The Fountain Theatre’s hit production of If I Forget, written by Tony Award-winning playwright Steven Levenson (Dear Evan Hanson) and directed by Tony Award-winning actor Jason Alexander (widely known from TV’s Seinfeld), has extended through December 18, re-opening at the end of October following a brief hiatus. At once deeply personal and political, If I Forget is a funny and complex tale that explores the lasting impact of the Holocaust on a Jewish family at the beginning of the 21st century. The widely acclaimed original cast returns to portray three adult siblings and their families who reunite to celebrate their father’s 75th birthday, with Richard Fancy taking over the role of patriarch Lou Fischer, a role he previously played in the 2018 Washington D.C. production. In addition to Fancy’s extensive stage career (Singin’ in the Rain on Broadway; Julia at 59e59th off-Broadway; lead roles in All My Sons and Death of a Salesman at Pacific Resident Theatre), Fancy is remembered for his role as Mr. Lippman on Seinfeld, where he worked alongside Mr. Alexander.
“STAGE RAW TOP 10… ensconces themes relating to Jewish history and heritage into a funny, poignant domestic comedy.” — Stage Raw
“UNFORGETTABLE… provocative, engaging, funny, poignant, mesmerizing… Definitely a must see!” —LA Theatrix
“REMARKABLE… a richly real script and uniformly excellent acting combine in a riveting theater-going experience.” — Larchmont Buzz
“DON’T MISS THIS ONE. GO!”— Performing Arts Live
“RIVETING, NUANCED PERFORMANCES… crisp dialogue packed with opposing ideas… pathos and humor.” — Santa Monica Mirror
“POWERFUL… will keep viewers talking long after the curtain drops.” — Splash magazines
“WOW!… HILARIOUS AND HARROWING… one superb performance after another.” — Stage Scene LA
“MEMORABLE… COMPELLING AND RELEVANT… deep and intense think-pieces presented at the pace of screwball comedy.” — The Hollywood Times
“URGENTLY IMPORTANT, BRILLIANTLY LYRICAL AND THEATRICAL… best mounting of a new American play I’ve seen done in 14 years.” — Ticket Holders LA
“ANOTHER TRIUMPH FOR THE VENERABLE FOUNTAIN THEATRE… a play you won’t forget.” — Discover Hollywood
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.
If I Forget begins preview performances on April 22, 2020 and opens officially on April 25, 2020. This is a limited engagement through June 14, 2020.
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.
The creative team of If I Forget includes Andy Hammer (Set design), Jennifer Edwards (Lighting Design), Jeff Gardner (Sound Design), Michael Allen Angel (Prop Design) and Shon LeBlanc (Costume Design).
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
Steven Green, Dor Gvirtsman, Jonathan Arkin and Sam Mandel.
Enjoy this fun music video created by actor Jonathan Arkin chronicling the Fountain Theatre opening its acclaimed production of Chaim Potok’s The Chosen at the Schultz Cultural Arts Hall in Palo Alto, CA.
Directed by Simon Levy, the production stars Jonathan Arkin, Steven B. Green, Dor Gvirtsman and Sam Mandel.
We were invited by Ronit Widmann-Levy, Director of Arts and Culture, because several members of her JCC had seen our production earlier this year in L.A., plus she’d heard about the production at a conference of JCCs in New York. She made arrangements with our Artistic Director, Stephen Sachs, to bring the original cast (Jonathan Arkin, Steven B. Green, Dor Gvirtsman, and Sam Mandel), our stage manager (Miranda Stewart), and myself to remount our production in their 300-seat theatre.
On Monday and Tuesday of last week, Miranda and the actors and I got together for brush-up rehearsals over at the Colony Theatre (the Fountain was busy getting ready for the VIP opening of Cost of Living, our current production). It had been four months since we had done the show and I wanted to make sure the actors had time to get ready. They were remarkable! – they knew all their lines and the old camaraderie immediately returned. It was as if they were still doing the show. They were ready and eager to dive back in.
After packing up and shipping most of the furniture, props, and costumes (except for the beautiful bookshelves, arches, and hundreds of books), we boarded a Southwest flight to San Francisco on Thursday, Super Shuttled to the beautiful Sheraton Palo Alto, took a quick tour of where we would be performing, gathered for dinner at the Town and Country Village near the hotel, then settled in for a good night’s rest.
Simon Levy and actor Sam Mandell enjoy the plane ride to San Francisco.
Friday was a 12-hour tech day where we re-configured and re-sized our intimate production to the larger stage of the Arts Hall. We re-blocked a few key moments, re-designed the dozens of light cues, laid in dozens more sound cues, and re-configured the special video effect of Hebrew letters that accents a key moment in the play. Even without the bookshelves, archways and library effect, the production sat nicely on their stage, allowing the emphasis to be on the actors.
Schultz Cultural Arts Hall, Palo Alto
Moving a show from one space to another, especially with only one day of tech, can often be stressful and prone to all sorts of mishaps. But we were blessed! I want to give special thanks to the Center’s tech wizards, Nick and Kyle. They could not have been more professional, helpful, creative, and just downright nice! And the same for Ilanit Gal, the Events Manager, who took good care of us. Ronit Widmann-Levy was gracious and welcoming and warmly introduced us to many of the attendees and made sure we had everything we needed. It was a pleasure to work with them, and they made the transition from our intimate space to their larger one, smooth and stress-free.
On Saturday afternoon we had a tech run of the show, made a few adjustments, then prepared for our opening. Spirits were high; there was much joking among the cast as they donned costumes and makeup, re-checked their props, and waited for the 7:30 curtain. The Saturday night show was so oversold that the Center had to add three extra rows of seats to accommodate the 300+ patrons. And word-of-mouth from that performance quickly sold out the Sunday night show. Two full houses… two standing ovations!
At the Q&A after the Sunday performance nearly the entire audience stayed, applauding us, engaging us with intelligent questions, and afterwards they swarmed the actors with more questions and compliments. They loved the show. Just loved it. And they could not have been more complimentary – not only about the acting and production, but also about how relevant the story is; how much it touched them; how certain moments made them laugh or cry or nod in recognition; how Chaim’s book and Posner’s adaptation give life not only to so many Jewish themes and historical moments, but to the dynamics of family, of children finding their own path, of the need for understanding and forgiveness, and how, with empathy and compassion, we actually can hold two opposing ideas in our mind at the same time, and both can be true.
The other thing I heard over and over, both from the JCC staff and audience members, is how the immediacy and three-dimensionality of theatre brings to emotional life the richness of the novel in a visceral way that’s different from reading the book. They entered into the world we created for them, and they were moved.
On Monday morning, we boarded another Southwest flight and returned home.
Theatre of the heart. To touch the heart of another and to remind them of their humanity is our highest calling as artists. Our road trip to Palo Alto was a beautiful reminder of why I chose this life.
Simon Levy is the Producing Director of the Fountain Theatre.
Sam Mandel in “The Chosen” at the Fountain Theatre
After a six-month sold-out run earlier this year, the Fountain Theatre’s acclaimed Los Angeles Premiere of The Chosen by Chaim Potok will open this weekend for a limited run at the Schultz Cultural Arts Hall in Palo Alto. The original cast and director return for two special performances October 20 and 21.
Adapted for the stage by Aaron Posner and directed by Simon Levy, the production features Jonathan Arkin, Steven B. Green, Dor Gvirtsman, and Sam Mandel. The Schultz Cultural Arts Hall is a 380 seat theatre, giving the cast the opportunity to enjoy a larger audience than the Fountain’s seventy-eight seats allows. It also lifts the production to a full contract under Actors’ Equity Association.
The Schultz Cultural Arts Hall is located at the Palo Alto JCC. Its curatorial efforts are focused on Jewishness, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. Art’s transcendent nature and its ability to spark curiosity about the other, dialogue about freedom, values and compassion.
If you’re in the Bay Area — or have friends who live there — share the good news. The Chosen at the JCC in Palo Alto on Saturday, Oct 20 at 7:30pm and Sunday, Oct 21 at 7pm.
The cast of ‘The Chosen’ take final bows on closing weekend.
by Stephen Sachs
Our six-month sold-out run of The Chosen came to an end on Sunday. In the opening moment of Aaron Posner’s stage adaptation of Chaim Potok’s classic novel, Reuven Malter faces the audience and asks, can two conflicting ideas or realities be true at the same time even if they directly contradict each other? From the cross-current of feelings still swirling within me after Sunday’s final performance at the Fountain Theatre, the answer is clearly yes. As with any closure, even those we know are coming, I felt sadness and the ache of letting go. Yet, in direct opposition, my heart soared with joy. Two conflicting perceptions. Both true.
I glowed with fulfillment at the closing of The Chosen not because our production earned rave reviews, including being highlighted as the LA Times Critic’s Choice. Not because it ran for six months and every performance was sold-out. Not because it joined the echelon of other top box-office champions at the Fountain Theatre.
It was because of the people. The talented artists and dedicated production team members who brought our production of the play to life, for the sole purpose of emotionally moving and spiritually inspiring other human beings, our audiences. It’s the interchange between people, from our stage to our patrons, that gives me the deepest satisfaction. Fountain folk connected with this play and this production like kindred at a family gathering. For the two-hour length of each performance, we laughed together, wept together, were reminded of our fathers, our sons and ourselves, together.
Why do we do theatre? Why do people come? This is why.
One of my favorite passages in the novel is when Reuven’s father, David Malter, tells his young son:
“Human beings do not live forever, Reuven. We live less than the time it takes to blink an eye, if we measure our lives against eternity. So, it may be asked what value is there to a human life. There is so much pain in the world. What does it mean to have to suffer so much if our lives are nothing more than the blink of an eye?
I learned a long time ago, Reuven, that a blink of an eye in itself is nothing. A span of life is nothing. But the man who lives that span, he is something. He can fill that tiny span with meaning Do you understand what I am saying? A man must fill his life with meaning, meaning is not automatically given to life.
It is hard work to fill one’s life with meaning. A life filled with meaning is worthy of rest. I want to be worthy of rest when I am no longer here.”
This is my purpose for the Fountain Theatre and the guiding principle behind dedicating my life to starting and running a non-profit arts organization. To create art that is meaningful. A life filled with meaning is well lived.
The title of Potok’s novel and play, “The Chosen”, obviously refers to the belief in Judaism that the Jews are the chosen people, chosen to be in a covenant with God. The word “chosen” is an adjective. To “choose”, however, is a verb, an action word. At the Fountain Theatre, we take action to choose to create, to develop and produce work that is meaningful. We choose plays that hold the promise to touch hearts and open eyes and challenge minds. To make the world a better place. As David Malter warns his son, it is hard work to fill one’s life with meaning. But no matter the struggle, this is the mission we choose at the Fountain. When we produce a play that is specific to the Jewish faith yet can uplift the soul and spark the minds of audiences of all faiths, we fulfill our agreement with that which is sacred and holy. And that is a good thing.
After a critically-acclaimed, six month sold-out run, our production of Chaim Potok’s The Chosen celebrated its final performance yesterday to another full house and a standing ovation. The Chosen has earned its place as one of the most successful productions in recent Fountain Theatre history. Equally important, it touched many hearts, moving and inspiring audiences.
Adapted for the stage by Aaron Posner and directed by directed by Simon Levy, the production featured Jonathan Arkin, Alan Blumenfeld, Steve B. Green, Dor Gvirtsman, and Sam Mandel.
Following Sunday’s final performance, the company toasted the long, gratifying run with the audience in our upstairs cafe.
Fountain Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs announced from the stage Sunday that Fountain Theatre will bring its acclaimed production of The Chosen to the Oshman Family JCC Arts Center in Palo Alto in October.