Earlier this month, eager students and their chaperones from three area high schools visited the Fountain Theatre for specially arranged morning performances of our current hit show, The Lifespan of a Fact. These kids had either been participants in Fountain Voices, the Fountain’s acclaimed theatre education program, or were recruited because they were active in their established high school theatre programs. Many of them already had an interest in the arts, some were newly exposed to it, and quite a few were even considering careers as writers and/or performers. All of them were thrilled to be seeing the show.
Ali Nezu, Magnet Coordinator for the New Media Academy and the Performing Arts Magnet at Hollywood High School was also excited for the opportunity. “It’s just been a blessing to have such an amazing group of artists and board members and community people that just love and respect the arts and that understand how desperately we need the arts to create social change,” she said. “And the learning that happens in a situation like this, and the engagement level of the students in the content and their own growth is just so much more than in a situational classroom. So I love that we are inspiring students to experience that but then inspire them and empower them to do that in their own lives moving forward.”
“It’s just been a blessing to have such an amazing group of artists and board members and community people that just love and respect the arts, and that understand how desperately we need the arts to create social change,” says Ali Nezu, Magnet Coordinator for the New Media Academy and the Performing Arts Magnet at Hollywood High School.
“I really appreciate how Fountain Voices teaches students how to get into someone else’s shoes,” enthused Ebony Haywood, who teaches English and Theatre at Compton Early Collage. “To understand how someone else is thinking, to how do you put this story together? How do you present, and represent, this story on stage? It’s like an exercise in being human.”
Sherrick O’Quinn, the Fountain’s Theatre Education Manager, agrees. “Fountain Voices is instrumental in giving kids an opportunity to realize and find their voice,” he says. “The programming we are providing is giving them the tools to learn how to be change agents of the future by using the theater arts to communicate their own stories that can change lives, hearts, and minds. Whether it’s learning how to use playwriting or visiting our theater to see a show, we’re creating accessibility to the arts when we’re seeing students increasingly not being given those opportunities – especially in underserved communities.”
The Fountain Theatre is now casting the Los Angeles Premiere of Steven Levenson’s funny and poignant play, IF I FORGET, directed by Jason Alexander (TV’s Seinfeld). Steven Levenson is the author of TICK, TICK… BOOM!, DEAR EVAN HANSEN, and FOSSE/VERDON. IF I FORGET will be performed on the Fountain Theatre’s Outdoor Stage in East Hollywood.
Storyline: Los Angeles Premiere. A funny and powerful tale of a family and a culture at odds with itself. In the final months before 9/11, liberal Jewish studies professor Michael Fischer reunites with his two sisters to celebrate their father’s 75th birthday. Each committed to their own version of family history, they clash over everything from Michael’s controversial book, to whether they should sell the family business. Secrets and long-held resentments bubble to the surface as the three negotiate – with biting humor and razor-sharp insight – just what they’re willing to sacrifice for a chance at a new beginning.
Producer/Theatre Company: The Fountain Theatre Artistic Director: Stephen Sachs Director: Jason Alexander Writer: Steven Levenson Casting Director: Simon Levy, Jose Fernando Lead Producers: Simon Levy, James Bennett Auditions: April 18-19, 2022 Rehearsals: June 13 – July 19, 2022 Previews: July 20 – 22, 2022 Opens/Closes: July 23, 2022 – September 10, 2022
LOU FISCHER 65 to 75 years old, male. (to play 75) Smart, sensitive, caring. He is capable of deep feeling but can be distant as is typical of men of his generation. Holds disturbing secrets from the war. A Jewish WWII veteran, proud of his family and Jewish heritage. Suffers a debilitating stroke during the course of the play. A man of quiet dignity. An untapped well.
MICHAEL FISCHER 45 to 50 years old, male. Lou’s son. A Jewish Studies professor who happens to be an atheist. A cynical, avowed liberal whose intellect and passions coupled with his ego and neurosis often cloud his better judgment and his better angels. Proud, defiant, stubborn and yet fearful and ultimately a bit lost. He struggles to make his heart as potent as his mind. A brilliant, if tortured, soul.
HOLLY FISCHER 45 to 52 years old, female. Lou’s oldest daughter and Michael’s older sister. (should read slightly older than him). Her dress and manner reflect a lifestyle that connotes a degree of financial success and social influence. She thinks highly of herself and freely speaks her mind, oftentimes at the expense of others. Though brash and biting, she means well and genuinely cares for her family. She is driven, fierce – but the bark is far worse than the bite.
SHARON FISCHER 38 to 40 years old, female. Lou’s youngest daughter. Sweet to the point of almost seeming simple. A natural giver, reflected in being a kindergarten teacher and Lou’s primary caregiver. She is also a bit high strung and desperate to have a family of her own at this later stage of her life. She harbors unspoken resentment toward her siblings for making her the de facto nanny and nurse. Though fragile and brittle, she spends much of the play struggling to assert herself and fight for the things she wants and believes in.
ELLEN MANNING 40 to 43 years old, female. Michael’s wife. Not Jewish. Kind, calm, and the voice of reason when tensions arise between Michael and his siblings. She is supportive of her husband’s career and beliefs though keenly aware and nervous of their offensiveness. She determinedly suppresses her fear and anxiety about her daughter’s mental illness. She is a woman very much on the edge and holding on with all the grace she can muster.
HOWARD KILBERG 50 to 55 years old, male. Holly’s husband. Jewish. A corporate lawyer. Successful and affable but a bit of a dolt. He is socially awkward, never sure of where he stands in anyone’s esteem. He is mild-mannered, even kindly but uncomfortable in his skin. And he harbors a secret that he greatly fears will ruin his life if revealed.
JOEY OREN 16 to 20 years old, male. (to play 16) Holly’s son. A smart and socially awkward teen. Has some behavioral issues; not violent, just acts out to get attention. He acts indifferent toward his family but can’t help revealing genuine concern during trying times. Takes refuge in gaming. An awkward kid, probably somewhere on the spectrum.
Please submit electronically via Breakdown Express/Actors Access or email email@example.com. First round of auditions will be self-tape of Sides, which will be made available by the casting coordinator. Then there will be an in-person audition at the theatre. Then a callback.
Being Valentine’s Day, treat yourself to being swept away by the love and healing powers of music and the written word in Numbered Days, the true-life love story of two passionate artists who used the power of their artistry to sustain them through their “numbered days” as a couple. Playwright Corey Madden has transformed her poetic memoir into a four-episode audio play produced by the Fountain theatre that launches today.
How can art, and the process of creating it, help us cope with hardship? Numbered Days turns Madden’s poems about the battle with cancer she shared with her beloved husband, composer Bruno Louchouarn, into an audio art piece meant to bring healing to others.
Two-time Emmy®, Peabody and SAG award-winning actor Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad) stars as playwright Corey Madden in an audio theater production of Madden’s moving memoir. Veteran actor Tony Amendola (Antaeus Theatre Company, Showtime’s Dexter, ABC’s Once Upon a Time) stars alongside Gunn as Bruno.Jeanne SakataandJack Stehlin take on multiple roles. Madden directs, and Jeff Gardener is audio producer, sound designer and Foley artist. Prominently featured throughout is Louchouarn’s glorious music.
Following her husband’s diagnosis, Madden began writing short, free-verse poems as a way to give voice to her anguish.
“I started writing on my iPhone as a way to cope with the stress and uncertainty, but what I discovered was that focusing only on Bruno’s illness and treatment was robbing us both of the very thing I wanted most to preserve — his life,” she explains. “The practice of writing about exactly what was happening in the moment helped me see the grace within daily life. It helped me re-focus on the joy of being alive today. Instead of living in fear, we were both able to experience joy through making art. This is not just a play about living with cancer — it’s a play about joie de vivre, artistry, and how to get through the unimaginable. Art created healing for us, and that was nothing short of a miracle.”
Happy New Year! After a long and tumultuous 2021, the hope and promise of the first calendar page of 2022 has arrived.
At the Fountain, we have much to look forward to in the months ahead. New, exciting productions are already in the works (more news on them to come), but first we wrap up our LA premiere presentation of Lucy Kirkwood’s Tony-nominated drama, The Children. This critically-acclaimed production returns to our indoor stage on Saturday, January 8th, to begin the countdown of its final seven performances.
Directed by Simon Levy, The Children stars Ron Bottitta, Elizabeth Huffman and Lily Knight as longtime friends and work colleagues at a British nuclear power plant who are reunited after decades apart when one of the trio surprises the other two with an unplanned visit and an unthinkable request. Kirkwood’s funny and astonishing play is a taut and disquieting thriller about responsibility, reparation and moral accountability. The Children is a provocative legacy drama that asks the big questions we often try to avoid but ultimately must always face: what is our responsibility to the future? To ourselves? To our children?
Lead L.A. Times theatre critic Charles McNulty declared that, “…we hang on to every word… Lucy Kirkwood’s The Children follows the wisdom of the environmental slogan “think globally, act locally.”… What Kirkwood excels at is creating characters that audiences want to learn more about… The Fountain bravely continues to bring L.A. audiences important contemporary works the larger theaters in town still haven’t the courage or vision to produce.”(CLICK HERE for links to reviews and to read pull quotes from them.)
If you haven’t yet seen the show, you still have time. The Children runs through Sunday, January 23rd, with performances Saturdays and Monday the 10th at 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm. (Dark on Monday, the 17th, in observance of Martin Luther King Day.)
Please Note: All Covid protocols are followed and enforced. Audience members will be temperature checked and must show proof of full vaccination to be admitted. Masks are mandated and must be worn at all times inside the theatre, except when eating or drinking. Our upstairs café is open and waiting for you.
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.
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.
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.
A life in the theatre is filled with photographs. We who act, direct, write, compose, design, produce or publicize theatre make use of countless of photographs, in a career and a lifetime. Production stills, headshots, publicity photos, prints for posters, snapshots for marketing brochures. We post JPEGS of ourselves in plays and musicals on social media, upload pictures of past performances for grant applications, embed digital images into our portfolios. At the Fountain Theatre, in our archive room, we have catalogued a collection of photographs chronicling the history of our organization going back thirty years. Hundreds, probably thousands, of pictures. Black and white and in color. Most of them taken by one remarkable man: Ed Krieger.
I got heartbreaking word last week that Ed had passed away at home on December 16, 2020. He had been fighting health issues for the past year and a half, but remained in good spirits. Ed was an essential member of our Fountain Family for twenty-five years, and a beloved photographer for the Los Angeles theatre community for decades. And he was my friend.
Born in Chicago, Ed graduated from Gage Park High School on the South Side. He studied biology and theater at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa. In 1985, he married Heather Blades, a graduate from UC Irvine. They each performed in plays and musicals throughout Southern California, appearing on stage together in 42nd Street and The Pajama Game at Downey Civic Light Opera. They had two children, daughter Courtenay and son Will.
Whenever I gave Ed Krieger a call to shoot photos of a current production at my theatre, I was guaranteed two things. First, I knew I would get high quality stills that captured the theatrical essence and energy of our show, shot in a professional and easy-going manner. Second, I could bank on getting a flurry of theater stories from Ed, usually about the other shows he was shooting (and their companies), his own precarious exploits as a musical actor (auditions he failed, or the ones that he aced), and the blossoming careers of his kids. I loved seeing the joy spread on Ed’s face when he spoke about Courtenay and Will, he was so clearly proud of them.
The photographs of Ed Krieger have played a crucial role in the success of my theatre. For one quarter of a century, Ed pulled up in his van outside our building on Fountain Avenue, lugged his equipment into our theatre, and took millions of pictures of thousands of our theatre artists. Multiply that by fifty, by one hundred, by two hundred other theater companies throughout the Los Angeles area and you get an idea of the immense contribution this man has made to our livelihood, our business, and our art.
I imagine that of the dozens and dozens of Los Angeles theater companies who worked with Ed Krieger over the years, each and every one thought of Ed as their photographer, he was theirs. That is just how you felt about Ed. He was yours. He was like your favorite uncle, the one you loved, the one with the camera, who laughed and joked and told stories while he happily snapped photos of you and your family.
I pray that L.A. Stage Alliance reaches out to Ed’s family at the appropriate time to secure the massive archive of images Ed has captured with his camera, all now stored at his home. In those stacks and stacks of cardboard boxes, in those miles of Kodak film, on those gigabytes of imagery, lies the history of us all. The work we have done, the art we have created, the lives we have changed, the friends we have found, the families we have made, and the city we have chronicled and helped put on the national map. Ed photographed that, for us all.
At the request of the Krieger family, those wishing to honor Ed may make a donation in his name toThe Actors Fund.
I’ve been thinking about a poem by Mary Oliver. The entire poem is only two lines. That’s all it needs. It goes like this:
“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift.”
2020 has been a deep box of darkness. Our task is to learn to view sorrows as gifts. That’s a hard one. The poem encourages us to do something when sorrows come, challenges us not to sit back and do nothing about them. That is what I have learned from this year.
It is hard to receive boxes of darkness. At the bottom of my box, I have found the gift of gratitude. For things big and small. As this dreadful year comes to its close, it has brought me this gift born of darkness: To be without the intimacy of the Fountain Theatre for one year makes me grateful for it even more. I hope you feel the same. While our holiday gatherings may be smaller or grid-boxed on Zoom, our hearts will surely be filled with gratitude.
With vaccinations now underway, our boxes of darkness soon will lighten. I honestly believe that the Fountain Theatre will play an essential role in the healing of our community. As we look ahead to 2021, the Fountain has ambitious plans to move forward, both online and onstage. Creating productions that illuminate what it means to be alive at this time in the world and providing impactful arts education programs for students in underserved schools across Los Angeles. All COVID-safe.
Here’s a snapshot: Our new online platform, Fountain Stream will debut a 2021 season of plays and inter-active community programs. Using innovative video technologies, we will go beyond Zoom, to give you intimate high-quality theatre that makes you think and feel. We have expanded Fountain for Youth, our arts education initiatives, with Fountain Voices, an extraordinary in-school playwriting program designed by France-Luce Benson. Our ground-breaking cops/kids residency, Walking the Beat, will return in a glorious new digital format. And, most ambitious of all, we are hopeful that in the spring of 2021, we will launch our biggest adventure next year: a thrilling Outdoor Stage in our parking lot. Live theatre under the stars! Completely COVID-compliant. Stay tuned.
But for now, the Fountain — like every theater throughout Los Angeles and across the nation — remains closed. I don’t have to tell you things are hard. For the Fountain, our earned income has ground to a halt. The Fountain’s budget has dropped by over 50%. Our building remains non-operational, still standing proud on Fountain Avenue thanks to grants, federal loans, contributions, and the private giving by you, our Fountain Family.
If you have already made a year-end donation to our campaign, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are the gift in our darkness box. Your love, friendship and support are the light that shines the way through these uncertain times. If you haven’t yet contributed, please consider doing so. Your generous holiday gift will help make the coming year possible. I am asking you to turn the sorrows of this year into a gift of gratitude. Out of darkness, light!
It was just last month that the Fountain Theatre announced it had joined forces with playwright Larry Powell, his producing partner Angelica Robinson, and their Tell Me a Story Productions to bring Powell’s exciting 12-part tragicomedy, The Gaze…No Homo to Fountain audiences. Presented via the theatre’s new digital platform, Fountain Stream, this episodic version of Powell’s live stage play has been reinvented for the digital age.
A set of three short-form episodes has premiered each Friday for the past three weeks. Now, The Gaze…No Homo comes full circle as the final set of episodes have been released. All episodes remain available for viewing on the Fountain Stream page until Dec 31.
To recap: The Gaze…No Homo centers around a young actor, Jerome Price (Galen J. Williams), as he tries to navigate his way through the increasingly uncomfortable rehearsal process of No Homo, a new play by emerging Black queer playwright Shaun Korey (Devere Rogers.) Korey is championed by Miranda Cryer (Sharon Lawrence), the straight White interim artistic director of the esteemed Evergreen Theatre Festival (“where the brightest and boldest new American voices are watered with wisdom, fed with fodder and nurtured with nourishment.”) Cryer is also the director of the world premiere of Korey’s new play.
This year, the festival has been consigned to a digital Zoomscape instead of the traditional seats-and-stage live theatre experience thanks to the COVID pandemic. In addition to the neophyte Price, No Homo features far more seasoned actors Kendrell Thompson (Eugene Byrd) and Buddy DuPois (TC Carson), and is stage managed by the experienced team of no-nosense PSM Sherry Grosse (Yvette Cason) andgender-fluid ASM Tee (Jason “Freckle” Greene.) There is much at stake here for everyone, and complicating matters is the growing dissent between Price and Cryer. As their abrasive relationship grows ever-more heated, the fate of the entire production becomes jeopardized.
The Gaze…No Homo was selected as a finalist in the prestigious 2020/2021 Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference. It is the first in Powell’s The Gaze cycle of plays that examines the process of building culturally specific and queer works of color in certain historically white spaces. The Gaze tackles difficult topics like racism and microagressions, and wrestles with the question, “Why strain to be free under a gaze fixed on your imprisonment, when it’s you who is holding the key?”
As we wrap up our exclusive showing of The Gaze…No Homo on the Fountain’s digital stage this month, Powell reflected back on the journey his show has taken over this past tumultuous year, and ponders the future and what he hopes it will bring.
TR: What was it like working with the Fountain Theatre this past month to present this digital reinvention of your play?
LP: If this piece can bring awareness to theatres that have been serving communities across the globe for years and who have had to close their doors due to the pandemic, I am pleased. I feel like we’ve done that at The Fountain, and that makes me proud.
TR. Would you consider another collaboration with the Fountain in the future?
LP: Of course! I would love one of my plays to be on the Fountain stage!
TR: No Homo is the first play in The Gaze cycle of plays. What is your vision for the entire cycle? How many plays are included in The Gaze? Are any of them written yet and what themes do they explore?
LP: Right now, I know there are three plays. They chart Jerome, the protagonist, as he grows older and older. I am going to start working on a new version of the second play next year. This play will focus on how we hold on to new awareness of ourselves in our art and life once we make the initial reclamation of our time and imagination. What challenges do we face? What questions do we have in that space of new consciousness?
TR: Will No Homo be presented on stage again when we return to live performances? Or will it live now as a digital presentation? What about future installments in The Gaze cycle? What form will they take?
LP: Yes. It is important to me that I continue to diversify how an audience can experience my stories. So, in every way a play can be experienced, I will lean into. A stage play, Screenplay, Teleplay, #Digiplay, Audioplay, VR play, Animated Play…. to me, it all starts with “the play.” All different structures, skill sets, and audiences but definitely all sourced in telling a story around a fire in the village.
TR. Has the success of this digital adaptation of The Gaze…No Homo encouraged you to adapt any of your previous works for digital platforms? If so, what ones?
LP: Yes and All.
TR. Was the choice of the cycle name The Gaze a conscious choice, to play on The Gays, or was it a happy coincidence?
LP: The best titles have double, triple meanings. The first play was always called “No Homo” because of the play within the play. Once I started to see the story as a cycle of works, I needed a title that spoke to a larger, more general container. The reason The Gaze sticks is because it still specifies the queer black experience as it pertains to its relationship to an oppressive gaze.
TR: You said in your Theatre Talk interview with Stephen Sachs that 2020 was a “profound year,” and you talked about “collective grief.” How have the events of 2020 shaped you as an artist? How do we, as theatre artists, as citizens, as a country, grieve our many losses this year and use them for a higher purpose?
LP: I have learned it’s important to give those loved ones, and the things we have lost, space. What I mean by that is silence and the stopping of this abusive obsession with “gotta keep going!!” Grief is a love language. We must take the time to learn it and to speak well and often. That means something different for each of us, and that’s important. We become more courageous in grief because it usually takes us to a place of surrender that opens us up to higher visions of our purpose in the world. It can, at least …if we let it. So, if you work to make firm boundaries around the space you carve out for grief … the gifts you find there are life-enhancing and heart-strengthening.
TR. What form do you prefer? Live stage or the digital small screen? Why?
LP: Well, I love the stage first. Always. That said, a story told is a story told. There are people who will run to the digital screen quicker than they would to the live stage. I want to meet both of these groups of people where they are — and I believe it is my calling to love as many forms of storytelling as possible.
TR: What’s next for you?
LP: More joy. More understanding. More peace. More love. More opportunity. More creation. More surrender. More gratitude. And always, more learning.
Terri Roberts is a freelance writer and the Coordinator of Fountain Friends, the Fountain Theatre’s new volunteer program. She also manages the Fountain Theatre Café.
Settle in with your favorite beverage on Saturday, Dec. 19 at 5 p.m. PT / 8 p.m. ET when the Fountain Theatre winds up 2020 and its monthly Saturday Matinee series with an Old Hollywood-themed holiday party filled with joy, games, and — of course — an online playreading. Admission is free at fountaintheatre.com.
Venerable actress Karen Kondazian, a lifetime member of the Actors Studio and Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award-winner best known for her work in the plays of Tennessee Williams (with whom she was a personal friend), takes on the role of Hollywood legend Bette Davis in Interviewing Miss Davis by award-winning playwright Laura Maria Censabella.
After the reading, stick around for party games and a celebration of friends, fellow artists and the Fountain’s all-important audience. Bring something glamorous! (optional)
Inspired by a true event in Ms. Censabella’s own life, the one-act is set in 1985 as Davis interviews a new personal assistant (Wonjung Kim) upon learning that her current, beloved assistant (and nurse) Jacqueline (Aleisha Force) is leaving.
“I was just out of college and very, very broke — no furniture, a folding chair, folding table, mattress on the floor, and I was working for someone who said I’d make a great assistant for Bette Davis,” Censabella explained in an interview. “I went to the interview but was very conflicted because I wanted to be a writer and at the same time I wanted instant validation, and I felt like if I became Bette Davis’s assistant, I would have that.”