Deborah Culver and Stephen Sachs founded the Fountain Theatre in an intimate, Spanish-style, East Hollywood building that belies the sizable local impact and international reach of the company’s acclaimed and award-winning productions. Now entering its 30th year as one of the most highly regarded theaters in Los Angeles, the Fountain is announcing a celebratory 2020 season of dynamic premieres and events.
“Thirty years ago, when we first entered this theater and stepped onto its stage, we knew we had found it. A place to call home,” Culver and Sachs said in a joint statement. “Since that April three decades ago, our charming haven on Fountain Avenue has been home to thousands of artists and millions of patrons. Fountain plays are now performed worldwide and seen on TV. Our flamenco concerts are first class. Our outreach programs change lives. Our legacy is noteworthy. And our future looks bigger and brighter than ever.”
The season opener, the world premiere of Human Interest Story — written and directed by Sachs who, in addition to his role as co-founder and co-artistic director of the Fountain, is an internationally acclaimed playwright — will open on Feb. 15. In this timely drama about homelessness, celebrity worship and truth in American journalism, newspaper columnist Andy Kramer (Rob Nagle) is laid off when a corporate takeover downsizes his paper. In retaliation, Andy fabricates a letter to his column from an imaginary homeless woman named “Jane Doe” who announces she will kill herself on the 4th of July because of the heartless state of the world. When the letter goes viral, Andy is forced to hire a homeless woman (Tanya Alexander) to stand-in as the fictitious Jane. She becomes an overnight internet sensation and a national women’s movement is ignited.
Slated for Spring, 2020, the Los Angeles premiere of If I Forget by Steven Levenson (Dear Evan Hansen) will be directed by Fountain producing director Simon Levy. In this viciously funny, unflinchingly honest portrait of a Jewish family and a culture at odds with itself, a liberal Jewish studies professor reunites with his two sisters to celebrate their father’s 75th birthday. Both political and deeply personal, this play about history, responsibility, and what we’re willing to sacrifice for a new beginning was a New York Times “Critic’s Pick,” while DC Metro calls it “one of the greatest Jewish plays of this century.”
Summer brings the Los Angeles premiere of An Octoroonby 2016 MacArthur fellow Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, who won the Obie for this radical, incendiary and subversively funnyriff on Dion Boucicault’s once-popular 1859 mustache-twirling melodrama set on a Louisiana plantation. A spectacular collision of the antebellum South and 21st-century cultural politics, An Octoroon twists a funhouse world of larger-than-life stereotypes into blistering social commentary to create a gasp-inducing satire that The New York Times calls “This decade’s most eloquent theatrical statement on race in America today.” Judith Moreland directs.
Another noteworthy Los Angeles premiere closes out the season in the Fall: Escaped Alone is a caustically funny and surreal afternoon of tea and calamity by celebrated British playwright Caryl Churchill. In a serene British garden three old friends are joined by a neighbor to engage in amiable chitchat — with a side of apocalyptic horror. The women’s talk of grandchildren and TV shows breezily intersperses with tales of terror in a quietly teetering world where all is not what it seems. In his Off-Broadway review for Escaped Alone, New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley hailed the play as “wondrous” and Caryl Churchill as “the most dazzlingly inventive living dramatist in the English language.”
Also coming up in 2020:
Forever Flamenco: The dancers, musicians and singers of the Fountain’s monthly serieswill continue to delight audiences throughout 2020. The Los Angeles Times hails Forever Flamenco as “the earth and fire of first-class flamenco,” and LA Splash says, “the way you feel when you walk out of a Forever Flamenco performance is pretty darn fabulous.”
Hollywood Dreams: CBS star and Fountain family member Simone Missick (All Rise) and Fountain board chair Dorothy Wolpert will be honored at the Fountain’s dazzling 30th AnniversaryGala at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on Saturday, June 27.
Walking the Beat Hollywood, a pioneering arts education program for inner city high school youth and police officers, will return for its second year this August.
The Candidate: The Fountain’s third annual celebrity reading at Los Angeles City Hall, a stage adaptation of the 1972 Academy Award-winning movie that starred Robert Redford as a young, straight-talking candidate for the U.S. Senate, is set for Thursday, Oct. 22. One night only.
For more information about the Fountain Theatre’s 2020 30th anniversary season, call (323) 663-1525 or go to www.FountainTheatre.com
Fanny Ara in ‘Forever Flamenco’ at the Fountain Theatre.
by Victoria Looseleaf
The Spanish term for a heightened state of emotion and authenticity, “duende,” roughly translates to a single word, “soul.” It’s also the elusive ingredient at the heart of flamenco, the centuries-old art form whose Andalusian origins, while not completely known, are an exotic blend of Jewish, Arab, and Roma (also known as Gypsy) cultures. Commonly thought of as an art of suffering — and punctuated by fiery footwork, rhythmic hand clapping, and raspy-throated singing and guitar playing that can veer from sensuous to scorching — flamenco, when performed by true artists, not only has the power to exist in a profound and mystical place, but can be a transformational experience for an audience, as well.
Happily, amid the urban sprawl that is Southern California, there also happens to be a rather tight-knit community of flamencans that stretches from Los Angeles down through Orange County and into San Diego, with upcoming performances including the Melissa Cruz-directed “Forever Flamenco — Evocar” (L.A.’s Fountain Theatre, October 27); Lakshmi Basile (San Diego’s Café 21, the Gaslamp location, November 2); the Spanish superstar Farruquito (Segerstrom Center for the Arts, November 6; the Soraya in Northridge, November 9); and Ethan (Margolis) Sultry and friends (Fountain Theatre, November 24).
That said, the indisputable Godmother of the L.A. flamenco scene is Deborah Culver, who co-founded the 78-seat Fountain Theatre in 1990 with Stephen Sachs, and has been presenting flamenco concerts under the banner, “Forever Flamenco,” ever since. Dubbed “the earth and fire of first-class flamenco” by the Los Angeles Times, the series has been weekly, biweekly, or monthly, with Culver estimating that they’ve produced in excess of 500 unique performances over the years.
Culver said she was drawn to the dance for a number of reasons, first and foremost, that it’s a “great art. It’s compelling, it’s mind-blowing, it’s gorgeous, and we have some very good practitioners here [in L.A.]. I danced it, too, of course, but really, I respect the pros.
“Throughout my time producing Forever Flamenco,” added Culver, “I have seen the community grow, mature, and exceed even my wildest expectations, and there are many dancers who are really pulling it off, who are really in tune with flamenco.”
The Fountain Theatre has also produced numerous flamenco concerts in conjunction with the Ford Amphitheatre, a bucolic, 1200-seat venue across the street from its much larger counterpart, the Hollywood Bowl. Olga Garay-English, executive director of the Ford Theatres since 2016, recently presented Olga Pericet, winner of Spain’s National Dance award in 2018.
“The Fountain Theatre really needs to be praised for being a stalwart with not a huge financial undergirding — I think that they really deserve a lot of credit,” noted Garay-English, who added that under her Ford tenure, they have co-sponsored three concerts with the Fountain, including Pericet’s.
“I thought that flamenco really deserved a larger stage in the greater L.A. area,” she added, “so the first season I booked it in 2017, we actually commissioned a flamenco floor, which is more percussive. I also think that flamenco is an extraordinary art form that has really deep roots and yet it has become an international language, so to speak. You really see people taking up the form in very diverse cultures because it speaks to people.”
Garay-English agreed with Culver that the L.A. flamenco community is thriving and growing. “It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy — the more excellent flamenco that is available, the more people are interested in seeing the work. People are really thirsty for this caliber of flamenco.”
One performer who has been a fixture of the Fountain’s flamenco series is Los Angeles-based Briseyda Zárate. Born in Delano, California, and brought up by Mexican immigrants, she’s performed at the space for a decade and a half, either dancing with others or directing concerts at the venue with her troupe, Briseyda Zárate Ensemble.
Briseyda Zárate and ensemble | Credit: Sonia Ochoa
In addition to beginning her own series, Noche de Tablao, last January at L.A.’s Bootleg Theater, 44-year old Zárate, a flamencan with a feline presence and feet of fire, has also danced with L.A. Opera in productions that include The Barber of Seville and in last season’s zarzuela hit, El Gato Montés, as well as having choreographed for the company in operas such as Carmen. The dancer, who lives and works several months of the year in the cradle of flamenco, Sevilla, Spain, is nevertheless, wholeheartedly committed to L.A.’s flamenco community.
“It’s an art form that requires, obviously, community,” explained Zárate. “It also requires people who perform, audiences who go see the performers, students who want to learn, teachers who want to teach and not just steps, but the culture itself, through a way of life, a country, a specific part of Spain, though it’s all over the world. It’s about connecting at the very core of the art form — connecting in the moment to the singer, the guitarist, to yourself — and creating the magic that you give to the audience.
“Flamenco is also about the audience feeling something,” she continued. “Yes, flamenco can get really difficult technically, but at its core, it’s a very simple human thing, because it comes from such a deep historical place and a deep emotional place and the music, the dance, the song transmits that place and the artist, the “bailaora” — dancer — has to be able to transmit that. Not every artist does that. People who do it like a machine and depend solely on technique, in flamenco that will never fly. That will never suffice.”
To Zárate, duende is the spirit the dancer generates and is something akin to a ritual. “You’re creating it and it’s very special and not something that can be done by anybody. It takes obviously a lot of study, and technique is the gatekeeper to how you reach that sublime place. However, it’s just the gatekeeper — there are no ifs, ands, or buts about it in flamenco. You cannot base it solely on your technique or virtuosity. Maybe you can get away with that in other art forms, but not in flamenco.”
Someone known for possessing duende in spades is Farruquito, heir to one of the world’s most acclaimed Roma flamenco dynasties. Born in Sevilla in 1982 as Juan Manuel Fernández Montoya, Farruquito has been described by The New York Times’ Alastair Macaulay as “one of today’s superlative dance artists.” Carrying on the tradition of his grandfather, “El Farruco,” the electrifying performer first made an appearance on Broadway at age 5, and is bringing a pair of shows, “Farruquito Flamenco,” to the Southland.
No stranger to drama, Farruquito, a master of line, quicksilver footwork, and authoritative presence, was involved in a fatal hit-and-run accident, eventually serving three years in a Spanish prison for the crime. Released in 2010, Farruquito came roaring back, continuing his life’s mission to share the purest form of flamenco on stages around the world.
As to the debate of flamenco being more a matter of nature or nurture, of bloodlines or experience, Farruquito wrote in an email that it is “a little of each. Theory without practice does not achieve much. And if we are looking at it as an art form, I think you have to go much deeper into that world. If you are lucky enough to be born in a family that can give you that experience in exposure, you have to work even harder to make something out of what you are given.”
Farruquito also shared his thoughts regarding duende, writing that it “means being accompanied by a certain magic that allows one to transmit something special, intimate, and ever-fleeting while performing. But for that duende to grace us with its presence, we must lure it in with passion, dedication, respect, humility, and everything else that it rightfully deserves.”
Indeed, high-quality flamenco, whether strikingly presentational à la Farruquito or decidedly internal, thrives on immediacy and texture. It also requires top-notch musicians. With its distinct rhythms and outside influences also coming from Africa and the Middle East, there is a timelessness that exists at the heart of this music. Cleveland-born guitarist/composer/producer Ethan Margolis, 41, known as Ethan Sultry (Sir Sultry is his production company), moved to Spain to study the art of Roma flamenco guitar at 21, eventually moving to Los Angeles in 2010.
While in Spain, Sultry and dancer Cihtli Ocampo (now his wife), cofounded the erstwhile Arte y Pureza Flamenco Company (Art and Purity), an acclaimed troupe that toured Europe and the States for a number of years. Blending American and Spanish roots music into a jazz/flamenco hybrid, Sultry has created a style bursting with complex flamenco rhythms that stem from India — with some of the melodies having an Arabic character — while the dance form, he pointed out, is an expressive, improvisational one that was first shared by Roma families in their homes.
“People don’t realize that dance is not always at the root,” explained Sultry, “because in the Gypsy household, the flamenco dance form before it got on stage, was in someone’s house, at a party, around a campfire. It was very short, about 40 seconds long, then it was over. It was about the singing and the rhythm.
“It transformed into what we see now as 10, 15, or 20 minutes of dance that evolved to be put on a stage and sell tickets,” added Sultry. “I try to feature the dance, because it’s incredible, but there’s so many dance-heavy productions. Last year we presented shows that featured songs from Gypsy inheritors and none of them were commercial artists. They spent 400 years developing this stuff and no one knows who they are. I’m trying to help people understand that flamenco is like a work-song culture — they’re singing their sorrows out and it’s not all about fast footwork.”
Which isn’t to say that Sultry is not a fan of the dance. On the contrary, his November concert at the Fountain, “Sonikete Blues: Woodshedding,” will feature dancer Ocampo, vocalist Emi Secrest, cajón (box drum) player Ramón Porrina, as well as his Ethan Sultry Group, including Lee Ritenour’s upright bassist Ben Shepherd, and keyboardist Mitch Forman, who played with Gerry Mulligan and Stan Getz, to name a few.
“The Fountain is great for flamenco,” said Sultry, “and it’s because of people like Deborah. Other than the Fountain being an intimate venue, it’s the people allowing and pushing for flamenco to happen. They lose money but keep going. They allow artists to come in, do their thing and leave. I can’t imagine that the Fountain has financially benefited much from flamenco because it’s a labor of love. And it’s not,” adds the musician,” like every city has a Fountain Theatre.”
Sultry, who has a rather astonishing YouTube video that features him playing Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns,” flamenco style, with his body-painted wife slinking around the stage, her arms raised with filigreed fingers slicing the air, has his own idea — no surprise — of what he deems duende.
“What I believe to be spirit — duende — is that [Spanish playwright Federico García] Lorca, who was a Gypsy-rights activist, put it out there as a term and ever since it’s been used all the time. It’s that sense of arriving at a real connection with the art form with your spirit. When he used the word,” added Sultry, “he was living within Gypsy circles, and he wasn’t just talking about a dancer. He was writing about their beauty, their sorrows, that’s where it came from. I believe he lived it and felt it, and once you know that, it’s hard to buy it in another setting.
“And while all art forms have a version of duende,” Sultry continued, “it’s the term within flamenco about arriving at this blissful place of spiritual expression that you can only get to if the elements of the form are true.”
Expressing her true self through haughty glances, an arched back and thrilling turns, California-born Lakshmi “La Chimi” Basile, 37, built her career in Sevilla, and currently lives in San Diego. Over the years she has performed throughout Europe and, at one point, had a company, Luna Flamenco Dance Company. A regular performer at the Fountain for years — having directed shows there, as well — Basile also danced on a weekly basis at the Cosmopolitan Hotel and Restaurant in San Diego’s Old Town district in 2017.
Now working on a project-to-project basis, Basile, who was born to an Argentinean/Paraguayan mother and an American father with Czech roots, also teaches flamenco and runs her own show at San Diego’s Café 21. While patrons might be eating and drinking during her performances, Basile said she’s had no problem with that.
“It requires a lot of stamina, but I present my show in a way that makes them pay attention. It just depends on how you attack it — and you can be mindful. That show ended up turning into a mini-showcase and I had regulars come to see me, so I was happy with how that turned out.”
But did Basile have flashes of duende during any of those performances? The dancer explained: “Duende, I believe is something you’re born with or you can stumble upon it at any given moment. It’s not something you work on like a step — duende doesn’t work that way. It either comes or doesn’t come, you can’t control it. Some people have duende moments a lot because they can transmit with a lot more ease than others.
“Even the people that have duende moments,” added Basile, “they can’t have it whenever they want. It’s more of a thing that comes, although I do believe some are born with it. There are also excellent performers who don’t have that magical moment. It’s almost like a spiritual thing — you have to channel energy in a different way than just being mental about the steps.”
This past weekend was the biggest event of the summer for the Fountain: Forever Flamenco at the Ford. Since I’ve been working here at the Fountain, this event was something we were all working towards, and I found myself growing more curious and excited to see what all of the fuss was about. As a newcomer, Forever Flamenco sounded like an amazing opportunity to showcase a beautiful and unique art form to the communities of Los Angeles. In the weeks leading up to the big night, everyone in the office kept telling me about the fervor and passion of the flamenco community, and that I had to just wait to see it for myself. No amount of preparation, however, could have prepared me for the experience.
On the day of the show, I came to the venue early with the rest of the Fountain family in order to put out the VIP gift bags (I had spent the weeks leading up to the show working very hard to make sure the bags were all ready and had what they needed, so I was very proud of them), and set up a merchandise table up front. By the time it got to be about two hours before curtain, I started to notice a sizable crowd gathered outside, ready and waiting with picnic baskets. Once the gates opened, people came streaming in, chatting excitedly and eyeing our merchandise and flamenco fans as they passed our merchandise table. And once the gates had opened, the people just kept streaming in. There were people laughing and eating together, and greeting others in what felt like a true community.
Many of the people who approached our table were loyal, longtime flamenco fans who loved and appreciated the Fountain’s commitment to producing flamenco. Others were drawn to our beautiful fans, where they shared that this was their first flamenco show. It was amazing to see and be able to meet all of the different people that were in attendance at this big event, and to get to feel the pure excitement in the air.
Barbara Goodhill, Victoria Montecillo and Marisela Hughes at the merchandise table.
The show itself was truly something to see. With the extent of my knowledge about flamenco being pretty much the dancing lady emoji and the sounds of fervent stomping and complex guitar riffs coming from the rehearsal room of the Fountain that week, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I certainly could not have anticipated the raw passion and artistic skill that I saw in each of those performers. What I found to be most striking about watching these flamenco musicians and dancers was that each one of them seemed so happy to be there. They were all doing what they loved most, with a group of artists that understood that passion.
On top of that, I could feel the excitement and joy in the crowd around me throughout the show. During each number, the audience would interject with enthusiastic applause, clapping, and excited cheers. Families around me grabbed each other’s shoulders and clasped each other’s hands as they shouted encouragements to the musicians and the dancers as they did what they do best, and I truly felt like I was experiencing a new community full of joy, passion, and celebration. It was a truly unique and amazing experience.
I am so grateful to everyone at the Fountain, as well as the fantastic team of flamenco artists, for introducing me to the beautiful community of flamenco. I certainly hope I’m able to witness something like this again in my life.
Victoria Montecillo is the Fountain Theatre’s 2016 Summer Arts Intern. We thank the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Los Angeles County Arts Commission for their support.
Sunday night ignited another red-hot evening of Forever Flamenco at the Fountain when artistic director Gerardo Morales led a company of world-class artists in our intimate venue in a concert titled ‘Sevilla a Los Angeles.’ Dancers Marina Valiente and Timo Nunez passionately performed to the guitar of Gabriel Osuna and Jesus Montoya‘s soulful singing. Mateo Amper added his artistry on piano. The sold-out concert was produced by Deborah Lawlor and James Bennett.
For more than 25 years, the Fountain Theatre has produced world-class flamenco in its intimate home on Fountain Avenue and every summer in the 1200-seat outdoor Ford Theatre. Don’t miss this summer’s extraordinary Forever Flamenco at the Fordon July 23rd. It’s LA’s hottest flamenco night of the year!
Sunday night proved why Forever Flamenco at the Fountain was recently hailed in Tvolution magazine as “the best ticket in town.” Ole!
Why do I keep urging you to get down to the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood and partake in this monthly series?
What makes Flamenco so special, you ask?
Well, all right, since you asked –
It is the nature of all life to evolve. From the nascent state we develop until the fullness of our potential is obtained or the natural limitations of our species reached. One can disagree and debate the question of potential-limitation, but not that the ultimate stage bears slight similitude to that of the inception stage.
In a fashion, the babe is lost to the child, the child to the youth, the youth to the adult.
It is true of art forms that they evolve from a primal form, developing intellectual dimensions artistic frameworks. The loss of a certain primal intensity is payment for that progression.
Yeah, that’s a mouthful, I know, so let ‘s put forth some illustrations.
Pliny the Elder reports that Zeuxis, a Greek painter of the 5th century B.C.E., would have guests try to eat the grapes painted on his canvases. And that Parrhasios, a fellow artist of Zeuxis, invited him to view a new work covered over by a lace curtain. When Zeuxis went to lift the lace curtain he found it was part of the painting.
The 13th century Italian artist Giotto liked to paint little flies on his works then watch patrons try to shoo them.
In 1849 twenty to thirty thousand rioting New Yorkers confronted the National Guard troops called up to re-establish order resulting in more than thirty deaths. The cause of their uprising? A production of Shakespeare.
When J. M. Synge’s Playboy of the Western World premiered it too caused a riot, though not nearly as bloody.
My passion for theatre knows no bounds, but sadly, I’m reduced to imagining what the state of catharsis must have been like to reduce an ancient Greek audience to a sobbing mass incapable of speech, or what passion could be played upon to plunge me into a frenzy of rioting.
When the raw throbbing notes of jazz was first heard it threw some into wild paroxysms. Decent women fainted.
The same can be said of rock and roll and even rap.
Once, not very long ago, the experience of rap was felt by some as less “music” than throbbing hammer blows of anger, rage and revolt.
Now, Ice-T does pamper commercials and you can hear “Fuck the Police” as muzak while waiting in line to make a deposit at Bank of America.
Edwin S. Porter’s 1903 The Great Train Robbery, one of the first film “works” to employ editing in the telling of its story, concludes with one of the robbers on the screen pointing his gun at the audience and firing.
When first shown, members of the audience dived under their seats.
Film, the youngest of arts, has all but lost that quality that permitted those engaging in it to be engulfed by its artifact, transported by its manufactured illusion.
The exception that tests the rule here being Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, a 2 hour, 6 minute Christian stuff film with only 16 torture free minutes of which 2 minutes were taken up by the resurrection and none to the tenets of Jesus’ teaching.
Whatever forms the creative imperative embodies, the accretion of artistry infuses accessibilty but defuses the ascendancy of the incipient urging behind the creative act.
Art, like the Titan Antaeus is robbed of its strength when removed from the soil that is its mother.
Flamenco, I find, still has a fast grip to the dark and tragic history, the pain and passion that was the life breath of the cante jondo, the traditional “deep song.”
In the sound of Flamenco, the fury of its dance, we have echoes from the dark corners of the human soul as profound today as they were three centuries ago.
Nowhere will the sorrow and joy of the human condition find expression with more sublime defiance than in the music and dance of flamenco.
Deborah Lawlor, for one Sunday every month, has lured world class talent to a small corner of Hollywood with the Forever Flamenco series at The Fountain Theatre.
Scheduled to appear at the next performance on Sunday May 22nd at 8:30: Gabriel Osuna will be the evening’s guitarist. Osuna plays with garra, meaning “guts” or “vitality.” Evidence of this is found if you examine his fingers which he coats in Super Glue to give the tips added protection.
Mateo Amper will be at the piano and Gerardo Morales is the featured percussionist as well as the evening’s director.
If these three musicians were matched in a battle of the bands with any philharmonic orchestra in the country, when it was over, it wouldn’t be the ones in tuxes wearing the laurels.
Dancer Timo Nuñez is a melding of grace and raw power who is stunning to watch.
Singer Jesus Montoya is another familiar face in the series, who fills every note he sings with such emotional power it could make bricks weep.
Marina Valiente will be making her debut at the Fountain. I am confident it will be a debut very worth seeing.
I know, I said it before. Well guess what? I’m saying it again: Forever Flamenco – The best tickets in LA. Click
Ernest Kearney is an award winning L.A. playwright and freelance writer. This post originally appeared in The Tvolution.
Because of the set design for our current hit play Dream Catcher, this month’s Forever Flamenco returns to West L.A. as guest production at the Odyssey Theatre on Sunday, February 21st at 8pm.
Journey from the traditional roots of flamenco to experimental projects featuring mixes from Osuna Productions. Under the artistic direction of guitarist Gabriel Osuna, the evening will feature dancers Vanessa Albalos and Briseyda Zarate; singer Vicente Griego; percussionist Gerardo Morales on the cajon; and guitarists Osuna and José Tanaka. The Los Angeles Times hails the series as “the earth and fire of first-class flamenco,” and LA Splash says, “Being the sensual, intimate art form that it is… the way you feel when you walk out of a Forever Flamenco performance is pretty darn fabulous.”
Forever Flamenco is produced by Deborah Lawlor and James Bennett. The Odyssey Theatre is located at 2055 South Sepulveda Boulevard, LA, CA 90025
Actors Jenny O’Hara and Tim Cummings after a performance of ‘Broomstick’ at the Fountain.
3 Critic’s Choice Selections, Sold-Out Flamenco, London Opening, and Best Season Award Highlight Year
2014 was truly another unforgettable year for the Fountain Theatre. It was a year of extraordinary growth and achievement.
All three 2014 productions were honored as Critic’s Choice in the Los Angeles Times, our Forever Flamenco at the Ford gala was a sold-out success, and The Fountain was once again awarded the preeminent Ovation Award for Best Season in 2014. And the London production of Bakersfield Mist on the West End starring Kathleen Turner brought us international attention.
The year also brought the shadow of sadness with the loss of our longtime Subscriptions Director Diana Gibson. Her legacy lives on in the vivid memories she leaves behind, and in the Diana Gibson Subscriber Fund we created.
Here are some of the highlights:
My Name is Asher Lev – Los Angeles Premiere. ‘Critic’s Choice’ Los Angeles Times. Extended sold out run.
Forever Flamenco @ The Ford– Sold-out gala concert at the 1200-seat Ford Theatre.
The Brothers Size – Los Angeles Premiere. ‘Critic’s Choice’ Los Angeles Times. Extended run.
Playwright Tarell McCraney – Discusses his play, The Brothers Size, at the Fountain Theatre.
Tarell McCraney and the company of The Brothers Size.
Bakersfield Mist– opens on the West End in London starring Kathleen Turner and Ian McDiarmid.
Stephen Sachs and Deborah Lawlor outside The Duchess Theatre, London.
Gabby Lamm and Alice Kors – our two fabulous summer interns were terrific and helpful and launched our first Student Night at the Fountain.
Gabby Lamm and Alice Kors
Diana Gibson – The Fountain grieved the loss of our longtime Subscriptions Director, who passed away after a long illness.
Tamlyn Tomita and Juanita Jennings in ‘Heart Song’
‘Heart Song’ Noted for Acting and Choreography
Our 2013 Fountain Theatre World Premiere production of Heart Song has been nominated for 2 NAACP Theatre Awards for excellence in acting and choreography. Juanita Jennings has been nominated for Best Supporting Actress and Maria Bermudez for Best Choreography. The 24th Annual NAACP Awards ceremony will be held Monday, November 17, at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills.
Written by Stephen Sachs and directed by Shirley Jo Finney, our 2013 world premiere of Heart Song earned rave reviews andan extended run. In this funny and touching comedy/drama, Rochelle is a middle-aged Jewish woman in New York City in the middle of a life crisis. Lost and alone, her life is suddenly changed when she is convinced to take a Flamenco class with other middle-aged women. The Flamenco class and its unforgettable circle of women — all shapes, sizes and colors — lead Rochelle on a journey of sisterhood, faith and discovery of her own deep inner voice.
The NAACP Theatre Awards is presented by the Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP Branch. The gala is produced for the purpose of honoring artists in the field of entertainment. The branch also celebrates a three-day theatre festival, which provides a platform for theatre artists to express their craft and share their contributions with an audience of their peers, the community and other individuals who celebrate live theatre in Los Angeles.
‘Heart Song’ featured flamenco choreography by Maria Bermudez.
This year’s Awards show will be hosted by Kym Whitley, star of the humorous and poignant docu-series “Raising Whitley”on Oprah Winfrey’sThe OWN Network. The awards show will take place on Monday, November 17, 2014 at 6PM at the historical Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, California.
This Saturday night, August 9th, the Fountain Theatre honors LA flamenco pioneer Roberto Amaral at ourForever Flamenco at the Fordgala concert at the beautiful Ford Amphitheatre in the Hollywood Hills. Lontime dancer, choreographer and teacher Amaral was instrumental in first launching our flamenco program at the Fountain with Deborah Lawlor more than 20 years ago.
“Roberto is a flamenco visionary with a trademark style,” comments Forever Flamenco producer Deborah Lawlor. “As he continually strives to find new and refreshing approaches to the form, he has also found an enormous sense of gratification and pride in his dedication to teach and mentor others. Many of his former students and protégés have gone on to become stars in their own right.”
Roberto Amaral (photo by Sari Makki Phillips)
Roberto Amaral began his professional career at the age of 17 and has since achieved worldwide acclaim as a dancer, choreographer, singer, composer, artist and master teacher. From 1968 through 1976, he enjoyed success as principal dancer and guest artist with many of the world’s foremost Spanish dance companies, touring extensively with the companies of José Greco, José Antonio, Ciro, Alberto Lorca, Rafael de Cordoba and Antonio Ruiz. Also during this early period of his career, he laid groundbreaking musical history as co-founder, co-lead vocalist, writer, arranger and choreographer of the legendary band CARMEN. It was the first musical group to ever combine flamenco with rock/pop music, both audibly and visually, performing alongside such musical luminaries as David Bowie, Jethro Tull, ELO and Santana. For television, Roberto has been a featured dancer and choreographer on numerous programs, including The Academy Awards (twice), The Tonight Show,The Barry Manilow Special and the Madrid-based Antología de la Zarzuela. He is the recipient of an EMMY Award for his collaboration with choreographer Walter Painter on the television special Lynda Carter’s Celebration. He has founded several critically acclaimed dance companies, including Danzas de España, Ballet Español de Los Ángeles, España Clásica and Fuego Flamenco — each of which has influenced the pulse of flamenco and classical Spanish dance in Southern California — and he has produced, choreographed and designed over 500 dance solos, ensemble pieces, flamenco ballets, conceptual suites and production numbers. In his nearly 50 year career, Roberto has been privileged to perform in many of the world’s great concert halls, theaters, arenas and nightclubs, including the Hollywood Bowl, Greek Theatre, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Ahmanson Theatre, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden and Las Vegas’ Caesar’s Palace, Sahara and Hilton International. In Europe he has performed at London’s Victoria Theatre, Paris’ Olympia Theatre, Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens, Madrid’s Teatro de La Zarzuela and Milan’s La Scala Opera House.
The Fountain’s Forever Flamenco series has been called “the city’s preeminent flamenco series” by the Los Angeles Times and “L.A.’s most significant venue for flamenco” by the LA Weekly.Working Authordesignates it “the rarest of treats… for both connoisseur and novice alike, ‘Forever Flamenco’ offers the opportunity to luxuriate in the incendiary passions of flamenco.” Dance writer Debra Levine says, “Performances feature superb gypsy guitarists and singers. Do you enjoy seeing the body in spellbinding motion? Great artistic individuality? Live music? Then go,” and Stage and Cinema’s Tony Frankel writes, “Thrilling, sexy and sensuous.”
Forever Flamenco at the Ford will celebrate Amaral’s seminal 49-year career with performances by dancers Fanny Ara, Manuel Gutiérrez, Pamela Lourant, Timo Nuñez, Rocio Ponce, Mizuho Sato, Yaelisa, Alexandra & Ryan Zermeño; singers Antonio de Jerez and Jesus Montoya; guitarists Adam del Monte, Jason McGuire“El Rubio,” José Tanaka and Antonio Triana; and percussionist Joey Heredia.
Those who frequent my site will be well aquainted with my boundless enthusiasm for the “Forever Flamenco!” series presented monthly at the Fountain Theatre. If you’d care to see from where this passion first arose, then your chance is coming. “Forever Flamenco!”, the once a year“Juerga”, returns to the Ford Amphitheatre on Saturday, August 9th.
For those never exposed to flamenco this is an opportunity of the rarest sort. Imagine attending a single night at the theatre and being treated to the talents of Olivier, Gielgud, Vanessa Redgrave, Ian McKellen and Judi Dench. Or imagine going to a concert and seeing on the same stage Judy Garland, Elvis Presley, The Stones, Kurt Cobain, Lady GaGa and Chuck Berry.
This is what “Forever Flamenco! at the Ford” offers: a gathering of the greatest artists across the generations.
Manuel Gutierrez (photo by Bruce Bisenz)
Among those featured this year will be Manuel Gutiérrez, who began dancing flamenco at the age of four and was winning flamenco dance competitions by eight. Gutiérrez is the soul of “coraje” or spontaneity and to watch him perform is to realize that nothing expresses the masculine vigor in dance as flamenco does. You come to believe that when he dances the world must tremble under his feet.
Yaelisa is a dancer who can stake out a small portion of the stage and through her “cierre” (dance steps) bring forth a “desgarro”, “wildness” that is a tempest of tempo.
Mizuho Sato is a Japanese-born dancer and a testament to the global appeal of flamenco. When she comes on stage be prepared for magic.
Jason McGuire, “El Rubio”, does not “play” the guitar – he dominates it, and performs with the dynamism you’d expect of “The Big Bang”.
Yaelisa and Jason McGuire
Cantaor Antonio de Jerez is a talent one feels grateful for having seen. When singing, one hears the history of Spain in his voice.
Nowhere can you find grace more infused with power, nor the sorrow of the human condition expressed with greater perfection than in the music and dance of flamenco. All art forms evolved outward from ancient origins, and, sadly, in that process which serves to define their artistry that primal potency, the intensity of their source, is lost.
Not so with flamenco. It has held onto its dark and tragic history, and that pain which breathes life into the cante jondo, the grand song, is as profound today as it was three centuries ago.
Roberto Amaral (photo by Sari Makki Phillips)
This year’s audience is also gathering to pay homage to one of flamenco’s most esteemed figures Roberto Amaral. In a career spanning half a century, Amaral has excelled in every facet of flamenco – dancer, singer, choreographer, composer and teacher.
He has performed with the greats of flamenco such as José Greco and José Antonio as well as Santana, Jethro Tull and David Bowie.
The Ford’s open air stage, with the stars on display above, makes it the perfect venue for an evening profuse with this city’s rich history, for The flamenco baile (dance) and cante (song) were part of California dating back to the 1700’s and the ranchos of the Spanish crown. The John Anson Ford Amphitheatre was originally built in 1920, by author and playwright Christine Wetherill Stevenson who saw the rugged beauty of the Cahuenga Pass as the ideal setting for her “The Pilgrimage Play”, a work on the life of Jesus “transcribed from the Scriptures”.
The play was performed there yearly until the original wooden structure was destroyed by fire in 1929. In 1931 the structure was rebuilt, designed in the style of “ancient Judaic architecture”. Though “The Pilgrimage Play” performances were ended in 1964, the Ford Amphitheatre continues to resemble the gates of ancient Jerusalem.
The LA Weekly has hailed this event as “the rarest of treats…for both connoisseur and novice”, and I couldn’t agree more. But where they call the Fountain Theatre’s Forever Flamenco! series “L.A.’s most significant venue for flamenco”, I say rather, it is flamenco’s most significant venue in all of North America. With the Ford show, the most diverse and cosmopolitan audience in the world is given the opportunity of experiencing not just the star of flamenco, but its legends.
Forever Flamenco at the FordSAT AUG 9th (323) 461-3673