The Fountain Theatre is delighted to welcome attorney Lois R. Fishman to its Board of Directors. Lois brings her sharp intelligence, wealth of experience, and passion for theatre to our growing Fountain Board.
“The energy at the Fountain is contagious,” says Lois. “The intimate setting involves the audience in a way impossible in a large space. I was drawn to the evident humanity of the directors and cast. How did a small theater in Hollywood become a favorite home for Athol Fugard? This was worth looking into! And then I was seduced by the intelligent mix of programming, speaking to audiences about our times through the voices of established and new playwrights. From Tennessee Williams Night of the Iguana, to Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Brother/Sister plays, I love how the Fountain reflects the rich and complex composition of LA and invites us to share our stories and experiences. And then to meet the casts afterward in a cozy café setting is always such a thrill. On top of it all, I have been a fan of flamenco dance since my high school days and love that the Fountain has created a home for this art form.”
Lois is a lifelong theater goer with a collection of playbills dating back to the 1970s. A child of suburban New York, she grew up attending Broadway musicals, plays at Lincoln Center and downtown, and opera at City Center. While a college student at Yale, she studied drama history with Richard Gilman, ushered at the Yale Dramatic Association and shared subscriptions to Yale Rep and Long Wharf Theater. Favorite Yale theater experiences: the August Wilson plays directed by Lloyd Richards, the early plays of Wendy Wasserstein, anything by Athol Fugard.
Lois began her career in Washington D.C. at the National Endowment for the Arts and later worked as a writer and consultant to many arts and humanities organizations in the capital, before plunging into independent film and radio production, contributing free-lance pieces to NPR and working on the 13-part dramatic series “Faces Mirrors Masks.” She was the Executive Director of Americas Film Festival, the first DC-area festival of films from Latin America and served on the program committee for Women Make Movies and the DC Film Fest.
After moving to Los Angeles to start a new career as a lawyer in 1993, Lois completed the training program of the Arts Leadership Initiative and joined the Board of Odyssey Theater, her first introduction to the exciting small theater scene in LA. Highlights of that period include productions of The Caucasian Chalk Circle and The Rose Tattoo, among others. To lend support to an old friend, she also served for a few years on the Board of Santa Barbara Theatre where she first met Stephen Sachs.
Lois R. Fishman with Barbara Goodhill at ‘The Chosen’, Fountain Theatre
After marrying her husband Henry Fetter and moving from west LA to Hollywood in 2001, Lois eagerly sought out the small theatre scene in her new neighborhood and found Fountain Theatre through friends, including Diana Gibson who formerly ran the box office.
Lois is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Yale University (B.A., magna cum laude, honors with exceptional distinction in psychology) and holds a J.D. degree from Georgetown University Law Center and a Master of City Planning degree from the University of California, Berkeley where she was a Regents Fellow. Lois retired from The Walt Disney Company as Assistant General Counsel where she advised on distribution of films and TV programs via new media platforms. Lois currently has a solo law practice in mid-Wilshire area serving clients in the creative sector and non-profit organizations. She also teaches as adjunct professor at the Fowler School of Law, Chapman University, Orange, CA and has experience as a guest instructor at Loyola Law School, San Andreas University of Buenos Aires, Argentina and Mykolas Romeris University in Vilnius, Lithuania, among other institutions.
For six years she was a member of the Board of Trustees of Inner City Law Center, a legal services organization in Los Angeles, and was previously President of the Los Angeles Copyright Society, on whose board she served for eight years. Lois is active with the Yale Alumni Schools Committee, interviewing applicants for admission to Yale College, with Los Angeles Giving Circle, and with MOSTe, a mentoring and college access organization working with middle and high school girls from various LA public schools.
“Lois is not only expertly qualified to help guide the Fountain as a board member,” says Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs. “She is also a wonderful person. We are fortunate to have her expertise and goodwill.”
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.
When I was young, I dreamed of running away and joining a theatre company when I grew up. Now that I’ve “grown up,” I realized that I don’t have to run away. I can live that dream right here at the Fountain Theatre.
That realization came at the memorial service for Diana Gibson. I decided to step up and volunteer, to carry on Diana’s tradition and help build relationships and support for my favorite theatre, the Fountain!
For me, The Fountain Theatre is a unique and important place.
No other theatre in Los Angeles demonstrates the same commitment in its work to presenting socially conscious and relevant work that gives voice to groups of people who are not widely represented. The Fountain is accessible and responsive to the work of renowned playwrights like Athol Fugard. Where else can you see a production of The Blue Iris and then have the opportunity to talk with him after the show? Where else can you see the work of a new playwright like Tarell Alvin McCraney and meet him after the show?
I want more young people to experience the life of the theatre. Not only by coming to see plays, but also by learning about the process of creating a production. I support this theatre because it has a commitment to under-represented groups of people and reaches out to people of all ages and gives them the opportunity to see creative, relevant, dynamic, progressive productions.
I want to be part of a community with these values. Don’t you?
Diana Gibson in the Fountain Theatre lobby, February 2014
Producer, writer, director, actress and longtime subscriptions director at the Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles, Diana Moore Gibson passed away on Thursday, July 17 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center from multiple complications following pneumonia. She was 69. Born Nov. 11, 1944 in Des Moines, Iowa, Diana moved to Los Angeles to attend USC, where she earned MFAs in both Painting and Drama and was the recipient of the prestigious Cole Porter Award.
She was a member of and performed with the USC-USA Festival Theatre Company, for which she wrote and directed two folk-rock musicals that went on to tour internationally: The Word, based on the Old Testament, was performed at the Jeanetta Cochran Theatre in London and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival; and Words and Pictures, about the history of art, toured to nine American Houses in Germany, the Cambridge Arts Theatre in England and the Edinburgh Fringe. She also wrote the musical Cinderelle, an adaptation of the Cinderella story, which was directed by Jack Bender at USC and at the Los Angeles Performing Arts Festival at Barnsdall Park, and Baby Steps, a collection of one-acts that was directed by Kevin Tighe at Hollywood’s MET Theatre in 1983.
Ms. Gibson joined Ted Schmitt at the Cast Theatre in Hollywood in 1986, where she served as associate artistic director until 1989, then as artistic director from 1989-1999. Highlights of her decade-long tenure include Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award winning world premieres of David Steen’s Avenue A and Melody Jones by Dan Gerrity and Jeremy Lawrence, and ten acclaimed world premieres by playwright Justin Tanner.
In 1999, Diana joined the Fountain Theatre as subscriptions director, a position she claimed to enjoy “more than any of those [previous positions].” She frequently referred to Fountain staff and subscribers as “a magical group of people.” A continual presence in the Fountain lobby, she knew the majority of the Fountain’s 1500 subscribers, “her members,” by name, and remembered the names of their spouses and children as well. Known for her gruff, straight-talking manner and acerbic sense of humor, she often said how much she enjoyed chatting with subscribers, both on the phone and in the Fountain lobby.
She is survived by her sister Julie Gibson Josephson, brother-in-law Steve Josephson and niece Kira Moore Josephson.
The Fountain Theatre has established the Diana Gibson Subscriber Fund, to provide Fountain subscriptions to low-income students and seniors.
A memorial to honor Diana’s life and accomplishments will be held on Saturday, Aug. 2 at 1 p.m. at the Fountain Theatre. For more information and to RSVP, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (323) 663-1525.
When Stephen Sachs was a student at Agoura High, he won a national high school writing award and was offered several writing scholarships. He turned them all down. Why? “I wanted to be an actor,” he answered a bit sheepishly.
He became one in the 1980s, but it’s the old story. As reality set in, he began to direct, write plays and help run theatre companies. He was a manager at Ensemble Studio Theatre, worked behind the scenes at Stages in Hollywood, and with Joan Stein and Suzie Dietz at the Canon Theatre in Beverly Hills. Until he got a phone call “out of the blue” from Deborah Lawlor, another independent theatre producer.
Deborah Lawlor and Stephen Sachs
Lawlor had met Sachs at Stages when she rented space there, and was impressed by him. While recuperating from a serious auto accident in New York, she decided that, if she survived, she would do what she’d always wanted: have her own theatre. She called Sachs and asked him to run it with her. That was 1990. You might say that the rest is history, but not so fast…
“I was just starting to develop as a playwright and director,” Sachs said. “Deborah had a dance background. She was part of the avant-garde dance scene in New York in the 1960s and 70s. The Judson Dance Theater, Café Cino, the whole thing. Her idea was to create an artistic home for theatre and dance artists.”
As a wise friend once told me, we tend to enter our lives through the back door. Looking around for a suitable space, Lawlor and Sachs were shown a funky building at 5060 Fountain Avenue in Hollywood and fell in love with it. They named it the Fountain for the street it sat on, but also, Lawlor said, “I liked the idea of a fountain of work…”
“We opened our doors on April Fool’s Day 1990—the perfect day to start a theatre company,” said Sachs, “and we’ve been there ever since. Los Angeles being such a diverse city, we wanted to do work that would give voice to a variety of communities.”
Which is how the theatre’s association with Flamenco dance began.
Flamenco dancer Maria Bermudez
“Through Deborah,” specified Sachs. “Shortly after we opened she asked, ‘Have you ever seen a Flamenco concert?’ I said no and she said, ‘Come with me.’ We got in the car, drove up to Santa Barbara and she introduced me to Roberto Amaral, a well respected Flamenco teacher and choreographer. I saw my first Flamenco concert and was blown away. ‘We’re going to do that at The Fountain,’ Deborah said. And now we’re the foremost regular presenters of Flamenco in Los Angeles.
“When we started it was just Deborah, me and the building. We plugged in a couple of phones, drove down Western Avenue and bought a couple of desks. We had to assemble them ourselves. We made our own programs on a manual typewriter. It was all very small, very modest.”
In many ways, it still is. “But from the beginning,” added Sachs, “we felt we were on to something. We did The Golden Gate, a play I had adapted from a charming novel by Vikram Seth about yuppies, gays and straights living in San Francisco—romantic and fun, beautifully written, and entirely in verse. It was like 30-somethings meet Shakespeare. We did it up in San Francisco, so right out of the gate, our work was being noticed. It’s just been a slow kind of gentle growth ever since.”
While next year will mark their 25th year in business at the same address in a virtually unchanged environment, and they have a lot to show artistically for the past quarter century, big profit is not one of them. Lawlor has delivered financial support when needed, while Sachs has delivered a stream of noteworthy plays, becoming that unusual creature: a playwright and director with his own sandbox. Together, they’ve built a loyal audience and done work that has brought them recognition and has traveled pretty far afield.
Sachs has had 11 of his plays produced during that time, many of them at the Fountain, quite a few elsewhere—from The Pasadena Playhouse to Toronto, from Chicago’s Victory Gardens to Vancouver. A quick Google search offers an impressive list of directing and playwriting credits.
Rochelle (Pamela Dunlap) finds release through dance in ‘Heart Song’.
Currently, his play Heart Song, which recently premiered at the Fountain and is about the transformation of a middle-aged Jewish woman “separated from her tribe and very much alone,” is filling up houses at Florida Rep. His 2012 two-hander, Bakersfield Mist, about the encounter of a celebrated art dealer with a woman in a Bakersfield trailer convinced she owns a major work of art, opens in June at The Duchess Theatre in London’s West End. It features Kathleen Turner and Ian McDiarmid.
“There’s been something special about this play from the start,” said Sachs. “I directed the world premiere at the Fountain and was on the 101 freeway driving to my first production meeting, when I had a call from my agent telling me the script had been optioned for New York. I had to pull over!”
Bakersfield Mist received three other productions around the country as part of the National New Play Network (NNPN), an organization of theaters of which The Fountain is a member. It was founded in 1998 with the intent of giving new plays more than one production.
“They do this thing called ‘rolling world premieres,’ ” Sachs explained, “guaranteeing at least three productions of a new play. Sweet Nothing In My Ear, another play of mine that premiered at the Fountain, went around the country through NNPN and then was made into a Hallmark movie with Marlee Matlin and Jeff Daniels. A new version of Strinberg’s Miss Julie that I wrote was produced that way as well. We want to continue doing more of that.”
Bakersfield Mist had productions at Wellfleet Harbor Theatre in Cape Cod, New Rep in Boston, the New Jersey Rep and was optioned by Sonia Friedman, a major New York and London producer. “They’d never seen a production of it,” said Sachs. “They read that script sent by my agent and optioned it for London and New York. Now they control the U.S. rights.”
Ian McDiarmid and Kathleen Turner in the London production of “Bakersfield Mist”
In 2004, the Fountain drew the attention of no less a playwright than South Africa’s Athol Fugard, who chose the tiny Fountain for the world premiere of an exquisite and very personal two-character play: Exits and Entrances. It was followed by the U.S. premiere of Fugard’s The Blue Iris, The Train Driver, Victory and the West coast premiere of Coming Home.
When asked how many productions the Fountain puts on per year, Sachs answered: “Trick question. We’ll announce four, but actually do two or three. Our productions tend to extend and run for a while which is a nice problem to have. So we announce four and see how it goes.”
Productions are no longer pegged to specific dates, but to seasons — Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter — allowing for greater flexibility. Sachs and Lawlor threw out the old model of rigid slots when they found themselves closing hits because they had committed to a new show on a given date. With just 80 seats to sell, they had to think more creatively. “We changed everyone to a flexible pass and we’ve never looked back. This allows us to keep a hit going. It also allows our subscribers the flexibility to come at their convenience—a good thing when decisions today tend to be so last-minute.”
So is the small physical plant a plus or a minus?
“It’s a question we’ve been wrestling with for years,” Sachs acknowledged, “a tug between ambition and what is right for the company. We even explored Hollywood quite a bit, looking to find maybe a second space or larger building, thinking, boy, how much bigger we could be. Yet talking with Fugard about this, he said, ‘Don’t. Don’t do it.’ Maybe he’s right…”
“The Train Driver” by Athol Fugard
So here’s the dilemma: Awards and recognition are certainly not lacking, but breaking even—let alone making money—is a perennial struggle. The staff has ballooned to six people: Lawlor and Sachs, producing director Simon Levy, tech director Scott Tuomey, associate producer James Bennett and head of subscriptions Diana Gibson. The budget has “a little more than doubled” since they opened their doors. It does not easily enable profit.
“There are times when I wish we had more seats, a bigger stage,” said Sachs, “but there are plenty of examples out there of smaller theatres that have gone on to larger buildings and have regretted it or have lost something in the move; suddenly the focus becomes the real estate and maintaining the overhead.
“I don’t ever want to lose the magic of this intimate space. It makes for such a visceral experience. But after almost 25 years, there’s also a question of growth. We can’t become stagnant or complacent and we do want to continue building forward. You don’t want to sell your soul and you don’t want to lose what makes this theatre special.”
Lawlor concurred. She’s writing a play for which she’s received a grant and acknowledged that “our losses have decreased; we may even show a tiny profit this year.”
“Expanding fund-raising; exploring the possibility of adding 19 seats to our existing space. Not easy,” said Sachs, “but we can do that under the 99-seat Equity Waiver and 19 seats could make a difference. Other than that, we’re looking to expand our exposure across the country and having more of our work done at other theatres.”
So the funky Fountain remains the-little-theatre-that-could, on its funky street with its broken sidewalk, its postage-stamp parking lot, and widely enjoyed by many people who apparently have found out that they really, really like what it has to offer.
Hello everyone, this is Lowes Lee Moore III one last time.
As you know The Los Angeles County Arts Commission gave me a 10-week Internship with the Fountain Theatre as the Development Intern. YAAAAY!!! I am very sad to say that today marks the end of the internship. It is extremely upsetting to have to leave such a loving family of beautiful theater-making individuals. Every day they have welcomed me with warm smiles, hugs, and valuable lessons. I am truly blessed to have been a member of the Fountain Theatre Family.
I thought it would be funny to take some of my journal entries from my first two weeks on the job so you can see for yourselves how great my summer has been.
photo by Lowes
[6/4/2013] Day 1: Today I met Stephen, Deborah, Scott and Diana. They showed me to my desk, which had a laptop, office supplies, and a phone. The scariest part of the day was the phone rang 3x. Of course I didn’t answer. What am I suppose to say? It’s my first day. Give me a break. Stephen gave me a task to complete over the next few days to get me started. I took that as a challenge. I got to meet Denise Blasor, one of the new actors in the Fountain Theatre play Heart Song written by the very own Stephen Sachs himself. She did a KPFK radio interview which was pretty cool because I got to sit in the room while it happened. They do a lot Flamenco-y things in this place. I probably should look up Flamenco sometime between today and tomorrow. It’s definitely a thing here.
[6/7/2013] Day 4: Today there was a lot of traffic. Being from New York I guess I’ll never understand LA traffic shenanigans. The second I got to the office I was put in charge of 4 tasks! They waste no time here and are going to use every bit of me they can. Well, lucky for them that is why I am here. The most daunting task of all was doing computer research and e-mailing for artist who will donate over 100 CD’s for Forever Flamenco! At the Ford. Apparently, this event is going to be big and I need to get with the program fast. After archiving for about 15 minutes with Deb I had to take a break. There is some much history here at the Fountain. Every time I look at the information that needs to be archived I get exhausted/flustered/overwhelmed/distracted. But hey, who’s complaining really. Deb told me to get rid of items that had too many extra copies but could not watch me and would not let me throw anything away without saying “Let me see that…let me see the copies.” This was going to be a long project I could tell.
photo by Lowes
We decided to call it a day and I joined Deb in some stretching and dancing to cool off. She demanded I research Flamenco dancers who’ve been through the Fountain Theatre like Timo Nunez, Maria Bermudez, and Mizuho Sato to name a few. She, politely, threatened me saying, “you will not be allowed to stay here very long if you don’t come see my Flamenco show” in her most seriously voice but with her most vibrant and loving smile. I am pretty sure Deb was an amazing dancer back in the day. She has moves. That has been confirmed.
[6/13/2013] Day 8: Today was my day of funny events. This morning I laughed with Stephen about how hectic my no car situation is. It felt good to just talk about it. We hung out and ate some hotdogs, which he says is one of our normal Fountain lunch meals. Who knew I would like hotdogs so much. After, I was sitting at my desk when Scott & Diana were working on the phones in the other room but forgot to tell me. Diana fussed me out for answering the phone. “Are you serious? We are checking the phones? Come on Lowes?” which is the pretty censored version haha. I was really embarrassed because Diana is kind of scary. Diana came right over and glared at me for 2 minutes. Then she smiled & chuckled and said “hey Lowes, next time read my mind…that was a joke!!!” Boy, did I need some time to process that one. Today was one of the first days I bonded with James (the head box office person but he is MANAGER now) as I refer to him on the phone. He is really funny and right around the corner from my desk. Sooner or later he’ll get annoyed with my 1,000 questions. Today I definitely had a lot but he did not seem to mind at all. We had our first staff meeting before the show at the Ford. I failed for the first time on the job. I could not find anyone to donate the CD’s that we asked for.
Lowes and dancer Timo Nunez backstage at Forever Flamenco at the Ford
[6/14/2013] Day 9: Just kidding I cannot believe how great today was. After I got home last night. I got an e-mail from a company willing to donate 100 CDs. Stephen and the rest of the FT family were so proud. Apparently, I’m a “boss.” If you do not know what that means…well it means I’M THE MAN!!! Yup and to top it off I surprised Stephen with his favorite Chicken Avocado burrito from El Pollo Loco. Yes it was a pretty great day. As if the day couldn’t get any better, Simon tells me that I get to help him on the producing side of theatre. “This is the fun part of the internship” he says. I get to help with a show he is directing in September called “The Normal Heart.” I am so excited to get started on that project. Simon seems like a very fun person to work with. He gets so intense and is so knowledgeable I can’t help but be amazed majority of the time.
I can’t even begin to process all of the great things that have happened to me this summer. I have learned many new tools and have met so many great people. I got to spend a summer in the office of a Non-Profit Organization who does everything possible to bring quality work to a diverse Los Angeles Community. I finally learned what Flamenco is and have seen some of the best in Los Angeles. I’ve seen Heart Song and had the privilege of working under the writer for my entire stay at the Fountain Theatre. I did research on and helped advertise one of the greatest American Play’s, the The Normal Heart, revival in Los Angeles after 15+ years.
Here are some other areas I helped in while at the Fountain Theatre:
Artist Relations*Box Office Work*Document Managing/Organizing*Entering Transfers & Journal Entries into QuickBooks*Helping Fundraise/Donation*Archiving*General Office Work*Casting Monitor*Assistant Handyman*Running Errands*Grant Research/Preparation*Blogging*
Lowes and box office dude James Bennett
I’ve found a family here at the Fountain Theatre. Everyday forward I will be grateful for all of the wisdom and knowledge this experience has given me. Even though I am very sad to leave and go back to school. I happy I have found another home in East Hollywood at the intersection of Fountain and Normandie. When I walked out of the office after my first day I felt something deep down. There is something special here at the Fountain. It must be in the water. And as I walk out of the office today I know I’ll feel it again. Love.
This upcoming school year I will be diving into intense coursework in classes such as Econometrics, Macro-economics, Music of Western Culture, & Community Literacy. I also will be the section leader for our Glee Club for the second year in a row. Our Glee Club is traveling to Spain & Portugal on tour in January. I will be serving on the executive board, as treasurer of our schools largest club on campus called Dance Production. I will be a Tour Guide for my second year and a music scholarship student for my third year. Lastly, from August 24th to October 12th I am in the production of Hairspray The Broadway Musical at the Glendale Centre Theatre. This summer has opened up doors for me to work in many different aspects of the arts.
I want to give a special thank you to the Los Angeles Arts Commission for allowing me this opportunity to gain more experience in the work place. Thank you Fountain Family: Stephen, Deborah, Simon, Scott, Diana, James, Barbara and everyone else who played such integral parts in making this one of the best summer experiences yet.