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Fountain Theatre, East West Players will make magic in ‘Hannah and the Dread Gazebo’

HANNAH prelim image

Creation myths and family histories meld in a wildly theatrical, startling new comedy that explores what it means to walk the edge between cultures. The Fountain Theatre, in association with East West Players and with generous support form the S. Mark Taper Foundation, presents the California premiere of Hannah and the Dread Gazebo by Jiehae Park. Los Angeles Drama Critic’s Circle Award-winner Jennifer Chang (Vietgone) directs for an Aug. 17 opening at the Fountain Theatre in East Hollywood, near Koreatown, where performances continue through Sept. 22.

Set in NYC and Korea in the winter of 2011, just before the death of Kim Jong Il, Hannah and the Dread Gazebo takes Hannah’s Korean American family on a surreal, funny and heartbreaking adventure back to their roots in South and North Korea and the forbidden Demilitarized Zone that divides them.

“The play is a funny-tragic look at what it means to be caught in between,” says Park. “The characters are striving to reconcile the contradictions of their immigrant lives: North/South, past/future, coming/going.”

Monica-Hong

Monica Hong

Thirty-something Hannah, played by Monica Hong (Ivanov at the Mint Theater in NYC, Please Stand By at Actor’s Playpen in LA), is two weeks away from becoming a board-certified neurologist when she receives a FedEx box from her grandmother with two things inside: a 100% bona-fide-heart’s-desire-level wish — and a suicide note. Hannah’s father (Hahn Cho, recently seen on TV in For the People, Magnum P.I., Swedish Dicks) and mother (Elaine Kao — upcoming feature film Paper Tigers, recurring on Netflix’s No Good Nick) have already moved back to South Korea to be near Grandma at the Sunrise Dewdrop Apartment City for Senior Living, which sits right on the edge of the DMZ. Meanwhile, Hannah’s slacker brother, Dang (Gavin Lee, whose credits include Blood, written and directed by Robert Allan Ackerman, and a recurring role on Fox’s The Orville) bonds over music with a student activist played by Wonjung Kim (Korea Musical Award for Best Actress, Ovation nominee for The Last Empress in L.A). In this strange and wonderful play that is a mix of unexpected whimsy, delightful comedy, profound despair and more than a little bit of magic, actress Jully Lee (Ladies at Boston Court, tokyo fish story at South Coast Rep) appears in many forms.

Helping make that magic happen is the Magic Castle’s Dominik Krzanowski, who will create original illusions for the production. 

Hannah and the Dread Gazebo premiered at the 2017 Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, where the Mail Tribune called it “blisteringly original, acerbically funny, powerfully dramatic and deeply thought provoking… If you’re keen to have your mind expanded by an evening of theater that is not going to be comparable to anything you’ll see anytime soon, Hannah and the Dread Gazebo is a good place to start.”

Last week, the American Theatre Critics Association announced that Hannah has been selected as one of three finalists for its prestigious Francesca Primus Prize, sponsored by ATCA and the Francesca Ronnie Primus Foundation.

“I saw the world premiere in Ashland and was completely charmed by the play,” says Fountain Theatre co-artistic director Stephen Sachs. “I was enchanted by its whimsical, dreamlike surprises, and truly moved by its poignant revelation of a grandmother, mother and daughter relationship. Once the lights came up and the performance was over, I knew I wanted to present it at the Fountain.”

Sachs continues, “The Fountain is committed to diversity and inclusion, which makes this first-time partnership with East West Players very meaningful. It’s an invigorating sharing of resources, artists and audiences benefiting both companies and the communities we serve.”

“We are honored to partner with the Fountain on this production,” agrees East West Players artistic director Snehal Desai. “EWP first did a reading of the play in 2013, also directed by Jennifer Chang. The Fountain is a theater whose work and mission I have always admired; this seemed like the perfect project for our two companies to collaborate on, with its mix of humor, theatricality and timeliness.”

The creative team for Hannah and the Dread Gazebo also includes scenic and video designer Yee Eun Nam, lighting designer Rebecca Bonebrake, sound designer/composer Howard Ho, costume designer Ruoxuan Li and props designer Michael Allen Angel. The production stage manager is Bryan P. Clements.

jiehae park

Playwright Jiehae Park

Jiehae Park’s plays include peerless (Yale Rep premiere, upcoming in NY at Primary Stages), Hannah and the Dread Gazebo (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), Here We Are Here (Sundance Theater-Makers residency, Berkeley Rep’s Ground Floor, Princess Grace Works-in-Progress @ Baryshnikov Arts Center), The Aves (McCarter Spotlight Series) and contributions to Wondrous Strange (Humana/Actor’s Theatre of Louisville). Her work has been developed through the Soho Rep Writer-Director Lab, The Public’s Emerging Writers Group, p73, Playwrights Horizons, NYTW, Atlantic, Old Globe, Dramatists Guild Fellowship, Ojai, BAPF, CTG Writers Workshop, Banff Playwrights Lab, ACT New Strands, and Ma-Yi Writers Lab. Awards: Leah Ryan, Princess Grace, Weissberger, ANPF Women’s Invitational; two years on the Kilroys List. Commissions: Playwrights Horizons, Yale Rep, Geffen, OSF, Williamstown, MTC/Sloan. Residencies: MacDowell, Yaddo, Hedgebrook, McCarter/Sallie B. Goodman. She is a NYTW Usual Suspect, Lincoln Center New Writer in Residence, former Hodder Fellow, and current New Dramatists. As a performer recently: Ripe Time/Naomi Iizuka’s adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s Sleep (BAM Next Wave, Yale Rep); Celine Song’s Endlings (A.R.T.). She was a staff writer on season one of Marvel’s Runaways and currently teaches Playwriting at Princeton University. BA, Amherst;
MFA, UCSD.

Jennifer Chang

Jennifer Chang

Jennifer Chang won the 2019 LADCC award for excellence in direction for her work on the Los Angeles premiere of Qui Nguyen’s Vietgone. She was a 2018 Drama League New York directing fellow and was the assistant director for the Broadway world premiere of Bernhardt/Hamlet by Theresa Rebeck starring Janet McTeer. Ms Chang’s multi-disciplinary work has been honored with Ovation, LA Weekly and the Stage Scene LA awards, among others. She is a founding member of Chalk Repertory Theatre where she served as artistic producing director and produced, directed and acted in numerous plays over the course of eight seasons. Upcoming directing credits include Where the Mountain Meets the Moon at South Coast Repertory and The Time of Your Life at Antaeus Theatre Company. Select directing credits include Death & Cockroaches by Eric Reyes Loo (Chalk Rep at Circle X/ Atwater Village Theatre); 53% Of by Stephanie Del Rosso and Birds of North America by Anna Moench for the Wagner New Play Festival; Animals Out of Paper at East West Players (Los Angeles Times “Critics Pick”); Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them for Artists at Play (GLAAD Media Award and Ovation-nominated); and Residence Elsewhere, commemorating the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066 at the Japanese American National Museum. She is very active in the development of new plays with the Geffen Playhouse, Chance Theater, Circle X Theatre Company, EST/LA, Playwrights Arena and East West Players.

The Fountain Theatre is one of the most successful intimate theaters in Los Angeles, providing a creative home for multi-ethnic theater and dance artists. The Fountain has won hundreds of awards, and Fountain projects have been seen across the U.S. and internationally. Recent highlights include all-star readings of Ms. Smith Goes to Washington and All the President’s Men at Los Angeles City Hall and the inclusion of the Fountain’s Citizen: An American Lyric in the Music Center’s Our L.A. Voices festival at Grand Park. The Fountain’s 2018 productions of The Chosen and Arrival & Departure each enjoyed months-long sold out runs and was named a Los Angeles Times “Critic’s Choice.” The company’s West Coast premiere of Martyna Majok’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Cost of Living, was named to the Los Angeles Times’ “Best of 2018” list. Its current production, Daniel’s Husband, was named a Los Angeles Times “Critic’s Choice” and is enjoying an extended, sold-out run.

As the nation’s premier Asian American theater organization, East West Players produces artistic work and educational programs that foster dialogue exploring Asian Pacific Islander (API) experiences. Founded in 1965, at a time when APIs faced limited or no opportunities to see their experiences reflected outside of stereotypical and demeaning caricatures in the American landscape, EWP not only ensures that API stories are told, but works to increase access, inclusion, and representation in the economy.

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VIDEO: Highlights of awesome week one of ‘Walking the Beat’ at Fountain Theatre

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VIDEO: Cops and students share stories in Fountain Theatre’s new outreach program ‘Walking the Beat’

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Video: Love is worth fighting for in ‘Daniel’s Husband’ at Fountain Theatre

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Happy Birthday, Fountain Theatre

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Stephen Sachs and Deborah Lawlor

When my parents met and fell in love, their favorite book was Eric Sevareid’s “Not So Wild a Dream.” They felt the phrase captured the promise of their bond, and had the words inscribed inside their wedding rings. For me, the Fountain Theatre is also not so wild a dream. Twenty-nine years ago today, Deborah Lawlor and I opened our doors. Our desire was to create a home. A sanctuary on Fountain Avenue where artists and audiences can gather to engage in the life-enhancing rhapsody of live art. Nearly three decades later, after hundreds of productions, thousands of artists and hundreds of thousands of patrons, that desire has proven itself to be not so wild a dream.

Serving Los Angeles for twenty-nine years and still going strong. Changing the world seventy-eight seats a time.

Onward

Stephen Sachs

With Samuel French Bookshop’s fatal end, the tragic flaw is our own

Samuel French Bookshop LA

by Stephen Sachs

If our beloved Samuel French bookstore were a play, its shocking violent demise this week makes the ending a tragedy. A tragic drama not wrought by a fatal flaw of the store’s own making. The tragic flaw exposed here is our own. The fate of Samuel French bookstore reveals a deeply disturbing character defect of our city, our country and our culture.

According to police, the store was broken into and seriously vandalized on Monday night, March 4th following a confrontation with several unidentified male customers who tried to intimidate one of the store employees. The police have closed the store pending their investigation and to protect the staff’s safety. The shop will not reopen. Ever.

Samuel French bookstore had already announced it was closing at the end of this month. Yet another casualty of e-commerce, book sales at the store have been steadily declining. Over 80% of Samuel French’s retail sales are now made online. Still, the sudden announcement of the store’s imminent closure caught us all by surprise and shook our LA theatre community to its core. News of Monday night’s vandalism drives a dagger into our heart. The loss of Samuel French bookshop is a death in the family.

For decades, as a once-upon-a-time actor and now a director/playwright and overseer of a theatre company, each time I walked into the bookstore on Sunset Blvd I breathed a deep sigh of reverence and gratitude, like stepping into a sanctuary. I experienced a spiritual and physical healing when I walked into Samuel French bookstore. The smell of its books was aromatherapy. The brick walls, the catacomb of shelves, the stacks of books, large and small, piled in corners like paper pillars. One enters Samuel French bookstore to be lost and found. To lose oneself reading a script on a calm afternoon, to find oneself as an artist through what one found in its pages. The vandalism of Samuel French bookshop, to me, is a desecration of a sacred place.     

The Studio City bookshop on Ventura Boulevard closed in 2012. Now, our beloved store on Sunset Boulevard is gone forever. Closed early. Due to violence.

We have no one to blame but ourselves.

Like the art form it celebrated, Samuel French bookstore engaged in a daily battle for its own survival against online technology.  Why leave your home when you can download a book? A bookstore is much like a theatre. A live experience. Physically walking into a book store, interconnecting with fellow human beings, holding an actual book in your hand, turning its pages – these are visceral sensations no e-book can duplicate. A book store and a local theatre create community. A place to meet, to gather, to interact. Both a theatre and a book store are places of worship, both serving an art form greater than themselves.

In my opinion, the Samuel French bookstore didn’t just die in the war against online retailing, we killed it. We made our choice. Eight out of ten plays are now bought online. We choose digital over paper. This is the Amazon-era. We click-shop. Our goods are now delivered to our door. We barely need to get up off the couch. The fault, dear consumer, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.       

Once again, Los Angeles has proved we are not New York. Last October, Drama Book Shop, the legendary 100-year old independent bookstore in Manhattan that has one of the largest selections of plays in the country, announced it was closing. The rent was too high. It didn’t take long for the city and its artists to leap into action. By January, it was announced that Lin-Manuel Miranda and three of his “Hamilton” collaborators purchased the Drama Book Shop. The quartet is currently working with the City of New York to find an affordable space for the store.

“The store is a gem and a cultural institution in New York, and we want to make sure it’s saved,” said Julie Menin, the mayor’s media and entertainment commissioner.

Where is the public statement from the mayor’s office in Los Angeles advocating to save or relocate Samuel French bookshop? Aye, there’s the rub. In Los Angeles, there is no Lin-Manuel Miranda.

We do have Nicki Monet. A platoon of local theatre artists led by actress/producer Nicki Monet launched a petition campaign to protest the store’s closing. The petition collected more than 7,000 signatures. Now violence has struck. Who knows what now will happen? Music conglomerate Concord Music, which purchased the store, said it would be willing to support a new L.A. store “with favorable pricing and payment terms.” We shall see.

In the bookshop’s final hours, Monday night’s vandalism exposes perhaps the most disturbing truth of all. An unsettling truth about ourselves and the temperature of today. The boiling social and political bile of this nation, fanning the flames of hatred and racism and division, ignited on Sunset Boulevard Monday night. Abuse and intimidation in the bookshop by day led to violence and physical destruction in the darkness of night. A depressing reminder of who we are as a people and where we are plummeting as a nation. This is who we have become. Of course, the defacing of a theatre book store in Los Angeles pales when compared to the uncountable acts of fatal violence and hatred executed every day nationwide. Yet Monday night’s act hurts me deeply because it is a symptom of a larger hurt, a greater ill in our country. Shakespeare warned us not to drink the Kool-Aid of anger and hatred. As he warns in Measure for Measure, “Our natures do pursue a thirsty evil; and when we drink, we die.”

In any tragic story, anagnorisis is the moment when the main character discovers his/her true nature, recognizes the truth about his or her true self. I am willing to stay for the Third Act of this play, if there is one. Hopefully, this dramatic story ends with a cathartic spiritual renewal of resurrection.

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

VIDEO: For playwright Idris Goodwin, hip hop play ‘Hype Man’ is about friendship

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Screenings at Fountain Theatre showcase filmmakers with disabilties

Disabilty Film Challenge 1

2018 Easterseals Disability Film Challenge

by Nic Novicki

On December 12, The Fountain Theatre graciously hosted a special screening of films from the Easterseals Disability Film Challengean annual weekend film competition where participating teams have 55 hours to create a short film.

Beyond props, locations and genre, the most important rule of the film challenge is that one participant on every team must have a disability. The goal of the film challenge is to create opportunity and generate film-making experience for the disability community in front of and behind the camera.

I created this film challenge six years ago, as a response to a problem I was all too familiar with in Hollywood – a lack of inclusion. I’m a little person, and have been an actor and comedian for most of my life. While I have been fortunate and have acted in many TV shows and films, the reality is that people with disabilities are still the most underrepresented community in entertainment today.

Disabilty Film Challenge 3People with disabilities represent 25% of the U.S. population, but are seen in less than 3% of on-screen speaking roles. Some 61 million adults in the United States identify as having a disability, and still, we are not seeing ourselves being represented.

Beyond acting, I have always produced my own content as well. I believe that work leads to more work, and that if you aren’t given opportunities you need to create them for yourself. These projects have been so critical in building my career, and six years ago I was tired of seeing the same old statistics – why weren’t more people with disabilities taking their career into their own hands?

Six years later, and it’s amazing what the film challenge has become. I have partnered with Easterseals Southern California, the largest disability services provider in the state, whose mission is to change the way the world defines and views disability. Their support has helped the challenge grow each year, and I am so excited for what the future will bring. The 2019 film challenge will mark Easterseals’ 100th Anniversary of supporting this vibrant community.

The industry is taking notice, our supporters are growing and we’re seeing our participants getting hired for recurring roles on TV shows. Casting directors and producers are reaching out to us about the participants, because they recognize the importance of inclusion and the talent in this community.

Disabilty Film Challenge 4

Fountain Outreach Coordinator Jeffrey Arriaza

At the Fountain Theatre, we screened the four winning films from the 2018 Easterseals Disability Film Challenge and three films featuring actors from the Fountain Theatre’s acclaimed Cost of Living.

In the panel that followed, past participants consistently referenced the strong community that the challenge builds. While the challenge lasts one weekend out of the year, the real impact is seen when participants continue to work together year round. Attendees at the event stuck around and caught up long after the last film played, and even after the theatre closed for the night.

Nic Novicki portait

Nic Novicki

The Fountain Theatre is a perfect partner, because they also recognize the importance of stories from underrepresented communities. Together, we can inspire change in entertainment and create opportunities for all.

We hope you participate in the 2019 film challenge! Learn more here

 

 

Nic Novicki is an actor and comedian. 

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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NOW HIRING: House Manager and Sidewalk Cafe Manager at Fountain Theatre

Ft theatre 2Want to join our Fountain Family? Now is the perfect time. We are hiring folks for two positions: House Manager and Sidewalk Cafe Manager.  Both jobs start next week, Wednesday October 17, as we begin performances for our exciting West Coast Premiere of Cost of Living by Martyna Majok.  The play won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

House Manager – audience relations, distribute programs, assist patrons in seating. Looking for pleasant person with excellent people skills, articulate, assertive, trouble-shooter and problem-solver.     

Sidewalk Cafe Manager – To manage and operate our new sidewalk cafe cart. This concessions cart in front of our theatre is a new addition to our audience services, allowing patrons who can’t climb the stairs to our indoor/outdoor cafe on the second floor the ability to buy snacks on the front sidewalk. Seeking a charming individual who enjoys engaging with people, well organized, can handle money and credit card sales via Square, some minor paperwork.  

Dates: Oct 17 – Dec 16
Performances: Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 2pm, Mon 8pm
Rate of Pay: $12 per hour.
Each performance runs approx 1 hour 40 mins (no intermission). Arrive 1 hour before curtain, stay 30 mins after.

The Fountain Theatre is a non-profit arts organization with a hiring policy of diversity and inclusion. All positions are open to any applicant, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. 

Submit cover letter and resume to: info@fountaintheatre.com