Lois Tandy may have been in her nineties, but she could be shrewd and mischievous. In the many years I knew her, and Lois was a Fountain friend and supporter for over a decade, every encounter was a delightful mix of droll repartee and honest affection. We enjoyed each other’s company.
Lois passed away one year ago this month, on December 4, 2021. Not long after, I was moved to learn that she had bequeathed some money from her estate to the Fountain Theatre. I had no idea she had arranged to make this gift. But I was not surprised.
By Los Angeles standards, Lois was not supremely wealthy. She lived alone in a modest three-bedroom house at the end of a street in Alta Dena. She dressed simply, wore little jewelry, and even less makeup. She had money in the bank, a comfortable sum. The marvelous thing about Lois was that she didn’t wait until the end of her life to give it away. She gave while she was living. She donated her time and her money to many.
She volunteered everywhere and showed up for everything, particularly if it had to do with politics, human rights, animals, the environment, or the arts. Lois was a docent at the Huntington Library and gave tours of its sumptuous gardens. She often volunteered at the Gene Autry Museum. She gave her money to the World Wildlife Fund and the Audubon Society. To Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union. To the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the L.A. Chamber Orchestra. And to the Fountain Theatre.
None of us like to think about the end of our lives. I sure don’t. But the older I get, the more I’m reminded. I’m now getting marketing postcards from Pierce Brothers Mortuary and Forest Lawn. My wife and I have made our will and laid out our financial planning. As John Lennon sang, “you don’t take nothing with you but your soul.” But I think maybe you don’t even take that. I think your soul stays behind, too. In the people you love, the causes you help, and the lives you change. I believe there’s some measure of Lois’ soul in every play she supported at the Fountain, in the heart of each student in the arts education programs she helped fund. To me, that’s a legacy. That is immortality. Maybe, the kind we only get.
Stephen Sachs is the Artistic Director of the Fountain Theatre.
For information on how you can leave a bequest to The Fountain, please contact our development department at 323-663-1525 X 307.
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 email@example.com 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.
Philanthropists who dedicate their giving to arts organizations like the Fountain Theatre are a special breed. They are people who understand the value of the arts, love live theatre, and believe in its ability to open hearts and elevate our understanding of the world. Barbara Herman and Susan Stockel, Executive Producers of An Octoroon, are two such philanthropists. They are extraordinary people who are dedicated to giving back, and it is the Fountain’s great good fortune that they choose to support our work.
Barbara Herman is an enthusiastic member of LA’s philanthropic community. She has many passions. Like her mother before her, Barbara is passionate about supporting ground-breaking medical research. Having been a member of The Cedars-Sinai Women’s Guild for over 50 years, Barbara is proud of her many accomplishments. She is, however, particularly proud to have helped launch The Cedars-Sinai’s Neurology Project, created to support innovative research and education for the understanding and treatment of complex neurological disorders. The Women’s Guild is honoring Barbara this September at their annual gala. Barbara is also passionate about the arts, and she is a pillar of support to both the Fountain Theatre and The Broad Stage, on whose board she serves.
“I have always loved going to the theatre. One of my most treasured memories is going to the theatre with my parents when I was a little girl. Several years ago, I was thrilled to discover the Fountain, a little gem of a theatre in Los Angeles. One of my favorite things to do is gather a group of friends and take them to the Fountain. We have so much fun! We have dinner at Marouch and then go to the Fountain to enjoy whatever is on the stage. It’s always memorable.”
“To me, the Fountain Theatre offers one of the best cultural experiences in Los Angeles. There are just so many reasons. The first, of course, is the excellence of the productions. Everything is done beautifully. Total artistry. The directing, acting, and sets are consistently excellent. I’ve never seen a show that I didn’t either love or like. Now that’s quite a track record! But what’s equally remarkable is the consistent sensitivity and timeliness of the plays presented. Every play the Fountain mounts is relevant and thought-provoking. My friends and I love to discuss the plays after the show, whether we do it on the sidewalk or up in the cafe.”
“But for me, the Fountain is more than a theatre. It is a community. Everyone — from Joe in the parking lot to Simon, Stephen, Barbara and James— greets me by name and makes me feel welcome. It’s a very personal place, not an institution. And that warmth, that personal connection is very unique, and refreshing. Everything at the Fountain seems to come from the heart.”
Barbara’s philanthropy is guided by a simple principle that she learned from her parents: “I’m a firm believer in leaving the world a better place than I found it. If I see a need, I try to fill it. If I see a problem, I try to fix it. And I always encourage people to join me.”
A passionate theatre lover, Susan Stockel becomes filled with excitement when she speaks about theatre — especially when she is describing a play that has truly touched her. Susan’s love for theatre finds her frequently traveling to New York, London and beyond to experience the magic. A wonderful supporter of the Fountain, Susan has executive produced several plays with us, including Cost of Living and Citizen: An American Lyric. Her family foundation funds a variety of organizations: some grants aid low income families who have children with special needs, other grants aid organizations that are working in innovative ways to slow global warming and help indigenous people protect their lands from deforestation and illegal mining. The foundation also supports children’s theatre programs that introduce theatre to youngsters who have never seen live theatre.
“The magic happens when the children take out their notebooks and read a scene that they have prepared and rehearsed!” Susan beams with pride when she remembers this, and talks about how she first learned to give back from her parents.
“I learned about how important it was to share what I had with others who were in need by watching my father. He was a first-generation American — one of six children, and the only one to finish college. He had to work to help his family and went to night high school. Thankfully, in those days, New York had tuition-free city college that opened up learning to an entire generation of students. He worked days in a clothing factory. My father always provided for his siblings when they needed help, and would pull out his checkbook and loan money to friends with never a due date on the loans. And, of course, he took care of his mother when he lost his father the month before his graduation from dental school. My husband and I also believed in continuing that tradition. We worked as a team when deciding what donations to make, and taught our values to our children. In my husband’s honor, I established a family foundation, and I feel great joy working on the foundation’s projects with my children and grandchildren, knowing that the work will continue, and the family will always be there for each other and for others.”
Susan’s love of theatre began when she was a young girl, and she has a keen eye for great theatre.
“When I was a little girl I loved to perform. I loved telling stories, and I still do! I am a passionate lover of the spoken word. The Fountain Theatre was introduced to me many years ago. An intimate space on a tight budget — the Fountain was an unexpected surprise. Excellent plays, always well-cast and directed, with a loyal diverse audience from all over the city, who brave the traffic to attend!”
“I chose to produce An Octoroon because I saw the play when it was first produced in Brooklyn at Theatre for a New Audience. I loved it. An Octoroon is a unique play. It is funny, sad, clever, quirky and wonderful. Just like any piece of great historical fiction, An Octoroon peels back the layers of civilization to reveal the cruelty and hypocrisy often hidden beneath the facade. An Octoroon shows us powerful men behaving ‘civilly,’ but cruelly. They are willing to do anything to further their own self-interest. Narcissism is revealed as a cruel but powerful driver of history. I am particularly drawn to the depiction of Zoe, our heroine. Despite being beautiful and admirable in every way, she becomes an outcast because she is an Octoroon. I love the story and I knew the Fountain would do a tremendous job with this play, so was happy to join the team.”
“Thank you all for your interest and support of the Fountain, Our Magic Place! May we grow and thrive.”
Barbara Goodhill is the Director of Development for the Fountain Theatre.
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.