Category Archives: Hollywood

Our nation’s future depends on moments like this

Mueller Reading 51

Fountain Board member Miles Benickes and Zoey Rosenzweig at Mueller Read-A-Thon.

by Stephen Sachs

First, she said no. She would not do it. When her grandfather asked her again in the Fountain Theatre lobby, she awkwardly took a step back in retreat, shy and embarrassed.  

“No,” she said, in a blushing 14-year old half-grin.

She would not join her grandfather, Miles Benickes, on stage to read a ten-minute section of the Mueller Report in front of a gathered audience of LA professionals and unseen viewers watching online via a simultaneous live stream on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. No way.

Then Zoey Rosenzweig changed her mind. I was thrilled and surprised when she strode out onto our Fountain stage with Miles and diligently read through the Mueller legalese with her grandfather. She may not have understood much of the gobbledygook she was reading. Who did? That didn’t matter. Something vital for the future of our nation was happening. Zoey Rosenzweig was getting involved.

Thursday’s 15-hour Mueller Report Read-A-Thon at the Fountain Theatre held dozens of unforgettable moments like this for me. The marathon event was emotionally overwhelming. The Fountain hummed with ecstatic energy all day and all night. A parade of politicians, actors, writers, and community leaders read from the podium as if declaring from a public square, each person high-charged by their call to duty.

I thought of the day as an Open House. The Fountain Theatre opening its doors – all day and all night — to democracy. At an Open House, all visitors are welcome. At an Open House, anyone who wishes may visit. An Open House is a gathering that’s open to anyone who wants to come by, any time. 

An atmosphere of community was everywhere. In the lobby, in the audience, out front on the sidewalk, in our upstairs café.  Theatre provides community. Los Angeles is one of the most diverse cities in this country, and our LA theatre network is large and widespread. But on Thursday our Mueller Report Read-A-Thon proved that, like the motto of our nation, Los Angeles and the LA Theatre Community is “out of many, one.”

For our nation to survive, engaging young people in the arts and politics of this country is essential. I studied closely as our twenty-four-year-old Fountain intern, Melina Young, sat in the front row watching respected LA theatre critic Sylvie Drake read from our stage. A proud grin spreading across Melina’s face. Sylvie Drake is Melina’s grandmother. Now Melina seeks a career in the theatre. Her grandmother, by example, reminding her how the arts and social action can intersect.    

An endless stream of memorable instants that day/night flood through me now, two days later. Images of celebrities, LA Theatre icons, government officials. But it was Zoey Rosenzweig, perhaps, who remains the most indelible. A fourteen-year-old girl reading this urgent government document from the podium while her grandfather somberly leans over her shoulder like a rabbi guiding her through the Torah.

Moments like this are the reason we hosted the reading of the Mueller Report in the first place. It gives me hope. We need Zoey Rosenzweig and Melina Young and millions more like them.

Our nation, and our art form, depend on them.     

Stephen Sachs is the Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director of the Fountain Theatre. 

Photo Slideshow: First rehearsal for CA Premiere of ‘Hannah and the Dread Gazebo’

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Director Jennifer Chang addresses the company.

Our California Premiere of Hannah and the Dread Gazebo is an opportunity for the Fountain Theatre and East West Players to bring their community of artists, staff, Board members and patrons together for the first time.  That commonality of purpose was on display last night with the large turnout from both organizations at the meet & greet/first rehearsal.

Held at the East West warehouse rehearsal space in South Los Angeles, the evening began with a brief mixer including food and drinks. Fountain  Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs welcomed the group with some opening remarks. Through the magic of technology, playwright Jiehae Park joined the gathering via FaceTime to provide her thoughts and encouragement.  Director Jennifer Chang then shared her production vision with the room, noting that the play moves at the speed of thought. Designers Rebecca Bonebrake, Howard Ho, Ruoxuan Li, and Michael Allen Angel offered their insights. Professional illusionist Dominik Krzanowski will design special magic elements for the production.

After a quick break, the cast read the script aloud for the first time. And the real magic began.

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In the play, Hannah is two weeks away from becoming a neurologist when she gets a strange package in the mail from her grandmother in South Korea, who may or may not have just ended her own life. A surreal, funny and heartbreaking adventure leads Hannah on a journey back to her homeland and the forbidden Demilitarized Zone that divides South and North Korea. A startling comedy about a daughter, a mother, a grandmother and the mystery that connects them.

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Britney Spears and climbing to the theatre arts summit

LA county Arts Interns Summit 2019

2019 LA County Arts Interns Summit at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

by Melina Young

I’m scared.

Terrified in fact. There, I said it.

But really, who isn’t?

It may come as a shock to absolutely no one that to be a recent college graduate is legitimately terrifying. I can almost hear Britney Spears’s dulcet (if a bit nasal) tones reminding me that, “I’m not a girl / Not yet a woman.” She knows something I don’t… or rather she knows something that I do know but that I am trying desperately to avoid admitting.

Britney Spears

“I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman.” Britney Spears (2002)

The Los Angeles County Arts Commission’s 2019 Arts Summit asked me to look Britney square in her wide set, brown eyes dusted with early 2000s glitter and acknowledge that we are the same—not girls; and not yet fully-grown.

It’s true. I will proclaim it loudly in my best Britney Spears impression (which, to my dismay, is not that good).  Britney and I have something else in common—something that she demonstrates in her 2002 smash hit—we’re both artists.

I have to take a moment here to thank LACAC for organizing day jam-packed with illuminating events and with equally (if not more) illuminating fellow interns.

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2019 county arts interns touring downtown Los Angeles.

I’ll continue my momentary digression by commenting on what a relief it was to look at the 2019 class of 203 LACAC arts interns sitting around me and see that the room was not overwhelmingly white and male. This was markedly different from my experience in college and was a refreshing reminder of what it actually looks like to be an Angelino.

Back to Britney.

To be clear, my goal is not to be a pop star, but it is no less ambitious. My goal is to have a fulfilling and sustaining career in theatre. That’s no easy trick.

Here’s what my whole Britney device was leading me toward: Is it possible to give good, actionable advice to someone in my situation? I don’t have an answer to my question. And I’m not sure that I’ve encountered someone who does. I hope that doesn’t sound ungrateful, because I AM GRATEFUL.

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Melina Young at the Fountain Theatre.

Overwhelmingly grateful. And at the same time, I’m still terrified. I don’t think anything that anyone could say or do would change that. Unless what they do is hand me a contract and what they say is: “Hi, I’ll be your agent for life and I can magically promise you job security, longevity, financial stability, and artistic fulfillment.”

That does happen, but only for the lucky few.

Here’s what’s heartening. Despite the fact that the odds are against us, Arts Summit represented the coming together of two hundred and three arts interns (out of four thousand applicants I might add) who are pursuing the arts in bold defiance of those odds.

We believe in ourselves; and what’s more, we believe in one another.

I think that’s what we might call hope and courage. Fear that’s said its prayers. Sure, it’s hard to be a recent college grad that wants to be an artist. But I’ll take it because I get to be hopeful and courageous and I’m in fabulous company. That’s exciting.

To my delight, I think I encountered good, actionable advice in my LACAC peer group. (I won’t name names to protect the innocent.) Here it is:

Sometimes making art feels like screaming into the void. That’s frustrating; but scream anyway, and use that frustration to scream louder.

So I’m screaming. I hope it’s loud enough that you heard it.

Melina Young is our 2019 summer intern at the Fountain Theatre. Our thanks to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the LA County Arts Commission for its Arts Internship Program.

Fountain Theatre to host Los Angeles ‘Mueller Report Read-A-Thon’ on July 18

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We’ve been told what it is, what it isn’t. What’s in it, what’s not. But how many have actually read it for themselves? Even some members of Congress haven’t read it.

Robert Mueller told us the report speaks for itself. But who can give voice to the report? Our Los Angeles theatre community, that’s who.

The Fountain Theatre will host a single, 15-hour Mueller Report Read-A-Thon, offering citizens of Los Angeles the opportunity to hear the Mueller Report read aloud, on Thursday, July 18 from 9 a.m. to midnight.

On Tuesday, it was announced that former special counsel Robert Mueller will testify before Congress on July 17, the day before the Fountain Read-A-Thon.

Earlier this month, a reading was hosted by NY theater companies, and a marathon reading is scheduled for July at the Arena Stage in Washington D.C. This week, an all-star celebrity reading of a new play, adapted from the Mueller Report by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan, was streamed live on social media.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s “Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election” is the official report documenting the findings and conclusions of investigation into Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 United States presidential election, allegations of conspiracy or coordination between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia, and allegations of obstruction of justice.

“The Fountain has a long history of using theater as a trigger for political and social action,” says Fountain Theatre co-artistic director Stephen Sachs. “My larger purpose for the Read-a-thon is not to disseminate details about the report — although that is important. The greater goal is to give the public and our Los Angeles theatre community the opportunity to engage, to take some kind of expressive action. I see it as similar to a protest march. But all of us are marching from our stages.”

Readers at the Fountain will include over 90 readers representing the diversity of Los Angeles, including actors, artistic leaders, community leaders and business people. Confirmed to read so far: Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell; actors Alfred Molina, Jeff PerryRichard SchiffRob NagleFrances FisherHarry Groener, Karen KondazianBill Brochtrup and Jenny O’Hara; artistic directors Daniel Henning (Blank Theatre) and John Flynn (Rogue Machine); playwright Justin Tanner; and theater journalist Steven Leigh Morris. A complete list of readers is available at www.fountaintheatre.com/event/mueller, where anyone interested in participating can also sign up for a 10-minute reading slot. The Fountain Theatre Read-A-Thon will be streamed live on the Fountain’s Facebook and Twitter pages. The Fountain Theatre Café will be open throughout the event.

Los Angeles Theatres supporting the Read-A-Thon include: 24th Street Theatre, Blank Theatre Company, Boston Court Pasadena, Celebration Theatre, Company of Angels, Cornerstone Theater Company, Echo Theatre Company, Hero Theatre Company, The Inkwell Theatre, Latino Theatre Company, The Los Angeles LGBT Center, Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble, The Matrix Theatre Company, Moving Arts, New American Theatre, Open Fist, Playwrights Arena, Road Theatre Company, Rogue Machine, Skylight Theatre, Stacie Chaiken and What’s the Story?, The Victory Theatre Center, Vs. Theatre Company, Whitefire Theatre, Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum

The Odyssey Theatre Ensemble in West L.A. will hold a separate marathon reading, breaking it up into two 8-hour sessions on MondayJuly 22 and Tuesday, July 23, each from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.

According to Odyssey Theatre artistic director Ron Sossi, “Political projects like Chicago Conspiracy Trial, Tracers, McCarthy and Rapmaster Ronnie have always been a large part of the Odyssey’s 50-year history. Sadly politically-oriented work has been missing from American stages of late. This live reading of the Mueller Report at two different L.A. theaters is a refreshing and exciting reminder of the heady days of ‘60s/’70s activism, and, hopefully, a sign that the local theater scene is becoming re-engaged.”

The Odyssey event, curated by Not Man Apart artistic director John Farmanesh-Bocca, will include 20-minute readings by long-standing company members, friends and celebrities including Councilmember Paul Koretz; film and stage actors Alfred MolinaFrances FisherBrenda StrongNorbert WeisserMichael NouriRay Abruzzo, Darrell Larson and Gregg HenryRichard Montoya of Culture Clash; spoken word artist Steve Connell; Cornerstone Theater Company members Shishirand Bahni Kurup; Padua Playwrights founding artistic director Murray Mednick; plus many more. A complete list of readers will be available at www.odysseytheatre.com.

Admission to both Read-A-thons is free and open to the public. Audience members may come and go throughout each event.

For more information:

VIDEO: Highlights of awesome week one of ‘Walking the Beat’ at Fountain Theatre

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HBO supports Fountain Theatre’s cops/kids program ‘Walking the Beat’ with $10,000 gift

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Cops, kids and staff of Walking the Beat at the Fountain Theatre.

The Fountain Theatre is pleased to announce that HBO is making a generous contribution of $10,000 to support Walking the Beat, the Fountain’s educational arts program that brings together LAPD police officers and inner city students over an 8-week period to write and create a theatre piece that they perform themselves.

“We are thrilled to welcome HBO to the Fountain Family,” says Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs. “HBO’s pedigree in providing ground-breaking, high-quality entertainment is matched by its commitment to young people and communities nationwide. Walking the Beat is an innovative program that uses theatre to promote empathy, self-expression and empowerment.”

HBO’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility Dennis Williams explains the cable network’s philosophy of giving as “how we can do the best with the resources that we have.”

“If you’re in a position of power or privilege, the question you should always ask yourself is, ‘Are you using your powers for good?’” continues Williams. “At HBO, we’re in a position to inspire change and start conversations in a way that others might not be able to do themselves. We must use our powers for good.”

Walking the Beat was devised by Theo Perkins and Angela Kariotis at Elizabeth Youth Theater Ensemble in New Jersey. HBO supported the project there for three years, and continues its sponsorship with the Hollywood program at the Fountain.

HBO and EYTE join other sponsors and partners for Walking the Beat at the Fountain, including the Hollywood Police Activities League,  Los Angeles City College Theatre Academy, Deborah Culver, The Vladimir and Araxia Buckhantz Foundation, Dorothy Wolpert, Robert and Carrie Meadow, the Central Hollywood Neighborhood Council, Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell and District 13, and Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and District 3.

Home Box Office is the oldest and longest continuously operating pay television service in the United States, with 140 million subscribers worldwide as of 2018. HBO’s Corporate Social Responsibility team unites employees, talent and non-profit partners to elevate social issues connected to communities. At the heart of HBO’s effort  is a passion for making a difference, to use its platform to educate, inspire thoughtful action and help make the world a better place.

More Info on Walking the Beat

VIDEO: Cops and students share stories in Fountain Theatre’s new outreach program ‘Walking the Beat’

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VIDEO: House Manager Richard Horton loves his job, and the people he greets at the Fountain

House Manager Richard Horton loves his job at the Fountain Theatre. You’ll love Richard after watching him work behind the scenes, greeting patrons, and serving as the Fountain goodwill ambassador.

VIDEO: Actor/teacher Theo Perkins visits Hollywood High School for Fountain’s ‘Walking the Beat’

Take a look as actor/teacher Theo Perkins visits Hollywood High School to interview students for the Fountain Theatre’s new educational outreach program, Walking the Beat. Our innovative program will bring together ten students from six high schools with five LAPD officers, using theatre as a tool to create understanding and empathy.

In partnership with Elizabeth Youth Theater Ensemble, Hollywood Police Activities League, and the Los Angeles City College Theatre AcademyThe Fountain Theatre will introduce Walking the Beat, a summer theater arts based program for inner city high school youth and police officers in the Hollywood area. This pioneering arts education program, originated by New Jersey’s Elizabeth Youth Theater Ensemble in 2016, and now expanding into Hollywood with The Fountain Theatre, will provide transformative experiences for police officers and underserved youth in Hollywood. Utilizing performing arts as a vehicle for youth empowerment and community building, Walking the Beat has transformed lives with a results-based arts education methodology and curriculum. This 10 week program builds confidence, character, communication skills, and community. Walking the Beat inspires — in students and officers alike — an appreciation for their common humanity, and a commitment to community and social justice.

Our first orientation is this Friday.  More Info

Fountain Theatre shows LA Pride with hit play, workshop, book signing and LGBT new works

FT Pride flagFor many folks throughout Los Angeles, June means the end of school, the pageantry of graduation ceremonies and the long awaited start of summer. For the more than 600,000 LGBT citizens in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, June is LA Pride Month, when the city bursts into rainbow colors and Angelenos everywhere celebrate equality and inclusion with festivals, parades and special events saluting the LGBTQ+ community.

The Fountain Theatre embraces Pride Month with a busy June that highlights several LGBTQ+ events, including the acclaimed run of a hit play about gay marriage, a discussion and book signing by a lesbian author, a workshop production of a new play by a gay playwright centered on a transgender character,  and an evening of short dramatic works by women, trans and queer performing artists in the LA community.

LA Pride Events at the Fountain Theatre

Daniel’s Husband  – The acclaimed Southern California Premiere of Michael McKeever’s funny and poignant new play on gay marriage is a bonafide smash hit, earning rave reviews everywhere and sold-out houses nightly. Extended to July 28.  More

Body Beautiful – A workshop production of Leigh Curran’s new play on love, aging and gender confusion. June 5-6, 12-13 @ 8pm. More

The Essential Guide to Gay and Lesbian Weddings – A Q&A discussion and book signing with author and film producer Tess Ayers. More

Sorority – An evening of new short works by women, trans and queer performing artists in the LA community. June 20, 8pm & 10pm. More