Twenty months ago, the Fountain Theatre was forced to close in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Downstairs our stage was dark. Upstairs the café was empty. It was an unimaginable time.
All of that has changed now. The success of preventatives (vaccines, masks, etc.) have allowed theatres to finally re-open with safety measures in place, and so last week the Fountain flung open its brand new double front doors to accept audiences back to our beloved indoor stage. There, on Andrew Hammer’s picturesque set for a British seaside cottage — beautifully lit by Christian Mejia, detailed by props designer Shen Heckel and sound designer Marc Antonio Pritchett, and costumed by Naila Aladdin Sanders — we introduced Lucy Kirkwood’s 2018 Tony-nominated play, The Children, to Los Angeles theatre-goers. Twenty months is a long time…and when the pre-show recording welcomed everyone back, the audience erupted in spontaneous cheers and applause!
The Children, directed by Simon Levy, is set in the afterworld of a life-threatening, and wholly preventable, environmental disaster. Also an unimaginable time. Long-married Hazel (Lily Knight) and Robin (Ron Bottitta), both retired nuclear engineers who worked at the local power plant, have moved to this isolated cottage following an explosion at their former workplace. Their pick-up-the-pieces quiet coastal life is upended, however, by the arrival of Rose (Elizabeth Elias Huffman), an old friend and fellow co-worker, who arrives with secrets and surprises that bring even more upheaval and fireworks.
Saturday, November 6th, was the official Opening Night for The Children. Following a thrilling performance, folks headed upstairs to our charming café for a tasty reception courtesy of Butler Pantry Catering. The entire building was filled with joyous embraces, vibrant conversation, and laughter and gratitude for being back together again.
Please enjoy these photos from our LA premiere production of The Children and the Opening Night reception. For information and to make reservations, CLICK HERE.
Terri Roberts is a freelance writer and the Coordinator of Fountain Friends, the Fountain Theatre’s volunteer program. She also manages the Fountain Theatre Café.
What is our responsibility to the future? What legacy do we want to leave? The Los Angeles premiere of The Children, written by Lucy Kirkwoodand directed bySimon Levy, asks those questions and more in its Los Angeles premiere at the Fountain Theatre. Performances begin on the Fountain’s indoor stage (with all health and safety guidelines strictly adhered to) on Saturday, Nov. 6. The run continues through Jan. 23.
Kirkwood’s funny and astonishing Tony-nominated play is a taut and disquieting thriller about responsibility, reparation and what one generation owes the next. With the outside world in chaos following a devastating environmental disaster, two retired nuclear engineers live a quiet life in a remote cottage on the lonely British coast — until a surprise visit from a former colleague upends the couple’s equilibrium and trust.
The cast includes Ron Bottitta(Hir, Faith Healer,Arsenic and Old Lace, The Arsonists at the Odyssey Theatre; Superior Donuts, Yes, Prime Minister at the Geffen; Oppenheimer, Honky, Razorback at Rogue Machine Theatre, where he also hosts the company’s Rant and Rave spoken word series);Elizabeth Elias Huffman (artistic director of Chain Reaction Theatre in Pittsburgh, most recently seen on stage in The Oldest Profession by Paula Vogel at Portland’s Profile Theatre); and Lily Knight (Ovation, LADCC and Stage Raw award nominee for A Small Fire at the Echo Theater Company; A Delicate Balance at the Odyssey; Three Days in the Country, The Crucible, Peace in Our Time, The Autumn Garden at Antaeus, where she is a member).
“What I love about the play,” says Levy, “is that it tackles these enormously important contemporary issues about our responsibility to the planet, to each other, to future generations, and grounds them in funny, complex, identifiable characters grappling with a moral dilemma that, quite frankly, all of us are confronting, right now, in real time.”
“The nuclear disaster the town is struggling to survive could be anything — it could be COVID, or climate change,” says Fountain artistic director Stephen Sachs. “The moral dilemma is: what world are we leaving to our children?”
The Children premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 2016, then transferred to the Manhattan Theatre Club on Broadway the following year. In 2019, The Guardian placed The Children on its list of “greatest theatrical works since 2000.” London’s The Independent called millennial playwright Kirkwood “the most rewarding dramatist of her generation.”
Proof of vaccination and mask-wearing will be required of all patrons. Admittance limited to ages 12+. All current CDC and local guidelines regarding seating and masks will be followed at each performance.
‘Broomstick’ set design by Andrew Hammer (photo by Ed Krieger)
Jenny O’Hara’s mesmerizing solo performance in our acclaimed LA Premiere of Broomstick has been rightly hailed by critics as a “tour-de-force”. The same can certainly be said of the extraordinary set design by Andrew Hammer. Andrew has created an absolutely enchanting witch’s cottage that is magically rich, detailed and charming and somehow manages to be both spooky and inviting at the same time. Audiences have been marveling and buzzing about the marvelous set after each performance. We thought you’d like to meet the guy who created the set — and all the buzz.
Andrew received his training at Pacific Conservatory Theatre and has designed sets throughout Southern California. In addition to set design, he is currently a paint and color specialist at Walt Disney Imagineering.
What drew you to accepting to design Broomstick?
First and foremost, the setting of the script was really exciting to me. A Disney-esque witch’s cottage in the woods? What could be more interesting to design? The recommendation of the Fountain from designer Brad Kaye was also a huge coup.
When you first read the script, what did you think?
My first reaction was “Oy Vey! It’s in verse?” But like so many works, it is an entirely different beast when it is read out loud by an actor. And with Jenny performing it? Well, she transforms it
What is your normal process in designing a set? Was Broomstick typical of your process or different?
Well, there really isn’t a “normal” process. What was specifically atypical about the Broomstick process was that [director] Stephen Sachs had a very clear idea of what he wanted and also an amazing sketch to communicate it. I’ve never received so much from a director before. A designer’s ultimate goal is to give the director what he wants, so it was like receiving Cliff’s Notes and made my job so much easier. Of course, I’m an artist and have a (GIANT) ego, so I did have some changes to make it my own. So much of the time, directors don’t know what they want. They can tell you what they don’t want, but that’s usually after you’ve drawn it.
What were the challenges of designing the set?
Unlike larger theaters that we learn about and cultivate our craft in at school, 99-seat houses in LA are always … well … unique, small and never ideal spaces, almost never designed as theaters. I initially envision the set way too large, and then it is a process of scaling it down to something that can fit within the space, and serve all the needs of the show. I wanted the set to be able to “transform” when she is in the thick of her stories, but budget and time and other factors designated that most of that needed to happen through lighting.
What influences did you want to bring into your design? What elements were important to you?
Stephen was also specific that he wanted a Disney look, which is a look I know well. I wanted to make the Witch’s cottage quaint, and beautiful, in a spooky way. I wanted to physically manifest her lack of sanity presenting her cottage as messy, and look like a period episode of Hoarders.
One of the fantastic elements of the set is all the marvelous and detailed set dressing. Where did all that terrific stuff come from?
I happen to be a Halloween aficionado, and I’ve been creating fake candles since I was eighteen so all of the candles and lanterns come from my own collection. I have [props/set dressing designer] Misty Carlisle to thank for letting me take over the set dressing, because I just went crazy with it. The endless amount of stuff onstage is a combination of the Fountain’s stock, borrowed items, and endless shopping at thrift stores. I like to get my hands dirty and don’t have the luxury of a greens man, so I took to nature to find branches, weeds and those pesky leaves that always get caught on Jenny’s dress.
How was your collaboration with the director and other designers?
Stephen is very clear at communicating what he wants, yet open to ideas. He’s very passionate and would very frequently perform moments of the show and describe what he wanted to happen. His excitement was infectious and made it very easy to get into. [Lighting designer] Jennifer Edwards and I have worked together so much, she is like a sister to me. I’m very spoiled that she’s realized that as long as I get what I want, I’m happy, and everyone else is going to be better off. She still manages to give the director everything he needs, make the show look stunning, and with only 24 channels? It’s baffling.
Your set for Broomstick is earning rave reviews from critics and generating a lot of excited response from audiences who see it. Does that give you pleasure? How does it feel to have a set design that evokes such enthusiasm?
Its very exciting, and it feels very good to get that praise. The finished set created a lot of very hard work for a lot of people, not just myself. There are moments when I feel people, and myself wondering… “Why are you creating this much work?” It’s wonderful to have that sigh of relief and realize that all the hard work has not gone unnoticed.
What is your current job at Disney Imagineering? What do you do? Do you enjoy it?
I’m a paint and color specialist with Imagineering and, yes, I am loving it. It was a dream since I was a child to work there and, by now, it’s a really pleasant surprise to have it happen. Because of my background in design, I’ve already been given buying and set dressing opportunities.
What projects do you have coming up in the future?
Design projects as fun as Broomstick are rare, so right now I’m concentrating on being at Disney full time. I’m involved with a number of super secret projects right now, including Disneyland Shanghai, and have already been asked to go to Shanghai, which would be very exciting!
Jenny O’Hara in ‘Broomstick’ at the Fountain Theatre
The Fountain enjoyed a night of magic last Saturday, Oct 18th, with the opening night of the funny and sinister solo play Broomstickstarring the bewitching Jenny O’Hara. The performance was wonderful and mesmerizing, followed by a lively catered reception upstairs in the cafe. Written by John Biguenet and directed by Stephen Sachs, Broomstick is a delightful play about an eccentric old lady who lives in the deep, dark woods who folks in town believe is a witch. A treat for the Halloween season, Broomstick runs to Nov 30th.
After the opening night performance, a party was held in our upstairs cafe highlighted with food, drink and hearty cheers of celebration. Joining actress Jenny O’Hara at the party were the Fountain production and artistic team, director Stephen Sachs, producers Simon Levy and Deborah Lawlor, associate producer James Bennett, designers Andrew Hammer (set) and Jessica Edwards (lighting), dialect coach Tyler Seiple, Jenny’s daughter Sophie Ullett, friends Jane Anderson and Tess Ayers, actress Jacqueline Schultz, and Fountain subscribers and audience members. A great time was had by all.
Enjoy These Snapshots from the Opening Night Party
Broomstick Now Playing to Nov 30th (323) 663-1525MORE
Is She Really A Witch? Whatever Happens, She’ll Put a Spell On You …
Trick or Treat. Director Stephen Sachs and actress Jenny O’Hara (Bakersfield Mist) reunite for the wickedly entertaining, spine-chilling West Coast premiere of Broomstick by John Biguenet. A funny, poignant and “spell” binding tale about the magic of the human heart, Broomstick opens at the Fountain Theatre on Oct. 11.
Set in Appalachia and written entirely in verse, Biguenet’s charming and mesmerizing solo play introduces us to a wacky, bizarre old woman living in an odd little shack deep in the woods… who just may happen to be a witch. Creepily funny and frightening, she takes us back to our childhoods when, in our innocence, we first wrestled with good and evil. As she unveils her life, we journey with her down a shadowy path somewhere between our material world and the realm of fantasy. But this is no Hansel and Gretel fairytale; in Broomstick, justice is meted out swiftly and harshly.
“In the course of this crazy old lady’s attempt to explain and justify herself to an unexpected visitor, certain truths come out,” says Sachs. “It’s up to the audience to decide how much is fact and how much is imagined – and to what extent all of our realties are influenced by what is in our heads and in our hearts.”
Jenny O’Hara in ‘Broomstick’
Broomstick was first produced in a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere by New Jersey Repertory Company (Long Branch, NJ), Montana Repertory Theatre (Missoula, MT) and Southern Rep (New Orleans, LA) with support from the National New Play Network’s Continued Life of New Plays Fund. “Broomstick doesn’t settle for just entertaining… the show shocks with moments of unexpected insight… Biguenet’s writing [is] so skillful that you might not even realize the play was written in verse until you’re already fifteen or twenty minutes into it,” wrote the TriCity News.
Jenny O’Hara was last seen at the Fountain in the long-running Bakersfield Mist, written and directed by Sachs. She has starred on Broadway in the female version of The Odd Couple, The Iceman Cometh, Promises, Promises, The Kid and The Fig Leaves Are Falling. Regional and L.A. credits include 4000 Miles and Our Mother’s Brief Affair (South Coast Rep), Seder, Little Egypt The Musical and The Bold Girls (Matrix), The Body Of Bourne (Taper), Lanford Wilson’s Sympathetic Magic; the LADCC-nominated Book Of Days at Theatre Tribe, and the Drama-Logue award-winning The Fox. TV credits include Big Love; King of Queens; Costello; Life’s Work; My Sister Sam; NCIS; The Closer; House; Cold Case; CSI; Nip/Tuck; Grey’s Anatomy; Ghost Whisperer; Six Feet Under; The Practice; and If These Walls Could Talk 2. Films include M. Night Shyamalan’s Devil; Heartbeat; Ridley Scott’s The Matchstick Men; Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River; Forty Shades of Blue; Two Weeks; Jonathan Toomey; How To Make Love To A Woman; Hit List; Extract; Angie; andCareer Opportunities. She is a founding member of EST (Ensemble Studio Theatre) in N.Y.C. and L.A., and is also a member of the Matrix and Theatre Tribe Companies.
Stephen Sachs is a multi-award winning director and playwright. His play, Bakersfield Mist, which he directed at the Fountain starring Jenny O’Hara and Nick Ullett, recently completed a successful run in London’s West End with Kathleen Turner and Ian McDiarmid. Other directing credits include the Los Angeles premiere of My Name Is Asher Lev; Completeness by Itamar Moses, starring Jason Ritter; Warren Leight’s Side Man starring Christine Lahti and Tony-winner Frank Wood; a three-city tour in China directing Top Secret for LA Theatre Works; the L.A. premiere of Conor McPherson’s Shining City (LA Weekly Award); the world premiere of Miss Julie: Freedom Summer at the Fountain, Canadian Stage Company (Toronto), Vancouver Playhouse and Edinburgh Fringe Festival; Euripides’ Hippolytos at the Getty Villa in Malibu, Gilgamesh at Theatre @ Boston Court, West Coast premiere of String of Pearls at the Road Theatre, Arthur Miller’s After the Fall (4 Ovation awards including Best Production and Best Director), Sweet Nothing in My Ear (Fountain Theatre, Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago, Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis), and many others. Sachs has a special relationship with Athol Fugard, who calls the Fountain his “artistic home on the West Coast,” and has directed the premieres of six of the master playwright’s works including the U.S. premieres of The Blue Iris and The Train Driver (LA Weekly Award, Best Director); West Coast premiere of Coming Home (Best Director, LA Weekly award); U.S. premiere of Victory (NAACP Award, Best Director); world premiere of Exits and Entrancesat the Fountain (Ovation and LA Drama Critics Circle awards, Best Director) and Off-Broadway at Primary Stages in New York (NY Outer Critics Circle nomination Best New Play); and L.A. premiere of Road to Mecca. Sachs has twice won the LA Ovation Award for Best Director of a Play and has been twice nominated for the SDC Zelda Fichandler Award, recognizing an outstanding director who is making a unique and exceptional contribution to theatre in their region. He co-founded The Fountain Theatre with Deborah Lawlor in 1990.
John Biguenet made his mark as a fiction writer around 2000 when Ecco (an imprint of HarperCollins) published his story collection, “The Torturer’s Apprentice,” and a novel, “Oyster.” In the past decade, he has focused on theater, producing a string of plays including a Katrina-themed trilogy about the flooding of New Orleans —Rising Water (2007), Shotgun (2009) and Mold (2013) — that has been the subject of articles in American Theatre, The American Scholar and elsewhere. He was awarded a Marquette Fellowship for the writing of Night Train, his new play, which he developed on a Studio Attachment at the National Theatre in London and which premiered at New Jersey Rep Theatre in 2011. In 2008, Biguenet was named Theatre Person of the Year at the Big Easy Theatre Awards, the region’s major professional theater awards. He received the Louisiana Writer Award in 2012. Having served twice as president of the American Literary Translators Association and as writer-in-residence at various universities, he is currently the Robert Hunter Distinguished University Professor at Loyola University in New Orleans.
Set design for Broomstick is by Andrew Hammer; lighting design is by Jennifer Edwards; sound design is by Peter Bayne; costume design is by Shon LeBlanc; prop design and set dressing are by Misty Carlisle; dialect coach is Tyler Seiple; associate producer is James Bennett; and the production stage manager is Terri Roberts.
Broomstick opens on Saturday, Oct. 11 and continues through Nov. 30, with performances Thursdays,Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., except Friday, Oct. 31, when audience members are invited to “trick or treat” at the Fountain with an early curtain at 6 p.m. – come in costume! Preview performances take place Oct. 4 through Oct. 10. For reservations and information, call 323-663-1525 or click here.
Director Stephen Sachs shares his vision with the company.
Wicked Fun in New Play About a Mountain Witch
Do you believe witches can be real? We had a delightful one with us at the Fountain this Saturday for the first meet & greet rehearsal for our upcoming West Coast premiere of the new play Broomstick by John Biguenet, starring stage/film/TV veteran Jenny O’Hara. In this funny and poignant new solo play directed by Stephen Sachs, Jenny O’Hara plays an eccentric old woman who may, in fact, be a witch.
Set in Appalachia and written entirely in verse, this charming and mesmerizing solo play is about a wacky old lady living in a odd little shack who just may happen to be a witch. Jenny O’Hara (Bakersfield Mist) returns to the Fountain in this funny, poignant and spell-binding tale of the magic of the human heart.
‘Broomstick’ set design by Andrew Hammer
First rehearsal was this Saturday, August 23, and a good time was had by all. Director Stephen Sachs spoke about his vision for the play and producer Simon Levy guided the company through the production paperwork. Also present at the first reading were co-artistic director Deborah Lawlor, associate producer James Bennett, designers Andrew Hammer and Misty Carlisle, dialect coach Tyler Seiple, technical director Scott Tuomey, stage manager Terri Roberts, box office manager Jessica Brout, intern William Sachs, and publicist Lucy Pollak. Once the opening business was done, actress Jenny O’Hara read the script marvelously. Jenny, of course, is well known and loved by Fountain audiences for her memorable performance in the smash hit Bakersfield Mist, and recently earned rave reviews in 4,000 Miles at South Coast Repertory.
Preview performances of Broomstick start October 2nd. The West Coast Premiere opens at the Fountain Theatre on October 11 and runs to Nov 30. More info and order tickets.