Tag Archives: Ben Bradley

When City Hall and local artists work together, all citizens of our city benefit

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Reading of ‘All the President’s Men’, LA City Hall, Jan 27th, 2018.

by Stephen Sachs

Los Angeles is hailed as The City of Dreams. But our one-night reading of William Goldman’s screenplay for All the President’s Men at City Hall inspired me in one way that I could never imagine.

We knew we had a good idea. The right project at the right time delivering the right message for the right reason. We knew inviting celebrity actors to participate would heighten public interest. We knew we had the ideal location in the Los Angeles City Council Chamber at City Hall. What I didn’t know, what caught me by surprise, were the men and women who work there.   

The Fountain Theatre has enjoyed a longtime friendship with the City of Los Angeles. We have benefited from the generous grant support of the Department of Cultural Affairs for more than twenty-five years.

Eric Garcetti was our City Councilmember in District 13. His parents, Gil Garcetti and Sukey Roth Garcetti, are longstanding Fountain Theatre members. Eric was more than our Councilmember for twelve years. He was our friend. I am forever grateful to Eric and his staff for coming to our side at the Fountain Theatre’s moment of darkest tragedy.

Our beloved Fountain colleague Ben Bradley was savagely murdered in his apartment on New Year’s Day, 2010. We were inundated with calls and emails of condolence from the LA theatre community. Eric’s staff at Council District 13 came by our office, in person, asking, “What can we do to help?” I was blown away. We sat down together, shared memories of Ben, and planned his memorial service at the Gallery Theatre in Barnsdall Park. Eric’s office arranged for us to have access to the venue at no charge. Eric attended the memorial and spoke at the service. He showed up for us. He was there.        

Eric was elected mayor of Los Angeles in 2013. My wife and I happily attended his reelection swearing-in ceremony last year on the steps of City Hall. For five years, The Fountain’s City Councilmember has been Garcetti’s former District Director and senior advisor, Mitch O’Farrell.

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Stephen Sachs and Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell

Mitch has always been a strong advocate for the arts in Los Angeles. For years, Mitch has championed the significance of the network of intimate theatres throughout our city. He took a stand and spoke out publicly on our behalf when we battled with Actors Equity Association over the 99-Seat Plan. He was instrumental in designating a section of Santa Monica Blvd in Hollywood as Theatre Row. He knows intimate theatres enhance the cultural landscape of Los Angeles. Once an actor and dancer himself, he is one of us. He gets it.

I placed a call to Mitch’s Field Deputy, Dan Halden, last year about our reading of All the President’s Men. I was adamant that the reading happen close to January 20th, the one-year anniversary of the Trump administration. I was looking for the appropriate location. It needed it to be some place symbolic. I wanted the building itself to hold meaning, make a statement. I called Dan thinking a room at City Hall would be good. Dan agreed. I was then floored when he suggested, “You know, the City Council Chamber might be available. Your actors could sit in the Councilmembers’ chairs …” It was then that the event crystalized from an idea in my mind into something I could see.

Months of planning quickly followed. We had to move fast. The Fountain staff leaped into action. A casting director was hired. A consulting firm was brought on. Most remarkably, Dan Halden and his team at Council District 13 were hands-on, all the way. When using a City building for a public event, every detail must be worked out. Security, parking, access, maintenance, the LAPD, the Fire Department, the press, catering, the offices that oversee use of equipment. All of this was handled through a blizzard of emails, phone calls and in-person meetings with Fountain staff and CD13 personnel. Everything overseen by Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell.  

Receiving a grant award from the City of Los Angeles is a wonderful thing. Financial support from the city is essential and the Fountain is deeply grateful each year. All the President’s Men demanded a different kind of support from the city. It was more than just signing contracts and receiving a check in the mail. This was the rare, exhilarating experience of two teams working together, of Fountain staff and City staff rolling up their sleeves and getting the nuts-and-bolts items done. We were truly partners. Fully invested personally, professionally and ideologically. All of it executed with efficiency, good humor, and energized by knowing that we were pulling off something that had never been done before in that building.

I am so proud of our city. What other major city in the country would hand over City Hall to its artists? Would have its Councilmembers allow artists to literally sit in their seats for one night to express an urgent fundamental truth about our country through their art?

As Washington wallows mired in stagnant gridlock, the city of Los Angeles offers a lesson in public partnership to the nation. When I first called Mitch O’Farrell’s office with the idea to use City Hall as a civic performance space for this reading, the expected government response would have been “no”. Instead, carrying forward the heartfelt spirt of his predecessor, Mitch O’Farrell answered, “What can we do to help?”

I believe last Saturday night’s reading of All the President’s Men at City Hall was a watershed moment in our city’s engagement with local arts organizations. We should not let it end there, on that evening. Our hope is that we use the lessons and rewards earned from this experience to discuss more partnerships like this in the future. When local artists and city government officials work together, all citizens of our city benefit.  

“Art can highlight things that need to change,” Mitch O’Farrell pointed out to the City Hall crowd in his opening remarks for All the President’s Men. “And draw parallels to historical lessons that can propel humanity forward.”  

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

Eric Garcetti Declares “The Mayor says ‘Everyone Go See ‘The Normal Heart'”

Stephen Sachs and Deborah Lawlor with LA Mayor Eric Garcetti

Stephen Sachs and Deborah Lawlor with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti

by Stephen Sachs

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is a longtime member of the Fountain Family. His parents, Gil and Sukey Garcetti, have been Fountain subscribers for more than a decade starting back with our LA jazz play Central Avenue in 2001 when Gil was the Los Angeles District Attorney. Eric was elected to the LA City Council in 2001 and served as our Councilman in our 13th District for twelve years. We were thrilled and proud when he was elected mayor in May of this year.      

Over the years as our Councilman, Eric and his staff were always there when the Fountain needed him.  We will be forever grateful for his friendship and support in our darkest hour of grief. The day after learning of the brutal slaying of our Fountain colleague Ben Bradley in 2010, Eric Garcetti’s office immediately contacted us, asking “what can we do to help?” Members of Eric’s staff personally came over to the Fountain to help us plan Ben’s memorial. They arranged to make the 300-seat City-owned Gallery Theatre in Barnsdall Park available to us free of charge for the service. And Eric Garcetti attended the memorial and spoke.

Last night was a happier time to see now-Mayor Eric Garcetti. A reception honoring him was held at the LA Gay and Lesbian Center in Hollywood. Fountain Co-Artistic Director Deborah Lawlor and I were invited to attend. We wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

LA Gay & Lesbian Center plaza.

LA Gay & Lesbian Center plaza.

The cocktail event was held on the outdoor plaza of the Center. It was a warm, pleasant night. Before Garcetti’s arrival, about 200 invited guests enjoyed drinks and hors d’oeuvres.  It was nice chatting with East West Players Artistic Director Tim Dang, whose husband, Darrel Cummings is the Center’s Chief of Staff.  And connecting with Jon Imparato, the Center’s Director of Cultural Arts and producer of their upcoming production of The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later   

After a lively introduction from Center CEO Lorri L. Jean, Mayor Garcetti spoke. His remarks were casual and friendly and sprinkled with humor, emphasizing social inclusion and his longtime commitment to the LGBT community. He was intelligent, poised, and articulate. Our new Mayor balances charismatic star power with the skill to connect with people as fellow human beings.    

Deborah and I grabbed him briefly after this remarks. He seemed happy to see us. “My parents were just at the Fountain a few weeks ago to see Heart Song,” he exclaimed.  

Eric and I had a short conversation about how the Fountain can best take advantage of the surge of redevelopment in Hollywood and achieve the Fountain’s goal of acquiring a larger venue. We bemoaned the loss of the CRA (Community Redevelopment Agency). But Eric had some ideas and suggestions. And, as always, offered to help.

As someone snapped a photo, Garcetti held a postcard from our upcoming Fountain production of The Normal Heart, opening September 21st, and declared with a broad grin:

“The Mayor says ‘Everyone Go See The Normal Heart!” 

You heard him. Better do what the man says. He just might be President some day.

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

The Normal Heart  Sept 21 – Nov 3  (323) 663-1525   MORE

Artist Moved to Paint Portait of Beloved Fountain Theatre Producer/Director Ben Bradley

Ben Bradley painting

This portrait of Ben Bradley has just been painted by artist and Fountain Family member Diane Levin

“I had the pleasure of meeting Ben twice and of discovering  his beautiful soul,” says Diane. 

Ben Bradley was our longtime and beloved Fountain Theatre producer and director. He was murdered in 2010. 

Says Diane: “The painting is meant to be representational. It has been an enjoyable process to create the portrait of a man so loved by his community.” 

Diane Levin

Diane Levin

Diane Levin is a painter living in Santa Cruz. She is a an artist, a theater lover, a member of our Fountain Family and the mother of Fountain stage manager Jeremy Levin.

Diane’s painting will be on permanent display at the Fountain Theatre.

Ben Bradley’s Killer Sentenced to Life in Prison

Ben Bradley

On Friday, February 10, 2012, the convicted killer of Ben Bradley was officially sentenced to life in prison. He will be eligible for a parole hearing in sixteen years.

The judge denied the motion for retrial submitted last month by the defense. In addition to sentencing, the judge ruled that the murderer must also pay $15,000 in restitution to the Bradley family.

The hearing took place in the Criminal Court Building in downtown Los Angeles. Present in the courtroom were Ben’s brother, Micheal Hill; the Fountain’s Deborah Lawlor, Simon Levy,  and Stephen Sachs; actress Lisa Pelikan; and theater journalist (and Fountain friend) Dany Margolies.

When asked by the judge if he wished to make a statement or had anything to say, the murderer said “No”. He was then led away in handcuffs. To spend the rest of his life in prison.

As invoked in the final line of The Ballad of Emmett Till, the play Ben was directing two years ago when he was brutally murdered:

“It is done.”

Life Sentence Expected for Killer of Ben Bradley

Ben Bradley

In the Criminal Court Building in downtown Los Angeles on January 3, 2012,  almost two years to the day that the brutal murder was committed,  the judge announced that the killer of Ben Bradley can expect a sentence of life in prison with eligibility for parole in 16 years.

Several members of the Fountain Family were present in the courtroom to give Victim Impact Statements. Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs represented the Fountain with a passionate eloquent plea, repeating the phrase “Everybody loved Ben”; Producing Director Simon Levy read a beautiful letter from theatre critic Dany Margolies of Back Stage; Adolphus Ward, one of our beloved actors, spoke movingly about the larger impact of Ben’s murder, intoning “one man killed, many died” ; Rebecca Lackner, a friend of Ben’s brother, read a letter from sound designer David Marling; Barbara Ramsey, subscriber and friend, spoke lovingly of Ben’s impact on her son; and Ben’s brother, Micheal Hill,  spoke of the heartache to his family and the uniqueness that was Ben’s spirit. Others from the Fountain Community — actors, designers, friends — were there to show their support and solidarity on Ben’s behalf.

The defense filed a perfunctory retrial motion (standard procedure). There will be a procedural hearing on Feb 10 for the judge to officially rule on the retrial motion but he already said in court that, barring some extraordinary circumstance, he will deny it. And the legal process will be over. And prison time will begin.

The judge remarked in court that it was clear that Ben was widely loved and admired, and that the proceeding that morning was “a sad day”. He also commented that he had deliberated many murder cases in his long career as a judge. This crime was particularly brutal. Referring to the sentence and the obligatory retrial motion by the defense, the judge looked to the killer sitting opposite at the defense table and said “don’t get your hopes up” about any option other than life in prison.

Our deep thanks to those who were able to be there in court with us on Ben’s behalf, and to all of you who sent emails of support. We love you all.

Guilty Verdict in Ben Bradley Murder Trial

Fountain Reacts with Gratitude and Sad Relief: “Justice is Done”.

The Fountain Theatre announced last week that a guilty verdict has been reached in the trial of the man accused of murdering longtime Fountain director/producer Ben Bradley.

The defendant was found guilty of second-degree felony murder on November 23 in the Los Angeles Superior Court Criminal Courts Building in downtown Los Angeles, following a three-week trial that began on November 3. Closing arguments took place on November 21, with the jury deliberating for about a day and half before reaching the verdict. Present in the courtroom when the verdict was read were Bradley’s brother, Michael Hill, a resident of Virginia; Fountain Producing Director Simon Levy; and Fountain Co-Artistic Director Deborah Lawlor. The verdict carries a sentence of 16 years to life. Sentencing is scheduled for January 3.

“All of us in the Fountain family are pleased and relieved by the verdict and grateful that the trial phase of this horrific nightmare is over,” wrote Fountain Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs in a statement. “We thank Los Angeles District Attorney Mario Haidar and the team of detectives, led by Matthew Gares, who did such an excellent job on this case. Justice is done. But no matter the verdict or severity of the sentence, justice does not wield the power to bring Ben back to us. With that truth, comes the painful reality that justice can never be fully served in our hearts.”

Prior to his death on January 1, 2010, Ben had been with the Fountain Theatre for over seventeen years as a producer, director, and the Director of Audience Development.  Ben was in rehearsal for The Ballad of Emmett Till when he was murdered. Prior to that, Ben had directed the Fountain’s critically acclaimed production of August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean (LADCC Awards for Production of the Year and Best Director). He received the 2006 OVATION Award and the 2007 NAACP Award for his direction of the Fountain’s critically acclaimed production of August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.  Other directorial credits at the Fountain includeLady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill (winner of the NAACP Award for Best Actress) and Direct from Death Row: The Scottsboro Boys(winner of Best Ensemble, L.A. Weekly Award, and Best Ensemble, Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award).  Ben produced the Fountain’s acclaimed productions of Photograph 51YellowmanMaster Class and Central Avenue, and coproduced the Fountain’sThe Darker Face of the Earth, I Am A Manand Four by Tennessee.  Before joining the Fountain Theatre family, Ben worked at the Los Angeles Theatre Center as Lobby Subscription Manager.  Ben was born in Wilkes County, Georgia, but his family moved to Baltimore, MD when he was very young.  He was a graduate of Carroll College in Wisconsin, where he majored in theater.

Read the blog post about trial verdict in the  Los Angeles Times.

The Fountain Theatre has established The Ben Bradley Memorial Fund to develop new plays at the Fountain.  For more information, go to http://fountaintheatre.com/BenBradleyMemorialPage.htm or call Diana at (323) 663-1098.

Ovation Awards, Ben Bradley, and Why We Do Theatre

The 2011  Ovation Awards will be held Monday night, November 14th, at the historic Orpheum Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. The Ovation Awards ceremony is the “big night” of LA Theater, our version of the Tony Awards.  Launched in 1989, the LA Stage Alliance Ovation Awards are the only peer-judged theatre awards in Los Angeles, created to recognize excellence in theatrical performance, production and design in the Greater Los Angeles area. Each year, 400 productions compete in 35 Ovation Categories, and are evaluated by a pool of 250 vetted Ovation Voters, who are all currently working theatre professionals.

This year, the Fountain Theatre has received nine Ovation Award nominations, including the prestigious category of Best Season for overall excellence year-round (for this season’s The Train Driver, A House Not Meant to Stand, and Bakersfield Mist). In the three years since the new Best Season category was created, the Fountain has been nominated all three years — and won the award last year for its season of Shining City, The Ballad of Emmett Till, and Opus. In the history of the Ovation Awards, the Fountain has the distinction of being nominated and winning more Ovation Awards overall than any other intimate theatre in Los Angeles.

Ben Bradley

Monday are the 2011 Ovations Awards. At the same time, Monday marks the beginning of the second week of the Ben Bradley murder trial. The black-tie Awards Ceremony downtown will be unfolding just a few blocks down the street from the Criminal Courts Building where the trial is taking place. The painful irony of these two events occurring simultaneously must be acknowledged. Ben, of course, had just started rehearsal to direct last year’s big Award winner, The Ballad of Emmett Till, when he was savagely murdered on New Year’s Day, 2010.  The glorious Shirley Jo Finney then stepped in as director, leading us all with her healing artistic spirit.

We look forward to Monday night’s Ovation Awards. And look back to last year’s ceremony when The Ballad of Emmett Till won Best Production of a Play, Best Director, and Best Acting Ensemble.

Our thoughts are with Ben. And we are reminded — we reaffirm — why we create art, why we do theatre, why we do what we do. And why it matters.

A video peek,  one year ago:

Simon Levy and Stephen Sachs: Ben Bradley and Emmett Till
The Emmett Till cast: “Why Theatre Matters” and “The Power of Family”

Update: Ben Bradley Murder Trial is Underway

Ben Bradley

Nearly two years after the brutal homicide of our beloved colleague Ben Bradley, the murder trial of the young man accused of killing him, Jose Fructuoso, has finally begun. The trial is being held at the Superior Court, Criminal Courts Building in downtown Los Angeles. Opening arguments began yesterday.

The prosecution is led by LA District Attorney Mario Haydar. Official charges against Fructuoso are felony murder and burglary.

The trial is expected to take approximately two weeks. More updates soon.

Ben Bradley Memorial page