Tag Archives: arts

Britney Spears and climbing to the theatre arts summit

LA county Arts Interns Summit 2019

2019 LA County Arts Interns Summit at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

by Melina Young

I’m scared.

Terrified in fact. There, I said it.

But really, who isn’t?

It may come as a shock to absolutely no one that to be a recent college graduate is legitimately terrifying. I can almost hear Britney Spears’s dulcet (if a bit nasal) tones reminding me that, “I’m not a girl / Not yet a woman.” She knows something I don’t… or rather she knows something that I do know but that I am trying desperately to avoid admitting.

Britney Spears

“I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman.” Britney Spears (2002)

The Los Angeles County Arts Commission’s 2019 Arts Summit asked me to look Britney square in her wide set, brown eyes dusted with early 2000s glitter and acknowledge that we are the same—not girls; and not yet fully-grown.

It’s true. I will proclaim it loudly in my best Britney Spears impression (which, to my dismay, is not that good).  Britney and I have something else in common—something that she demonstrates in her 2002 smash hit—we’re both artists.

I have to take a moment here to thank LACAC for organizing day jam-packed with illuminating events and with equally (if not more) illuminating fellow interns.

LA county Arts Interns Summit 2019 2

2019 county arts interns touring downtown Los Angeles.

I’ll continue my momentary digression by commenting on what a relief it was to look at the 2019 class of 203 LACAC arts interns sitting around me and see that the room was not overwhelmingly white and male. This was markedly different from my experience in college and was a refreshing reminder of what it actually looks like to be an Angelino.

Back to Britney.

To be clear, my goal is not to be a pop star, but it is no less ambitious. My goal is to have a fulfilling and sustaining career in theatre. That’s no easy trick.

Here’s what my whole Britney device was leading me toward: Is it possible to give good, actionable advice to someone in my situation? I don’t have an answer to my question. And I’m not sure that I’ve encountered someone who does. I hope that doesn’t sound ungrateful, because I AM GRATEFUL.

Melina Young 3

Melina Young at the Fountain Theatre.

Overwhelmingly grateful. And at the same time, I’m still terrified. I don’t think anything that anyone could say or do would change that. Unless what they do is hand me a contract and what they say is: “Hi, I’ll be your agent for life and I can magically promise you job security, longevity, financial stability, and artistic fulfillment.”

That does happen, but only for the lucky few.

Here’s what’s heartening. Despite the fact that the odds are against us, Arts Summit represented the coming together of two hundred and three arts interns (out of four thousand applicants I might add) who are pursuing the arts in bold defiance of those odds.

We believe in ourselves; and what’s more, we believe in one another.

I think that’s what we might call hope and courage. Fear that’s said its prayers. Sure, it’s hard to be a recent college grad that wants to be an artist. But I’ll take it because I get to be hopeful and courageous and I’m in fabulous company. That’s exciting.

To my delight, I think I encountered good, actionable advice in my LACAC peer group. (I won’t name names to protect the innocent.) Here it is:

Sometimes making art feels like screaming into the void. That’s frustrating; but scream anyway, and use that frustration to scream louder.

So I’m screaming. I hope it’s loud enough that you heard it.

Melina Young is our 2019 summer intern at the Fountain Theatre. Our thanks to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the LA County Arts Commission for its Arts Internship Program.

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

More Info

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.

More Info on Walking the Beat

VIDEO: Actor/teacher Theo Perkins visits Hollywood High School for Fountain’s ‘Walking the Beat’

Take a look as actor/teacher Theo Perkins visits Hollywood High School to interview students for the Fountain Theatre’s new educational outreach program, Walking the Beat. Our innovative program will bring together ten students from six high schools with five LAPD officers, using theatre as a tool to create understanding and empathy.

In partnership with Elizabeth Youth Theater Ensemble, Hollywood Police Activities League, and the Los Angeles City College Theatre AcademyThe Fountain Theatre will introduce Walking the Beat, a summer theater arts based program for inner city high school youth and police officers in the Hollywood area. This pioneering arts education program, originated by New Jersey’s Elizabeth Youth Theater Ensemble in 2016, and now expanding into Hollywood with The Fountain Theatre, will provide transformative experiences for police officers and underserved youth in Hollywood. Utilizing performing arts as a vehicle for youth empowerment and community building, Walking the Beat has transformed lives with a results-based arts education methodology and curriculum. This 10 week program builds confidence, character, communication skills, and community. Walking the Beat inspires — in students and officers alike — an appreciation for their common humanity, and a commitment to community and social justice.

Our first orientation is this Friday.  More Info

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. 

Happy Birthday, Fountain Theatre

9

Stephen Sachs and Deborah Lawlor

When my parents met and fell in love, their favorite book was Eric Sevareid’s “Not So Wild a Dream.” They felt the phrase captured the promise of their bond, and had the words inscribed inside their wedding rings. For me, the Fountain Theatre is also not so wild a dream. Twenty-nine years ago today, Deborah Lawlor and I opened our doors. Our desire was to create a home. A sanctuary on Fountain Avenue where artists and audiences can gather to engage in the life-enhancing rhapsody of live art. Nearly three decades later, after hundreds of productions, thousands of artists and hundreds of thousands of patrons, that desire has proven itself to be not so wild a dream.

Serving Los Angeles for twenty-nine years and still going strong. Changing the world seventy-eight seats a time.

Onward

Stephen Sachs

Yes, Los Angeles is a football town. It is also a theatre town.

goff-ramsjpg-2223fa817a1b7294

Rams quarterback Jared Goff.

by Stephen Sachs

I’m used to it by now. I expect it. I wait for it. Whenever I travel anywhere in the country, to any state in our union, whether on a personal vacation with my wife or attending  a professional theatre conference in a faraway region,  once I share where I’m from and what I do for a living I am asked the same question: is Los Angeles a theatre town?

My guard quickly goes up. I shift into protective mode. Defending my city and my art form. My talking points ready. Did you know that more theatre is produced in Los Angeles, more productions of plays and musicals, than in any other city in the world — more than New York, Chicago or London? Did you know that Los Angeles is home to more working artists than any other major metropolis in the United States, including New York? According to a 2010 report commissioned by the Center for Cultural Innovation (CCI), Los Angeles hosts the largest pool of artists of any city in the nation.  Los Angeles supports more than five times as many performing artists (actors, directors, producers), outpacing New York substantially.  These facts always trigger startled looks of surprise.

Now Los Angeles is facing the same skepticism about football. With Super Bowl Sunday approaching this weekend, the nation wants to know: Is Los Angeles a football town? The answer is yes. In fact, Los Angeles is one of only two cities in the nation that has two NFL teams, the Rams and the Chargers. The other metropolis with more than one team? You guessed it. Our theatre rival, New York.  Always bent on outshining us, New York  has three teams.

While theatre has been performed consistently in Los Angeles since the city was founded in 1781,  the Rams’ history with LA has been bumpy and uneven. The franchise began in 1936 as the Cleveland Rams in Ohio.  The team moved to Los Angeles in 1946. After the 1994 season, the Rams left LA and moved to St. Louis. They returned to Los Angeles in 2016, suffering through a disappointing season. Then, like a true Hollywood story, magic happened.

In 2017, Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay became the new Rams head coach at the age of 30, making him the youngest in modern NFL history. McVay is a rock star. He is what slick and glamorous basketball coach Pat Riley was to the Lakers in the 1980’s era of Showtime.  McVay is young, movie star handsome, charismatic. And a winner.  In their first year under McVay, the Rams won their first NFC West title since 2003. This season, the team’s 13–3 record tied for the second-most wins in a single season in franchise history and were the most ever for any NFL team in Los Angeles. On Sunday, they perform on the league’s biggest stage. The Broadway of football. A Los Angeles team hasn’t reached the Super Bowl since 1980.

Is LA a football town? Ask Rams star defensive tackle Aaron Donald. “It’s a football town now.” The team’s average home attendance in the regular season was more than 72,000 fans per game at the Rams’ temporary home at the LA Coliseum.

rams-stadium-1

Artist rendering of the new Rams Stadium in Inglewood.

Inglewood is now building the team a new state-of-the-art 70,240-seat stadium, scheduled to open in 2020. At a cost of more than $5 billion, it will be the world’s most expensive sports complex.  More than three times the size of Disneyland and twice as big as Vatican City. The last time Los Angeles built an arts complex even close to that size was the Music Center downtown in 1964.  Although one of the largest performing arts centers in the United States, the 11-acre Music Center is 1/27th the size of the future 298-acre LA Stadium campus.  And you thought tickets to Hamilton were expensive? The best seat at Los Angeles’ newest stadium will come with a licensing bill of $100,000 for Rams season-ticket holders, not including the price of each ticket per game.

I hold no illusion that theatre will ever be as popular in Los Angeles as football. More human beings worldwide will watch our LA Rams in this Sunday’s Super Bowl than have seen every performance of every play and musical ever produced in Los Angeles in two hundred years. That’s okay. Something exciting is happening in this town. I can feel it. LA is undergoing a renaissance, blossoming into the city of the future. Money is pouring in, new urban development is underway everywhere, our progressive city laws and lifestyle embrace diversity and inclusion and the hope of opportunity.

For many artists across the country, LA is still the land of dreams. The region’s record in home-growing, attracting and retaining artists is unmatched. Los Angeles is still the nation’s premier place to pursue and maintain an artistic career. Its theatre community is vast, richly varied and thriving.

And the Rams are playing in the Super Bowl. Whatever the outcome this Sunday, Los Angeles comes out a winner.

Stephen Sachs is the Co-Artistic Director of the Fountain Theatre and a longtime Rams fan.

Fountain blog post is American Theatre magazine’s most-read story in 2018

parkland

February 23, 2018.

by Stephen Sachs

When I wrote a story on this Fountain blog in February of this year, one week after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, my goal was to point out that the high school’s drama club had prepared the young survivors in Parkland, Florida, to stand up in protest and have their voices heard. A drama class teaches more than just how to act. It teaches how to take action. Performing in a school play endows students with poise, self-awareness and empathy. All of which the protest leaders exhibited at huge rallies in the weeks and months following that tragic afternoon on their campus.  

My February 23rd blog story, “Are you surprised that the young leaders of the Never Again movement are theatre kids? I’m not.” was re-posted on the American Theatre website the same day. It went viral. Their site was deluged with so many views (100K+) it crashed the site for days. Readers were then re-directed to this Fountain blog, where we received more than 50,000 views. That story was the most-seen Fountain blog post, by far. 

Today, American Theatre magazine announced that my post was their most-read story in 2018.  Clearly, the piece struck a deep nerve at that time with theatre artists, students and drama teachers across the country. As this year now comes to a close, it’s gratifying to be reminded how art — and theatre, in particular — remains essential to the soul of us all. The benefits of art are abundant. Those students in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas drama club, and the many thousands of readers, young and old, engaged by my story prove that the passion and skill learned in a theatre class stay with us for the rest for our lives.

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

Actor Sam Mandel from our smash hit “The Chosen’ has a special message just for you

Take a pill or see a play?

doctor writing prescriptionby Stephen Sachs

Need a cure for what ails you? Next time you see your doctor, the prescription he or she scribbles may surprise you: see a play.

Research is now proving that gathering with other people to see a play, listen to music or watch a dance concert not only heals the soul. It mends the body, as well.

Doctors generally prescribe pills to make people feel better. Yet the medical benefits of engaging with the arts are well-recorded. A first-of-its-kind study last year found that the social engagement of art is an effective way to improve the health and well-being of patients with such long-term conditions as asthma, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, epilepsy, and osteoporosis—which often exacerbate symptoms of depression and/or anxiety.

Going to the theatre and being part of an audience, joining other human beings in a shared live experience, has medical benefits. Countless studies have found that social isolation takes a heavy toll on our well-being over time. One of the advantages of joining other theater-goers to see a play is that it reduces feelings of loneliness. Our daily lives in front of computer screens can be isolating. Attending live theatre boosts a sense of belonging and face-to-face human connectedness.

In January this year, the U.K. appointed Tracey Crouch to serve as its first “minister of loneliness” to explore how to combat the “sad reality of modern life”. According to a report last year from the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, more than 9 million people in Britain—around 14% of the population—often or always feel lonely. The numbers are even higher in the United States. Cigna’s recent survey revealed 46% of Americans — nearly half the population.– report sometimes or always feeling alone.

“We should value the arts because they’re essential to our health and wellbeing,” says British Health Secretary Matt Hancock. “Access to the arts improves people’s mental and physical health. It makes us happier and healthier.”

The larger question we must ask ourselves is: What sort of society do we want? One that generates physical and emotional illness and then thrives on pharmaceuticals to put it right? Or a society that embraces a more holistic approach to public health through social responsibility and artistic engagement? Given the toxic state of our politics and the poisonous nature of our society and environment today, it is remarkable that we manage to keep going as we are. But for how long? The dilemma was raised by Samuel Beckett, once again, at the theatre, “You must go on. I can’t go on. I’ll go on.”

Witnessing a powerful play can illuminate what it means to be a human being and connect us to a larger and higher vision of ourselves. In his powerful account of his own holocaust experience, psychiatrist Viktor Frankl concludes that the ‘search for meaning is the primary motivation in life’. He describes lack of meaning as an ‘existential vacuum’, often manifesting as boredom, and invaded by numerous neurotic and addictive problems. He quotes Nietzsche:

‘He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.’

This echoes, of course, the eternal question posed by Hamlet: “To be, or not to be …”  This is how theatre triggers self-treatment. A theater-goer witnessing Hamlet’s struggle on stage is himself, from the audience, thrown into questioning the purpose of his or her own life. A great play, seen in the most public of settings, generates intimate self-examination and, at the same time, connects us to our fellow beings. Theatre is a journey inward and outward.

The arts play a critical role in the better health of our nation.  Not only spiritually and aesthetically — but physically, medically.  The arts, like health care, not only make life better — they make it livable. Congress seems to agree. Despite Trump’s call to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, Congress passed a 2019 budget increase of more than $2 million to the NEA and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Even with this modest 2019 budget increase in arts funding, the United States is writing a doctor’s prescription to itself. Politicians must learn to protect the NEA as fervently as they defend the Second Amendment.

More than guns, Americans have the right to bear arts.

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