Tag Archives: drama

Looking to restore empathy in the world? Here’s where you find it.

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Terrylene and Freda Norman. Sweet Nothing in my Ear, Fountain Theatre, 1997.

By Stephen Sachs

Whatever happened to empathy in this country?

A candidate for President mocks a person with physical disabilities on national television — and still gets elected.  Undocumented children are pulled from their parents and locked into cages. Hateful tweets fly between rich celebrities. Insulting attacks are vomited on TV talk shows. Demeaning personal smears splatter across the blogosphere. Women are shamed, minorities are assaulted. Those with the power to do good seem indifferent to the suffering of others.  Fewer care to consider what it’s like to walk in another person’s shoes, to entertain the notion that others may feel the way they do for reasons that are understandable and valid from their point of view. Common respect for another human being seems as rare today in public life as a sighting of Bigfoot.

What can you do? How can you counteract today’s lack of empathy?

Turn off cable news. Switch off your smartphone. And go to the theatre.

Not because the display of human behavior from the stage will be any prettier. Don’t forget, the fundamental element of drama is conflict. Even so, no matter how tragic, a good play is a pathway to empathy. That’s because theatre doesn’t just manufacture empathy, it depends on it. Without empathy, theatre not only fails, it doesn’t exist.  Here’s why:

Every play that has ever been written asks the same fundamental human question:

“What is it like to be someone else?”

That’s it.

During a recent Sunday panel discussion on NBC’s Meet the Press, political columnist Matt Bai stated, “This is a presidency entirely without empathy.” Trump, he added, “seems to be a person who is entirely without empathy. Whatever his strong suits or weak suits, he does not have the ability to feel personally and deeply the suffering of others.”

Empathy is a skill that everyone could do well to develop and maintain whether President or not, and theatre, an art where the purpose is to explore what it means to be human, is an excellent teacher. Its in-the-moment human interaction makes theatre one-stop shopping for empathy.

In the performance of a play, the current of empathy runs two-fold. The actors pretend they are somebody else while the audience imagines what it must be like to be them. This remarkable double-shot of empathy brings mutual benefit: the attention of both actor and audience is focused on someone other than themselves. The fears, passions and needs of another human being become their own. Performers achieve this skill through years of training. Audiences have empathy thrust upon them.

In a 2012 study, researchers Thalia Goldstein and Ellen Winner assessed empathy levels in elementary and high school students who had received one year of theatre. They found that those who had studied acting for the year showed the most significant growth in empathy scores.

In the past 20 years, psychologists and neurologists have started to look at how empathy actually works, in our brains and our hearts. Fritz Breithaupt, a professor at Indiana University who studies empathy, says one thing he found is that “one of the strongest triggers for human empathy is observing some kind of conflict between two other parties.”

Sound familiar? Conflict is the essence of drama?

All of the hateful me-first narcissistic rhetoric of today doesn’t just give empathy a back seat, it tosses it out of the car entirely. The feeling now seems to be: Why should I put myself in the shoes of someone who is not me? Why waste my empathy on those not deserving? On someone older or younger? More rich or poorer? From another country? Another color? Gender? Sexual preference? The new rule seems to be: Reserve your empathy only for those who are like you which, by definition, isn’t empathy at all.  In this twisted thinking, a lack of empathy is a show of power, self-reliance, a way to make a stand against the imagined danger of “the other.”

I believe our humanity is enhanced if we can learn to see the world through the eyes of a migrant child. A homeless woman. A person of a color not our own. And we are blessed with the opportunity to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling by going to the theatre.

People often confuse the words “sympathy” and “empathy”.  Sympathy describes feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune. Empathy puts you in their shoes. Which is also the difference between a good play and a great play.  A good play makes you feel sorry for a character. A great play makes you see life through their eyes.

On day one of first rehearsal of any play, in any city in any state in this nation, an actor or actress of any age, gender, race or sexual identity will open the first page of their script for the first time, find the role they are playing, and ask themself the same question: Who is this person?

And the door of empathy opens.

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

Smash hit ‘Daniel’s Husband’ extends to July 28 at Fountain Theatre

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Tim Cummings, Bill Brochtrup and Jenny O’Hara in Daniel;s Husband.

The Fountain Theatre’s acclaimed Southern California Premiere of Daniel’s Husband by Michael McKeever will extend to July 28. Hailed as Critic’s Choice in the LA Times and highlighted as Ovation Award Recommended, the comedy/drama about a gay couple wrestling with the issue of marriage has earned rave reviews and sold-out houses from the night it first opened May 4.

There is the rule of law, and there are the laws of the heart. Which do we follow and when? Daniel and Mitchell are the perfect couple. What isn’t so perfect is that Daniel desperately longs to be married, but Mitchell doesn’t believe in it. Michael McKeever’s funny, passionate and poignant play takes an unflinching look at how we choose to tie the knot — or not.

Daniel’s Husband is directed by Simon Levy, starring Bill Brochtrup, Tim Cummings, Jose Fernando, Ed Martin, and Jenny O’Hara.

CRITIC’S CHOICEABSORBING… THE ACTORS ARE WONDERFUL… [ACROWD PLEASER” — Los Angeles Times

A PERFECT 10WITTY, REALISTIC, HEART-RENDERING” — Broadway World

GO SEE DANIEL’S HUSBAND’… THESE ARE SOME OF THE FINEST ACTORS IN L.A.” —KCRW 89.9 FM

AS CLOSE TO PERFECT AS ONE MIGHT ENVISION…. WRENCHING, REAL, FLAWLESSLY STAGED, STIRRINGLY PERFORMED” — Cultural Weekly

OUTSTANDING… PERFECTLY SCRIPTED. ACTED AND DIRECTED” — Culver City News

A REMARKABLE SCRIPT… TRUE LIFE, TRUE FRIENDSHIP AND TRUE DESPAIR” —Discover Hollywood

SUPERIOR… AN EXCITING PIECE OF QUALITY THEATRE” — Hollywood Revealed

WOW!… [ALAUGH-OUT-LOUD-THEN-GET-OUT-YOUR-HANKIES STUNNER… NOT-TO-BE-MISSED” — Stage Scene LA

EXQUISITELY WRITTEN, SUPERBLY DIRECTED AND EXCELLENTLY PERFORMED” —Will Call for Theatre

TREMENDOUSLY ENTERTAINING AND WELL-WRITTEN… A TERRIFIC SHOW” — Los Angeles Post

RELEVANT AND AFFECTING” — Stage Raw

ABOUT LOVE… the ABSOLUTE BEAUTY of McKeever’s story rings true” — On Stage Los Angeles

INSISTENTLY MOVING… CRISP AND TIMELY” — People’s World

A FINE PLAY WITH SOMETHING TO SAY… EXCELLENTLY PERFORMED” — San Diego Gay & Lesbian News

TWO THUMBS UP” — Carol’s Reviews

RESONATED LONG AFTER THE FINAL MOMENTS” — Showmag

RELEVANT AND UNIVERSAL” — Stage and Cinema

A VERY FINE PRODUCTION” — Talkin’ Broadway

GUARANTEED TO LEAVE YOU MOVED AND EMOTIONALLY EXHAUSTED” — Ticket Holders LA

BREATHTAKING… A TRULY EXCEPTIONAL CAST… TIMELY AND PROVOCATIVE” — Billy Masters.

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Video: Actor Ed Martin’s return to the Fountain Theatre in new play ‘Daniel’s Husband’ is “perfect”

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NOW CASTING: Award-winning West Coast Premiere ‘Hype Man’ by Idris Goodwin at Fountain Theatre

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The Fountain Theatre is now casting for its West Coast Premiere of the award-winning new hip hop play, HYPE MAN by Idris Goodwin. The director is Deena Selenow

Audition Date(s): 01/11/2019 – 01/12/2019

Rehearsal Date(s): 01/21/2019 – 02/19/2019

Preview Date(s): 02/20/2019 – 02/22/2019

Opening Date(s): 02/23/2019

Closing Date(s): 04/14/2019

SPECIAL NOTE:

The role of VERB has already been cast.

Roles:

[PINNACLE]

Male, 30-35, Caucasian. The Rapper. A fierce and fiery white dude who grew up among African-Americans but remains an outsider and separates him from Verb. His swaggering confidence hides his confusion and inner conflict. Because has a cop in his family, he mourns the city’s recent police shooting but thinks the group should stay the course.

[PEEP ONE]

Female, 25-30, mixed race, a “woman of color” upon initial glance, however her specific ancestry is less obvious. The Beat-Maker. The crew’s dynamic and spirited newcomer who crafts the beats and produces their tracks. She yearns for artistic recognition, struggling to get heard musically in this testosterone-fueled world. Peep finds herself caught between competing loyalties as Pinnacle’s and Verb’s previously unspoken views on race threaten to destroy not just their shot at success but also their friendship.

STORYLINE:

A diverse hip-hop trio is on the verge of making it big on national TV when a police shooting of a Black teen shakes the band to its core, forcing them to confront questions of race, gender, privilege and when to use their art as an act of social protest. When the Hype Man takes matters into his own hands, the ensuing beef exposes the long-buried rifts of race and privilege that divide them. Will it tear them apart or can they find a way to still breathe together?

Rate of Pay / Contract: AEA 99-Seat Agreement

Email headshot/resume to: casting@fountaintheatre.com

Fountain Theatre wins 5 Ticketholder Awards including Best Production of a Play in 2018

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Deanne Bray and Troy Kotsur, “Arrival & Departure.”

Two acclaimed Fountain Theatre premieres — Arrival & Departure and Cost of Living — have been named Best Production of a Play in 2018 by veteran LA theatre critic Travis Michael Holder on TicketHoldersLA.com.  Now in its 27th year, Travis’ Ticketholder Awards celebrate the 100+ Los Angeles theatre productions reviewed by Holder in 2018 in large houses and intimate.

Our Deaf/hearing world premiere of Arrival & Departure, written and directed by Stephen Sachs, won Best Production, Best Adaptation (Sachs) and a Special Achievement Award to movement director, Gary Franco. 

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Katy Sullivan and Felix Solis, “Cost of Living.”

Cost of Living by Martyna Majok was also named Best Production, and Tobias Forrest was awarded Best Supporting Actor. 

The following were also acknowledged as a runner-up:

Arrival & Departure

  • Runner-Up, Best Actor – Troy Kotsur
  • Runner-Up, Best Actress – Deanne Bray
  • Runner-Up, Best Supporting Actor – Shon Fuller
  • Runner-Up, Best Supporting Actress – Jessica Jade Andres
  • Runner-Up, Best Supporting Actress – Stasha Surdyke
  • Runner-Up, New Discovery 2018 – Aurelia Myers
  • Runner-Up, Best Direction – Stephen Sachs
  • Runner-Up, Best Set Design – Matthew G. Hill
  • Runner-Up, Best Sound Design – Peter Bayne
  • Runner-Up, Best CGI/Video Design – Nicholas E. Santiago

Cost of Living

  • Runner-Up, Best Actress – Xochitl Romero
  • Runner-Up, Best Actress – Katy Sullivan
  • Runner-Up, Best Playwright – Martyna Majok

Full list of Ticketholder Award winners

‘Arrival & Departure’ renewed our love for one another

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Deanne Bray and Troy Kotsur in “Arrival & Departure”.

by Deanne Bray

Arrival & Departure was quite a journey for Troy and I, both as artists and as husband and wife. It was a journey that was filled with surprises, both personal and professional.

As actors, who happen to be husband and wife, Troy and I dug deep, discovering what it would be like to fall in love all over again. And as Emily and Sam fell in love in the play, Troy and I fell in love all over again. Through the rehearsal process, and through Stephen Sachs’ direction, we found meaningful ways to keep our feelings fresh and real. As we developed our characters, Emily and Sam, we discovered ways to grow their hearts, allowing them to be truly visible to one another. As the weeks went by during the production, our work continued to grow. There were new discoveries —large and small — and we treasured them all. One of my favorite moments was when Emily saw Sam holding back tears as they said their last goodbyes in the final scene. As they looked into each other’s eyes, Sam’s strength —with one teardrop rolling down his cheek — was lovely and heartbreaking for me to watch. It worked for the scene in such a powerful and magical way; making it harder for me, as Emily to let go of Sam, her soul mate.

For years, I have admired Troy’s work on stage and television. We have worked together before on stage, screen and TV, but never opposite one another as a leading man and woman. With Arrival and Departure, Troy and I had the chance to really explore our craft together as actors.

As husband and wife, Arrival & Departure renewed our love for one another. We found a new and powerful spark that shifted our perspectives, and made us even more grateful to have each other. We learned anew how to bring out the best in each other; and were reminded to always pay attention to each other, despite the daily struggles of life.

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In rehearsal for “Arrival & Departure.”

Arrival & Departure was a unique production in the way theatre, film, and technology were utilized to tell this story about two different communities —Deaf and Hearing — in a thoroughly contemporary and accessible way. This story reminded us to take a step back and celebrate what we have — (or if necessary to be brave enough to make a change).

Another memory that stands out. My daughter’s friend from school came to see the play with her parents on Kyra’s birthday (with Kyra performing). Troy noticed the father smoking in the parking lot while his family was getting the tickets. Troy read his body language as a restless man who probably did not want to be there and half-heartedly followed his family into the theatre. I learned later from the mother, that after the show, the father was speechless and talked nonstop about Arrival & Departure on the way home. Seeing how Arrival & Departure affected her husband was very meaningful for her. This kind of art is unique and so imperative as it gives people insight into their own lives.

Troy and I were blessed to be part of Arrival & Departure. The different characters and storylines touched everyone who saw it. We hope that Arrival & Departure will be produced across the country. Its message is powerful: be true to yourself and support the people in your life with love.

Stories at the Fountain Theatre like The Chosen, Arrival & Departure, and Cost of Living can change people in powerful ways with inspiration, hope and connection.

Deanne Bray is an actress and teacher. 

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Fountain Theatre’s ‘Cost of Living’ hailed “Best in Theater in 2018” by Los Angeles Times

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Katy Sullivan and Felix Solis in ‘Cost of Living’.

The Fountain Theatre’s acclaimed west coast premiere of Cost of Living by Martyna Majok has been named by Los Angeles Times theatre critic Charles McNulty as “Best in Theater in 2018.”  McNulty writes, “The Fountain Theatre’s production of Majok’s “Cost of Living” confirmed just how indispensable 99-seat theaters still are to a healthy theater ecology.” 

“Martyna Majok’s searing drama,” McNulty continues, “about the relationship between disabled persons and their caregivers was bravely essayed by the Fountain in a production directed by John Vreeke that revealed just how acutely this Pulitzer Prize-winning drama exposes some vulnerable truths at the heart of the human condition.”

Cost of Living features Tobias Forrest, Xochitl Romero, Felix Solis and Katy Sullivan. The run ends this Sunday, December 16.

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Martyna Majok shares with Fountain audience how she almost missed phone call of Pulitzer win

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Martyna Majok and “Cost of Living” cast

Playwright Martyna Majok almost missed receiving the call from her agent on winning the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play, Cost of Living. She was supposed to be serving jury duty that day.  Instead, she had postponed it.  She was, therefore, home in her New York apartment to receive the call that would change her career forever.

Sharing the story with our Fountain Theatre audience in a post-show Q&A discussion Saturday night, Martyna explained that her husband, actor Josiah Bania, had the day off work that day. They were planning on doing their taxes. He was taking a nap on the couch when Martyna’s phone rang around three o’clock. Her agent was on the phone screaming, “You won the Pulitzer!” Her reaction? She was furious. “How dare you!” she yelled back. “You know how much this means to me. This is not funny!” For nine minutes on the phone, Martyna’s agent tried to convince her. But she would have none it. It wasn’t until the texts began flooding in from friends — including one from her playwright pal Stephen Adly Guirgis — that she accepted that her wish had come true.

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Since that fateful phone call, her life has spun into a whirlwind of national attention. Yet the work remains the same. The Fountain Theatre is proud to be producing the West Coast Premiere of her funny and beautiful play, and we’re pleased to now call her our friend and a member of our Fountain Family.

Cost of Living is earning rave reviews in a limited run to Dec 16th. More Info/Get Tickets

VIDEO: ‘Cost of Living’ is “deeply moving”

Winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize, Cost of Living by Martyna Majok is a funny and poignant play about human connection. The West Coast Premiere at the Fountain Theatre stars Tobias Forrest, Xochitl Romero, Felix Solis and Katy Sullivan, directed by John Vreeke.

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Invited guests enjoy gala performance of Pulitzer Prize winning ‘Cost of Living’ at Fountain Theatre

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The Fountain parking lot was transformed for the VIP evening.

Much about last Saturday night’s VIP performance of Cost of Living at the Fountain was out of the ordinary. Our exclusively invited guests drove up to the Fountain to discover a team of valet parking attendants waiting to park their cars for them. The performance of Martyna Majok’s funny and poignant play starred two fabulous actors with disabilities in lead roles — a first for our theatre. And the classy post-show reception was vibrantly staged in the outdoor parking lot, not in our upstairs cafe, to allow full access for our guests in wheelchairs. 

What remained consistent that evening was the excellence of the work on stage and the support of our Fountain Family.  The theatre brimmed with many of the generous Fountain donors, underwriters and producers who made our west coast premiere of this Pulitzer Prize winning play possible.

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Executive Producers Barbara Herman and Susan Stockel were joined by Producing Underwriters Diana Buckhantz, Lois Tandy, and Miles and Joni Benickes. Other guests included Fountain Board members Karen Kondazian, Dick Motika, Jerrie Whitfield, as well as Marc and Aliza GurenCecile Keshishian,  actor Alan Mandell, Beth Stoffmacher from the National Arts and Disability Center, and Peter L. Thompkins

The delicious food was provided by Alligator Pear Catering. Long strands of newly installed lighting twinkled across the Fountain parking lot. The decorated outdoor setting provided a classy and delightful ambience for our invited guests and the Cost of Living company. Although this was the first time we transformed our parking lot into an outdoor soiree, judging by Saturday night’s success it won’t be the last. 

Get Tickets/More Info on Cost of Living.