While the cast of our summer production, Last Summer at Bluefish Cove, have been hard at work rehearsing, Sets-to-Go has been hard at work building the incredible set designed by our fabulous scenic designer, Desma Murphy.
Last week, the set for the Bluefish Cove beach cottage where a group of lesbian women spend their summers together was loaded onto our Outdoor Stage. Soon to come will be the rocks and dock of the cove.
Check out this short video chat with Desma and watch the magic happen as the crew installs the set and Bluefish Cove begins to become a reality.
Last Summer at Bluefish Cove begins previews on June 14, opens on June 17, and runs through August 27. Tickets/More Info.
Welcome to Bluefish Cove. The Fountain Theatre will transform the parking lot surrounding the set on its outdoor stage to create an oceanfront experience for its 40th-anniversary production of the groundbreaking comedy/drama, Last Summer at Bluefish Cove by Jane Chambers. Directed by Hannah Wolf, performances take place June 17 through August 27, with low-priced previews beginning June 14.
Set in 1974, a group of queer women spend their summers together in a remote oceanfront town on Long Island. Their lesbian enclave is disrupted when Eva, a naïve straight woman recently separated from her husband, stumbles unaware into their circle and falls for the charming, tough-talking Lil. This heartfelt play, a landmark in lesbian history, is bursting with friendship, laughter, love and hope, bringing well-rounded, three-dimensional characters that transcend stereotypes and preconceptions to the stage.
“The play ran for two years, from 1981-1983, at the Fountain Theatre 40 years ago starring Jean Smart, before Deborah Lawlor and I acquired the building and established our company,” says Fountain artistic director Stephen Sachs. “It was a benchmark achievement in L.A. theater, a turning point for L.A.’s queer community, and a milestone in the history of our building. Many women saw and remember it. Now its time for generations of young gay women born after the play was produced here to experience it for themselves.”
One of the first playwrights to depict love between women as happy, healthy, and well-adjusted, Jane Chambers (1937-1983) changed the course of American drama with works informed by second-wave feminism and the burgeoning gay rights movement, including A Late Snow (1974), Last Summer at Bluefish Cove (1980) and My Blue Heaven (1981). A prolific writer, Chambers also authored novels, poetry, and essays in addition to penning scripts for film and television. She trained as an actress at Rollins College and the Pasadena Playhouse because female students were not admitted to writing classes, and enjoyed success as an off-Broadway performer.
“(Bluefish Cove) was a benchmark achievement in L.A. theater, a turning point for L.A.’s queer community, and a milestone in the history of our building. … Now its time for generations of young gay women born after the play was produced here to experience it for themselves.”
In 1964, Chambers moved to Maine where she worked for MWTW-TV as a content producer and on-air personality. During President Johnson’s War on Poverty, Chambers took a position as arts coordinator with Jobs Corp, creating theater with inner-city youths. While earning a bachelor’s degree at Goddard College, Chambers returned to New York, co-founded Women’s Interart Theatre with Margot Lewitin, and met her life partner, talent agent Beth Allen. Chambers was diagnosed with a brain tumor and died in 1983. Her pioneering spirit is honored by an annual prize given in her name: The Jane Chambers Award for Playwriting is administered by The Women and Theatre Program. Chambers’ impact on American drama is also celebrated by a reading series at TOSOS (The Other Side of Silence) Theatre.
The Fountain Theatre west coast premieres Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell & Gordon Farrell’s The Lifespan of a Fact, opening February 18th.
Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Simon! I am so glad I finally get the chance to interview you after seeing so many of your incredible, tear-jerking productions, especially Daniel’s Husband and The Normal Heart. So, what factors influenced you to west coast premiere The Lifespan of a Fact?
The plays I’m attracted to wrestle with contemporary societal issues. I’d been looking for a project that theatricalized this “post-factual” world we’re living in. What is Truth, and is it negotiable? But I didn’t want something politically on-the-nose. When I read Lifespan, I fell in love with it because it’s based on a true story and tackles these issues through three wonderfully contrasting, funny, smart, and compulsive/obsessive characters who have vastly differing takes on this question of “truth” and “artistic freedom” in publishing. As we watch the play, we can’t help but think about what’s going on in politics, journalism, and social media today.
What would your three-line pitch for Lifespan be? Based on a true story. When a renowned essayist writes a literary nonfiction essay about a teenager who commits suicide by jumping off the top of the Stratosphere Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, are “facts” and “truth” about his life and what happened negotiable? Or is it okay to make stuff up, change some details, for the sake of a good story? Where is the line between accuracy and fiction? (Think of all the “biographical” movies that play loosely with the “facts” to make the story more dramatic.)
You’ve directed and produced over 120 productions in Los Angeles and San Francisco, directing Ron Bottitta in The Children at The Fountain. Who have you worked with before of the other Lifespan cast or creatives? Working with Ron Bottitta again is a delight. Such a gifted, organic actor. And it’s great to work again with Marc Antonio Pritchett, who’s doing Sound; and Michael Mullen, who’s doing Costumes. The rest of the team are new to me.
With all the actors you’ve directed or produced, do you even need to audition any for your productions? I prefer to make offers to actors I’ve either already worked with or have seen in other productions. For this project I immediately saw Ron as John and Inger as Emily (who I’ve seen in shows around town). I auditioned the younger role of Jim (the fact-checker), but knew Jonah personally and asked him to come in and read.
What aspects of a script attract you to want to direct it? I’m attracted to plays that resonate with contemporary issues, especially in a poetic/realistic way. Plays that make us think about something in a different way. That open our heart. That “change” us, no matter how slightly. Plays that wake us up or re-awaken us. I’m always looking for that poetic gesture, that opportunity to use all the tools of theatre (lighting, video, sound) to draw the audience into the inner lives of the characters and the world of the play. I believe in using those tools and being bold about it. And I love plays that have complex characters – characters that are messy, with deep secrets and deep wells – characters who surprise us and reflect back to us who we are. We are such messed up, beautiful, complex beings, we humans. I love plays that “hold that mirror up to nature.”
What originally convinced you to join The Fountain Theatre as its producing director in 1993, three years after its inception? When I first joined the Fountain to help “rescue” a show nearly 30 years ago, I knew immediately it was my artistic home because the people there – Stephen, Deborah, Scott, and all the others over the years – are people of the heart; people who do theatre for the right reasons. They are artists who love this art form. It’s not about their ego. It’s about the art. They are family.
What aspects of a script attract you to include it in The Fountain Theatre season? Socially/politically-conscious plays that wrestle with contemporary issues and have a deep heart.
This is a Sophie’s Choice question: what is The Fountain Theatre production closest to your heart? Like a father, you love all your children, for various reasons. So many of the productions I’ve done at the Fountain stand out for me, but I would have to say The Normal Heart holds a special place in my heart for very personal reasons.
You are now a successful theatre director, producer, playwright and screenwriter. What did you want to be growing up? Hmmm? First, I wanted to be a Marine. Then a fighter pilot. Then a spy. Then a poet. Then a writer. Then a sax player. Then an actor. Then a director. I didn’t achieve the first three, but I’ve dabbled in the others.
If you had to choose just one of your four professions to pursue for the rest of your life, which one would it be? And why? A director. I love being in rehearsal, playing in the playground, creating with gifted people.
You have earned countless awards and honors in your career. Is there one particular one that stands up above the rest? And why? Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for Lifetime Achievement in Directing. It’s nice to know your work has been affective and noticed.
What is the status of your latest writing projects Two Hearts and Heartland, America? Both are doing the rounds, though I’ve moved on to other writing projects.
What do you have planned for The Fountain’s upcoming season? After Lifespan, we’ll be doing a 40th-anniversary production of Last Summer at Bluefish Cove this summer. Our fall show is still TBA. (We’re waiting to see which direction our country is going in). We’ll also be doing a Chamber Music Series, a Jazz at the Fountain Series, and Flamenco. Some of these will be on our outdoor stage. And we’ll continue our Education Outreach Program, Fountain Voices, introducing and teaching the next generation the beauty and thrill of live theatre.
Will you be directing any of these shows? No plans at the moment.
What is in the near future for Simon Levy? I’m supposed to go on a long-delayed world cruise in early 2024. There is much to see and explore out there… if the COVID gods (and world events) are kind.
Thank you again, Simon! I look forward to checking out your Lifespan. For tickets to the live performances of The Lifespan of a Fact through April 2, 2023; click here.
I have a ritual I perform every night, no matter what. I write out a list of the things I am grateful for that day and text it to a dear friend. He, in turn, sends me his nightly Gratitude List as well. We have been doing this, without fail, for almost two years now.
This simple little exercise keeps us focused on the important things in our lives. The things that really matter. And while yes, we sometimes note gratitude for such mundane (but still important) things such as paying the bills, gas in the car, and a working AC on a blistering summer day, our lists are mostly filled with thankfulness for friends and family, meaningful work, joy in simple things, and actions that reflect a refusal to live in the shadow of doom and gloom.
That does not mean, however, that life is lived on a pink cloud. Far from it.
Invariably we each have days where there’s just not a drop of gratitude to be found. Anywhere. Problems at work, health issues, financial stresses, family challenges, the nightly news and the state of the state/country/world can all be tenacious and debilitating in their grip. And so it becomes a wonderful thing – and something else to be deeply grateful for – to have someone there to offer perspective, support, and unflagging friendship and love. We have each pulled the other out of the roadside ditch many times, and are closer for it.
Here at the Fountain, the list is long of similar struggles. But the list of our blessings is even longer. Our amazing supporters and donors. A devoted board of directors. Tremendous plays, performers, and production teams. The generous grantors who believe in our work and the power of theatre to create awareness and change – and help to fund it. A blossoming volunteer program with folks eager to help however they can. Ever-evolving programing to extend our reach into the community even deeper and further than before. A small, but very mighty, staff. And always, a willingness and determination to keep theatre alive and well.
Having an attitude of gratitude is not just putting on a happy face and ignoring the problems before us. It is an action we take. It is a conscious shift in perspective to find the positive in the negative, the good in the bad. An unimaginable pandemic lockdown encouraged us to find new ways of keeping our art alive. The technology of Zoom kept us connected with members of our Fountain Family. The incredible blessing of owning our building and property allowed us to apply for funding to build an outdoor stage in our parking lot – and to make that stage available to other local artists and companies who have either been displaced by Covid or are not yet ready to return to an indoor space. Indeed, the Fountain overflows with blessings.
So tell me – what are you grateful for this Thanksgiving? What’s on your Gratitude List? I would love to know! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and share with me what fills your heart with thankfulness and joy. With your permission, I will share some of your thoughts in an upcoming blog. Gratitude, after all, is not restricted to one day of the year. An attitude of gratitude is something to be cultivated year-round. Writing out, on a regular basis, what brings you thankfulness and joy is a powerful way to do that.
I wish you all a blessed Thanksgiving. And for all you have done for all of us here at the Fountain Theatre, “I can no other answer make but thanks and thanks and ever thanks…”
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.
Twenty months ago, the Fountain Theatre was forced to close in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Downstairs our stage was dark. Upstairs the café was empty. It was an unimaginable time.
All of that has changed now. The success of preventatives (vaccines, masks, etc.) have allowed theatres to finally re-open with safety measures in place, and so last week the Fountain flung open its brand new double front doors to accept audiences back to our beloved indoor stage. There, on Andrew Hammer’s picturesque set for a British seaside cottage — beautifully lit by Christian Mejia, detailed by props designer Shen Heckel and sound designer Marc Antonio Pritchett, and costumed by Naila Aladdin Sanders — we introduced Lucy Kirkwood’s 2018 Tony-nominated play, The Children, to Los Angeles theatre-goers. Twenty months is a long time…and when the pre-show recording welcomed everyone back, the audience erupted in spontaneous cheers and applause!
The Children, directed by Simon Levy, is set in the afterworld of a life-threatening, and wholly preventable, environmental disaster. Also an unimaginable time. Long-married Hazel (Lily Knight) and Robin (Ron Bottitta), both retired nuclear engineers who worked at the local power plant, have moved to this isolated cottage following an explosion at their former workplace. Their pick-up-the-pieces quiet coastal life is upended, however, by the arrival of Rose (Elizabeth Elias Huffman), an old friend and fellow co-worker, who arrives with secrets and surprises that bring even more upheaval and fireworks.
Saturday, November 6th, was the official Opening Night for The Children. Following a thrilling performance, folks headed upstairs to our charming café for a tasty reception courtesy of Butler Pantry Catering. The entire building was filled with joyous embraces, vibrant conversation, and laughter and gratitude for being back together again.
Please enjoy these photos from our LA premiere production of The Children and the Opening Night reception. For information and to make reservations, CLICK HERE.
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.
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 Octoroonwill 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’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 Octoroonruns 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.
During these challenging times, it is more important than ever to connect. In this new series of blog articles, Community Chats, we will talk with different community partners about issues of community and gathering together in a virtual world.
To start, the Fountain’s own Community Engagement Director, France-Luce Benson, talks about the theatre’s upcoming community events as well as the launch of our brand new virtual get-together series, Sunday Brunch. The first Sunday Brunch is being served this Sunday at 11am. Join us! Zoom ID: 853 1210 5903. Passcode: Brunch
1. What is Sunday Brunch?
Sunday Brunch is a new initiative we’re starting this Sunday, February 28th, from 11am-12pm. Like Saturday Matinees, it will be a time for all of us to gather, catch up, connect, and inspire one another. But unlike Saturday Matinees, there won’t be any guest performers. For Sunday Brunch, YOU are the special guest. It’s all about you.
2. Who can participate?
Anyone. Anyone who’s ever seen a show at the Fountain. Anyone who’s ever been in a show at the Fountain, or directed, designed, or ushered. Subscribers, donors, supporters, community partners, neighbors, friends and family. All are welcome.
3. What kind of activities should our community members be expecting?
Great conversation, fun ice-breakers and games, and time to share.
4. Sharing? What can they share?
A song, a joke, a poem, a passage from your favorite book, an excerpt of your own writing, a recipe, a personal story, a piece of art – even gossip! Anything that sparks joy. It’s about spreading love and inspiration.
5. How often will these brunches happen?
The last Sunday of every month, beginning this Sunday, February 28th, from 11am-12pm.
6. Are there any more community events that we should keep our eyes out for?
We are taking our new Arts Education program, Fountain Voices, to Clarence A. Dickison school, beginning March 8th. The nine-week program will culminate in a performance of the students’ original work. Be on the look out for info about the performance in May.
In April, the Fountain Theatre will partner with The Dramatists Guild for their annual End of Play initiative, where hundreds of playwrights across the country commit to completing a new play in the month of April. We’ll be hosting a virtual silent writing retreat.
Stephen Sachs accepts Ovation Award for Best Production of a Play for “Cost of Living”
The Fountain Theatre dominated the 2020 LA Ovation Awards Monday night, January 13th, by winning six awards, including the prestigious Best Season and Best Production of a Play. The LA Times has referred to the Ovation Awards as the “highest-profile contest for local theatre.”
Hosted by LA Stage Alliance, The Ovation Awards are the only peer-judged theatre awards in Los Angeles, created to recognize excellence in theatrical performance, production and design in the Greater Los Angeles area. Over 300 theatrical productions have competed each year in 35 different categories to be recognized as Ovation Awards recipients. These productions are evaluated by a pool of 250 vetted Ovation voters, all of whom are working theatre professionals of Greater LA.
The Fountain Theatre was honored with the following Ovation Awards:
Fountain Theatre — Cost of Living, Daniel’s Husband, Hype Man: A Break Beat Play
Best Production of a Play — Intimate Theater Cost of Living, Fountain Theatre
Acting Ensemble of a Play Cost of Living, Fountain Theatre
Featured Actress in a Play
Xochitl Romero, Cost of Living, Fountain Theatre
Video/Projection Design — Intimate Theater
Nicholas Santiago, Cost of Living, Fountain Theatre
Ovations Honors Recipient
Music Composition for a Play – Romero Mosley, Hype Man, Fountain Theatre