Category Archives: stage

Fountain Theatre, East West Players will make magic in ‘Hannah and the Dread Gazebo’

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Creation myths and family histories meld in a wildly theatrical, startling new comedy that explores what it means to walk the edge between cultures. The Fountain Theatre, in association with East West Players and with generous support form the S. Mark Taper Foundation, presents the California premiere of Hannah and the Dread Gazebo by Jiehae Park. Los Angeles Drama Critic’s Circle Award-winner Jennifer Chang (Vietgone) directs for an Aug. 17 opening at the Fountain Theatre in East Hollywood, near Koreatown, where performances continue through Sept. 22.

Set in NYC and Korea in the winter of 2011, just before the death of Kim Jong Il, Hannah and the Dread Gazebo takes Hannah’s Korean American family on a surreal, funny and heartbreaking adventure back to their roots in South and North Korea and the forbidden Demilitarized Zone that divides them.

“The play is a funny-tragic look at what it means to be caught in between,” says Park. “The characters are striving to reconcile the contradictions of their immigrant lives: North/South, past/future, coming/going.”

Monica-Hong

Monica Hong

Thirty-something Hannah, played by Monica Hong (Ivanov at the Mint Theater in NYC, Please Stand By at Actor’s Playpen in LA), is two weeks away from becoming a board-certified neurologist when she receives a FedEx box from her grandmother with two things inside: a 100% bona-fide-heart’s-desire-level wish — and a suicide note. Hannah’s father (Hahn Cho, recently seen on TV in For the People, Magnum P.I., Swedish Dicks) and mother (Elaine Kao — upcoming feature film Paper Tigers, recurring on Netflix’s No Good Nick) have already moved back to South Korea to be near Grandma at the Sunrise Dewdrop Apartment City for Senior Living, which sits right on the edge of the DMZ. Meanwhile, Hannah’s slacker brother, Dang (Gavin Lee, whose credits include Blood, written and directed by Robert Allan Ackerman, and a recurring role on Fox’s The Orville) bonds over music with a student activist played by Wonjung Kim (Korea Musical Award for Best Actress, Ovation nominee for The Last Empress in L.A). In this strange and wonderful play that is a mix of unexpected whimsy, delightful comedy, profound despair and more than a little bit of magic, actress Jully Lee (Ladies at Boston Court, tokyo fish story at South Coast Rep) appears in many forms.

Helping make that magic happen is the Magic Castle’s Dominik Krzanowski, who will create original illusions for the production. 

Hannah and the Dread Gazebo premiered at the 2017 Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, where the Mail Tribune called it “blisteringly original, acerbically funny, powerfully dramatic and deeply thought provoking… If you’re keen to have your mind expanded by an evening of theater that is not going to be comparable to anything you’ll see anytime soon, Hannah and the Dread Gazebo is a good place to start.”

Last week, the American Theatre Critics Association announced that Hannah has been selected as one of three finalists for its prestigious Francesca Primus Prize, sponsored by ATCA and the Francesca Ronnie Primus Foundation.

“I saw the world premiere in Ashland and was completely charmed by the play,” says Fountain Theatre co-artistic director Stephen Sachs. “I was enchanted by its whimsical, dreamlike surprises, and truly moved by its poignant revelation of a grandmother, mother and daughter relationship. Once the lights came up and the performance was over, I knew I wanted to present it at the Fountain.”

Sachs continues, “The Fountain is committed to diversity and inclusion, which makes this first-time partnership with East West Players very meaningful. It’s an invigorating sharing of resources, artists and audiences benefiting both companies and the communities we serve.”

“We are honored to partner with the Fountain on this production,” agrees East West Players artistic director Snehal Desai. “EWP first did a reading of the play in 2013, also directed by Jennifer Chang. The Fountain is a theater whose work and mission I have always admired; this seemed like the perfect project for our two companies to collaborate on, with its mix of humor, theatricality and timeliness.”

The creative team for Hannah and the Dread Gazebo also includes scenic and video designer Yee Eun Nam, lighting designer Rebecca Bonebrake, sound designer/composer Howard Ho, costume designer Ruoxuan Li and props designer Michael Allen Angel. The production stage manager is Bryan P. Clements.

jiehae park

Playwright Jiehae Park

Jiehae Park’s plays include peerless (Yale Rep premiere, upcoming in NY at Primary Stages), Hannah and the Dread Gazebo (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), Here We Are Here (Sundance Theater-Makers residency, Berkeley Rep’s Ground Floor, Princess Grace Works-in-Progress @ Baryshnikov Arts Center), The Aves (McCarter Spotlight Series) and contributions to Wondrous Strange (Humana/Actor’s Theatre of Louisville). Her work has been developed through the Soho Rep Writer-Director Lab, The Public’s Emerging Writers Group, p73, Playwrights Horizons, NYTW, Atlantic, Old Globe, Dramatists Guild Fellowship, Ojai, BAPF, CTG Writers Workshop, Banff Playwrights Lab, ACT New Strands, and Ma-Yi Writers Lab. Awards: Leah Ryan, Princess Grace, Weissberger, ANPF Women’s Invitational; two years on the Kilroys List. Commissions: Playwrights Horizons, Yale Rep, Geffen, OSF, Williamstown, MTC/Sloan. Residencies: MacDowell, Yaddo, Hedgebrook, McCarter/Sallie B. Goodman. She is a NYTW Usual Suspect, Lincoln Center New Writer in Residence, former Hodder Fellow, and current New Dramatists. As a performer recently: Ripe Time/Naomi Iizuka’s adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s Sleep (BAM Next Wave, Yale Rep); Celine Song’s Endlings (A.R.T.). She was a staff writer on season one of Marvel’s Runaways and currently teaches Playwriting at Princeton University. BA, Amherst;
MFA, UCSD.

Jennifer Chang

Jennifer Chang

Jennifer Chang won the 2019 LADCC award for excellence in direction for her work on the Los Angeles premiere of Qui Nguyen’s Vietgone. She was a 2018 Drama League New York directing fellow and was the assistant director for the Broadway world premiere of Bernhardt/Hamlet by Theresa Rebeck starring Janet McTeer. Ms Chang’s multi-disciplinary work has been honored with Ovation, LA Weekly and the Stage Scene LA awards, among others. She is a founding member of Chalk Repertory Theatre where she served as artistic producing director and produced, directed and acted in numerous plays over the course of eight seasons. Upcoming directing credits include Where the Mountain Meets the Moon at South Coast Repertory and The Time of Your Life at Antaeus Theatre Company. Select directing credits include Death & Cockroaches by Eric Reyes Loo (Chalk Rep at Circle X/ Atwater Village Theatre); 53% Of by Stephanie Del Rosso and Birds of North America by Anna Moench for the Wagner New Play Festival; Animals Out of Paper at East West Players (Los Angeles Times “Critics Pick”); Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them for Artists at Play (GLAAD Media Award and Ovation-nominated); and Residence Elsewhere, commemorating the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066 at the Japanese American National Museum. She is very active in the development of new plays with the Geffen Playhouse, Chance Theater, Circle X Theatre Company, EST/LA, Playwrights Arena and East West Players.

The Fountain Theatre is one of the most successful intimate theaters in Los Angeles, providing a creative home for multi-ethnic theater and dance artists. The Fountain has won hundreds of awards, and Fountain projects have been seen across the U.S. and internationally. Recent highlights include all-star readings of Ms. Smith Goes to Washington and All the President’s Men at Los Angeles City Hall and the inclusion of the Fountain’s Citizen: An American Lyric in the Music Center’s Our L.A. Voices festival at Grand Park. The Fountain’s 2018 productions of The Chosen and Arrival & Departure each enjoyed months-long sold out runs and was named a Los Angeles Times “Critic’s Choice.” The company’s West Coast premiere of Martyna Majok’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Cost of Living, was named to the Los Angeles Times’ “Best of 2018” list. Its current production, Daniel’s Husband, was named a Los Angeles Times “Critic’s Choice” and is enjoying an extended, sold-out run.

As the nation’s premier Asian American theater organization, East West Players produces artistic work and educational programs that foster dialogue exploring Asian Pacific Islander (API) experiences. Founded in 1965, at a time when APIs faced limited or no opportunities to see their experiences reflected outside of stereotypical and demeaning caricatures in the American landscape, EWP not only ensures that API stories are told, but works to increase access, inclusion, and representation in the economy.

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VIDEO: Highlights of awesome week one of ‘Walking the Beat’ at Fountain Theatre

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Looking to restore empathy in the world? Here’s where you find it.

My beautiful picture

Terrylene and Freda Norman. Sweet Nothing in my Ear, Fountain Theatre, 1997.

By Stephen Sachs

Whatever happened to empathy in this country?

A candidate for President mocks a person with physical disabilities on national television — and still gets elected.  Undocumented children are pulled from their parents and locked into cages. Hateful tweets fly between rich celebrities. Insulting attacks are vomited on TV talk shows. Demeaning personal smears splatter across the blogosphere. Women are shamed, minorities are assaulted. Those with the power to do good seem indifferent to the suffering of others.  Fewer care to consider what it’s like to walk in another person’s shoes, to entertain the notion that others may feel the way they do for reasons that are understandable and valid from their point of view. Common respect for another human being seems as rare today in public life as a sighting of Bigfoot.

What can you do? How can you counteract today’s lack of empathy?

Turn off cable news. Switch off your smartphone. And go to the theatre.

Not because the display of human behavior from the stage will be any prettier. Don’t forget, the fundamental element of drama is conflict. Even so, no matter how tragic, a good play is a pathway to empathy. That’s because theatre doesn’t just manufacture empathy, it depends on it. Without empathy, theatre not only fails, it doesn’t exist.  Here’s why:

Every play that has ever been written asks the same fundamental human question:

“What is it like to be someone else?”

That’s it.

During a recent Sunday panel discussion on NBC’s Meet the Press, political columnist Matt Bai stated, “This is a presidency entirely without empathy.” Trump, he added, “seems to be a person who is entirely without empathy. Whatever his strong suits or weak suits, he does not have the ability to feel personally and deeply the suffering of others.”

Empathy is a skill that everyone could do well to develop and maintain whether President or not, and theatre, an art where the purpose is to explore what it means to be human, is an excellent teacher. Its in-the-moment human interaction makes theatre one-stop shopping for empathy.

In the performance of a play, the current of empathy runs two-fold. The actors pretend they are somebody else while the audience imagines what it must be like to be them. This remarkable double-shot of empathy brings mutual benefit: the attention of both actor and audience is focused on someone other than themselves. The fears, passions and needs of another human being become their own. Performers achieve this skill through years of training. Audiences have empathy thrust upon them.

In a 2012 study, researchers Thalia Goldstein and Ellen Winner assessed empathy levels in elementary and high school students who had received one year of theatre. They found that those who had studied acting for the year showed the most significant growth in empathy scores.

In the past 20 years, psychologists and neurologists have started to look at how empathy actually works, in our brains and our hearts. Fritz Breithaupt, a professor at Indiana University who studies empathy, says one thing he found is that “one of the strongest triggers for human empathy is observing some kind of conflict between two other parties.”

Sound familiar? Conflict is the essence of drama?

All of the hateful me-first narcissistic rhetoric of today doesn’t just give empathy a back seat, it tosses it out of the car entirely. The feeling now seems to be: Why should I put myself in the shoes of someone who is not me? Why waste my empathy on those not deserving? On someone older or younger? More rich or poorer? From another country? Another color? Gender? Sexual preference? The new rule seems to be: Reserve your empathy only for those who are like you which, by definition, isn’t empathy at all.  In this twisted thinking, a lack of empathy is a show of power, self-reliance, a way to make a stand against the imagined danger of “the other.”

I believe our humanity is enhanced if we can learn to see the world through the eyes of a migrant child. A homeless woman. A person of a color not our own. And we are blessed with the opportunity to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling by going to the theatre.

People often confuse the words “sympathy” and “empathy”.  Sympathy describes feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune. Empathy puts you in their shoes. Which is also the difference between a good play and a great play.  A good play makes you feel sorry for a character. A great play makes you see life through their eyes.

On day one of first rehearsal of any play, in any city in any state in this nation, an actor or actress of any age, gender, race or sexual identity will open the first page of their script for the first time, find the role they are playing, and ask themself the same question: Who is this person?

And the door of empathy opens.

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

HBO supports Fountain Theatre’s cops/kids program ‘Walking the Beat’ with $10,000 gift

WTB Group Day One

Cops, kids and staff of Walking the Beat at the Fountain Theatre.

The Fountain Theatre is pleased to announce that HBO is making a generous contribution of $10,000 to support Walking the Beat, the Fountain’s educational arts program that brings together LAPD police officers and inner city students over an 8-week period to write and create a theatre piece that they perform themselves.

“We are thrilled to welcome HBO to the Fountain Family,” says Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs. “HBO’s pedigree in providing ground-breaking, high-quality entertainment is matched by its commitment to young people and communities nationwide. Walking the Beat is an innovative program that uses theatre to promote empathy, self-expression and empowerment.”

HBO’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility Dennis Williams explains the cable network’s philosophy of giving as “how we can do the best with the resources that we have.”

“If you’re in a position of power or privilege, the question you should always ask yourself is, ‘Are you using your powers for good?’” continues Williams. “At HBO, we’re in a position to inspire change and start conversations in a way that others might not be able to do themselves. We must use our powers for good.”

Walking the Beat was devised by Theo Perkins and Angela Kariotis at Elizabeth Youth Theater Ensemble in New Jersey. HBO supported the project there for three years, and continues its sponsorship with the Hollywood program at the Fountain.

HBO and EYTE join other sponsors and partners for Walking the Beat at the Fountain, including the Hollywood Police Activities League,  Los Angeles City College Theatre Academy, Deborah Culver, The Vladimir and Araxia Buckhantz Foundation, Dorothy Wolpert, Robert and Carrie Meadow, the Central Hollywood Neighborhood Council, Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell and District 13, and Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and District 3.

Home Box Office is the oldest and longest continuously operating pay television service in the United States, with 140 million subscribers worldwide as of 2018. HBO’s Corporate Social Responsibility team unites employees, talent and non-profit partners to elevate social issues connected to communities. At the heart of HBO’s effort  is a passion for making a difference, to use its platform to educate, inspire thoughtful action and help make the world a better place.

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‘Hannah and the Dread Gazebo’ a finalist for American Theatre Critics Association Prize

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Hannah and the Dread Gazebo by Jiehae Park, opening at the Fountain Theatre on August 17th in its Southern California Premiere, has been named a finalist for the Francesca Primus Prize, sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association and the Francesca Ronnie Primus Foundation.  The award, presented annually since 1997, recognizes the best work by an emerging woman playwright who has not yet achieved national prominence.

Hannah and the Dread Gazebo earned glowing reviews in its recent world premiere at Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.

“Masterful! So powerful and indescribably beautiful.” – Stanford Daily 

“This is theater as it should be — blisteringly original, acerbically funny, powerfully dramatic and deeply thought-provoking.” – Mail Tribune

jiehae park

Playwright Jiehae Park

In the funny and poignant play, Hannah is two weeks away from becoming a neurologist when she gets a strange package in the mail from her grandmother in South Korea, who may or may not have just ended her own life. A surreal adventure leads Hannah on a journey back to her homeland and the forbidden Demilitarized Zone that divides South and North Korea. A startling comedy about a daughter, a mother, a grandmother and the mystery that connects them.

The Fountain Theatre partners with East West Players in the Southland premiere directed by Jennifer Chang. As the nation’s premier Asian American theatre organization, East West Players produces artistic works and educational programs that foster dialogue exploring Asian Pacific experiences.

Named in honor of Francesca Primus, a playwright, dramaturg, theater critic, and ATCA member who died of cancer in 1992, the Primus Prize was originally administered through the Denver Center Theatre Company. Since 2002, ATCA has adjudicated the award, which includes a $10,000 grant presented through the generosity of the Primus Foundation as well as a plaque for the winning author. The winner will be announced in July.

VIDEO: House Manager Richard Horton loves his job, and the people he greets at the Fountain

House Manager Richard Horton loves his job at the Fountain Theatre. You’ll love Richard after watching him work behind the scenes, greeting patrons, and serving as the Fountain goodwill ambassador.

Fountain Theatre awarded $25,000 grant from the Shubert Foundation

FT night cars 2018The Fountain Theatre is pleased to announce a grant award from the Shubert Foundation in the amount of $25,000 for general operating support to the organization. The Shubert Foundation provides grants only to organizations that have an established artistic and administrative track record, as well as a history of fiscal responsibility.

The award marks the fourth consecutive year that the Fountain Theatre has received support from the Shubert Fountain. Each year the award amount has increased.

“We are very pleased and proud of our association with the Shubert Foundation,” commented Fountain Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs.  “The Shubert name is synonymous with excellence in the American Theatre. We sincerely thank the Shubert Foundation for its ongoing support.”

The Shubert Foundation is especially interested in providing support to professional resident theatre companies that develop and produce new American work.

“We want to help lift some of the financial burden,” said Foundation Chairman, Philip J. Smith. “So that the companies we support are able to focus on producing thought-provoking, relevant work for the widest possible audience.”

This year, The Shubert Foundation has awarded a record total of $30 million to 533 not-for-profit performing arts organizations across the nation. This marks the 38th consecutive year that the Foundation has increased its giving. The Shubert Foundation, Inc., was established in 1945 by Lee and J.J. Shubert, in memory of their brother Sam. Since the establishment of the Shubert Foundation grants program in 1977, over $443 million has been awarded to not-for-profit arts organizations throughout the United States. 

Smash hit ‘Daniel’s Husband’ extends to July 28 at Fountain Theatre

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Tim Cummings, Bill Brochtrup and Jenny O’Hara in Daniel;s Husband.

The Fountain Theatre’s acclaimed Southern California Premiere of Daniel’s Husband by Michael McKeever will extend to July 28. Hailed as Critic’s Choice in the LA Times and highlighted as Ovation Award Recommended, the comedy/drama about a gay couple wrestling with the issue of marriage has earned rave reviews and sold-out houses from the night it first opened May 4.

There is the rule of law, and there are the laws of the heart. Which do we follow and when? Daniel and Mitchell are the perfect couple. What isn’t so perfect is that Daniel desperately longs to be married, but Mitchell doesn’t believe in it. Michael McKeever’s funny, passionate and poignant play takes an unflinching look at how we choose to tie the knot — or not.

Daniel’s Husband is directed by Simon Levy, starring Bill Brochtrup, Tim Cummings, Jose Fernando, Ed Martin, and Jenny O’Hara.

CRITIC’S CHOICEABSORBING… THE ACTORS ARE WONDERFUL… [ACROWD PLEASER” — Los Angeles Times

A PERFECT 10WITTY, REALISTIC, HEART-RENDERING” — Broadway World

GO SEE DANIEL’S HUSBAND’… THESE ARE SOME OF THE FINEST ACTORS IN L.A.” —KCRW 89.9 FM

AS CLOSE TO PERFECT AS ONE MIGHT ENVISION…. WRENCHING, REAL, FLAWLESSLY STAGED, STIRRINGLY PERFORMED” — Cultural Weekly

OUTSTANDING… PERFECTLY SCRIPTED. ACTED AND DIRECTED” — Culver City News

A REMARKABLE SCRIPT… TRUE LIFE, TRUE FRIENDSHIP AND TRUE DESPAIR” —Discover Hollywood

SUPERIOR… AN EXCITING PIECE OF QUALITY THEATRE” — Hollywood Revealed

WOW!… [ALAUGH-OUT-LOUD-THEN-GET-OUT-YOUR-HANKIES STUNNER… NOT-TO-BE-MISSED” — Stage Scene LA

EXQUISITELY WRITTEN, SUPERBLY DIRECTED AND EXCELLENTLY PERFORMED” —Will Call for Theatre

TREMENDOUSLY ENTERTAINING AND WELL-WRITTEN… A TERRIFIC SHOW” — Los Angeles Post

RELEVANT AND AFFECTING” — Stage Raw

ABOUT LOVE… the ABSOLUTE BEAUTY of McKeever’s story rings true” — On Stage Los Angeles

INSISTENTLY MOVING… CRISP AND TIMELY” — People’s World

A FINE PLAY WITH SOMETHING TO SAY… EXCELLENTLY PERFORMED” — San Diego Gay & Lesbian News

TWO THUMBS UP” — Carol’s Reviews

RESONATED LONG AFTER THE FINAL MOMENTS” — Showmag

RELEVANT AND UNIVERSAL” — Stage and Cinema

A VERY FINE PRODUCTION” — Talkin’ Broadway

GUARANTEED TO LEAVE YOU MOVED AND EMOTIONALLY EXHAUSTED” — Ticket Holders LA

BREATHTAKING… A TRULY EXCEPTIONAL CAST… TIMELY AND PROVOCATIVE” — Billy Masters.

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Audience picks Round 2 winner of Fountain Theatre’s Rapid Development Series

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George Roland, Paul Burt and Anna Baumgarten read “Eldritch” at Fountain Theatre.

Monsters Are Made by Hannah C. Langley was voted by audience members as the Round 2 winner in last week’s 5th Annual ‘Rapid Development Series for Young Writers. In Langley’s playRicki is faced with a difficult set of questions when Hunter, her rapist and former friend, forces his way back into her life a year after he’s declared not guilty in the court of public opinion.

As the winning script, Monsters Are Made will receive a professional staged reading at the Fountain Theatre later this month.

Langley explains the journey of writing Monsters Are Made:

After years of telling the story of my own “bad experience” with a former friend in a hotel room as a short comic anecdote, I realized that it was anything but funny. It was terrifying, but the only way I could process that level of betrayal for a long time was by rewriting it, sanitizing it, making it into something you could talk about at a party. What I really needed to do (and what I’ve tried to do with this play) was keep rewriting it—researching and raising the stakes—until the story wasn’t about what happened to me anymore. It needed to be someone else’s. It needed to be Ricki’s and it needed to be Hunter’s. And, I hope, even though it’s no longer my story, it’s a more truthful one.”

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Playwright Hannah Langley outside the Fountain Theatre.

Hannah C. Langley is an emerging playwright, screen and television writer from Valencia, California. Her plays approach political topics on a personal scale. With a mix of magic and modern technology, Langley creates protagonists who are young, female-identifying, and on the verge of finding themselves. Her USC thesis play, Losing My Religion (in 140 Characters or Less), received a workshop production at USC, staged readings at Cypress College and the Pasadena Playhouse, and was recorded as a podcast by At the Table: A Play Reading Series, featuring Broadway’s Abby Church, Max Crumm, Aneesh Sheth, and Tony nominee Isabel Keating. The play has since earned semifinalist status in both The Road and Sanguine Theatre NYC’s summer play festivals.

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Created and produced in 2014 by James Bennett and Jessica Broutt, The Fountain Theatre’s Rapid Development Series is designed to showcase the work of previously unproduced, Los Angeles-based playwrights under the age of 30.

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Video: Rave reviews for ‘Daniel’s Husband,’ a “perfect 10” at Fountain Theatre

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