Category Archives: parenting

Are you surprised that the young leaders of the Never Again movement are theatre kids? I’m not.

Parklandby Stephen Sachs

They are young. They are bold and self-confident. They are articulate. They are passionate. They are leading a national movement.  And they are theatre kids.

A fiercely dedicated band of teen survivors of the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, this week are earning international attention through social media for speaking out on gun control in a movement they call Never Again. This grass-roots uprising launched by young people is highly organized and gathering national momentum.  The fiery speech by student Emma Gonzalez at a Florida rally is a viral sensation. Students grilled NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch and Senator Marco Rubio at a CNN town hall.   It drew three million viewers. The nationwide protest the group is leading on March 24 in Washington, D.C., is now expected to draw more than five hundred thousand participants to the nation’s capital. Sister marches are being planned in cities around the country.  The Never Again Twitter page already has eighty-one thousand followers.

All of this from a small troupe of teenage drama kids at a Florida high school who’s only worry last week rose from the stress of trying to memorize their lines.  This week, they all have much larger roles to play.

Several of the Never Again leaders are members of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School drama club. “All these kids are drama kids, and I’m a dramatic kid, so it really meshes well,” says leader Emma González.

Being “dramatic” doesn’t make any of these young people insincere. They are furiously committed. Even so, a dark fringe of “Fake News” conspiracy wackos on the internet are already accusing some of the kids of not being real students at all, but professional “crisis actors” paid to cause trouble. Asked about this charge, student Cameron Kasky told CNN that anyone who had seen him in the school’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof” knows that “nobody would pay me to act for anything.”

Are you surprised that these teenage drama nerds are now taking the international stage by storm? I’m not.

A theatre class is more than an artistic distraction for students. It can serve as a lightning rod of empowerment for young people. For many teens, the experience of standing in a spotlight on a stage in a play or musical,  galvanizing the attention of adults in the  audience, is the first time a young person discovers that what they say matters.  They learn that words have power, that their voice can move and inspire others.

Rehearsing a play teaches young people team work, collaboration, tolerance, the importance of listening to and following direction. They learn about problem solving, discipline, goal-setting and time management. And they discover that getting something significant accomplished can also be fun.

Drama club

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School drama club.

The engine for all dramatic plays is conflict. Rehearsing a play thrusts students into roles attacking and defending both sides of an issue.  Therefore, the play teaches that no matter how dire the circumstances may seem, it remains valuable to understand and overcome opposing points of view to reach a satisfying ending.

Something magical happens to students when rehearsing a play or musical. They become a company. Adolescence can be painfully isolating. But in those brief hours of after-school drama practice, young people are forced to put down their cell phones and look each other in the eye.  They find human connection.  Friendships are formed, crushes blossom,  and leaders step forward. Perhaps most important,  kids learn that a group, working together, can deliver something meaningful and life-changing that is greater than themselves, for the benefit of the community.

When the CNN Town Hall on gun control came to a close, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School drama club sang to the crowd. The song was written by survivors Sawyer Garrity and Andrea Peña to honor the 17 victims of the mass shooting. Their main message? “You’re not going to knock us down” and the standout line, “You may have brought the dark, but together we will shine the light.” At this moment,  those in the audiences turned the lights on their phones and stretched them above the crowd to shine their own light.

As one student asserted during a spoken word section of the performance, the students vow to “Be the voice for those who don’t have one.” A voice is a powerful thing, and theatre can be a formidable stage from which to find one’s own song.

As the Never Again mission statement declares, “Change is coming. And it starts now, inspired by and led by the kids who are our hope for the future. Their young voices will be heard. ”

If art is a reflection of who we are, where we come from, and where we are going, then whatever the students are learning in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School drama club is a lesson for us all.

Stephen Sachs is the Co-Artistic Director of the Fountain Theatre

Video: Actor Leith Burke finds hope in powerful world premiere ‘Runaway Home’

Runaway Home Now playing to Nov 5th More Info/Get Tickets

Veteran TV producer and showrunner Clifton Campbell joins Fountain Theatre Board of Directors

Clifton Campbell and Kim Academy Awards cropped

Clifton Campbell and his wife Kim at the 2017 Academy Awards. 

“The feeling I get sitting in a theatre just before the houselights fade is one that is very personal for me,” admits TV producer and writer Clifton Campbell. “Excitement for what’s about to unfold. The anticipation of bold ideas told through flawed and deeply human characters promising to take me to a richer understanding of a world outside my own. In that moment, I sit wondering not if this play is ready for me; but if I am ready for this play. For the shared human experience you can only get from live theatre.”

It is clear that the Fountain Theatre is ready for Clifton Campbell. The Fountain is pleased and honored to announce that veteran TV producer, showrunner and writer Clifton Campbell has joined the Fountain Theatre Board of Directors. 

“Cliff is passionate about developing a new program to engage parents who have children wanting to be writers,” says Fountain Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs. “He is also committed to building a bridge between the Fountain Theatre and the TV industry. He is eager to guide the forming of new relationships between the Fountain and TV professionals. Cliff is a smart guy with decades of experience as a TV producer, and his heart has never left the theatre. We are thrilled to have him on our Board of Directors.”

Clifton Campbell has enjoyed a career in television spanning more than 30 years. Recently, Clifton was Executive Producer for the TV series Sleepy Hollow.  He was also Executive Producer of White CollarThe GladesProfilerWiseguy, and others. He has partnered with such producers as Steven Spielberg, Stephen J. Cannell, and Michael Mann. 

Clifton was born and raised in Hialeah, Florida. He graduated from Florida State University and moved to Chicago to pursue a career as a playwright.

“The early eighties was an amazing time for theatre in Chicago,” remembers Campbell. “I was witness to ground-breaking new works and game changing productions from companies like Steppenwolf, St. Nicholas, The Goodman, Body Politic, Wisdom Bridge and Victory Gardens, all of whom were leading the charge in a new age of Regional Theatre. The six years I spent in Chicago theatre was the greatest education of my life.”

His work as a playwright caught the eye of producer/director Michael Mann, landing him a writing job on Mann’s TV series Crime StoryClifton‘s writing career took off and escalated to TV producing, but he always remained a theatre guy. He also became a family guy. Clifton and his wife Kim have been married for sixteen years and together have three grown children; Bailey, Jordan and Paige.

“The Fountain Theatre is everything I think of when I remember those incredible days back in Chicago,” says Campbell. “I am proud and excited to be joining its Board of Directors. ” 

Art and Life Replicate Each Other in LA Premiere of ‘Reborning’ at Fountain Theatre

Kristin Carey, Joanna Strapp in 'Reborning'.

Kristin Carey, Joanna Strapp in ‘Reborning’.

by Mindy Farabee

Sometimes art imitates life and sometimes life imitates art. And somewhere in between, sometimes things get curious.

Hollywood’s Fountain Theatre recently opened a play dealing with parenthood, the mystery of creation and the scars of loss. What it’s literally about is reborning, a thriving subculture in which artists spend hundreds of hours creating and collectors spend thousands of dollars buying vinyl dolls meticulously fashioned to resemble real babies.

Reborning began in the United States in the 1990s, when a few enthusiasts started painting over and otherwise altering (or “reborning”) store-bought dolls to make them appear more realistic. Now, however, it has become an international phenomenon. One unassembled, limited-edition kit for making the dolls recently released online sold out in less than three minutes.

The play, Reborning, centers on an artist and the increasingly unnerving relationship she develops with a client. Zayd Dohrn wrote it after the birth of his first child. In stumbling upon the curious art form, Dohrn found a perfect vehicle for exploring the terrifying vulnerability of new life. He also made something of a mess. “I tried my hand at making a couple dolls,” Dohrn says. “It didn’t turn out well.”

The show has previously been produced in New York, San Francisco and Anaheim (at the Chance Theater in 2012), with local reborners employed to create dolls.

The Fountain called Amy Karich, an Orange County stay-at-home mom who sells her reborn creations online. Karich, who also designed dolls for the Chance production, works out of a studio tucked into the tidy rolling hills on the outskirts of Laguna Beach. A slant-roofed add-on to the back of the family home, Karich’s workshop sits on one of those quiet, planned streets with an abundance of two-car garages, stacked rows of matching terracotta-hued roofs and artfully spaced palm trees.

Amy Karich in her studio.

Amy Karich in her studio.

Inside, her studio testifies to a flurry of activity. A paint-drenched sponge lies on her desk amidst jars of paints, brushes and beads. Against the walls sit boxes of eyeballs and a small table of disembodied doll parts. Teething toys, bassinets and pastel blankets dominate the decor.

“I’m not even a baby person,” announces the petite, blond mother of four, with the hint of an ironic smile.

That she’s going on the record at all is a pleasant surprise. The fact that some buyers have suffered miscarriages or found themselves unable to conceive prompted several articles casting them as mildly deranged. “People feel like they’ve been burned in the press,” says Dohrn, to explain why lately the subculture has taken on a slight air of secrecy.

Some clients ask for dolls with particular characteristics, occasionally including a picture. Other clients are more vague. One asked for 13 moles, though Karich could place them where she chose. The dolls aren’t usually used as toys — they’re mainly for display.

Artists become known for certain trademarks, such as color palates, and Karich says her skin tones are a signature of her work. She plucks the head from a nearly completed newborn to illustrate. “I put stork bites on them,” she says, pointing to the pinkish birthmark on the back of its head, which can appear during birth.

“All kinds of traumatic things happen at birth,” she adds. “Newborns … can have pressure marks anywhere. Because sometimes the baby will be resting against the bottom of the tailbone [for instance],” she says, absentmindedly rubbing her lower back.

Zayd Dohrn at the Fountain Theatre

Playwright Zayd Dohrn at the Fountain Theatre

“I love that she said that,” Dohrn says. “When you hear Amy talk, you understand what humans go through [during birth], the adventure they’ve been on and how it shows up on their bodies.”

Karich, whose dolls routinely go for $1,500 apiece, might spend 150 hours creating one. The details she adds reinforce that these aren’t toys but objects meant for display, intended for serious collectors. Artists favor Genesis paints, and stuff glass or zinc beads inside the dolls to give them an authentic heft. (“Some people have been known to use kitty litter,” Karich says, turning up her nose at the idea.)

Karich fishes out handful of handcrafted eyes from beneath a crib. “These are made of mouth-blown glass, produced in Germany. They go for $30 to $40 a pair,” she says. Her newborns also come with detachable magnetic umbilical cords, made by snipping off the finger of a vinyl glove and stuffing it with cloth painted to resemble bloody tissue, before tying it off with a real medical clamp.

“It’s very relaxing to me to be able to create,” she says.

In translating her dolls to the stage, a few adjustments were necessary, such as designing a deeper mottling for the skin to render it more visible to an audience.

There is one aspect of Dohrn’s play that Karich finds not terribly realistic: The reborner allows her client far too much access. Karich doesn’t even give out her phone number, in order to set boundaries on her time. But her clients are nearly all repeat customers. Relationships inevitably form, and personal details are shared — some tragic, but mostly clients just send news about their children.

“Most collectors are mothers and perfectly normal people,” Karich stresses. “Some people could be filling some sort of void with the dolls … but it’s not a void that causes them to treat the dolls like real babies. They are just another group of people, interested in something.”
Mindy Farabee is a writer and critic living in Los Angeles. A former LA Times staff writer, her work has also appeared in publications such as Bookforum, Los Angeles Review of Books, San Francisco Chronicle, The Millions, the Boston Globe, and LA Weekly. This post originally appeared in the LA Weekly

PHOTO SLIDESHOW: Playwright Zayd Dohrn at LA Premiere of His Play ‘Reborning’ at Fountain Theatre

The cast of REBORNING with playwright Zayd Dohrn.

The cast of REBORNING with playwright Zayd Dohrn.

Chicago playwright Zayd Dohrn was at the Fountain Theatre last night to catch a performance of our LA Premiere of his riveting play, Reborning. He enjoyed the production very much and met with the cast and production team upstairs in our cafe after the performance.

Born and raised in New York City, Zayd lives in Chicago with his wife and their two children, and currently teaches playwriting and screenwriting at Northwestern University. He happened to be Los Angeles for a few days on a TV job and seized the opportunity to come to the Fountain where the Los Angeles  Premiere of his play opens this Saturday night, Jan 24th.

It was a delight for actors Kristin Carey, Ryan Doucette, and Joanna Strapp to meet the playwright and chat about the play with him over beers in the cafe. Director Simon Levy and producer/co-artistic director Stephen Sachs were both very pleased to have the writer at the Fountain.

Enjoy These Snapshots 

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Reborning Jan 24 – March 15 (323) 663-1525  More Info/Get Tickets

Fountain Spotlight: Meet Reborn Doll Artist Amy Karich

Amy Karich

Amy Karich

Consultant on Fountain LA Premiere ‘Reborning’

In our upcoming Los Angeles premiere of the edgy comedy/drama Reborning by Zayd Dohrn, a young woman makes lifelike baby dolls for a living.  This is actually a true occupation and a real phenomenon.  In the play, a customer seeks a doll to represent the child she lost years ago.  In real life, customers buy reborn dolls from reborn artists for a variety of reasons.  When the Fountain needed to learn more about this fascinating art form and the artists who create it, who did we turn to?

We asked Amy Karich. Amy is a professional reborn artist in Southern California. Her online nursery, Amy’s Dollhouse, can be found here.

Where are you from?

I grew up in Texas in the Dallas Ft. Worth area. I have a BA in English Literature from San Diego State University. My art training is mostly self taught. I have been married for almost 22 years and I have four children.

How did you get interested in making reborn dolls? 

Reborn doll by Amy Karich

Reborn doll by Amy Karich

I made one for my daughter in 2009 to see if I could. When other people saw her doll, they began asking me to make one for them, too. I then started selling them at doll shows and eventually eBay and Etsy. I’ve been selling them under the name Amy’s Dollhouse for about 5 years now.

How long does it take to make one doll? 

I finish and sell about 1 doll per month.

How much do they sell for?

They range in price from $500 for micro preemies to $2500 for larger babies. The average selling price for my dolls is $1100.

Made by Amy Karich.

Reborn doll made by Amy Karich.

How are the dolls made?

It takes me a full month to make one doll. The painting process takes about two weeks and the hair rooting takes another two weeks. Each doll has between 25 to 35 layers of paint (baked after each layer is applied) in order to achieve their realistic skin tones, undertones, mottling, capillaries and veins. I then work on details such as fingernails and toenails, shading wrinkles, painting eyebrows, stork bites, and birthmarks if any are desired. After the final layer of varnish is baked, I begin the hair rooting process. After the hair and eyelashes are rooted, I seal it on the inside of the head. If it is an open-eyed doll, I insert the eyes and then weight the limbs and body. Finally, I assemble the doll.

Amy's work table in her studio.

Amy’s work table in her studio.

What are the reasons why customers buy your dolls?  

Most of my customers are collectors who appreciate the artistry and realism of reborn dolls.

Has a customer ever asked you to make a replica of a child they’ve lost? Like in the play ‘Reborning’? 

I have done one custom order for a client who had a miscarriage but none to my knowledge that have had a child pass away after birth. Most of my clients are not trying to replace a baby or pretend to care for a baby. As with most collectors of any type of art, there is an emotional element that compels them to buy a certain piece for their collection or gallery.

How often do you actually meet your customers face-to-face? 

I rarely get to meet my clients as 99% of my business is online. I am looking forward though to exhibiting at the Rose International Doll Show in Denver this July where I do hope to meet with some of my clients. I’m really looking forward to it as I rarely have enough inventory to participate in doll shows. With an entire year to prepare however, I’ve been managing to create some dolls to sell at the show and still be able to handle all of my custom orders.

What gives you joy and satisfaction in your work?

Amy Karich

Amy Karich

For me, the joy and satisfaction is in the process of creating them and even photographing them. Once I have completed a doll, I am very happy to send it to a buyer who will appreciate and enjoy it. Many of my clients stay in touch with me and send photos. I am always so delighted to hear from them.

Is it ever hard to part with a doll you’ve made?

I will admit, that I have not been able to part with any of the small baby elves or fairies that I’ve done. I fully intended to sell them when I started them. When I finished them, I just couldn’t part with them. I have a difficult time parting with the miniature babies that I finish as well.

How would you describe the reborning community?

Reborn doll by Amy Karich

Reborn doll by Amy Karich

I think the artists who create lifelike dolls are a relatively small and close knit community. We have forums online where we talk to each other and share our work with each other. We share news about articles and events related to our field. We warn each other about difficult clients or non-paying bidders. This type of work can be very isolating so it’s refreshing to communicate with with other doll artists.

People are  fascinated with the folks who buy reborn dolls and why they buy them. 

In general, the media tends to focus on an extremely small percentage of collectors who may treat their dolls like actual babies. In my experience, however, most doll collectors are just like any other collector … they simply display (most often in locked glass cases) and appreciate their collection. For some reason the media targets doll collectors to portray them as crazy. They don’t target men who collect and spend insane amounts of money on cars, guns or even action figures. They say that the doll collectors are caught up in a fantasy or are role playing but one could say the same about people who attend renaissance fairs or participate in civil war reenactments dressed in period attire. I don’t think the media should make any group of collectors or hobbyists feel uncomfortable about what they choose to collect. I believe that, as long as the media continues its bias stories interviewing only the few collectors that do treat their dolls like real babies, most doll collectors will shy away from speaking about their collection with people who are not doll artists or fellow collectors.

When you first read ‘Reborning’, what did you think?

I thought the play was very entertaining and very much enjoyed it. I was intrigued that there was a play even written about what I do.  So many people have never even heard of the art form.


The Los Angeles Premiere of Reborning by Zayd Dohrn, directed by Simon Levy, stars Kristin Carey, Ryan Doucette and Joanna Strapp. It opens Jan 24th and runs to March 15th. Don’t miss this funny and compelling comedy/drama about creating family and the power of healing.  More Info/Get Tickets

Artist and Parent: A Delicate Balance

mother_and_childby Catherine Trieschmann

The rhythm of my life as a writer has been fairly consistent the past five years. I usually incubate with a new project for a season, which means staying home and writing in between childrearing, housekeeping and wandering the grocery aisles with a make-up bag full of coupons in the middle of the night. This phase requires a decent knack for multi-tasking, but incubation is nevertheless a pretty serene time for our household. My favorite part of playwriting is writing in a room alone, as this is when I am most often surprise myself: summoning forgotten words, a repressed point of view, a turn of phrase I couldn’t have wrought with my conscious mind. I try not to judge myself.

It’s a great time of forgetting, both in writing and in family life. We watch the leaves fall off an old oak in our backyard that only appears aged, because we live on the high plains where the wind steals so many saplings. I write in the morning. In the afternoon, we gather leaves and press them into the pages of the Professor’s dictionary collection. At night, I drink tea.

Catherine Trieschmann

Catherine Trieschmann

The hatching of a play, which occurs in a rehearsal room, has its own joys, but they aren’t particularly serene ones. All of a sudden I’m surrounded by other voices, voices not so enamored by my clever turns of phrase and who challenge the sense of things at every corner. This is all necessary and good and part of making a play better than I could have ever imagined alone, but it’s tough on my sense of equilibrium. Sometimes actors make text suggestions because they can see into a character better than I can, and sometimes they make them because they want more lines.

Sometimes I immediately have a terrific solution for a scene, and sometimes the director has to buy me coffee and insist I read a scene aloud in order to make clear that it is not her problem; it is mine. The theater tends to attract mercurial, volatile people who seem perfectly rational one day and in desperate need of meds the next. During the hatching period, I do not watch leaves fall from the trees. I do not drink tea. I battle insomnia. I thank God every night that my dramaturg believes the best place to crack a scene is at the bar, where we drink vodka.

What has become increasingly clear as the children have grown older is how the discombobulation I feel in the rehearsal room is reflected back home, when I am away. The Professor is heroic in his attempts to keep hearth and home, but when the gentle rhythms of our family life are disrupted, the children rattle their cages. During my recent trip to open a play in Denver, one child hid in a corner of the library and cut off her hair. The other became completely neurotic about her potty training and started stashing the dirty underpants behind her dresser. The smell lingers still. One child called me everyday; the other refused to talk to me on the phone at all. One cried every afternoon when the babysitter picked her up from school. The other refused to go bed at night but wandered the house until midnight, finally falling asleep on the stairs, the sofa, the kitchen floor. The Professor had to carry her into daycare every morning, asleep on his shoulder.

Part of me feels terribly guilty, of course. I hate that everyone struggles while I am away. There’s nothing more heart wrenching than hearing a plaintive voice on the telephone asking me to come home. I’m scared that when they are older, my girls will spend hours complaining to their therapists about how their mother abandoned them for her art, which, let’s be honest, is not world-changing, particularly lucrative, or great. I’m not re-inventing the form. It’s just what I have chosen to do with my particular gifts at this point in history when a middle-class woman with a willing partner has the privilege of doing so.

mom and child-walk-hand-in-hand-through-sand-dunes

Another part of me, however, doesn’t feel guilty at all. This part hopes that when they’re all grown up, my girls will do the same. I hope they create art, grow cities, make scientific discoveries or religious ones. I hope they leave their kids with their partners or with their parents in order to travel to Bosnia, because they want to apprentice with a Bosnian basket weaver for a spell, and I hope they have partners who understand and appreciate the importance of Bosnian basket weaving. And yes, I hope they aren’t shitty parents who lose all perspective over Bosnian basket weaving and ignore their kids. I mean, God forbid they turn out to be little narcissists who follow every whim to the ends of the earth. But I have to believe that there’s a time and a place for playmaking, for spiritual retreat, for building a museum on a distant shore, indeed, for Bosnian basket-weaving, because whether good, great or mediocre, the act of creation is important.

What about you? How do you balance working away from home with providing consistency for your kids? How do you feel about it?

Catherine Trieschmann is a playwright living in Kansas with her husband and two children. Her play The Most Deserving can be seen this year at the Denver Center Theater for Performing Arts and off-Broadway with the Women’s Project Theater.  This post originally appeared on Howlround