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Our stage is the soul of the Fountain, but I feel the cafe is its heart

Cafe colorful May 2017by Terri Roberts

Friday, March 13th, was a very strange day.

I run the Fountain Theatre’s charming upstairs café. Normally, Fridays at the Fountain would be the start of a five-show weekend through Monday night. Six, if we had a Sunday evening Flamenco show as well. There would be a palpable energy in the air.

But on Friday, March 13th, LA’s growing COVID crisis had become critical. The public portions of the theatre – the stage and the café – had been shuttered. The offices were being closed as well.

I should have been working on Friday, March 13th. By 4pm, Pandora would have been rocking one of my favorite show tune stations, and I’d have been singing along with Wicked and A Chorus Line and Into the Woods behind the closed café door as I got the coffee going, bagged chips and cookies for sale, and chatted with local baker Tracy Green when she delivered her weekly order of scrumptious organic mini muffins. I would have caught up with staff when they wandered in for coffee or a snack. I would have arranged fresh flowers on the café tables. Watered the plants out on the deck. Set out food items, made sure the fridge was stocked, and ensured there was plenty of wine on the back counter.

By 6:30pm, actors would have been dropping by to say hello, and get a pre-show caffeine fix as they ate their dinner. If patrons had arrived early, I would have invited them to have a seat and get comfortable while I finished setting up. We would have talked about the show they had come to see and where they had traveled from to see it. Long distance drives from Orange County, Santa Barbara, and Long Beach are not uncommon (and on a Friday night, no less!) Patrons of the Fountain are extremely loyal, and LA’s notorious Friday night traffic has never stopped any of them from persevering to see a great show.

I’d have set out fresh creamer for coffee by 6:45pm and cut fresh lemon wedges for tea. I’d have changed the music to something more appropriate for the show, and turned on the video monitor to run the scroller of past Fountain Theatre productions. I’d have clicked on the twinkle lights draped around the café and the deck, and lit the votive candles that add such warmth and invitation to the space. The stage would have been set. Lights and sound would have been ready. I would have opened the door to let the audience in.

HIS Opening Night

Opening night of Human Interest Story, Feb 15, 2020.

 

It would have been another Friday night at the Fountain Theatre café. Engaging with patrons. Stepping out from behind the bar to hug a friend who had come to see the show. Getting buzzed off the buzz in the room. And answering a barrage of questions about past productions:

  • What was that wonderful play about the painting? Either Bakersfield Mist or My Name is Asher Lev. Both featured a painting and had storylines about art.
  • What was the show about the Latino restaurant workers? I couldn’t stop thinking about it. My Mañana Comes. Yes, a lot of people had that reaction.
  • What was the one about the border wall and the guy in prison? Building the Wall.
  • Do you remember the show about the Black girl who was a runner? Sure! It was In the Red and Brown Water, by Tarrell Alvin McCraney. It was the first play in his Brother/Sister trilogy. We also did the second one in that series, The Brothers Size.

Theatre. History. Story-telling. Energy. Friends. Connecting the dots. And, of course, lots of coffee. These were my Friday nights at the Fountain. Until Friday, March 13th. When everything changed.

I have happily worked at the Fountain for over a decade. I’ve been part of dozens of shows in a variety of capacities: production/assistant stage manager, props designer, casting associate, costume maintenance and more. For the past two years I have also been the manager of the charming Fountain Theatre café. I must say, I absolutely love it.

I run the café as I run a show, and I am nourished by it in the process. I am fed by the support of our devoted patrons, by sharing stories of past productions, by greeting first time visitors who inevitably want to know how long we’ve been around, what kinds of shows we do, and, ultimately, how they can become a member. And then there is the question I hear all the time, from guests old and new: will the café ever be open outside of show times? (Answer: it is a long-distance dream.) I feel gratitude every time I’m asked that, because it means they’re comfortable in this charming, funky space. They tell me how much they love the rainbow tables and walls, the gallery of production photographs, the mismatched collection of couches and chairs, the open deck with the hummingbird feeder and the little garden and the view to downtown LA. They want to hang out all day long. They feel a sense of peace, of connection in the space.

IMG_3164Kitchens are often referred to as the heart of a home, and the café is the gathering place of the Fountain Theatre. The room where we all come together to share meals, to talk, to take meetings and to rest. The stage downstairs is the soul of the Fountain. But the café, I believe, is its ever-beating, ever-welcoming, wide-open heart.

So for now, while this pandemic reigns, my Friday nights are different. It’s been nearly four months since I didn’t work that Friday night in March – and I feel it. I miss the energy, the shows, the patrons, the actors, the laughter and the hugs, the fellowship and the connection. But in time, we will tell our stories again. In time, the theatre will open up again. In time, we will gather in the café again. That charming rainbowed place of nourishment and peace and of welcoming home. And in time, we’ll re-connect to each other, again.

Fountain Theatre honored with 3 Ovation Award nominations for ‘My Mañana Comes’

MY MAÑANA COMES

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

Full list of nominees

Fountain Theatre celebrates triumphant run of hit new play ‘My Mañana Comes’

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The final bow . Standing ovation!

After earning rave reviews, an Ovation Recommendation, recognition from the Fringe Festival and strong audience response, our Los Angeles Premiere of My Mañana Comes completed its glorious 11-week run on Sunday afternoon. The sold-out final performance was followed by a joyous catered reception.

Written by Elizabeth Irwin and directed by Armando Molina, the play brought to life the friendship and conflict between four busboys working in an upscale restaurant. The fabulous cast featured Richard Azurdia, Pablo Castelblanco, Peter Pasco and Lawrence Stallings.

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The Fountain audience leapt to its feet in a standing ovation for the final performance on Sunday, then joined the company upstairs in our cafe for a post-show party. 

“We’re very proud of this production, ” beamed Co-Artistic Director Deborah Lawlor. “A riveting play about important issues performed brilliantly by a powerful cast. Who could ask for more?”

Next up at the Fountain: the West Coast Premiere of Tennessee Williams’ Baby Doll

PHOTO SLIDESHOW: Playwright Elizabeth Irwin enjoys ‘My Mañana Comes’ and audience Q&A

BG 5Playwright in the house! The Fountain Theatre was pleased to host Elizabeth Irwin at Saturday night’s performance of our acclaimed LA premiere of her play, My Mañana Comes. Irwin enjoyed watching her play and joined director Armando Molina, movement director Sylvia Bluish  and the cast in a Q&A  Talkback with the audience immediately after the performance.

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Elizabeth Irwin

“Watching the Fountain Theatre’s production of my show was being able to see the most beautiful connection of movement, emotion, design and direction one could hope for as a writer,” says Irwin. “It was an honor to have my work staged at the Fountain and a deep pleasure to be able to connect with their very thoughtful and whip-smart audience.” 

Moderated by Fountain producing Director Simon Levy, the post-show discussion included questions to the playwright and actors about the issues of immigration, undocumented workers and fair pay that are dramatized in the play. There was also conversation about the creative process. The chat was lively, insightful, and often lifted with humor.

When the Q&A concluded, Irwin and company gathered in our upstairs cafe for drinks, chat and more laughter. Another wonderful evening at the Fountain.

My Mañana Comes dramatizes four busboys in a fancy New York restaurant as they juggle plates, immigration and their friendship. The Fountain LA premiere has earned rave reviews and runs to June 26th. 

It was a pleasure having New York-based playwright Elizabeth Irwin with us and we look forward to having her back. Perhaps with another new play?

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More Info/Get Tickets

 

NEW! Production photos from LA Premiere of ‘My Mañana Comes’ at Fountain Theatre

MY MAÑANA COMES

Lawrence Stallings, Pablo Castelblanco, Richard Azurdia, Peter Pasco

Enjoy these new production photos from our LA premiere of My Mañana  Comes by Elizabeth Irwin, directed by Armando Molina. Starring Richard Azurdia, Pablo Castelblanco, Peter Pasco and Lawrence Stallings. Tonight is our final preview. We officially open tomorrow night, Saturday April 16th.

In My Mañana Comes four busboys in the kitchen of an upscale restaurant learn the hard way how to deal with pay cuts that could jeopardize their dreams for a better life, their dignity and their friendship. Fast-paced, hip and funny, the play brings to colorful life the camaraderie, sharing of dreams, competition and traitorous backstabbing that climaxes with a powerful dramatic turn at the end. Immigration, the minimum wage crisis, rights for undocumented workers, and citizenship lie at the center of this fast-moving, funny and powerful new LA premiere that examines the true meaning of ”home” and how far we’re willing to go to get there.

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Photos by Ed Krieger

My Mañana Comes Now playing to June 26 (323) 663-1525  MORE

PHOTO SLIDESHOW: the magic of donuts and tech weekend for ‘My Mañana Comes’

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Design and production team at work during tech weekend.

There are no two ways about it. Tech rehearsals are a long, incremental process. Light cues are programmed into computers, sound levels are meticulously adjusted, set and prop elements are continuously added, costumes are inspected under actual lighting. Actors work out the timing of cues, all under the eye of the director. It can be a slow, repetitive and exacting undertaking.

 

donutsOver 26 years, we have found the key to a successful Tech Weekend: donuts. Lots of them. Actually, our three sacred virtues of Tech Weekend are Diligence, Patience and a Sense of Humor. The cast, design and production team for My Mañana Comes demonstrated all three last weekend as we began integrating the design elements into our upcoming LA Premiere.  

 

The play takes place in the kitchen of an upscale New York restaurant. Michael Navarro’s red brick and stainless steel set design creates the environment. The seating at the Fountain has been restored to its original configuration (we were in-the-round for Dream Catcher) and the audience is expected to feel like fine diners with theatre programs designed like restaurant menus.

My Mañana Comes is a funny and fast-paced new play about four busboys in a fancy bistro who juggle plates, their friendship and chase the American Dream. Written by Elizabeth Irwin and directed by Armando Molina, our LA premiere stars Richard Azurdia, Pablo Castelblanco, Peter Pasco and Lawrence Stallings.  It runs April 16 – June 26.

Enjoy these photos from Tech Weekend

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My Mañana Comes April 16 – June 26  MORE/Get Tickets

Playwright Elizabeth Irwin: putting a human face on timely issues with ‘My Mañana Comes’

 

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Elizabeth Irwin

The funny and powerful new play, My Mañana Comes brings to colorful life the friendship and competition between 4 busboys working in the kitchen of an upscale New York restaurant. The play was hailed “Terrific” by the NY Daily News. The Los Angeles Premiere opens at the Fountain Theatre on April 16.   

Playwright Elizabeth Irwin worked for years alongside these overworked and under-appreciated foundations of the service industry. Here in her own words, Elizabeth Irwin shares why she decided to tell their story, and her inspirations and aspirations for My Mañana Comes and the rest of her writing.

What was the initial inspiration behind My Mañana Comes?

I was inspired to write this play to put the question of what a political issue like undocumented immigration actually means to people who are directly affected it, both those who are undocumented and those who work alongside and have relationships with them. I worked in the restaurant industry for a long time and am fortunate to be able to chronicle this story.

What makes this story important? What makes these characters so interesting to you, even though their backgrounds are so different from your own?

Instead of looking at the interests of someone like a politician around the issue of immigration, this story looks at the people it actually affects and explores the complications and nuances of their lives. These characters and this story are interesting to me because they’re human – none of them are perfect and none of the conflicts exist in a clearly black and white way.

You’ve been a teacher in both New York City and Mexico. What attracted you to teaching?

It’s not so much an attraction as a propulsion. I believe deeply in the power of education and the relationships between teachers and students to expand the choices of students and to remove limitations. Education as a tool to erase inequality is something the keeps me up at night. (Though I’m currently working on a play about this which fortunately is giving me a healthy outlet so I can sleep more!)

The play is set in New York, but it feels very relevant to California. Is the story of undocumented immigrants in America different in different parts of the country? What does your play say about the American Dream?

I think there is a common thread which is that when one is willing to make a change as drastic as leaving behind one’s country, one’s family, everything one knows, the stakes of success are much higher. That being said, “success” can mean different things to different people and this play looks at those differences because there is no one immigrant story. I hope this play sheds light on just how challenging it is to simply survive in the U.S. We can talk about the American Dream as something that you can achieve through hard work but we must also acknowledge the enormous amount of luck it involves and that the circumstances that one is born into has an enormous effect on whether it can be realistically achieved.

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The cast of ‘My Manana Comes’ at Fountain Theatre

Who did you write this play for and why?

Like everything I write, this was something I couldn’t stop thinking about or talking about and eventually you get tired of just having conversations about something and you sit down and try to make some art that can reach an audience and get people to think about things beyond their own everyday experience. This play is for everyone who cares about their fellow human and wants to understand them better. I hope this play inspires conversation, compassion, action, and/or acknowledgement of one’s privilege, depending on how it relates to an audience member.

The Los Angeles Premiere of My Mañana Comes runs April 16 – June 16.  MORE/Get Tickets 

This post originally appeared: Marin Theatre Company

New Video: Meet actor Richard Azurdia from ‘My Mañana Comes’ at Fountain Theatre

MY MAÑANA COMES runs April 16 – June 26  More Info/Get Tickets

PHOTO SLIDESHOW: LA Premiere of the funny & powerful LA Premiere ‘My Mañana Comes’

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Four busboys in a fancy NY restaurant juggle plates, immigration and their friendship in our LA premiere of this funny and fast-paced new play about chasing the American Dream and how far you’re willing to go to get it. 

My Mañana Comes by Elizabeth Irwin, directed by Armando Molina, opens April 16 and runs to June 26. Featuring Richard Azurdia, Pablo Castelblanco, Peter Pasco, and Lawrence Stallings.  

Enjoy these new photos! 

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