The Fountain Theatre believes students and young people must have the opportunity to engage and consider meaningful human issues through the experience of live theatre. We love having students in our audience. They are the artists, arts patrons and arts leaders of tomorrow.
We’re always delighted when teacher Alan Goodson brings his students from Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising to the Fountain Theatre. They recently enjoyed our funny and poignant West Coast Premiere of Martyna Majok’s Pulitzer Prize winning play, Cost of Living. Here are some of the reactions written by the students:
“Overall, the play was an excellent representation of everyday life, not just for one with disabilities, but for those who crave to be pulled out of loneliness. The way that Majok portrayed the play through the eyes of two characters in wheelchairs, as well as their caretakers, was an excellent way to grab the audience’s attention. It was an on-edge performance, with exceptional acting skills. While showing someone with disabilities can be a touchy subject for most, it’s important for others to see that they aren’t the only ones in life that may need a little extra love, or caretaking.”
Tobias Forrest and Xochitl Romero in “Cost of Living”
“Whether it be bathing, eating, or taking part in social life, Cost of Living is a reenactment of what millions of people go through. This thought-provoking piece allows the audience to be vulnerable, uncomfortable, and also gives people a chance the be thankful for the simple things that are often taken for granted.”
“Cost of Living was a production that completely changed my perception of those that are disabled. I believed that many were strong, and had to carry on with their lives after an incident happens, or even from birth. However, I didn’t realize the actual struggle that these people had to face in daily life, when it comes to daily, normal activities. I not only had sympathy for them, but I also saw their strength and courage and how it can be hard to accept help from others, especially when they see others carrying on their lives normally, when they physically are not able to do so. If the play was able to change my views, it’s able to change many others’ as well.”
“I believe the director and actors were able to show and bring to life that feeling of what the characters cost of living was. Personally, I can relate to the production in that I have a disability that at times hinders my ability to live life to my fullest. I try not to let it, but at times there is nothing I can do about it being my cost of living.”
“The play is about disabilities with people, not the other way around. The message of the play is that the biggest disabilities we can have are the ones that every person encounters at some point—loneliness and fear. The worst disabilities are not about having someone bathe or shave you, it’s the ones that make us human and make us all alike in some way. Personally, I found myself somewhere in this play, as I’m sure many others did. It captured me from the very first scene, and made me feel for each character and I related it to struggles in my own life.”
Theatre as a Learning Tool is the Fountain Theatre’s educational outreach program, making theatre accessible to students and young people throughout Southern California.
The passionate life and self-destructive death of 1960’s dancer Fred Herko inspired friend Deborah Lawlor to write her play, Freddy, opening Wednesday at LACC Theatre Academy as a co-production with the Fountain Theatre. Her new theatre/dance work has, in turn, motivated the students and professional artists involved.
In this honest, poignant and empowering video, the company from Freddy share their thoughts and feelings on the often challenging journey of being an artist, the inner demons they face, and the wings they develop to enable them to soar.
Reaching out to students and making theatre available to young people is vitally important to the Fountain Theatre. And we love it when students reach back. Such was the case on October 24th when the Fountain hosted teacher Alan Goodson and his students from Fashion Institute for Design and Merchandising to a performance of our sizzling West Coast Premiere of Tennessee Williams’ Baby Doll.
Goodson, also an actor who has appeared on our Fountain stage, led his college students in a post-show discussion with the professional actors following the Baby Doll performance. The students asked questions of cast members, discussed the issues raised in the play and shared thoughts and feelings about the theatre-going experience itself. For some, it was their first time seeing a live professional production of a play.
The students then returned to the classroom and wrote papers outlining their insights and describing how the play and production impacted them emotionally, intellectually and artistically.
The Fountain recently received a sampling of their comments:
“Arguably the most powerful moment of the play comes at the very end. Baby Doll and Aunt Comfort sit outside the house after Archie Lee and Silva have been arrested. Silva has said he will come back for Baby Doll, but her future is uncertain at best….Although it is at the very end of the play, this moment, so beautifully directed by Levy, is when the message of the Fountain Theatre’s performance of Baby Doll comes through loud and clear: sexism in 1950’s America was rampant, and the patriarchal mindset of the culture and characters ultimately led to their crippling stagnancy. The Fountain Theatre’s production of Baby Doll is like a fine wine – it gets better with time. You leave the theatre with the assurance that you have just seen an incredible play put on by a talented group; however, the true meaning of the play seeps through more and more the longer you stew on it.”
This student was drawn into the play by the intimacy of the theatre:
“The play environment was intriguing. I have never been to a production that was so intimate. The theatre itself was very small, the seats were close together, and the stage was right in front of your eyes. I felt the audience was in this play experience together. The actors were so close I could see every detail in their faces. They made eye contact with us and were able to engage us in the storyline. I was intrigued by the fact that I could examine every small detail about the costumes and the set. Being so close to the actors and the set is very different from going to a big theatre where you can barely see their facial expressions or the set theme.”
For this student, overcoming doubts about seeing the play led to a meaningful experience in the theatre:
“Before seeing Baby Doll at the Fountain Theatre, I was a bit skeptical if I would enjoy the play after reading the synopsis. But I was pleasantly surprised. The actors portrayed their roles remarkably, showing every emotion and movement as if they were really living in the play….the way the cast fed off of one another made it that much more enjoyable….While there was much controversy surrounding the movie when it first came out, I think Tennessee Williams created a phenomenal and important script. The women empowerment and sexuality themes not only made the play witty and comical, but also made the audience think about how life was once like for women of that time. Baby Doll may have started out in the cinema, but it was meant for the theatre. It is a superb play that is brought to life by extremely talented actors.”
In the post-show Q&A with the cast, perhaps the most important question was asked by a blushing young female student when our handsome, beefy leading man, Daniel Bess, met the group:
Question: “How many times a week do you work out?”
See? A life in the theatre can be enhancing in so many ways …
Young people today are the theatre audiences — and theatre makers — of tomorrow. The Fountain maintains its ongoing dedication to staying connected to young audiences and broadening its reach to high school and college students regionwide. With school budgets being cut for arts education everywhere, the Fountain offers an important role in arts learning.
This event was made possible by Theatre as a Learning Tool, the Fountain Theatre’s educational outreach program making the life-enhancing experience of live theatre accessible to young people and students throughout Southern California.
Michigan State students with cast on ‘Baby Doll’ set.
by James Bennett
Monday night, we were granted the opportunity to host teacher Mark Colson and his fabulous group of intrepid theatre students from Michigan State University, who after a breathtaking performance of our critically acclaimed production of Tennessee Williams’ Baby Dollengaged in an inquisitive, inspiring, and heartfelt talkback with our amazing cast and director Simon Levy.
Director Simon Levy fielded a very good question: What’s the audition process like? Did you know we had over 600 submissions for the titular role of Baby Doll?
Actor John Prosky spoke about his artistic journey in manifesting the unchained, violent, and maddened Archie Lee, a character so far from his natural state he didn’t think he’d ever get the part. But when he came into the room to audition with Lindsay LaVanchy, something magic happened which brought the character to life.
The incredible Lindsay LaVanchy talked about her process of finding Baby Doll inside her. She spoke about how she had to open herself to being childlike, a quest she had undertaken many years ago but was unable to complete until preparing for this role. A typically reserved and precise woman, it took the innocence of Baby Doll to “crack her open”.
It is one of our greatest pleasures to share with and mentor the next generation of great theatre artists. What an incredible night!
This event was made possible by Theatre as a Learning Tool, the Fountain Theatre’s educational outreach program making theatre accessible to students and young people.
“The class is called Seminar in the Arts,” explains Goodson. “The students are generally visual artists of one kind or another, but have had little or no exposure to other artistic media – so I try to broaden their artistic horizons by taking them to theatre. ”
Providing students with access to live theatre is at the core of the Fountain Theatre’s educational outreach program, Theatre as a Learning Tool.
After seeing Citizen at the Fountain, the students engaged in a Q&A discussion with the actors. “It was really a moving and eye-opening experience for them, ” says Goodson. ” Proof of the power of theatre in general, and of this material in particular. The cast discussion with the students deepened the experience a great deal.”
CITIZEN cast talk with students in post-show Q&A
Back in the classroom, students were instructed to write papers on their play-going experience seeing Citizen. A few samples:
“This play gave me such an insight on life and it had many powerful moments that got me really emotional. One of the most emotional moments of the play was when they gave recognition to the people who were lost due to racism. In that moment I felt as though everyone in the audience was one and we all felt the same way in that exact moment. That is one thing that we all as a human race have in common. We can all feel pain and happiness. I myself am still trying to find who I am as a person and all I know is that I want to be a positive person that loves life indefinitely. It hurts to know that there are still so many harsh and cruel things going on in the world and that there may never be an end to it….I’m not sure that another play will be able to give me the feeling that this one did. I will continue to try and live a positive and judgment-free life because of this experience.”
“Citizen: An American Lyric involved a variety of different situations in which POC, people of color, experience different versions of racism, either blatantly or discreetly, on a daily basis. Each unique example of racism conveyed throughout the play is yet another reminder of the fact that no matter how far America has progressed, its roots have been set; in other words, no matter how much America has grown as a nation, no matter how far we have come as a whole, the previous views and beliefs that once bounded all people of color in chains remains buried underneath the blood-soaked ground we walk upon every day.”
“All of the visual details of the performance help to create the environment that influenced Citizen. The costuming for this performance is different from most plays; the outfits are styled in a way that you don’t notice that the actors are wearing costumes. That adds to the notion that racism in the real world doesn’t occur with costumes and fancy lighting, but it comes from regular people in their everyday habitats in their everyday clothing. The production itself is a visual representation of the casual occurrences of racism.”
“There have been countless moments in my life when I was deeply offended by a person of a different race because of my skin color. Within those moments of hurt, pain, and confusion, it is sometimes difficult to take the high road and not react negatively. However, as a Black woman, I know that I must be beyond reproach. That is what keeps me level-headed when dealing with such ignorance….Overall, I was moved by Citizen: An American Lyric. The play was well-written and easy to follow. The message was clear, concise and properly backed up with examples and scenarios. Anyone who viewed this play definitely left with a heightened sense of what Black people go through on a daily basis in this country. Hopefully, the message in Citizen will transcend generations and contribute to the extinction of racism in the near future. This is capable of such power and influence.”
Bernard K. Addison, Simone Missick, Leith Burke.
“This play is worth seeing and worth putting on because it opens eyes. It opens the eyes to the blind who cannot see what America has become. Every day there is something new, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, the South Carolina Methodist Church, the Texas pool party, and Sandra Bland. It continues to go on every day. There is something new on the news, and we all acknowledge it, but what are we going to do about it? This play is a perfect step to helping our country go towards the right direction. It captures emotions and minds of the young and the old. It’s a universal, theatrical experience that is enticing, sensitive but powerful, and easily understandable. An overall learning experience that must be seen.”
“I learned a valuable life lesson from this production. During our discussion afterwards I could never un-hear those words of Tina Lifford and Simone Missick, who played Citizen One and Two, ‘Get your foot off your throat,’ a memorable saying that I will carry into my day-to-day life for evermore. Make it clear that if you don’t speak up there will be no ‘justice’ within yourself. To acquire change is not always an easy battle.”
“The final outcome of the play is an emotional reflection of our society, and it is well executed through the actors’ performance and incorporated mixed media. The proximity of actors to audience truly heightens the struggle, and the tears are real from the actors as well as the audience. After leaving the theatre, you can’t help but meditate on the current social issues, and how you have helped or hindered them….As citizens we have a duty to defend and protect ourselves, more importantly, our identity in society. Social norms, customs and morals are created by society itself, change starts with one person, and Rankine is the voice that brings attention to the current underlying problem. It is now our job to stand up and speak up against racial ignorance, against unjust authorities’ actions, and our neighbors’ prejudices. Staying silent against wrongdoing causes deeper pain, bringing awareness is only the beginning of the healing process.”
“I feel Citizen: An American Lyric brought to light a very heavy topic and made it easier to listen to and talk about. I feel that turning the book into a theater production was a very good idea because it gave that much more of a voice to a topic that needs to be more widely discussed. I feel that the intimacy of the theatre and the minimalism of the production are both factors that really contributed to the success of the play. Watching the production myself, I left feeling very touched and somewhat awakened to a topic I am not normally exposed to.”
“Though people think that America is the ‘melting pot’ of the world, there are still many conflicts that are created from racial issues. Rankine’s book and play bring to light the daily struggles that black Americans face. Sometimes, when we aren’t personally effected by a problem, we forget that the problem is happening still. Many people feel safe being in their own bubble, but this play pops that bubble and leaves audiences with the truth.”
“It was a small room with only three rows of seats extremely close to the stage. This allowed the audience to feel not only close to the actors/actresses, but to feel the rawness of the play. One was able to feel their voices echo and resonate throughout one’s body. The intimacy of the room allowed one to feel a connection to every word and every scene that played out. This theatre was perfect because such an intimacy had an impact on each member in the audience to truly understand the sorrow and grief of the sufferings racial injustice has caused….Many have no idea when they have said something wrong, and from what one has learned in this play, it is up to each one of us to use our voice and call out each person on it….It was such a moving performance because one was taken with awe at each example that was brought to reality. Many of the examples provided, one has heard or been in the middle of, but seeing it happen as an actual example brings shock to an audience. This is when one realizes that it isn’t just a one-time occurrence; these racial actions and comments happen daily. It depends on every one of us to put a stop to it.”
Tony Maggio and Leith Burke
“There was one vignette in particular that struck me. It was when Bernard K. Addison was playing an innocent man bombarded and put in jail as a victim of being another black man who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, with pigs hiding behind their badges eager to fill their quota. Addison stands there in the middle of the chaos, with a red light enclosing him. He stands there and we witness some of the heaviest tears I have ever seen on stage. These tears cut through the soul of each audience member and leave one’s heart aching. I couldn’t help but to feel cold, harsh guilt ooze inside of me due to what some of the people with my skin color have been doing to those of another…. Citizen: An American Lyric takes us on a journey that we may not be sure we really want to go on. It addresses the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. Every time the news comes on it’s the same story with new faces. This play has the audience walking away with a renewed knowledge of the responsibility we all carry. Really, the answer is very simple: be kind to one another. Yet, as they state in the play, ‘Just getting along shouldn’t be an ambition.’ It hurts that there is such a long lineage of hate, and what’s worse is that there’s no immediate answer. But if we each do our part, perhaps, slowly we can make the world a better place to live in. This is everyone’s home and no one should feel they are not a part of it because of the color of their skin, sexual orientation, gender, or anything else innate, for that matter.”
College students from UC Santa Barbara enjoyed our Sunday matinee preview of The Brothers Size and engaged in a fascinating Q&A Talkback with the cast and director after the performance. The students were particularly eager to see our production because they had been reading and studying the play in class.
The Brothers Size by Tarell Alvin McCraney is a hot-blooded, music-filled drama from one of the country’s most exciting new voices. After a homecoming in the bayous of Louisiana, the Size brothers, Ogun and Oshoosi, try to start fresh. This haunting, funny, and heartbreaking tour de force probes sexuality, coming of age, and the bonds of family as the brothers struggle to discover identity and to unearth a new sense of freedom.
Directed by Shirley Jo Finney, the Los Angeles Premiere at the Fountain Theatre stars Gilbert Glenn Brown, Matthew Hancock and Theo Perkins. It opens Saturday, June 7th. For more info and tickets click here.
“The class is called Seminar in the Arts,” explains Goodson. “The students are generally visual artists of one kind or another, but have had little or no exposure to other artistic media – so I try to broaden their artistic horizons by taking them to theatre, classical music, and architectural walks. ”
“In the Red and Brown Water”
After seeing In the Red and Brown Water at the Fountain, the students were required to write about their experience. Here are some comments:
“I was extremely moved by ‘In the Red and Brown Water’ and would most definitely recommend this play to others. I went into this play close-minded because I have never been one to enjoy plays all that much, but this play was very intriguing and captured my attention from the start.”
“Tarrell Alvin McCraney (the writer) tells a story of a young girl, Oya (the magnificent Diarra Kilpatrick), who may be able to outrun everyone, but she cannot escape her fate. Oya’s journey, from her promising youth to the complications of womanhood, is a joyous, raw and openly beautiful portrayal. . . . Going into the play with an open mind is essential, most of the audience were FIDM students who had no idea what lay ahead of them; one of them being me. I truthfully did not expect myself to enjoy ‘In the Red and Brown Water’ as much as I truly did. It is not a play with a happy-ever-after ending; this was to show that not everyone leaves the earth pleased. Life is about lessons and hardships that make the person who they are, Oya’s journey showed her heartache, happiness, sorrow, all in one lifetime. She had a beautiful life of joy and despair, and we all were privileged to see this acted out on stage. And while all but one of the characters are people of color, the play’s themes of self-discovery, choices, and destiny transcend race. McCraney is not just a voice for all people, but for the ages.”
“I was completely lost in a different world and truly feeling the raw emotions portrayed on stage thanks to an intimate theatre and exquisite actors. . . . ‘In the Red and Brown Water’ leaves the audience questioning and interpreting. Which is the reason why people create or look at art in the first place.”
“This production had a talented, enthusiastic cast that made the play very intimate, real and entertaining. This play will indefinitely engrave a sense of passion and inspiration in the hearts and minds of everyone that gets the opportunity to experience it.”
“The play allows your emotions to be heightened throughout the cultural, relatable, and life-inspiring performance. It was wonderfully executed, designed, and detailed, allowing the audience to understand the purpose and plot of the wonderful story. Overall, the play allows you to be a part of the emotional rollercoaster that the characters feel.”
“The play really spoke to my emotions, making me feel as though I was on the rollercoaster ride with Oya. This was due to the ten brilliant cast members, the set design and the intriguing storyline. It was an honor to attend one of the plays of Tarell Alvin McCraney at the Fountain Theatre in such a small, intimate setting. The play would not have left me feeling the emotions I did if it was in a larger theater. I highly recommend this play to someone who wants to broaden his or her horizons and set foot into the life of someone else.”
“The story of Oya and McCraney’s lives came together beautifully to create a story easily relatable for most people. With excellent lighting techniques and subtle props, the message is clearly portrayed and allows the audience to become a part of the scene using imagination. Without the wonderful performances by the actors, actually becoming the characters, the play would not have been as powerful. This play may relate personally to some, but provides a deep message for all.”
“I would definitely recommend the play, ‘In the Red and Brown Water”, to my family and friends. The experience watching this method of theatre performance revealed a way to capture scenes, dialogue, settings, and so on, that I never knew about. I thought this play was amazing. Overall, I highly enjoyed my time at the Fountain Theatre and would love to go back and see other plays.”
“Throughout the play, the different aspects of the script and how the performance was carried out truly inspired me and were easily relatable, as everyone goes through the common troubles of life. . . . The theme of this play and performance inspired me in creative ways for current assignments and has positively affected my views of smaller theatres.”
“In the Red and Brown Water”
In the Red and Brown Water has also earned Rave Reviews from critics everywhere, including being highlighted as Critic’s Choice in the Los Angeles Times.
College students from Fashion Institute for Design and Merchandising attended a recent performance of Cyrano. The students are in their first or second year of college and are mostly 18 to 22 years old. Their teacher is Alan Goodson, who is also an actor who has appeared on our Fountain stage.
“The class is called Seminar in the Arts,” explains Goodson. ” The students are generally visual artists of one kind or another, but have had little or no exposure to other artistic media – so I try to broaden their artistic horizons by taking them to theatre, classical music, and architectural walks. ”
“My students really enjoyed the show, as did I. Simon Levy did a great job bringing all the various elements together and maintaining the clarity of the piece, as well as creating the emotional impact. Stephen Sachs’ adaptation is very clever, and Troy Kotsur was wonderful.”
After seeing Cyrano at the Fountain, the students were required to write a critique of their play-going experience. Here are a few excerpts from some of the things the students wrote:
“The play moved me because, like most girls my age, I struggle with insecurities and feeling different than anyone else, and it was empowering and a reassuring reminder to not let my insecurities and differences stop me from being myself and living out my life. I would definitely tell other people to see the play, especially younger people who haven’t accepted who they are yet, because it will change people’s views on not only the deaf community, but their views about themselves and inspire them to overcome any challenges in their lives.”
“I highly recommend everyone to see this play because it was very interesting and a tearjerker. The play also taught me to appreciate my hearing and not take it for granted.”
“My interpretation of this play is that it was adapted for a specific reason: to include deaf people in a joyous event that hearing people get to enjoy all the time without constraint. As a hearing person, I watch television, movies, and listen to music all the time, but deaf people do not get that luxury. Therefore, the play was worth doing because it included both parties and successfully captured an audience not used to that type of performance. Cyrano by Stephen Sachs made the audience more aware that technology is ever-present in this generation, what deaf people suffer, and how heartbreak and joy are emotions felt by all people.”
“Seeing the way that Cyrano was all bad and bold when he was in front of others, but hurting on the inside was very moving. Because it seems as though it’s what a lot of people go through every day. I would love to pass this play on to many other friends to show them that you may be surprised when you judge a book by its cover because what lies inside could be eye opening.”
“Ultimately I thought the entire performance was an overwhelming success that moved me and inspired me to not only look at the deaf community with a warm and accepting heart but also to look within myself, and to love what is there, the good and the bad.”
Erinn Anova (Roxy) and Troy Kotsur (Cyrano) in “Cyrano”.
Over the years, Goodsonhas brought several of his Arts classes to the Fountain. Most of the students had never been to live theatre before.
“Bakersfield Mist was a past class favorite, ” says Goodson. “And The Train Driver absolutely knocked their socks off – and many others during the last several years. For most of them, their first experience in a small theatre was at the Fountain, and it always moves them more than the shows in larger venues – both the intimacy of it and the quality and nature of the work.”