not going to let it go. I realize now that it’s an opportunity to see each other as human beings.
“That is what the play means to me,” Brown says. “I’m always looking for truth.” Continue reading →
Cast, company and audience members swept into our upstairs cafe Saturday night to celebrate the opening night performance of our west coast premiere of Athol Fugard’s new play, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek. Food, drink and joyfulness followed a marvelous performance that earned a standing ovation.
Internationally acclaimed playwright Athol Fugard returns to the Fountain Theatre with this beautifully heartfelt new drama. Directed by Simon Levy, it features Gilbert Glenn Brown, Thomas Silcott, Philip Solomon, and Suanne Spoke.
Nukain Mabuza was born in Mozambique. His mother was descended from a long line of Tsonga healers and diviners, a walker between worlds. While pregnant with Nukain she was instructed in a dream to take special care of her unborn son because great things were expected of him.
When Nukain was seventeen, his mother was killed at the riverside by a crocodile. Mabuza left his village, walked a long journey, met spiritual guides and had otherworldly visions. He was shown the whole universe, all life and the afterlife filled with birdsong. He moved to Soweto and found work in a factory. But his religious dreams and spiritual visions continued and he wandered the land. One night, Mabuza fell into a deep sleep. A surge of power coursed through him. When he woke, he was filled with a spirit to fulfill his mission: to go home and prepare the Garden of Eden.
Mabuza began creating his visionary garden near Revolver Creek in Kaapmuiden, Mpumalanga, in the late 1960s. He described how, looking downward from the top, the painted rocks appear to be flowers tumbling from heaven. Gazing up at his colorful hillside, he said, ‘I have the most beautiful garden in the universe.’ Mabuza passed away in October 1981. Legend surrounds even his death. Some say Mabuza dug his own grave at the top of his painted mountain before burying himself under a pile of rocks and taking his own life. He was later buried in a pauper’s grave in Emjindini Cemetery in Barberton. Although Nukain Mabuza died in relative obscurity, he left behind important works of art that today attract visitors from around the world. He has received posthumous recognition as an important South African “Outsider” artist. His “Garden of Flowers” continues to inspire other creative minds, including triggering the imagination of playwright Athol Fugard.
“At the heart of it all is a face and a human story, never an idea. I only put words to paper if I have a story to tell,” says Athol Fugard as he reflects on 60 years as a writer and playwright.
“Every play generates expectations and demands,” he continued. “I’m not a political playwright. I’m a storyteller but it’s impossible to tell a South African story honestly and with humility, and not have political resonance. We take politics to bed with us, take it to our dreams.”
“I simply tell stories about South African people. I go where my unpredictable imagination wants me to go.”
Outlining where it all began, Fugard described studying anthropology and philosophy at the University of Cape Town but quietly “wrestling with Sartre and falling in love with Camus, Faulkner and Tolstoy – the writer had begun to stir”.
“I realised that all I wanted to do was tell stories about people. Camus’ courageous pessimism and his exploration of human connection as an act of defiance in particular resonated with my challenge – the predicament of what being a South African was all about.”
“While Faulkner made me never hesitate to be as regional and local as the story needed to be.”
Elizabeth Magdalena Potgieter
He also credits his mother, Elizabeth Magdalena Potgieter, as having distilled the power of language into his soul. “What she did with the English language in her mouth – either to hide secrets or at a crucial moment to reveal them. It’s why I got in to writing plays.” Despite having “scraped tickies and sixpence together to get me to university” she never hesitated when he told her he wanted to write.
He described his first attempt at writing a novel while serving as a seaman on the S. S. Gregor which sailed from Port Sudan. “It ended up in the sea while we were moored in a Fiji lagoon,” he said. “Many times since I have wished I had a lagoon at hand.”
Now with 35 plays, two novels, a memoir and short stories, as well as countless awards and honours to his name, Fugard described the excitement of his first published and performed play – The Blood Knot. “I had found my voice, my watershed. It was a story set in the nitty-gritty specifics of a small corner of the world. But I had told a story that only I could tell, in a way that only I could tell it.”
Athol Fugard and Zakes Mokae, ‘The Blood Knot’ (1961)
“At that point English theatre in South Africa was largely a pale, anaemic copy of British theatre. The idea that South African stories belonged on a stage was not really known.”
Occupying space, time and silence
He describes a play as “a complex time machine, a wind-up toy that scurries around, occupying space, time and silence”. Space because there is a physical space to fill – the stage. Time – because “the audience can’t stay sitting all night”. And silence because “it has to be occupied”.
“You can go anywhere you like – with an invitation from the blank page to surprise the reader and the audience.”
“But you have to be determined not to be pigeonholed. That can end with the writer just imitating himself,” he continued.
Fugard explained his use of notebooks, which date back to the 1960s and have been published, to record and describe incidents and moments from life to which he will return. “We have agreed to meet again in the future. Made an appointment.”
“I take my appointment with my notebooks very seriously,” he added. But he admits now that he does worry “Do I have enough time and energy left to keep that appointment?”
“Must I say farewell without having told their story? If I run out of time and can’t keep that appointment, I will descend into my grave an unhappy man.”
The west coast premiere of Athol Fugard’s new play, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek, opens at the Fountain Theatre on Nov 7th. More Info/Get Tickets
The Fountain Theatre continues its 15-year relationship with master playwright Athol Fugard, presenting the West Coast premiere of his newest play. Directed by Simon Levy, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek opens on November 7 at the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood.
Both Fugard and the Fountain come full circle with Painted Rocks, a play inspired by the work of real-life outsider artist Nukain Mabuza. In 1972, a personal encounter with outsider artist Helen Martins, a reclusive and ostracized figure in a small, ultra-conservative Afrikaans community who had created an extraordinary collection of statues in her back yard, led to Fugard’s celebrated play, The Road to Mecca. And it was the Fountain’s Los Angeles premiere of that play in 2000, directed by Fountain co-artistic director Stephen Sachs, that introduced the playwright to the theater he would come to call his “artistic home on the West Coast.”
“Forty years later [after my encounter with Helen Martins], I became aware of another outsider artist worthy of the same attention, working in completely different circumstances and also with a different medium,” wrote Fugard on the website of South Africa’s Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Studies, where he is currently an artist-in-residence. “The environment of present-day South Africa made me realize the true potential of Nukain’s story, and that, even though he worked on the fringes, it can in fact not be fully realized without taking on the realities of his existence in apartheid South Africa.”
In the play, the aging Nukain (Thomas Silcott) has spent his life transforming the rocks at Revolver Creek into a vibrant garden of painted flowers. Faced with the presence of the final unpainted rock — and at the insistence of his young companion, Bokkie (Philip Solomon) — he is forced to confront his legacy as an artist and a black man in 1980s South Africa. When the landowner’s wife (Suanne Spoke) arrives to demand he stop painting, the deep racial conflict of the country is viscerally exposed. Twenty years later, in what has become the new South Africa, the man called Bokkie as a child (Gilbert Glenn Brown) returns to restore Mabuza’s lifework.
“Possibly, at this moment in our history, the stories that need telling are more urgent than any of the stories that needed telling during the apartheid years,” Fugard said in an interview with NPR.
“At the heart of Athol’s beautiful new play is the issue of seeing and being seen – as an artist, as a man, especially as a black man,” says Levy. “It’s an on-going, universal problem that Athol has spent his life exploring and exposing and humanizing. To be seen for who you really are, and to be loved and honored for that. It’s a beautiful message, and one we need to hear over and over again.”
The author of over 30 plays and recipient of countless accolades including an Academy Award, Obie and the 2011 Special Tony Award for Lifetime in the Theatre, Athol Fugard is best known for his plays about the frustrations of life in contemporary South Africa and the psychological barriers created by apartheid. Widely acclaimed around the world, his plays include Boesman and Lena (Obie Award, Best Foreign Play), Sizwe Bansi Is Dead (Tony Award, Best Play), A Lesson from Aloes (New York Drama Critics Circle Award, Best Play), the semiautobiographical Master Harold…and the Boys (Writers Guild Award, Outstanding Achievement) and The Road to Mecca(New York Drama Critics Circle Citation, Best Foreign Play, London Evening Standard Award, Best Play). The first white South African playwright to collaborate with black actors and workers, some of his works, such as Blood Knot, were initially banned in South Africa. In his first two post-apartheid plays, Valley Song (1995) and The Captain’s Tiger (1998), Fugard addressed more personal concerns, but in Sorrows and Rejoicings (2001) he focused on the complex racial dynamics of South Africa’s new era. In 2005 his novel, Tsotsi (1980), was adapted for the screen, winning the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
When Fugard saw the Fountain’s Los Angeles premiere of The Road to Mecca in 2000, he was so impressed that he offered the company world premiere rights to an as-yet-unwritten new work. In 2004, Stephen Sachs directed the world premiere of Exits and Entrances. The production garnered production and direction awards from both the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle and the Ovations, and Sachs went on to direct acclaimed regional productions around the country, including an off-Broadway production at Primary Stages and the UK premiere at the 2007 International Edinburgh Festival. Since then, the Fountain has produced four premieres of Fugard’s plays including the American premiere of Victory (two LADCC awards and four LA Weekly nominations, and named “Best of 2008” by the Los Angeles Times);the West Coast premiere of Coming Home (three LA Weekly awards including “Ensemble” and “Direction,” LADCC award for “Lead Performance”); the U.S. premiere of The Train Driver (three LA Weekly awards); and the U.S. premiere of The Blue Iris (LA Weekly Award nomination for best ensemble).
The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek premiered to critical acclaim at the Signature Theatre in New York City earlier this year. The New York Times called it “tender and ruminative” and Newsday wrote, “Fugard stamps indelible human faces on faraway reports of the world’s news.”
Set design for the Fountain Theatre production of The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek is by Jeffrey McLaughlin; lighting design is by Jennifer Edwards; sound design is by Peter Bayne; costume design is by Naila Aladdin Sanders; props are by Dillon Nelson; dialect coach is Nike Doukas; assistant stage manager is Terri Roberts; production stage manager is Rita Cofield; associate producer is James Bennett; and Stephen Sachs and Deborah Lawlor produce for the Fountain Theatre.
Currently celebrating its 25th anniversary, 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 over 225 awards, and Fountain projects have been seen across the U.S. and internationally. Recent highlights include being honored with the 2014 Ovation Award for Best Season and the 2014 BEST Award for overall excellence from the Biller Foundation; the Fountain play Bakersfield Mist in London’s West End starring Kathleen Turner and Ian McDiarmid; the sold-out Forever Flamenco gala concert at the 1200-seat John Anson Ford Amphitheatre; and the last six Fountain productions consecutively highlighted as Critic’s Choice in the Los Angeles Times. The Fountain has been honored with six Awards of Excellence from the Los Angeles City Council for “enhancing the cultural life of Los Angeles.”