Lawrence Stallings, Pablo Castelblanco, Richard Azurdia, Peter Pasco
The Fountain Theatre has been honored with three Ovation Award nominations for its Los Angeles Premiere of My Mañana Comes by Elizabeth Irwin. Directed by Armando Molina, the fast-paced comedy/drama about four busboys in the kitchen of an upscale restaurant drew rave reviews. The talented cast featured Richard Azurdia, Pablo Castelblanco, Peter Pasco and Lawrence Stallings.
The Ovation Awards are the only peer-judged theatre awards in Los Angeles, created to recognize excellence in theatrical performance, production and design in the Greater Los Angeles area.
The Fountain Theatre production of My Mañana Comes has received the following nominations:
Best Production of a Play
Best Acting Ensemble of a Play – Richard Azurdia, Pablo Castelblanco, Peter Pasco and Lawrence Stallings
Best Scenic Design – Michael Navarro
For the 2015/16 Ovation Awards voting season, there were 280 productions registered from 116 different organizations, resulting in nominations for 70 productions from 45 organizations. These productions were voted on by 233 Ovation Awards voters — vetted individuals from the Greater Los Angeles area who are working theatre professionals.
The 27th Annual LA STAGE Alliance Ovation Awards will occur on Tuesday, January 17, 2017 at The Ahmanson Theatre in Downtown Los Angeles. More info
Fountain Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs waves from the stage at the Ovation Awards.
It was a memorable evening for the Fountain Theatre Sunday night, November 2nd, at the 2014 Ovation Awards hosted by LA Stage Alliance and held at the historic San Gabriel Mission Playhouse in San Gabriel. The Fountain was honored with the prestigious Best Season Award (“The Normal Heart”, “My Name is Asher Lev”, and “The Brothers Size”) for overall excellence and received the 2014 BEST Award from the Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation recognizing exceptional theatre organizations that contribute to the cultural vibrancy of Los Angeles.
Often hailed as LA’s version of the Tony Awards, the peer-judged Ovation Awards recognize excellence in theatrical performance, production and design in the Greater Los Angeles area. The LA Times has referred to the Ovation Awards as the “highest-profile contest for local theatre.”
The Best Season Award is the preeminent Ovation honor. It recognizes a theatre company’s overall excellence throughout an entire season. Over the years, The Fountain has received more nominations for the Best Season category than any other theatre in Los Angeles. This year marks the 5th time that The Fountain Theatre has been nominated for Best Season since the category was created 6 years ago. The Fountain has now won the award twice.
“Being honored with the Best Season Award is particularly meaningful to us because it doesn’t go to one person,” said Fountain Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs. “It celebrates the achievement of an entire season of artists. Therefore, the award goes to — and is shared by — all of the many actors, designers and production team members in our Fountain Family who made our 2013-14 Ovation Season such a success. ”
Acclaimed productions in the Fountain 2014 Ovation Season included the exclusive revival of The Normal Heart, the Los Angeles Premiere of My Name is Asher Lev, and the Los Angeles Premiere of The Brothers Size.
Shirley Jo Finney, Gilbert Glenn Brown, Theo Perkins, Stephen Sachs, Matthew Hancock.
2014 BEST Award winners, with Biller Foundation Executive Director Sarah Lyding
The Fountain was also honored Sunday night with the BEST Award presented and funded by The Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation. The BEST (Building Excellence in Small Theatre) Award recognizes exceptional theatre organizations that contribute to the cultural vitality of Los Angeles with long-term viability. The Fountain was honored for its ability to think creatively, the quality of its ideas and aspirations, and the organization’s ability to differentiate itself from other Los Angeles theatre companies.
Our sincere thanks to LA Stage Alliance and The Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation for their ongoing dedicated support of intimate theatre in Los Angeles.
Anna Khaja, Joel Polis and Jason Karasev in “My Name is Asher Lev”
The Fountain Theatre is pleased to announce that it has received six 2014 Ovation Award nominations, including in the prestigious categories of Best Season and Best Production of a Play. Fountain productions eligible for the 2013-14 Ovation voting season were our riveting revival of The Normal Heart, and our acclaimed Los Angeles premieres of My Name is Asher Lev and The Brothers Size. The Ovation Awards ceremony will take place on Sunday, November 2 at 7pm at the historic San Gabriel Mission Playhouse in San Gabriel.
Often hailed as LA’s version of the Tony Awards, the peer-judged Ovation Awards recognize excellence in theatrical performance, production and design in the Greater Los Angeles area. For the 2013-2014 voting season, there are a grand total of 195 nominations for 78 productions, presented by 49 companies. There were 318 total productions registered from 137 companies.
Gilbert Glenn Brown, Matthew Hancock, Theodore Perkins in ‘The Brothers Size’.
The LA Times has referred to the Ovation Awards as the “highest-profile contest for local theatre.”
The Fountain Theatre has been honored with the following 2014 Ovation Award nominations:
Best Season – The Normal Heart, My Name is Asher Lev, The Brothers Size
Best Production of a Play – My Name is Asher Lev
Best Lead Actress in a Play – Anna Khaja, My Name is Asher Lev
Best Acting Ensemble for a Play – Jason Karasev, Anna Khaja, Joel Polis, My Name is Asher Lev
Best Acting Ensemble for a Play – Gilbert Glenn Brown, Matthew Hancock, Theodore Perkins, The Brothers Size
Best Choreography – Ameenah Kaplan, The Brothers Size
The preeminent Best Season category honors a company’s overall excellence throughout an entire season. Over the years, The Fountain has dominated the Best Season nominations category. This year now marks the 5th time that The Fountain Theatre has been nominated for Best Season since the category was created 6 years ago, winning the award in 2011. The Fountain has also won the Ovation Award for Best Production of a Play 5 times.
Stephen O’Mahoney, Tim Cummings in ‘The Normal Heart’.
The Fountain Theatre has been honored with 8 Ovation Award nominations, including the prestigious categories of Best Season and Best Production of a Play, it was announced last night at an event hosted by LA Stage Alliance. The Ovation season ran from September 2012 to August 2013 and includes the Fountain productions of The Blue Iris, In the Red and Brown Water, On the Spectrum and Heart Song.
Founded in 1989 and considered to be LA’s version of the Tony Awards, the LA STAGE Alliance’s Ovation Awards are the only peer-judged theater awards in Los Angeles. Each year over 400 productions in the region compete for Ovation Award consideration.
This marks the 4th time that The Fountain Theatre has been nominated for Best Season since the category was created 5 years ago, winning the award in 2011. The Fountain Theatre has the distinction of earning more Ovation Award nominations and winning more Ovation awards overall than any other intimate theatre in Los Angeles.
“We are particularly pleased with our Best Season nomination because it reflects the overall excellence and diversity of our work year round,” says Fountain Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs. “We’re delighted that In The Red and Brown Water earned such recognition and proud to be the first theatre to introduce the work of playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney to LA audiences.”
The 2013 Ovation Award nominations for the Fountain Theatre are:
Best Season (The Blue Iris, In the Red and Brown Water, On the Spectrum, Heart Song)
Best Production of a Play (In the Red and Brown Water)
Best Director (Shirley Jo Finney, In the Red and Brown Water)
Best Ensemble in a Play (In the Red and Brown Water)
Best Lead Actress in a Play (Diarra Kilpatrick, In the Red and Brown Water)
Best Featured Actress in a Play (Peggy Blow and Iona Morris, In the Red and Brown Water)
Special Ovation Honor to Jeff Teeter for video design (On the Spectrum)
The Ovation Awards ceremony will take place on Sunday, November 3 at 7 pm at San Gabriel Mission Playhouse, 320 S. Mission Drive in San Gabriel. For more information, visit www.OvationAwards.com.
Tracy Middendorf and Morlan Higgins in "After the Fall" at the Fountain Theatre (2002, photo by Ed Krieger); Tommy Schrider and Tracy in "Battle of Black and Dogs" at Yale Repertory Theatre (2010)
by Mark Kinsey Stephenson
Tracy Middendorf was hailed for her “delicious mixture of beauty and raw emotional vulnerability that makes you care deeply about her” by director Stephen Sachs in the March 2002 cover article of LA STAGE magazine. She had already become an LA stage star in 1999, when, at age 29, she received the Ovation Award for leading actress in a play – against powerhouse nominees Annette Bening, Ruby Dee, Phyllis Frelich and Linda Lavin. She earned a LA Drama Critics Circle Award for the same performance, in Summer and Smoke.
A little background
In 1992, straight out of SUNY Purchase, Middendorf was tested in NY for the successful daytime soap opera Days of Our Lives. “I was quite surprised they couldn’t find a young blonde actress in LA,” she says with a light, ironic laugh. “Surprise, surprise,” as she was promptly hired and moved over 2,400 miles — but only on Middendorf’s terms, which demonstrated her mettle.
“I was worried about taking the part; doing a soap opera wasn’t my first choice. They asked me to sign a five-year contract and I told them, ‘No.’ You can imagine the reaction of my agent. How many actresses get an opportunity to be a regular on a soap? But I had high ideals right out of college. They brought the contract down (in years) to what I wanted.” And she thoroughly enjoyed the Days of Our Lives experience – without compromise.
During the next decade, following her soap stint as Carrie Brady, Middendorf was cast on a variety of TV shows including Beverly Hills 90210, Murder She Wrote, Touched by an Angel, Ally McBeal, Six Feet Under and The Practice.
Larry Poindexter and Tracy Middendorf in "Tender is the Night" at the Fountain (photo by Ed Krieger)
But she also was able to incorporate her first love – theater – by performing at the small yet mighty Fountain Theatre. The relationship between actress and theater was mutually rewarding. Middendorf wowed critics in her first LA stage outing in Simon Levy’s 1995 multi-award-winning adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night, and followed up a year later with an Ovation-nominated feature actress performance in Tennessee Williams’ Orpheus Descending.
The East Coast beckoned Middendorf to return, which she did briefly in 1998, performing in Tony winner Daniel Sullivan’s Ah! Wilderness at NY’s Lincoln Center and Joanne Woodward’s The Big Knife at the Williamstown Theatre in Massachusetts. Then in 1999, Middendorf struck gold with Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke at the Fountain, under the direction of Levy. The actress and the production both received Ovation Awards. Life was good for Middendorf, but it was going to get better.
It is early 2002. Arthur Miller’s After the Fall, directed by artistic director Sachs, has opened at the Fountain Theatre, and Middendorf is featured in LA STAGE. She almost had to pinch herself with everything happening – creatively and personally. “It was a really exciting yet exhausting time. Calvin (her son) was two, and I was a single mom. Juggling this amazing show and great part along with bills and everything life was throwing at me, it was… challenging and hard. But going through that, I was proud of myself. It’s important to always do what you love, no matter how difficult life may be. It’s something I’ll always remember.”
Sachs shares more. “Playing Maggie required Tracy to dig deep down into some very dark and scary corners of her own psyche where her own demons hide. Her performance was shattering, fragile, heartbreaking. Unforgettable.”
The recognitions Middendorf received in 1999 were no fluke. After the Fall received four Ovation awards, including best production and one of three lead actress awards that year. Middendorf also added a second LA Drama Critics Circle award for her performance. For a play that hadn’t been seen in LA for 24 years, the Fountain and Middendorf reaped the benefits of Miller’s work.
Five years passed before Middendorf returned to the LA stage. During this passage of time, she married Franz Wisner, author of the well-received book Honeymoon with My Brother, and had another child, Oscar. TV roles were plentiful, including Alias, Cold Case, House M.D., Without a Trace and Lost, as well as acting in the movie Mission: Impossible III with Tom Cruise.
Chuma Gault and Tracy in "Miss Julie" at the Fountain Theatre (2007, photos by Ed Krieger)
However, while she was at the Fountain in Miss Julie, adapted and directed by Sachs, based on the original play by August Strindberg, a canceled audition for a play flicked a switch. She felt it was time for another 2,400-mile move.
During the run of Miss Julie, Middendorf was scheduled to audition for Edward Albee’s The Lady From Dubuque, which was set to open in London, starring Maggie Smith under the direction of Anthony Page (Tony winner for A Doll’s House). But the production team canceled its trip to LA, leaving Middendorf in the lurch. Here’s where the rubber met the road.
“I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to audition for Mr. Page or the play or Mr. Albee, so I flew to NY with my two kids. Yes, it was crazy but this was important.” After booking a hotel room and auditioning, “They paid my flight fee so I could stay a few more days and attend the callbacks.” But the coastal reality hit hard. Two Ovations and LADCC Awards didn’t ultimately sway Page to cast Middendorf. “He didn’t know any of my stage work, never had seen me in anything.” That moment was critical for her. “I wanted to expand my horizons which meant moving back to the East Coast. I didn’t want to be limited.”
"The Pavilion" at Westport Country Playhouse (2008)
Soon an acting gig on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit followed, along with another opportunity to work with Joanne Woodward, who was artistic director at the Westport Country Playhouse. “I had such a wonderful time with Joanne when I performed in The Big Knife. It was a chance to get reacquainted with this fascinating woman. So I was able to do Craig Wright’s The Pavilion (2005-2006 Drama Desk Award nominee for outstanding play).”
Westport, CT, became home for one year with its quaint community, slower pace, dinners on the beach,… but Middendorf and her family realized they wanted to live in the city. To Brooklyn they moved, and they’re still there.
East/West – the active life
Since settling in Brooklyn, Middendorf’s professional resume includes two theater productions. In 2010, she performed at Yale Repertory Theatre in the haunting thriller Battle of Black and Dogs, by the late French playwright Bernard-Marie Koltes. Middendorf reflects on her time there. “It was incredible. I adored working with Robert Woodruff (the director) who has this amazing cult following. And it gave me a chance to work with Andrew Robinson (whom she had performed with in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) now at USC (professor of theatre practice and director of MFA acting).”
Holly Twyford and Tracy in Shakespeare Theatre Company's "Old Times" (2011).
A year later came Harold Pinter’s Old Times at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, DC. Middendorf wryly says, “It was the shortest commute I’ve ever had. They put me in an apartment three steps from the entrance door.” Expounding on her experience, “This Pinter three-character play is not hugely appealing to everyone. Audiences can be frustrated. Yet the show received good reviews. The director Michael Kahn (also artistic director at the Shakespeare Theatre) was magnificent. We had four weeks of rehearsal to focus on this dense material.” Sophie Gilbert, theater critic with the Washingtonian, wrote, “Middendorf, as Kate, does a remarkable job in expressing the character’s sexuality and the power it gives her over others.”
During this three-year span, Middendorf’s TV credits have included CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Bones, The Mentalist, NCIS, Criminal Minds and she’s especially grateful for Boardwalk Empire. “I play Babbette (the owner of the series’ central nightclub). The pilot was directed by Martin Scorsese. Watching him direct was thrilling.”
Tracy Middendorf in HBO's "Boardwalk Empire"
When it came time for the wardrobe fitting, the initial decision was to put Middendorf in a beautiful dress. She thought otherwise. “When I auditioned for the part, it came across as very masculine. So I told them I saw Babbette in a suit.” Giving the design team pause, Middendorf was told she would be called back. “When I returned later, John Dunn, the extraordinary costume designer, had me meet with a tailor to make a tuxedo. And that’s when they gave me a platinum wig.”
Looking through a different lens
As she reflects on years past and where she is today, realizations are not far behind. “The ability to do those great parts at the Fountain…. I love that theater, Simon, Stephen…. After working on Old Times, which was in a huge space, I realized I prefer the smaller stage and a smaller audience. The intimacy of it feels comfortable to me. I miss having a place where I can do that type of work. I really appreciate and love the vitality of LA theater which is focused on the work and on the play.”
Looking at the arts with a different lens, Middendorf states, “I’ve begun to change my focus toward directing. I’m more interested in the vision for an entire piece rather than just one role in a piece. That seems like a natural step for me.”
"Break", directed by Tracy Middendorf (2011).
In August 2011, Middendorf directed Louise Rozett’s Break for the FringeNYC. The material dealt with the unexpected effects of the Ground Zero recovery effort on NYC’s firemen and policemen, and their families. How she came to helm this play was happenstance. “I was in the laundry room of our building. There was a woman (Rozett) there and we started talking. She had a Young Adult book coming out. I asked if she had written any plays, as I was looking to direct something. She said she did, and gave me her plays, which were wonderful.”
Not letting a moment such as this one go to waste, Middendorf gathered together some actors and directed a reading that had great response. “We submitted it to the Fringe Festival and it got accepted. Within a month of putting it out there, I wanted to direct a play, and that’s what I was doing. We raised money through Kickstarter to mount the production. It turned out wonderful. Now Louise is giving me another play to consider directing.”
This past summer Middendorf read Three Cups of Tea, Stones into Schools and Half the Sky (the Skirball Cultural Center is currently hosting an exhibit entitled “Women Hold Up Half the Sky” inspired by the Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn tome.) These books dealing with the plight of girls around the world touched Middendorf and made her consider ways she could make a difference in the lives of those “who don’t get an education and suffer a dismal fate.”
Middendorf rattles off a few startling facts: “Of the 104 million children aged 6-11 not in school each year, 60 million are girls; in South Asia, more than 40 percent of girls aged 15-19 from poor households never completed first grade; providing girls one extra year of education beyond the average boosts wages by 10-20 percent; educated girls are less likely to contract HIV; education can foster democracy and women’s political participation.”
“I wanted to help. My friend Laurel Holloman (an actress on The L Word), who is an abstract painter, donated one of her paintings for a charity auction. It made me think. With the digital age, what if I created a website with a gallery of photographs taken by actors, writers, musicians and directors? The limited number of photographs would be signed and sold with the money donated to charities focused on educating girls around the world.”
Her dream is near reality. The launch date for the website – www.shuttertothink.org – is scheduled for March 1, 2012, and its small collection of photography grows weekly.
It’s fitting to close this article about the seasoned actress Middendorf with meaningful high praise from Sachs and Levy, who know her well.
“Tracy has this remarkable ability to blend both a ferocious work ethic with the ability to stay utterly alive in the moment,” states Sachs. “She possesses this other-worldly combination of skilled craft and gossamer magic. To work with her again would be a blessing I would cherish.”
Levy adds, “She’s translucent and a true artist. Absolutely one of the most gifted actors I’ve ever worked with. Her emotional well is so deep and so varied, and her moment-to-moment connection so riveting, that it’s impossible, for audiences and actors and as a director, not to be drawn into the world of her truth. Stunning. Truly stunning. She’s rare and a gift to theater.”
The Fountain Theatre received 9 Ovation Award nominations last night, including the prestigious nod for overall Best Season. Three Fountain productions comprised the 2010-11 Ovation season: The Train Driver, A House Not Meant to Stand, and Bakersfield Mist.
The Fountain has been nominated for Best Season every year since the newly created category was launched three years ago. The Fountain won the award last year. The Fountain has the distinction of being honored with more Ovation nominations and awards than any other intimate theatre in the history of the Ovation Awards.
Sandy Martin in "A House Not Meant to Stand"
This Ovation season, Sandy Martin has been nominated Best Leading Actress in a Play for her performance as Bella McCorkle in A House Not Meant to Stand.
Our fabulous Fountain designers were acknowledged for their dazzling skill and artistry.
Set designer Jeff McLaughlin pulled an unprecedented hat-trick by being nominated for Best Set Design for all three Fountain productions: The Train Driver, Bakersfield Mist, and A House Not Meant to Stand.
Fountain sound designers Peter Bayne (A House Not Meant to Stand) and David Marling (The Train Driver) both received Best Sound Design nominations.
Ken Booth was nominated for Best Lighting Design for both The Train Driver and A House Not Meant to Stand.