Tag Archives: Diarra Kilpatrick

These three Fountain actresses, now TV stars, stay close since forming bonds on stage

Psychologist Carl Jung introduced the word “synchronicity”,  coining it to describe a “meaningful coincidence,” when unrelated events seem to happen for a reason.  Synchronicity is something you feel. When, for no outward reason, the stars align and the right people come together at the right time and the result is something meaningful and long lasting. 

Synchronicity is what occurred with the cast of the 2012 Fountain Theatre LA premiere of Tarell Alvin McCraney‘s In the Red and Brown Water.  Magic happened not only on stage. Friendships were formed seven years ago that remain strong to this day. And three actresses from that cast — Simone Missick, Maya Lynne Robinson and Diarra Kilpatrick — are now enjoying a blossoming of their TV careers at the same time. Coincidence? We don’t think so.

Simone Missick, last seen at the Fountain in Citizen: An American Lyric, co-starred on the Netflix TV series Luke Cage as Misty Knight. She just signed the lead role in the new CBS legal drama pilot Courthouse.  

Diarra Kilpatrick is the creator and star of American Koko, an ABC digital original series, earning her an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy/Drama Series, Short Form. She created, wrote, and starred in the comedy pilot The Climb for Amazon, and is set to star in a new comedy for Showtime opposite Keenen Ivory Wayans.  

Maya Lynne Robinson, recently on stage at the Fountain in Runaway Home, is now a series regular on ABC’s Roseanne spinoff  The Connors, playing the role of Geena Williams-Conner.  

We asked these three dynamic actresses to share their thoughts on In the Red and Brown Water, and how theatre can form bonds that last a lifetime.

The race

In the Red and Brown Water, Fountain Theatre, 2012.

What was it about In The Red and Brown Water that created such close ties? 

MLR: For me, it stemmed from the fact that I was 3 months new in town and didn’t have a foundation/tribe yet. In the Red and Brown Water was the first project I was cast in once I moved to LA. I met these wonderfully creative and down-to-earth people and when you find those type of people, you shouldn’t let them go.

SM: I think what started at the table, with our director, Shirley Jo Finney, had a huge impact in creating a family amongst the cast and crew. To be able to discuss the play, the characters, inside and out and know that you were working with artists who took the work as seriously as you, made us all feel like we were experiencing something different and special. We knew we could trust one another onstage, and that trust helped us to build bonds as artists and as friends. But there is also a level of divine placement when it came to that production. Each of us were appointed to be there for those six plus months, for only God knows the reason, and to then be a part of each others lives. We’ve been there for each other through marriages, babies, cross country moves, and amazing work opportunities.  It is just one of those special blessings, that so many of us gelled, and we found sisters and brothers, aunties and cousins in one another.

DK: I do believe [director] Shirley Jo Finney brought together a great group of not only artists but people. It was a joy playing with them and I’m grateful that we’ve s formed such loving, supportive bonds. We made a family and even though that’s common in the theater, this is a particularly special group of artists.   Every one of us has continued to grow as artists and as people, I mean to the person. And I’m so, so proud of us.

What’s your favorite memory from that production?

MLR: Singing warm ups and prayer together before the show.  There was something about our vibration that made me happy to do the show with these people every day for almost six months.

SM: There are sooooo many. Some of them stay in the vault. But one of them is Maya Lynne stomping her feet to get some of our other (not as rhythmically gifted brothers) on beat. She earned a nickname from that. 

RED BROWN gals

Maya Lynne Robinson, Diarra Kilpatrick, Simone Missick, Iona Morris, 2018.

With whom from the cast have you most stayed in touch?

SM: All of us are on a text message chain that we connect through. This past Valentine’s Day, we all sent silly pictures to say we loved each other.  I had the fortune to work with Shirley Jo four more times after that production, and she is such a special influence in my career and in my life. Our stage manager, Shawna and I have worked together again. I love that girl. Diarra and Maya Lynne are people that I talk to more often. We are all around the same age, experiencing some of the same career “firsts”, and we are always shooting each other a text of congratulations and cheering one another on. But the Red Brown family got together for a Christmas brunch, and FaceTimed with Stephen Marshall who moved to NY, so he wouldn’t be left out. We just love each other!

MLR: Whether we speak daily or once a year, we all pick up right where we left off. We have text message chains during holidays and big events. We try to have a reunion whenever possible. Half of us got together for a reunion earlier this year.

What is it about theatre — and the Fountain Theatre in particular — that creates a feeling of family? 

MLR: There is a sense of family at the Fountain Theatre. From the exterior and interior style all the way to the intimacy of the spaces, the Fountain Theatre fosters closeness, authenticity and talent. 

SM: Live theatre is an experience like no other. It is the artist’s equivalent to trapeze work, but the net is your fellow cast members. You are sailing through the air, with the audience there witnessing you doing emotional gymnastics, and every moment is alive and terrifying and electrifying. The intimacy of the Fountain leaves no room for hiding. You have to be vulnerable and authentic at every turn. That experience is one that creates a bond with your acting partners, because you are all there being honest and alive together. 

DK: In The Red and Brown Water was a beautiful experience. I remember being in church and was particularly prayerful about opening myself up to new opportunities and challenges and ways to express myself.  After service, Erinn Anova came up to me and said she was helping to cast a play at the Fountain and wanted to make sure she brought me in for it. She had seen me in something else and thought I’d be right for the lead. I so badly had wanted to work at The Fountain and with Shirley Jo. So, every step of the Red/Brown journey felt as synchronistic as that. Like it was meant to be. Like magic.

SM: I’ve managed to keep my Red Brown family close through it all. It truly was an experience of a lifetime that I will always cherish.

Fountain actresses are now conquering television and breaking barriers

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Simone Missick, Taraji P. Henson, and Tina Lifford

They are, first and foremost, talented actresses now starring in some of the most popular shows on television. They are strong women conquering an industry dominated by men. They are women of color leading a new wave of diversity now finally being demonstrated on TV screens. And they are all members of the Fountain Family, seen in acclaimed productions on our intimate Fountain stage   

Simone Missick is now taking TV by storm co-starring as Misty Knight on the new Netflix series Marvel’s Luke Cage. She plays the first black female superhero in the history of television. The new series is now being seen in 180 countries.  There is already talk of giving Simone her own series in a Misty Knight spinoff. 

luke-cage-wp

Simone Missick as Misty Knight in ‘Marvel’s Luke Cage’

Simone’s launch to TV stardom is the stuff of local LA theatre legend. She was catapulted from acting in a play at the intimate Fountain Theatre to co-starring in a new popular television series as an iconic Marvel superhero. It’s the kind of plucking from obscurity to stardom of which most actors dream. 

CITIZEN Fountain Theatre feel most colored

Simone Missick in ‘Citizen: An American Lyric’ at the Fountain Theatre

Simone got the call to audition for the series while appearing on stage at the Fountain Theatre in our 2015 hit production of Citizen: An American Lyric. Shuttling back and forth between auditioning for the TV role and performing weekends at the Fountain, she knew it was a longshot. Suffering from a head cold, she flew to New York one final time to audition and test for the part. Sworn to secrecy by TV producers, Simone couldn’t share details with her Fountain cast about the role she was up for. But we knew it was big and important. We all waited. 

Then she got word.    

“I got a call from Jeph Loeb who was the head of Marvel. He kind of just said, ‘Prepare for your life to change,’” says Simone. “And what does that even mean for an actor who’s been working, doing theatre and short films in LA for 10 years? You can just never anticipate when that call is going to come, what it will really be. It was amazing.”

tina-lifford

Tina Lifford

Tina Lifford was also on stage at the Fountain with Simone in the same production of Citizen: An American Lyric. She now co-stars as Violet Bordelon, an aunt to the three estranged Bordelon siblings on OWN’s acclaimed drama Queen Sugar. The new series was  created, directed and executive produced by Ava DuVernay. Oprah Winfrey also serves as executive producer.  

Queen Sugar is groundbreaking. It is produced by a black-owned network and overseen by two black women—one who owns the network (Winfrey) and the other (DuVernay) as showrunner, head writer and director. All of the directors guiding every episode in season one have been women.  

“It’s exciting that we get to represent the excellence that is living in people of color,” says Tina. “The excellence that hasn’t necessarily had a platform before, which is why Ava is championing the whole inclusive movement. She is saying, there’s all of these stories and talents in every face of talent-making to tell those stories, and we’re going to show you who they are. That’s exciting.”

queen-sugar

Taraji P. Henson was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in the film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. She now stars as Cookie Lyon on the smash hit Fox series Empire, for which she won a Golden Globe Award and has twice been nominated for an Emmy. In 2016, Time magazine named Henson one of the 100 most influential people in the world on the annual Time 100 list.

taraji-empire

Taraji P. Henson as Cookie Lyon on ‘Empire’

Taraji appeared in our Fountain west coast premiere of The Darker Face of the Earth by Rita Dove. She has maintained her connection with the Fountain Family, seeing Fountain productions and visiting with our casts and companies after performances. 

taraji-et-cast2

Taraji P. Henson and the cast of ‘The Ballad of Emmett Till’

The Los Angeles Times has dubbed Diarra Kilpatrick as “a force of nature”. She is not only a dynamic actress. She is a gifted writer and ambitious creator. Her American Koko digital series, originally produced for her YouTube channel, received the Best Web Series Award at the American Black Film Festival and was lauded as a “Web Series You Should Be Watching” by Essence Magazine. ABC’s streaming service ABCd has now acquired American Koko, with Emmy winner and Oscar nominee Viola Davis producing.

“Diarra is an exceptional talent in that she cannot be put in a category,” says Davis. “She has a unique voice that transcends her generation.”

The Race

Diarra Kilpatrick “In the Red and Brown Water”

Diarra starred in the Fountain Theatre’s acclaimed and award-winning Los Angeles Premiere of Tarell McCraney’s In the Red and Brown Water. Diarra played Oya, a lightning-fast runner, in the stunning and lyrical drama. Since that dazzling production, Diarra has been sprinting ever since.  She is now also developing The Climb for Amazon. She will write and star in the project.   

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Deidrie Henry on ‘Game of Silence’

The list of Fountain actresses goes on. Deidrie Henry has mesmerized audiences in such Fountain productions as Yellowman and Coming Home. She co-starred as Detective Liz Winters on the NBC TV series Game of Silence and is the national TV commercial character Annie for Popeyes.  Monnae Michaell (Citizen: An American Lyric) plays Nina on the new TV series The Good Place. Tonya Pinkins (And Her Hair Went With Her) is Ethel Peabody on the television show Gotham. Tinashe Kajese will be seen in the upcoming TV movie The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Fountain veterans Tracie Thoms, Karen Malina White, Juanita Jennings, Adenrele Ojo are seen often on TV. 

“I’m always thrilled to see one of our actors, any actor, male or female, succeed in the film and TV industry,” says Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs. “But to see these extraordinary women achieve these accomplishments and create change, knowing that they come from our Fountain Family, makes me even more delighted and proud.” 

Fountain Theatre Earns 10 NAACP Theater Award Nominations for Two Acclaimed Productions

"In the Red and Brown Water"

“In the Red and Brown Water”

The Fountain Theatre has been nominated for ten NAACP Theater Awards for two of its acclaimed productions in its 2012 season: the Los Angeles Premiere of  In The Red and Brown Water by Tarell Alvin McCraney and the United States Premiere of Athol Fugard’s The Blue Iris.

NAACP Theater Award nominations for the Fountain Theatre are:

IN THE RED AND BROWN WATER
  • Best Producer – Stephen Sachs and Deborah Lawlor
  • Best Director – Shirley Jo Finney
  • Best Lead Actress – Diarra Kilpatrick
  • Best Supporting Actress – Iona Morris
  • Best Supporting Actor – Gilbert Glenn Brown
  • Best Choreography – Ameenah Kaplan
  • Best Costumes – Naila Aladdin Sanders
  • Best Lighting – Jose Lopez
THE BLUE IRIS
  • Best Costumes – Naila Aladdin Sanders
  • Best Lighting – Jeff McLaughlin

“We’re very pleased and delighted by these nominations,” beamed Fountain Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs. “And we’re proud that both of our nominated productions were premieres of new plays by two important, acclaimed playwrights — one a rising new voice in the American Theater, the other a master on the international stage.”   

The Los Angeles 2012-13 theater award season is off to another  good start for the Fountain Theatre. It was recently announced that the Fountain also earned 8 Ovation Award nominations including Best Season and Best Production of a Play.

"The Blue Iris"

“The Blue Iris”

The NAACP Theatre Awards is presented by the Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP Branch. Ron Hasson is Branch President and Tia Boyd is the Executive Producer for the NAACP Theatre Awards Show. The prestigious star-studded gala is produced for the purpose of honoring artists among the best in the field of entertainment.

This year’s awards show will be held on Monday, November 11, 2013, at 6:00 P.M. at the historical Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, California, formerly known as the Fox Wilshire Theatre. Here is the full list of all nominations.  

Fountain Theatre Earns 8 Ovation Award Nominations, including Best Season and Best Production of a Play

"In the Red and Brown Water", Fountain Theatre (2012)

“In the Red and Brown Water”, Fountain Theatre

The Fountain Theatre has been honored with 8 Ovation Award nominations, including the prestigious categories of Best Season and Best Production of a Play, it was announced last night at an event hosted by LA Stage Alliance. The Ovation season ran from September 2012 to August 2013 and includes the Fountain productions of The Blue Iris, In the Red and Brown Water, On the Spectrum and Heart Song.  

Founded in 1989 and considered to be LA’s version of the Tony Awards, the LA STAGE Alliance’s Ovation Awards are the only peer-judged theater awards in Los Angeles. Each year over 400 productions in the region compete for Ovation Award consideration.

This marks the 4th time that The Fountain Theatre has been nominated for Best Season since the category was created 5 years ago, winning the award in 2011. The Fountain Theatre has the distinction of earning more Ovation Award nominations and winning more Ovation awards overall than any other intimate theatre in Los Angeles. 

“We are particularly pleased with our Best Season nomination because it reflects the overall excellence and diversity of our work year round,” says Fountain Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs. “We’re delighted that In The Red and Brown Water earned such recognition and proud to be the first theatre to introduce the work of playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney to LA audiences.” 

The 2013 Ovation Award nominations for the Fountain Theatre are:

  • Best Season (The Blue Iris, In the Red and Brown Water, On the Spectrum, Heart Song)
  • Best Production of a Play (In the Red and Brown Water) 
  • Best Director (Shirley Jo Finney, In the Red and Brown Water)
  • Best Ensemble in a Play  (In the Red and Brown Water) 
  • Best Lead Actress in a Play  (Diarra Kilpatrick, In the Red and Brown Water)  
  • Best Featured Actress in a Play (Peggy Blow and Iona Morris,  In the Red and Brown Water)
  • Special Ovation Honor to Jeff Teeter for video design (On the Spectrum) 

The Ovation Awards ceremony will take place on Sunday, November 3 at 7 pm at San Gabriel Mission Playhouse, 320 S. Mission Drive in San Gabriel. For more information, visit www.OvationAwards.com.  

For a full list of all nominees click here.

The Fountain Theatre 2012-13 Ovation Season

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photos by Ed Krieger

Fountain Theatre Artists Honored at LA Weekly Theater Awards

Diarra Kilpatrick accepts her Best Lead Actress Award.

Diarra Kilpatrick accepts her Best Lead Actress Award.

Fountain actress Diarra Kilpatrick and sound designer/composer Peter Bayne were both honored at the 2013 LA Weekly Theater Awards Monday night for their work on the Fountain Theatre’s acclaimed production of In the Red and Brown Water. Directed by Shirley Jo Finney, the hit production ran for 5 sold-out months at the Fountain from October 2012 through February 2013.

Sound designer/composer Peter Bayne.

Sound designer/composer Peter Bayne.

Diarra Kilpatrick won the Weekly’s Best Lead Actress Award for her thrilling and mesmerizing portrayal of Oya, the troubled young woman from the Louisiana projects with dreams of becoming a track star. Peter Bayne received a Special Commendation for his sound design and composition of the lyrical and haunting original music.   

In The Red and Brown Water

New Video: ‘In the Red and Brown Water’

Our critically acclaimed Los Angeles Premiere of In the Red and Brown Water by Tarell Alvin McCraney recently won two Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards for Best Director (Shirley Jo Finney) and Best Ensemble. Enjoy this new short video clip of the opening sequence and see why!

‘In the Red and Brown Water’ – Opening Sequence

PHOTO SLIDESHOW: ‘In the Red and Brown Water’ Closing Party

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Final Performance, Set Strike, Closing Party and Thai Food

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Fountain Theatre Honored with 8 LA Weekly Theater Award Nominations

"In the Red and Brown Water" (photo by Ed Krieger)

Diarra Kilpatrick and cast in “In the Red and Brown Water”

The Fountain Theatre has received 8 LA Weekly Theater Award Nominations plus 1 Special Commendation for sound designer Peter Bayne.

The 8 nominations for the Fountain Theatre are:

PRODUCTION OF THE YEAR
In the Red and Brown Water, Fountain Theatre
 
ENSEMBLE
The Blue Iris, Fountain Theatre
LEADING FEMALE PERFORMANCE
Diarra Kilpatrick,  In the Red and Brown Water
 
SUPPORTING FEMALE PERFORMANCE
Jacqueline Schultz, The Blue Iris
Jacqueline Schultz and Julanne Chidi Hill in "The Blue Iris"

Jacqueline Schultz and Julanne Chidi Hill in “The Blue Iris”

 ADAPTATION
Tarell Alvin McCraney, In the Red and Brown Water
 
COSTUME DESIGN
Naila Aladdin Sanders, In the Red and Brown Water
 
SOUND DESIGN
Peter Bayne, In the Red and Brown Water
Peter Bayne, The Blue Iris
 
SPECIAL COMMENDATIONS
Peter Bayne, composer, In the Red and Brown Water
production photos by Ed Kreiger

The 34th annual L.A. Weekly Theater Awards, celebrating the best work on LA’s intimate stages will be at the Avalon on April 8. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., show starts at 7:30 p.m. 

Did You Know …?

Aunt Elegua & Oya

Did You Know …

In the Red and Brown Water cast member Iona Morris (on left, with Diarra Kilpatrick) is the daughter of Greg Morris, co-star of the iconic 1960’s TV series Mission: Impossible?

Greg & Iona Morris

In the Red and Brown Water ends its acclaimed 5-month run at the Fountain Theatre this Sunday, Feb 24th.  (323) 663-1525  More  

Black History Month: Revelations of African American Culture in ‘In the Red and Brown Water’

"In the Red and Brown Water" (photo by Ed Krieger)

“In the Red and Brown Water”

by Natalie Mislang Mann

Kinetic energy charged with emotion. That describes Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Los Angeles premiere of In the Red and Brown Water presented by The Fountain Theatre. The location of this acclaimed, vibrant, nonprofit performance space in a humble Los Angeles neighborhood foreshadows the economic reality of the play’s kaleidoscopic mix of characters traversing the stage. In this context, McCraney’s play represents a microcosm of shattered dreams and unrealized potential within the larger world.

Treading In the Brown and Red Water, the audience descends into the protagonist’s depths. Set in an impoverished section of the fictional San Pere, Louisiana, Diarra Kilpatrick’s Oya is a passionate runner who abandons a college track scholarship to take care of her dying mother, Mama Mojo, played by Peggy A. Blow. In the process of losing her dreams, she escapes into a fiery relationship with Gilbert Glenn Brown’s Shango and relinquishes the one man, Ogun, who declares his heartfelt love. As Ogun, Dorian Christian Baucum exudes an honest, inner-strength that contrasts with Shango’s impulsive personality.

Diarra Kilpatrick and Gilbert Glenn brown in "In the Red and Brown Water"

Diarra Kilpatrick and Gilbert Glenn Brown in “In the Red and Brown Water”

On a superficial level, the plot reads formulaic: Tragedy hits girl. Girl turns to wrong man. Girl finds herself alone. However, McCraney’s vision is anything but banal. The onstage interactions between Oya and the characters with Yoruba deity names evoke the transcendental belief that spirits interact with humans in the everyday world. Through Oya’s relationships, the audience begins to explore not just socio-economic realities, but the human desire to survive. Simultaneously visceral and intellectual, this “circular” ode to human spirit emerges then concludes in similar yet distinct ways.

Peeling away In the Red and Brown Water’s stratum is akin to unraveling textual and historical layers of a Sorrow Song. Within this context, McCraney’s drama illustrates civil rights activist W.E.B Du Bois’ analysis of slave songs as “the music of unhappy people, of the children of disappointment [which] tell of death and suffering and unvoiced longing toward a truer world, of misty wonderings and hidden ways.” Through the allusion to Yoruba deities, McCraney echoes aspects of African American culture that used to remain hidden. His knowledge of Yoruba Diaspora adds to the dialogue of African American art.

Mama Moja

Peggy Blow as Mama Moja

While prominent art historians, such as Robert Ferris Thompson, have examined the spiritual and practical aspects of West African culture brought to the Americas through the slave trade, In the Red and Brown Water pushes beyond enumerating bodies of work which focus on elevating African American folk art from obscurity to cultural center. McCraney indirectly asks: Why stop there? He bridges the aesthetic, spiritual and socio-political gap that encompasses not just race, gender, class and sexual identity, but – most importantly – the psychological self, the whole self affected by poverty onset by institutionalized human bondage.

During the ensemble’s performance, parallels between In the Red and Brown Water and choreographer Alvin Ailey’s Revelations arise. Known for drawing on the emotional and spiritual experience of African Americans rooted within a rich musical tradition, Ailey, who McCraney cites as one of his influences, connected the past to the present. Traces of Ailey’s influence emerge as drumbeats pulsate through the heart of the play, interweaving through spiritual scores and contemporary beats. The connection between past and present compounds in an agonizing scene. In the midst of electronic house music, Oya breaks down. Tapping into her primal emotions, she ruptures into African dance, which emphasizes the beauty of African American culture ingrained within the realities of personal struggle.

Shirley Jo Finney’s discerning direction coalesces the multidisciplinary facets of Peter Bayne’s talents as composer/sound designer and Ameenah Kaplan’s choreography to evoke the presence of Yoruba culture within a contemporary play. Although Frederica Nascimento’s minimalist set appears stark, she places attention on every detail: From what resembles a divination bowl sitting under the porch to the assorted water vessels on stage. Even the plastic water bottle turned percussion instrument summons the spirit of San Pere. In the Red and Brown Water conjures ancestral spirit as literal, figurative and mystical dreams appear.

Natalie Mislang Mann has a Master of Arts in Humanities from San Francisco State University and writes for Playwriting in the City.

In the Red and Brown Water  Must End Feb 24th  (323) 663-1525   More