Montae Russell, Joshua Bitton, Lesley Fera, Marisol Miranda, Matthew Hancock.
The Fountain Theatre’s acclaimed Los Angeles Premiere of the Pulitzer Prize winning play Between Riverside and Crazy by Stephen Adly Guirgis will extend its sold-out run to January 26, 2020. The original cast will remain intact.
The performance schedule continues to be Friday 8pm, Saturday 2pm & 8pm, Sunday 2pm and Monday 8pm (Pay What You Want). More info/Get Tickets
Over a dozen rave reviews:
“THE PULITZER-WINNING PLAY YOU MUST SEE IN L.A.” — Los Angeles Times
“REWARD[S] US WITH THE RAREST OF GIFTS: the pleasure of a raffish grace where you least expect to find it.”— Cultural Weekly
“SUPERBLY ACTED… The Fountain Theatre has done itself proud again.” — Hollywood Progressive
“SPLASH SELECTION… a superbly directed, acted, and produced must-see show.” — LA Splash
“HUMOR AND WORDPLAY AND FANTASTIC MUSIC… POWERFUL PERFORMANCES” — Larchmont Buzz
“A thoughtful exploration of family, forgiveness, and deciding what is important when life has not gone the way you imagined… led by a TOUR DE FORCE from Russell, who brings the enigmatic Pops to life with impressive complexity.” — On Stage and Screen
“NEEDS TO BE SEEN… sometimes hilarious, sometimes agonizing… a seamless, breathtaking ensemble” — People’s World
“OUTSTANDING… laugh lines abound… deals with profound issues of the human condition.” — Beverly Cohn, Santa Monica Mirror
“WOW!…SENSATIONAL… Contemporary play-writing at its most original and Los Angeles theater at its finest.” —Stage Scene LA
“SCINTILLATING… an exciting, engrossing piece of theatre with a cast of seasoned pros.” Theatre Notes
“BRILLIANT DIRECTION… [A] SUPERB CAST“—Theatre Spoken Here
“HILARIOUSLY OUTRAGEOUS and delightfully off-kilter dialogue… one of out city’s best ensemble casts” — Ticket Holders LA
“FEARLESS… a brutally honest understanding of human emotions fully on display by a talented cast of seven.” — Culver City News
The Fountain Theatre is proud to announce that esteemed teacher, researcher, and consultant Margaret E. Phillips, PhD, has joined its Board of Directors. Her special interests are in cultural influences on organization behavior, management development in multicultural contexts, and organization diagnosis and design for sustainability.
“During my long career as an international business professor, a cross-cultural management researcher, and an organization design consultant, I have spent much of my time exploring challenging topics that incite conversation and ignite social change,” Phillips explains. “Much like the Fountain does every day using the medium of theatre. That is likely why the invitation to join the Fountain’s Board of Directors was so intriguing to me, especially coming at the time of my retirement from academia.”
Her work has been published in books and academic journals and included in compendiums of key contributions to the fields of cross-cultural management and international human resources management. Her book, Crossing Cultures: Insights from Master Teachers is a resource for teachers and trainers with proven methods for developing coping strategies and problem-solving skills in the cross-cultural arena. She co-authored the comprehensive chapter on “Conceptualizing Culture” for the Handbook for International Management Research and “Contextual Influences on Culture Research: Shifting Assumptions for New Workplace Realities” in the International Journal of Cross Cultural Management.
She has served on the governing boards of several organizations, for-profit and not-for-profit, with culturally diverse stakeholders.
“I have been a committed supporter of the Los Angeles theatre community for over 50 years,” she states. “Yet have only recently become a fan of the Fountain after experiencing the performance of Citizen: An American Lyric at Center Theatre Group’s first Block Party, and engaged with the theater after experiencing the powerful Walking the Beat this past summer. Subsequent performances and interactions with the Fountain family have allowed me to see that the values conveyed from the stage are lived in this company. This, and of course the charm and passion of the board colleagues themselves, have enticed me to join with you all as the Fountain moves toward its 30th year and beyond. I am proud and delighted to be along on this journey.”
Maggi Phillips enjoys opening night of Between Riverside and Crazy, 2019.
Dr. Phillips has been a member of the Western Academy of Management, the Academy of Management, the Academy of International Business, the International Organization Network, and the European Group for Organization Studies. She has conducted teaching exchanges and faculty workshops for several of these organizations in multiple international settings, and has made presentations and convened symposia for all, including Designing Culturally Sustainable Organizations for the 2012 EGOS meeting in Helsinki.
Dr. Phillips received her PhD in Management from the Anderson School at UCLA, an MS in Administration from the Merage School at UC Irvine, and a BA in Psychology from UCLA’s College of Letters and Science.
Dr. Phillips’ husband, Professor Mario Gerla, PhD, a pioneer in computer networks who had supervised more than 100 Ph.D. graduates during his long career, passed away in February after a prolonged battle with pancreatic cancer. Dr. Phillips has two daughters, Marisa and Cristina.
Director Guillermo Cienfuegos in the Fountain Cafe.
by Guillermo Cienfuegos
How the Los Angeles premiere of Between Riverside and Crazy, this great, Pulitzer Prize winning play by Stephen Adly Guirgis managed to fall into my hands, I’ll never know. But I’m grateful for it. I feel so fortunate to be given the opportunity. And to direct it with this cast, at this theatre, is an embarrassment of blessings.
First of all I’m drawn to how funny and true the play is. There’s no better way to impart to an audience some essential truths about what it is to be human than while you’re making them laugh. I find Guirgis’ gift of being able to show us these flawed and damaged people in such a funny and loving way very inspiring.
Also as a Cuban, the play puts me in mind of a lot of Catholic imagery from my youth, including Santeria traditions. It makes me think of the Beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of God”. Those are the characters in this play. The world may see them as junkies and drunks and ex cons and other outsiders of society – but they’re just children of God.
Matthew Hancock and Marisol Miranda.
I’m also drawn to the play because of my father, who I called Papi. My father was a lot like Pops, the main character of the play – he’s fighting wars on many fronts, the largest of which could be with his own ego. And he’s trying to hold on to whatever control over his life he still has. But it’s in the surrender that one wins and finds grace.
The play deals with a lot of big issues – grief, alcoholism, policing, gentrification. But I think it’s about family, forgiveness and redemption.
Montae Russell in “Between Riverside and Crazy” at the Fountain Theatre.
By Darlene Donloe
Montae Russell is well known throughout Los Angeles theater circles for playing meaty roles. He’s played Charlie “Bird” Parker in Bird Lives!, Memphis in Two Trains Running andElmore in a production of King Hedley II. He also played Mister on Broadway in King Hedley II opposite Viola Davis and Leslie Uggams.
Up next for the veteran thespian is a complicated, determined man named Walter “Pops” Washington who has declared war on almost everything in the Stephen Adly Guirgis 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy-drama Between Riverside and Crazy, opening October 19 at the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood.
Russell, a Pittsburgh native is ready to take on the role. While talking to him about the show and “Pops”, the 50-something, married (Tonia), father of one, walked around a local park to let the imagery of the play and the character “sink in.” It’s a process, he said allows him to be “closer to where I need to be” when he hits the stage.
Russell’s first acting role came in the seventh grade when he played Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. His first professional play was in the off-Broadway production of Three Ways Home at the Astor Place Theater in New York.
Eventually he brought his talent to Los Angeles where he became a respected film, television and theater actor.
A highly sought after actor, Russell had to decide between doing August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean and Between Riverside and Crazy. He said it was a hard decision, but he read something in the “Pops” character that spoke to him.
In Between Riverside and Crazy, the 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy-drama by Stephen Adly Guirgis, ex-cop and recent widower Walter ‘Pops’ Washington has made a home for his newly paroled son in his sprawling, rent-controlled New York City apartment on Riverside Drive. But now the NYPD is demanding his signature to close an outstanding lawsuit, the landlord wants him out, the liquor store is closed, and the church is on his back — leaving Pops somewhere between Riverside… and crazy.
Montae Russell and Victory Anthony in “Between Riverside and Crazy”
I recently caught up with Russell to discuss his role in Between Riverside and Crazy.
DD: In your own words, describe Between Riverside and Crazy.
MR: I really can’t describe it because I’m in the midst of it. Well, from my character’s perspective, he was a cop who was shot by a white cop eight years ago. The cop overreacted when he saw black people in a bar. My character is in a battle with NYPD. He’s living in a rent-controlled apartment on Riverside Drive. The landlord wants him out so he can charge more rent.
But my character is dug in. He’s not backing down. His son is an ex-con. He is fighting for his son. Every father wants his son to become a man. He is also fighting a war with himself. He has war with a lot of people. He has a battle with the bottle and his body. He has stress and strife. There are external forces and an internal battle within himself. Sometimes it’s not about annihilating your opponent. Sometimes you just have to sign a truce.
DD: In what way are you like Pop and in what way are you the furthest from Pop?
MR: I’m a fighter, but I don’t have as many wars. I have a stubborn streak. I don’t have multiple wars, though. I don’t have people coming at me as he does. But, I can understand what it would be like. I respect the character. I just fight differently.
DD: Why did you want to play this part?
MR: When I read it, I cracked up. A lot of things about the character made me laugh. He is raging a war with God, or with his beliefs because of all the things that have happened. You can’t win that war. It’s a very hilarious play. Pops is pulling no punches. He doesn’t care. He is the master of his domain. He’s a very funny cat. He’s not a rabble-rouser. He’s not an activist. He’s a conservative – but not in a social way – more of an interpersonal way. He’s a traditional man, an old school man. He comes from a time when you controlled your emotions.
DD: How did you go about developing Pop?
MR: It’s a day-by-day thing. We’ll be developing until the end of the play in December. Different stuff is revealed each time you crack open the script. There is constant tweaking.
He’s not funny, Ha, Ha. He’s funny concerning his perspectives. Living like that can cause problems. You have to give a fuck at some point. You have to give a fuck about something.
DD: Have you ever been between Riverside and crazy?
MR: You would have to ask the people around me.
Montae Russell, Joshua Bitton, Lesley Fera, Marisol Miranda, Matthew Hancock.
DD: By what criteria do you decide to do a show?
MR: It has to be a challenge. I have to think I can bring something to it. It’s about what speaks to me. I was supposed to do Gem of the Ocean. I was going to play Caesar. Both shows were going up at the same time. I opted to do this instead. It’s difficult to turn down a role like Caesar. It would have also been difficult to turn down this role.
DD: You’ve played a lot of characters. What role did you nail?
MR: I try to do that all the time. I enjoyed playing Memphis in Two Trains Running. August Wilson front-loads his characters with a lot of stuff they are dealing with. The character challenged me. It felt good that I concurred it. The stuff he has to live through. His backstory – all of that comes into the show. You’re responsible for the backstory even if it doesn’t come up in the play.
DD: How do you prepare to go on stage? Any rituals?
MR: I gotta be at the theater at least 45 minutes before I’m supposed to be there. I have to have food in my stomach to power through the show. It’s just like a sporting event. You can’t keep running back to the locker room. I like to warm up my voice. I warm up my diction and I stretch. I need to be by myself and get in my space. I like to get in my zone.
DD: Why did you want to be an actor?
MR: A lot of people today don’t know what they want to do. I was blessed at 13 – that’s when I knew. From there, I got green lights all the way. One job led to another. August Wilson wrote my letter of recommendation to get into Rutgers. He reached back.
DD: What happens to you when you’re on stage?
MR: It allows you to go to another world. Your imagination has to buy it. It’s the same concept when doing a show. We are on stage being looked at by an audience. That to me is fun. It’s nice to get away from the real world and step into someone else’s shoes for a while.
It came from the young producer of a newly-formed immersive theatre company. His troupe eschews the conventional production of plays. Instead, it presents “multisensory experiences.” The question was targeted at me. The panel discussion at LATC brought together artistic directors from six LA companies, some new and some long-established, to talk over the goals and perils of creating theatre in Los Angeles. As Founder/Artistic Director of the Fountain, I was invited to speak for a “legacy theatre.” I was one of the old guys.
The question thrown to me by the young theater-maker is one I’ve been asked many times over thirty years. It comes when your theatre creates work that confronts social and political issues. The question will surface sometimes in reviews of new plays or be floated in post-show discussions with patrons. Depending on tone and intent, I’ve heard it posed both as a question and as a statement of accusation.
“Aren’t you just preaching to the choir?”
The trope of “preaching to the choir” is defined as presenting work that offers a message so obvious, so apparent and undebatable to those receiving it (because they think or feel the same way) it is therefore rendered meaningless. A waste of time. For years, I agreed. Preaching to the choir was unproductive. Over time, I have changed my mind.
The choir needs preaching, too.
The choir are the folks at every service. They’ve heard it all. They’ve listened to the same scripture spoken from the same pulpit, time and time again. They know the words to every song and have sung them, over and over. By now the choir should embody, as human beings, what all the words mean. But they can’t. Nobody can. The truth is, once the choir believes that it “already knows,” the church is in trouble.
At the Fountain, the choir are our longtime loyal patrons who follow the artistic mission of our theatre. Together, we are committed to diversity and inclusion. At the Fountain, we dramatize stories on racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-semitism, homelessness. If I were to survey each of our devoted patrons I would wager that all would agree that these social issues are wrong. Should the Fountain, therefore, not tell these stories?
Why do we go to a church or a temple? Why should we gather with like-minded people who share our same belief system, who think like we do, who know all the same stories and follow all the same rules. Why do we go? To be humbled. Reminded. Illuminated. We are complicated, imperfect beings. There is infinity to discover in ourselves and each other. We think we know. We do not.
A few weeks ago I was reading a book on racism in America. The book was forcing me to confront my own position of privilege as a White man in this country. I was highlighting sentences and paragraphs throughout. I also found myself skimming what I considered to be obvious sections outlining racism in this country, thinking, “I know, I know, I know” as I flipped the pages. I then stopped myself. What was I doing? Do I really know? Can I really know? Isn’t muttering “I know, I know, I know” while flipping pages on racism just another example of a well-meaning White liberal male self-medicating?
Once we say “I know” to any social issue, and do nothing, we become part of the problem. Preaching to those who need healing is easy. Changing the self-righteous is hard.
Preaching to the choir is pointless only if parishioners do nothing after the service. Just if educated well-meaning patrons at the Fountain see a play on injustice, nod their heads, agree that it’s terrible, feel good about themselves and then go home to their daily lives, unchanged. Preaching to the choir is essential when it pushes the choir to dig deeper inside itself and ask the hard questions: what is my role in this? How do I perpetuate what is wrong? How can I make it right?
At the Fountain, I am deeply aware that I am not only part of the choir, I am the Choir Leader. I am the straight, White male gatekeeper of a theatre dedicated to diversity. Even with my best intentions, no matter how hard I try, I do not “know.” I can not “know.” Whenever I pretend that I do, I have lost my way.
Coming to the theatre reminds me what the many ills of this nation make painfully clear. No truth is self-evident.