Claudia Rankine has won the 2015 PEN Center USA Literary Award for poetry for her acclaimed book ‘Citizen: An American Lyric’. Our smash hit sold-out stage adaptation of Citizen by Stephen Sachs, directed by Shirley Jo Finney, has earned rave reviews, been hailed as Critic’s Choice in the Los Angeles Times and is extended to October 11.
‘Citizen: An American Lyric’ at the Fountain Theatre
The Los Angeles-based PEN Center USA Literary Awards honor work in eleven categories—fiction, creative nonfiction, research nonfiction, poetry, children’s/young adult, graphic literature, translation, journalism (print and NEW online), drama, screenplay, and teleplay—produced or published in 2015 by writers living west of the Mississippi River.
Actors Jenny O’Hara and Tim Cummings after a performance of ‘Broomstick’ at the Fountain.
3 Critic’s Choice Selections, Sold-Out Flamenco, London Opening, and Best Season Award Highlight Year
2014 was truly another unforgettable year for the Fountain Theatre. It was a year of extraordinary growth and achievement.
All three 2014 productions were honored as Critic’s Choice in the Los Angeles Times, our Forever Flamenco at the Ford gala was a sold-out success, and The Fountain was once again awarded the preeminent Ovation Award for Best Season in 2014. And the London production of Bakersfield Mist on the West End starring Kathleen Turner brought us international attention.
The year also brought the shadow of sadness with the loss of our longtime Subscriptions Director Diana Gibson. Her legacy lives on in the vivid memories she leaves behind, and in the Diana Gibson Subscriber Fund we created.
Here are some of the highlights:
My Name is Asher Lev – Los Angeles Premiere. ‘Critic’s Choice’ Los Angeles Times. Extended sold out run.
Forever Flamenco @ The Ford– Sold-out gala concert at the 1200-seat Ford Theatre.
The Brothers Size – Los Angeles Premiere. ‘Critic’s Choice’ Los Angeles Times. Extended run.
Playwright Tarell McCraney – Discusses his play, The Brothers Size, at the Fountain Theatre.
Tarell McCraney and the company of The Brothers Size.
Bakersfield Mist– opens on the West End in London starring Kathleen Turner and Ian McDiarmid.
Stephen Sachs and Deborah Lawlor outside The Duchess Theatre, London.
Gabby Lamm and Alice Kors – our two fabulous summer interns were terrific and helpful and launched our first Student Night at the Fountain.
Gabby Lamm and Alice Kors
Diana Gibson – The Fountain grieved the loss of our longtime Subscriptions Director, who passed away after a long illness.
Author’s Son Enjoys The Play And Celebrates His Birthday
We were so pleased and honored to welcome a special guest to a recent performance of our critically acclaimed production of My Name Is Asher Lev at the Fountain. Akiva Potok, son of the novel’s author Chaim Potok, attended the play, engaged the audience in a post-show discussion following the performance, and celebrated his birthday with the Asher Lev company upstairs in the cafe. It was another unforgettable night at the Fountain.
Akiva Potok is a filmmaker living in Beverly Hills. After seeing the Fountain production of the stage adaptation of his father’s novel, Akiva commented to director Stephen Sachs: “Indeed it was a wonderful night. Your production of the play cuts deeply into the emotions of that family; I was very moved. The Q&A after was very rewarding and great fun for me. And thank you for letting me celebrate my birthday with your cast and crew.”
“Eloquent … The play resonates with double-edged truths … striking visual and emotional strokes … it unfolds in achingly personal terms,” writes the Times, while the Hollywood Reporter commends “a peerless realization by a splendid cast.” The Santa Monica Daily Press raves, “Just-about-perfect… [a] stellar presentation bound to resonate with everyone,” and BroadwayWorld calls the Fountain production “extraordinary.”
Directed by Stephen Sachs and starring Jason Karasev, Anna Khaja and Joel Polis, My Name Is Asher Lev is the powerful story of a young Jewish painter and his struggle to become an artist at any cost – even against the will of his parents and the traditions of his ultra-orthodox Hasidic community. Exploring questions of art, family, religion and loyalty, this extraordinary adaptation is a compelling look at the cost of individuality.
My Name Is Asher Lev Extended to May 18 (323) 663-1525MORE
LA Premiere Held Over to Celebrate Black History Month
“In the Red and Brown Water” (photo by Ed Krieger)
The Fountain Theatre has extended the Los Angeles premiere of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s lusciously theatrical and boldly original In the Red and Brown Waterthrough the end of February, in honor of Black History Month. Performances will continue through December 16 as previously scheduled, then resume on January 5 for an additional eight weeks through February 24.
Lyrically weaving together elements of urban contemporary realism with West African mysticism, In the Red and Brown Water tells the tale of Oya, who can run faster than anyone—but not fast enough to escape her destiny. Her journey from the promise of youth to the complicated yearnings of womanhood is joyous, raucous, raw and brazenly beautiful.
The Fountain production has been declared “100% Sweet” by Bitter Lemons, a website that aggregates Los Angeles theater reviews, and which, in a rare editorial comment, writes, “Once again, the Fountain Theatre shows that they are the class of Los Angeles theater, big or small… this is simply what theater is meant to be.” The Los Angeles Times raves, “CRITIC’S CHOICE! Beyond the fact that it is sensational, the Fountain Theatre’s production of ‘In the Red and Brown Water’… introduces Los Angeles audiences to a dramatic poet in the process of discovering his singular voice and shows how magnificently one of L.A.’s better small theaters can serve bold new talent.” The LA Weekly agrees, “GO! A visceral fable that rises up from the underbelly of America,” and Back Stage calls In the Red and Brown Water “a production that explodes in sounds, images, and extraordinary performances.”
It took the Fountain three years to obtain rights to produce McCraney’s play, which first exploded on the theater scene with a production at New York’s Public Theatre in 2009. On his personal Facebook page, Los Angeles Times Theater Critic Charles McNulty posts, “I love [the Fountain Theatre] production — even more than the one at the Public Theater. LA Theater is not to be underestimated!”
In the Red and Brown Water is helmed by multiple award-winning director Shirley Jo Finney. Diarra Kilpatrick stars as Oya in “a lead performance that is so good you wonder if somehow the designers may have concocted some kind of CGI image in front of your eyes instead of a living breathing human being; her movement, range of emotion and depth of passion is so indescribable that it will literally take your breath away.” (Colin Mitchell, Bitter Lemons). The ensemble also includes Dorian Christian Baucum, Peggy A.Blow, Gilbert Glenn Brown, Justin Chu Cary, Stephen Marshall, Simone Missick, Iona Morris, Theodore Perkins and Maya Lynne Robinson.
Performances ofIn the Red and Brown Water continue through February 24 on Thursdays (through December 13 only),Fridays and Saturdays @ 8 pm and Sundays @ 2 pm (dark December 17 through January 4). Call (323) 663-1525 or go to www.FountainTheatre.com.
“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.
In the Red and Brown Water playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney will direct and adapt a new production of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra as part of a collaboration among the Public Theater, GableStage in Miami and the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Public announced on Monday. The play will have its premiere at the Stratford-Upon-Avon home of the Royal Shakespeare Company, where Mr. McCraney is an artistic associate, in November 2013, before being staged in Miami in January 2014 and later that month at the Public.
In addition to directing the production, Mr. McCraney edited the text, reordered the scene structure and relocated the play to “the late 1700s against the backdrop of Saint-Domingue, on the eve of the Haitian Revolution against the French,” according to a news release. Casting will take place in London, New York and Miami, Mr. McCraney’s hometown.
Artistic leaders from all three companies say their faith in and admiration for McCraney is what led them to say yes to the collaboration.
“One of the beautiful things about this is that it was driven by Tarell,” says Oskar Eustis, artistic director at the Public, which has presented all three of McCraney’s reputation-making Brother/Sister Plays. “The key to all of this is that we’re unabashed Tarell McCraney fans.”
“Tarell was our playwright in residence, and I wanted to see his take on Antony and Cleopatra,” emailed Michael Boyd, former artistic director of the RSC, who commissioned the script, adding that he was seeking “a bold new take on this difficult play.”
For GableStage’s Joseph Adler, McCraney’s Antony and Cleopatra is an opportunity to build on a relationship that began last season with McCraney’s staging of his The Brothers Size and this season with a January-February production of Hamlet, a 90-minute adaptation McCraney and Bijan Sheibani wrote for the RSC.
The Public’s Eustis explains why a McCraney Antony and Cleopatra set in Haiti is so appealing to him.
“This isn’t an idea you’d lay on top of the play. It’s not a contemporary, lively, anachronistic setting,” he says. “This is something that will allow people to hear this play differently. This brings it closer and makes us understand colonialism.”
“Tarell has a deep sense that his work is in service of something much bigger than himself. He’s trying to answer to an artistic imperative. It makes you want to throw your weight behind him,” Eustis says.
“His life will get more complicated, but one still feels the purity of that vision. Not just for his sake, you want to hold him out as an example that you don’t have to sell out to be a success.”
Tarell Alvin McCraney
A 2007 graduate of Yale, Mr. McCraney is best known for his trilogy The Brother/Sister Plays. His other plays have been produced at major regional theaters throughout the United States and in England. McCraney’s play, Choir Boy, opened at London’s Royal Court Theatre to rave reviews.
Commissioned by New York’s Manhattan Theatre Club, where it will get its U.S. premiere with previews starting June 18 and an opening July 2,Choir Boy is set in a black boys’ prep school celebrating its 50th anniversary. The headmaster’s nephew is at odds with Pharus, a gay student with a glorious tenor voice who is determined to become leader of the school’s famous gospel choir. In her review in The Guardian, critic Lyn Gardner writes: “Threaded with searing gospel songs, McCraney’s play examines the shifting nature of truths, biblical and otherwise, and cleverly manipulates the hot-house setting to consider wider issues of black American history, from the brutal days of slavery to Obama’s cry of ‘yes we can!'”
“We’re thrilled with the overwhelming response to the play,” says Fountain Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs. “And proud to be the theatre that introduced this important new playwright to Los Angeles audiences. We look forward to continuing our relationship with Tarell. The Fountain is his home in Los Angeles.”
In the Red and Brown Water is now playing to December 16th, call (323) 663-1525 or buy tickets.
RAVE! CRITIC’S CHOICE! “Beyond the fact that it is sensational, the Fountain Theatre’s production of “In the Red and Brown Water” by Tarell Alvin McCraney is important for two reasons: It introduces Los Angeles audiences to a dramatic poet in the process of discovering his singular voice and it shows how magnificently one of L.A.’s better small theaters can serve bold new talent.” – Los Angeles Times
Peggy Blow, Diarra Kilpatrick and company.
RAVE! “Every player scores a memorable impression, above all the luminous lead Diarra Kilpatrick, who can inhabit a simple soul yet express her intensely complicated inner torment … [Director Shirley Jo Finney] indisputably remains at the top of her game.” – Hollywood Reporter
RAVE! “A production that explodes in sounds, images, and extraordinary performances.” – Backstage
RAVE!“An astonishing accomplishment! Skilfully aided by director Shirley Jo Finney, the superb cast works poetry, myth, dance, chanting and music into the mix.” – Total Theater
RAVE! “Electrifying! … A unique piece full of dancing, singing, haunting story telling and enchanting characters … It is like nothing you have ever seen before and something that is utterly fascinating and highly entertaining.” – ALittleNightMusing
RAVE!GO! “Compelling! A visceral fable that rises up from the underbelly of America.” – LA Weekly
Diarra Kilpatrick and Gilbert Glenn Brown
RAVE! “Perfection! Finney’s excellent directorial work … The casting is flawless.” – LA Beat
RAVE!“Unforgettable! An excellent cast!” – ArtsinLA
RAVE! “A new, important, and original voice in American theatre … a talented cast … Especially moving … heart-wrenching” – BlogCritics
Diarra Kilpatrick and company.
RAVE! “Diarra Kilpatrick is a breath of fresh air in her daring performance … Gilbert Glenn Brown nearly steals this show (at least as far as the women are concerned) with an explosive and arousing performance … terrific … hilarious … a steady cast anchored by theater veterans Iona Morris and Peggy A. Blow.” – Donloe’s Lowdown
Rave Reviews! Critic’s Choice in the Los Angeles Times!
Troy Kotsur and Erinn Anova
The Fountain Theatre and Deaf West Theatre have announced a four-week extension of Cyrano, a signed/spoken adaptation of “Cyrano de Bergerac” that has been re-set in modern-day Los Angeles. The Fountain/Deaf West co-production will continue Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm through July 8.
Written by Fountain Theatre co-artistic director Stephen Sachs (Bakersfield Mist) and directed by Simon Levy, Cyrano stars Deaf West actor Troy Kostsur in the title role as a brilliant deaf poet hopelessly in love with Roxy, a beautiful hearing woman. But Roxy doesn’t understand sign language and instead loves Chris, his hearing brother. Can Cyrano express his love to Roxy with his hands? Or must he teach Chris to woo her, to “speak his words” for him? American Sign Language (ASL) becomes the language of love in this new spin on a classic love story.
Troy Kotsur and Paul Raci
Over a dozen reviewers have weighed in, earning Cyrano a score of “100% Sweet” on Bitter Lemons, the website that aggregates reviews of Los Angeles theater. “CRITIC’S CHOICE… inspired and inspiring! —Los Angeles Times; “CRITIC’S PICK…clever and deeply moving… bridges the gap between [deaf and hearing] worlds with poignancy and a huge dose of humor.” — Back Stage; “Skillful and impressive… terrific performances.” —LAist; “5 STARS… a poignant, inventive, riotously funny and marvelously satisfying masterpiece!”—Santa Monica Daily Press; “Nothing short of amazing… a dazzling accomplishment.” —Talkin’ Broadway; “A gem… fascinating on so many levels.” —Buzzine; “Superlative… an evening not to be missed.” —StageHappenings; “GO! [a] glorious swirl of words floating around the stage.” —LA Weekly; “An extraordinary production of a terrific play” —Latin Heat; “A sheer and exceptional pleasure.” —LifeInLA.
Cyrano continues through July 8 at The Fountain Theatre. For reservations and information, call 323 663-1525 orclick here.
Review: A refreshing take on ‘Cyrano’ at Fountain Theatre
Troy Kotsur and Erinn Anova (photo by Ed Krieger)
by Philip Brandes
Texting and email may have replaced quill and ink in “Cyrano” — Stephen Sachs’ contemporary re-envisioning of Edmond Rostand‘s classic drama — but the problematic nature of communication remains a constant. If anything, the theme gains new dimension and impact through the collision of hearing, deaf and online cultures in this inspired and inspiring adaptation’s debut co-production from the Fountain Theatre and Deaf West Theatre companies.
Performed simultaneously in spoken dialogue and American Sign Language by a mixed ensemble of hearing and deaf actors, Sachs’ moving adaptation transposes Rostand’s archetypal heroic outsider into a gifted coffeehouse poet whose inferiority complex is rooted in his deafness rather than his perfectly normal nose. Troy Kotsur excels as this modern Cyrano, who fears that talking with his hands poses an unbridgeable gulf between himself and Roxy (Erinn Anova) the hearing-only poetry fan he worships from afar. Learning that his beloved is in turn infatuated with his rock musician brother, Chris (Paul Raci), who has always been his “voice” in the hearing world, Cyrano returns the favor by composing romantic texts and emails to Roxy on Chris’ behalf (smartly rendered in videography by Jeffrey Elias Teeter).
Sachs’ adaptation skillfully maps Rostand’s principals to their updated versions. Torn between pride and loneliness, Kotsur’s Cyrano resists identifying with either the hearing or deaf communities — or the modern world, for that matter — and evokes the heartbreaking weight of the realization that self-sacrificing vicarious passion is not all it’s cracked up to be. Raci is by turns hilarious and poignant as clueless loser Chris, and Anova invests Roxy with the sensitivity and sense of isolation she unknowingly shares with Cyrano.
The few arguable limitations here lie in adhering a bit too faithfully to some creakier aspects of Rostand’s original (particularly the opening brawling sequence), but the performances quickly catch fire in Simon Levy’s well-paced and precisely focused staging. Besides offering a refreshing take on a classic, the signed/spoken presentation offers hearing folks the opportunity to appreciate sign language’s unique emotional expressiveness.