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The Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP Branch this week announced its nominees for the 28th Annual NAACP Theatre Awards. The nominating committee is one year behind in its honoring process, only now selecting theatre productions opening January 2017 through December 2017.
The Fountain Theatre’s acclaimed 2017 Los Angeles Premiere of Runaway Home by Jeremy Kamps has earned three NAACP Theatre Award nominations:
- Best Choreography – Janet Roston
- Best Director – Shirley Jo Finney
- Best Supporting Actress – Karen Malina White
The mission of the Theatre Awards is to entertain, educate, and inspire the community and create diversity in the arts and entertainment industry. The branch also celebrates a four-day theatre festival, which provides a platform for theatre-makers to share their craft with an audience of their peers, the community and other individuals who celebrate live theatre in Los Angeles.
The 28th Annual NAACP Theatre Awards will be held on Monday, June 17, 2019, 6:00 p.m. at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. More information
Psychologist Carl Jung introduced the word “synchronicity”, coining it to describe a “meaningful coincidence,” when unrelated events seem to happen for a reason. Synchronicity is something you feel. When, for no outward reason, the stars align and the right people come together at the right time and the result is something meaningful and long lasting.
Synchronicity is what occurred with the cast of the 2012 Fountain Theatre LA premiere of Tarell Alvin McCraney‘s In the Red and Brown Water. Magic happened not only on stage. Friendships were formed seven years ago that remain strong to this day. And three actresses from that cast — Simone Missick, Maya Lynne Robinson and Diarra Kilpatrick — are now enjoying a blossoming of their TV careers at the same time. Coincidence? We don’t think so.
Simone Missick, last seen at the Fountain in Citizen: An American Lyric, co-starred on the Netflix TV series Luke Cage as Misty Knight. She just signed the lead role in the new CBS legal drama pilot Courthouse.
Diarra Kilpatrick is the creator and star of American Koko, an ABC digital original series, earning her an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy/Drama Series, Short Form. She created, wrote, and starred in the comedy pilot The Climb for Amazon, and is set to star in a new comedy for Showtime opposite Keenen Ivory Wayans.
We asked these three dynamic actresses to share their thoughts on In the Red and Brown Water, and how theatre can form bonds that last a lifetime.
In the Red and Brown Water, Fountain Theatre, 2012.
What was it about In The Red and Brown Water that created such close ties?
MLR: For me, it stemmed from the fact that I was 3 months new in town and didn’t have a foundation/tribe yet. In the Red and Brown Water was the first project I was cast in once I moved to LA. I met these wonderfully creative and down-to-earth people and when you find those type of people, you shouldn’t let them go.
SM: I think what started at the table, with our director, Shirley Jo Finney, had a huge impact in creating a family amongst the cast and crew. To be able to discuss the play, the characters, inside and out and know that you were working with artists who took the work as seriously as you, made us all feel like we were experiencing something different and special. We knew we could trust one another onstage, and that trust helped us to build bonds as artists and as friends. But there is also a level of divine placement when it came to that production. Each of us were appointed to be there for those six plus months, for only God knows the reason, and to then be a part of each others lives. We’ve been there for each other through marriages, babies, cross country moves, and amazing work opportunities. It is just one of those special blessings, that so many of us gelled, and we found sisters and brothers, aunties and cousins in one another.
DK: I do believe [director] Shirley Jo Finney brought together a great group of not only artists but people. It was a joy playing with them and I’m grateful that we’ve s formed such loving, supportive bonds. We made a family and even though that’s common in the theater, this is a particularly special group of artists. Every one of us has continued to grow as artists and as people, I mean to the person. And I’m so, so proud of us.
What’s your favorite memory from that production?
MLR: Singing warm ups and prayer together before the show. There was something about our vibration that made me happy to do the show with these people every day for almost six months.
SM: There are sooooo many. Some of them stay in the vault. But one of them is Maya Lynne stomping her feet to get some of our other (not as rhythmically gifted brothers) on beat. She earned a nickname from that.
With whom from the cast have you most stayed in touch?
SM: All of us are on a text message chain that we connect through. This past Valentine’s Day, we all sent silly pictures to say we loved each other. I had the fortune to work with Shirley Jo four more times after that production, and she is such a special influence in my career and in my life. Our stage manager, Shawna and I have worked together again. I love that girl. Diarra and Maya Lynne are people that I talk to more often. We are all around the same age, experiencing some of the same career “firsts”, and we are always shooting each other a text of congratulations and cheering one another on. But the Red Brown family got together for a Christmas brunch, and FaceTimed with Stephen Marshall who moved to NY, so he wouldn’t be left out. We just love each other!
MLR: Whether we speak daily or once a year, we all pick up right where we left off. We have text message chains during holidays and big events. We try to have a reunion whenever possible. Half of us got together for a reunion earlier this year.
What is it about theatre — and the Fountain Theatre in particular — that creates a feeling of family?
MLR: There is a sense of family at the Fountain Theatre. From the exterior and interior style all the way to the intimacy of the spaces, the Fountain Theatre fosters closeness, authenticity and talent.
SM: Live theatre is an experience like no other. It is the artist’s equivalent to trapeze work, but the net is your fellow cast members. You are sailing through the air, with the audience there witnessing you doing emotional gymnastics, and every moment is alive and terrifying and electrifying. The intimacy of the Fountain leaves no room for hiding. You have to be vulnerable and authentic at every turn. That experience is one that creates a bond with your acting partners, because you are all there being honest and alive together.
DK: In The Red and Brown Water was a beautiful experience. I remember being in church and was particularly prayerful about opening myself up to new opportunities and challenges and ways to express myself. After service, Erinn Anova came up to me and said she was helping to cast a play at the Fountain and wanted to make sure she brought me in for it. She had seen me in something else and thought I’d be right for the lead. I so badly had wanted to work at The Fountain and with Shirley Jo. So, every step of the Red/Brown journey felt as synchronistic as that. Like it was meant to be. Like magic.
SM: I’ve managed to keep my Red Brown family close through it all. It truly was an experience of a lifetime that I will always cherish.
NOW CASTING: Four roles (two disabled) for Pulitzer Prize winner ‘Cost of Living’ at Fountain Theatre
Winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play. West Coast Premiere at the Fountain Theatre, Los Angeles.
STORYLINE: Achingly human and surprisingly funny, Cost of Living is a haunting, rigorously unsentimental play about the forces that bring people together and the realities of facing the world with physical disabilities. Unemployed truck driver Eddie is struggling to rebuild a relationship with his estranged wife Ani, recently wheelchair-bound with a spinal cord injury. Jess, in a job that she desperately needs, is trying to navigate her duties with John, her new boss with cerebral palsy. But, who is really caring for whom? By shattering stereotypes, the play reveals how deeply we all need each other.
SUBMIT ELECTRONICALLY TO: Stephen Sachs email@example.com
Submission Deadline: 08/24/2018
Producer/Theatre Company: Stephen Sachs, Fountain Theatre
Director: John Vreeke
Writer: Martyna Majok
Audition Date(s): 08/27/2018 – 08/29/2018
Rehearsal Date(s): 09/17/2018 – 10/16/2018
Preview Date(s): 10/17/2018 – 10/19/2018
Opening Date(s): 10/20/2018
Closing Date(s): 12/16/2018
4-show week. Performances Fridays 8pm, Saturdays 8pm, Sundays 2pm, Mondays 8pm.
[EDDIE] 40 to 50 years old, Black/African American male. Ani’s ex-husband; an unemployed truck driver who doesn’t allow himself the luxury of self-pity; funny, engaging and playful; kind, would have made a great uncle for someone; working class, rough around the edges. Seeking actors of color for this role.
[ANI] Seeking an actress who is a wheelchair user or with mobility disability for this role. 35 to 45 years old, open ethnicity, female. Eddie’s ex-wife; working class from North Jersey; she has a spinal cord injury because of a recent car accident and now uses a wheelchair; quadriplegic, though has some function in one hand; intense and brusque; hilariously foulmouthed, it’s her way or the highway, and she won’t hesitate to tell you so; a strong sense of self; dry sense of humor. This role requires partial nudity.
[JESS] 25 to 30 years old, ethnicity open, female. John’s new caregiver; down-to-earth, working class; first-generation from an immigrant family; went to Princeton but has fallen on hard times. Overworked, under- qualified, and nearly homeless, she has a lot of potential but is working three jobs and still living paycheck-to-paycheck; a tough cookie, skittish, perhaps a bit too quick to defend herself. Seeking actors of color for this role.
[JOHN] Seeking a disabled actor for this role. 25 to 30 years old, male. A good-looking and very intelligent doctoral student; has cerebral palsy; uses a wheelchair and requires the assistance of a part-time caregiver. A rich grad student at Princeton, has the confidence and polish of a guy who comes from money; quick witted with a blunt sense of humor; he has a slight speech impediment due to the tension of his cerebral palsy. This role requires nudity.
SUBMIT ELECTRONICALLY TO: Stephen Sachs firstname.lastname@example.org
Academy Award winning actress Marlee Matlin enjoyed seeing the Fountain Theatre’s world premiere of Arrival & Departure, hailing the innovative romantic drama as “magic” and “brilliant.” After the performance, Matlin congratulated the cast and company and sat down with Abby Guerra of Fountain Films to share her excitement about the new play.
Written and directed by Stephen Sachs, Arrival & Departure stars Deanne Bray and Troy Kotsur. Highlighted as Critic’s Choice in the Los Angeles Times, the acclaimed production runs to September 30th.
Actresses Amy Pietz, Victoria Platt, Suanne Spoke, and Sabina Zuniga Varela will combine their versatile talents to play the same lead character in a special reading of Natural Shocks, Lauren Gunderson’s funny and powerful new play on gun violence and gun control, at the Fountain Theatre on Friday, April 20th at 11:19am. Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs directs.
The timing is intentional: April 20 is the 19th anniversary of Columbine and the day of the National School Walkout, organized by the student activists in Parkland, Florida. The reading at the Fountain Theatre starts on April 20th at 11:19am, the date and exact time of the Columbine shooting.
“The Fountain Theatre has a long history of social and political activism,” explains Sachs. “Our celebrity reading of All the President’s Men at LA City Hall and our world premiere of Robert Schenkkan’s Building the Wall are recent examples. With Lauren’s play, I believe we need to add our voice, as theatre artists and citizens, to the national outcry of young people across the country against gun violence and advocate for gun control in this country.”
Amy Pietz has appeared in over 300 episodes of television, most recently starring opposite Jason Alexander on Hit The Road. She was a series regular on No Tomorrow, The Nine Lives of Chloe King, Aliens in America, Rodney, The Weber Show, Muscle and Caroline in the City (SAG Award Nomination for Best Actress in a Comedy). She has had recurring or guest starring roles on: You’re The Worst, The Magicians, The Office, Trust Me, Maron, How To Get Away With Murder, Dexter, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and many others. Film roles include those in The Year of Spectacular Men, Halfway, Prom, The Pact II, Autumn Leaves, Rudy, Jingle All the Way, Dysenchanted, Jell-Oh Lady, The Whole Ten Yards, and others. Her favorite theatre credits include: Stupid Fucking Bird at the Theatre @ Boston Court (Ovation Award, LA Drama Critics Circle Award), The Boswell Sisters at The Old Globe Theatre, Christmas In Naples at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, Lobby Hero at the Odyssey Theatre (Ovation nominated), Fiorello and Company (Ovation Award nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Musical). Currently producing a film on gun control called Bodyman, Amy is passionate about getting guns off of our streets.
Victoria Platt is currently in Antaeus Theatre Company’s production of Native Son. THEATRE: Jelly’s Last Jam (BROADWAY), Building the Wall and Roxy in Cyrano (Fountain Theatre), Venice (Public Theater & Kirk Douglas Theatre – Ovation Award Nom), Sammy (Old Globe), Pippin (Mark Taper Forum, Asphalt (Red Cat), Atlanta (Geffen). Select TV/FILM: Major Crimes, Bones, The Mentalist, Castle, Criminal Minds and contract roles on both All My Children & Guiding Light; H4 (adaptation of Henry IV which she co-produced with Harry Lennix & Terrell Tilford) and as Josephine Baker in HBO’s Winchell. Upcoming film: #Truth (Charles Murray dir.), The Gleaner (opp. Angus MacFadyen, Harry Lennix dir.), Interference, Framed and CW’s Lucifer.
Suanne Spoke has an extensive career in theatre, television & film, appearing in the critically acclaimed film Whiplash and starring in the feature film Wild Prairie Rose, winning multiple awards on the festival circuit. On television Suanne recurred on Switched at Birth, Famous in Love and has guest-starred on many others. She can currently be seen recurring on General Hospital. She has performed at numerous theatres and has won every major acting & producing award in Los Angeles including three-time recipient of the Ovation Award/Lead Performance by an Actress. She was most recently seen in the West Coast premiere of Athol Fugard’s Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek at the Fountain Theatre. Suanne serves on the faculty at the California Institute of the Arts, teaching acting in the Graduate Film Directing program.
Sabina Zuniga Varela, a native New Mexican based in Los Angeles, is an artist, educator and organizer committed to the path of social justice, authentic representation and storytelling. She is an award winning theatre actor with an MFA from the University of Southern. California. She also holds an MA in Special Education with a focus on twice-exceptional/gifted learning. She is currently a producing director for the LA based theatre company: By The Souls of Our Feet. Most recently she was seen on stage at The Oregon Shakespeare Festival & Portland Center Stage in the title role of Luis Alfaro’s Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles and was seen in Season 3, Episode 3 of ABC’s American Crime.
Based on Hamlet’s “To be or not to be,” Natural Shocks is a classic Gunderson play: a 60-minute tour-de-force that bursts to life when we meet a woman waiting out an imminent tornado in her basement. She overflows with quirks, stories, and a final secret that puts the reality of domestic violence and guns in America in your very lap. The play is part confessional, part stand up, and part reckoning.
“The play is written as a solo play for one actress,” explains Sachs. “I have Lauren’s permission to have four actresses read the role, as one voice. Together, they are one woman — and all women. I think having the play read by four women adds diversity, theatricality and a stylized musicality that is worth exploring.”
“I wrote the story to continue to push the narrative away from the perpetrators of gun violence and toward the people whose lives are lost, shattered, and shadowed because of it. So many of these people are women. And there is such a tight connection between violence against women and gun violence,” insisted Gunderson.
Gunderson is right: the connection between domestic violence and gun violence is well documented. More than half of the mass shootings from 2009-2016 involved a partner or family member. Nearly half of American women who are murdered are killed by their intimate partners. American women are 16 times more likely to be killed by a gun than women in other developed nations. The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that the woman will be killed. In short, domestic violence and grievances against women are the “canary in the coalmine” for gun violence. Any effort to end gun violence must address domestic violence as well.
Lauren M. Gunderson is the most produced playwright in America of 2017, the winner of the Lanford Wilson Award, the Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award and the Otis Guernsey New Voices Award, she is also a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and John Gassner Award for Playwriting, a recipient of the Mellon Foundation’s 3-Year Residency with Marin Theatre Company, and a commissioned playwright by Audible. She studied Southern Literature and Drama at Emory University, and Dramatic Writing at NYU’s Tisch School where she was a Reynolds Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship. Her work has been commissioned, produced and developed at companies across the US including South Cost Rep (Emilie, Silent Sky), The Kennedy Center (The Amazing Adventures of Dr. Wonderful And Her Dog!), Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The O’Neill, The Denver Center, San Francisco Playhouse, Marin Theatre, Synchronicity, Berkeley Rep, Shotgun Players, TheatreWorks, Crowded Fire and more. She co-authored Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley with Margot Melcon, which was one of the most produced plays in America in 2017. Her work is published at Playscripts (I and You, Exit Pursued By A Bear, The Taming, and Toil And Trouble), Dramatists (The Revolutionists, The Book of Will, Silent Sky, Bauer, Miss Bennet) and Samuel French (Emilie). Her picture book Dr Wonderful: Blast Off to the Moon was released from Two Lions / Amazon in May 2017.
Sold out for four months and extended for the second time, Building the Wall and the Fountain Theatre have even more to celebrate: the return of Victoria Platt to our Fountain stage. Last seen at the Fountain as Roxy in Cyrano, you may recognize her from such popular TV shows as All My Children and The Chicago Code. Taking over the role of Gloria in our smash hit world premiere of Building the Wall, Platt begins performances this Saturday, June 24th. This second and final extension runs to August 27th.
In between her crazy rehearsal schedule, Victoria took time to talk about her roots, her love for the Fountain Theatre, and the importance of theatre in the age of Trump’s America.
Where are you from? What’s your background?
I was born and raised in Queens, NY to a Polish father and West Indian mother. I have 8 siblings and there was 1 bathroom. That says it all! I started performing as a kid and then attended the High School of Performing Arts in Manhattan (the Fame school). I enrolled at Hunter College but work kept rolling in and I chose work.
What initially drew you to this project/script?
I heard about the production and how amazing it was but I was in a play at the same time so didn’t get a chance to see it. Then Simon Levy (Fountain Theatre’s Producing Director) emailed me about auditioning for the extension. I know Robert Schenkkan’s work and this play in particular is beyond relevant for our time so I was really excited about the possibility.
After the election, many theatre artists declared that their work was more important than ever. Do you agree with this and how does Building the Wall relate?
I do agree. There was a time when the common goal of artists was to challenge, to awaken, to question the status quo and hopefully incite change. At some point it became about foreign sales and social media followers and witty sound bites. This election seemed to remind the artistic community of our responsibility in the world. Why most of us got into this business to begin with. Building The Wall is looking directly at the issues and asking some really important questions.
What is it like to join a hit production that has been sold out for four months?
It’s like trying to jump onto a moving train! A bit challenging. I’ve done this before however, with The Fountain’s production of Cyrano. My goal is to find that delicate balance between giving the other actors a familiar anchor while also honoring the truth of my own interpretation and performance. Bo and [director] Michael Michetti have been really wonderful in allowing me the space to find things on my own as well as offer the tried and true shortcuts. I’m not too proud to take a short cut!
How does it feel coming back to the Fountain Theatre?
I love The Fountain; seeing productions here and working here. They’re really dedicated to bringing thought provoking and challenging work to the community. They’re actively involved and take responsibility for making the world a better place in a tangible way, all the way down to providing a stamped and addressed postcard that patrons can send to the president! It makes working with them even more inspiring and I feel compelled to match their dedication, passion and commitment.
The year is almost over . One thing 2016 made clear is the diversity of our country. Different cultures, communities, points of view. And a great need to understand, respect and connect with each other.
We believe theatre serves a critical role in creating empathy and deepening understanding between people. We believe that by telling personal, human stories that dramatize lives from different communities, we stop seeing those cultures as “the other”. There is no “other”. There is only ourselves. Together.
Troy Kotsur and Deanne Bray are two fabulous actors and members of our Fountain family. You’ve seen them both on TV, in film, and on our stage. You were dazzled by Troy’s lead performance in our Sign Language/English world premiere of Cyrano. And before achieving the ground-breaking lead role in her own TV series, Deanne earned her first professional stage acting job at the Fountain Theatre twenty-five years ago. They now have an eager message to share with you. Take a look and enjoy!