Lauren Gunderson’s “I and You”, Fountain Theatre, 2015.
By Lauren Gunderson
Think of this pitch to a room of venture capitalists: “What we’re proposing is a scalable, repeatable product that makes vital intellectual and emotional wisdom portable, communicable, and adaptable and memorable. Everyone will use it and keep using it for millennia. We call it: storytelling.”
Matthew Hancock and Jennifer Finch in “I and You”.
The Fountain Theatre’s acclaimed 2015 productions of Lauren Gunderson’s I and Youand Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine have earned four NAACP Theatre Award nominations for productions presented between January – December, 2015.
The NAACP Theatre Awards is presented by the Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP Branch in partnership with the City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles City Council President/Councilmember District 10 Herb Wesson, Jr. and co-chaired by Byron K. Reed, Senior Vice President of Wells Fargo-West Region Community Relations, and Jeffrey Rush of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management.
“We’re always pleased to be acknowledged by the NAACP theatre committee,” says Fountain Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs. “We have a long and successful history of supporting and presenting the work of a rich variety of artists on our stage. Diversity and inclusion is at the core of our artistic mission.”
‘Citizen: An American Lyric’ at the Fountain Theatre
The mission of the NAACP Theatre Awards is to entertain, educate, and inspire the community and create diversity in the arts and entertainment industry. To honor LA theatre artists and celebrate live theatre in Los Angeles.
This year, the Fountain Theatre has received the following nominations:
Best Lead Male – Matthew Hancock, I and You
Best Choreography – Anastasia Coon, Citizen: An American Lyric
Best Lighting – Jeremy Pivnick, I and You
Best Set Design – Tom Buderwitz, I and You
The awards show will be held on Monday, November 21, 2016, at 6:00 p.m. at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills. More info.
Matthew Hancock and Jennifer Finch in ‘I And You’.
Editor Steven Stanley today announced his recipients of the 2014-15 StageSceneLA Theatre Awards. The Fountain Theatre was awarded 16 citations for its 2014-15 productions of I And You, Reborning and Broomstick. Steven Stanley’s StageSceneLA.com has spotlighted the best in Southern California theater since 2007.
The Year’s Top 8 Intimate Theatres – Fountain Theatre
The Year’s Top 8 Productions, PLAY – I And You
Outstanding Drama (Intimate Theater) Reborning
Outstanding Production, Solo Performance Broomstick
Ensemble Cast, Drama (Intimate Theatre) Reborning
Performance in a Play Jennifer Finch, Matthew Hancock, I and You
Lead Performance, Duo Ensemble, (Intimate Theatre) Jennifer Finch and Matthew Hancock, I and You
Performance by a Lead Actress (Intimate Theatre) Joanna Strapp, Reborning
Best Solo Performance Jenny O’Hara, Broomstick
Direction of a Drama (Intimate Theatre) Simon Levy, Reborning
Direction of a Comedy/Drama, (Intimate Theatre) Robin Larsen, I and You
Direction of a Solo Performance Stephen Sachs, Broomstick
Production Design (Intimate Theatre) Broomstick
Composer of the Year Peter Bayne, Reborning
Scenic & Properties Design of the Year Andrew Hammer (set) and Misty Carlisle (properties) for Broomstick
Matthew Hancock and Jennifer Finch in ‘I And You’.
by Isabel Espy
One Friday night about a month ago, still in the process of interviewing for this internship, I came to the Fountain Theatre with two of my best friends to see my first show here: I and You. As soon as we entered the space I had the unsettling feeling that I had accidentally broken into a seventeen year-old’s bedroom. I was in complete awe at the level of detail and specificity of Tom Buderwitz’s set.
Before the actors had even appeared on stage, I already felt like I was getting to know a character – the room. The Fountain’s 78-seat theatre really allows the audience to feel as if they themselves are part of the play. The lighting and set design had already brought me thoroughly into the world of the play even before the house lights were completely dimmed.
Then the actors stepped on stage. All my attention shifted from admiring the posters on the walls and the string of fairy lights behind the bed, because suddenly I was in the story. As I sat through the performance I could hear my friends laugh and gasp as they followed the action. At one point, all three of us gasped in perfect unison.
I And You is 100% contemporary, referencing Instagram and Facebook right and left, making jokes anyone with any online presence can relate to. Yet, while social media plays a deep role in the piece, the issues that it brings up are universal to all, digitally savvy or otherwise. It is a play that deals with the fragility of true human connection. We have all been there. We have all had those moments of difficulty, felt the pain of isolation, the embarrassment of being vulnerable to another person, and the beauty of being close to another human.
Jennifer Finch and Matthew Hancock
I won’t give anything away, but I can tell you that as we left the theatre both of my friends’ faces had the telltale wetness of cathartic tears. On our drive back to Westwood (with a quick stop at Chipotle for a post-show treat) we couldn’t stop talking about the play. I and You ends its run this weekend, and if you still have a chance, I would definitely recommend getting your butt over to the Fountain Theatre!
Final 2 performances: Saturday, June 20th @ 8pm; Sunday, June 21st @ 2pm.
The Fountain Theatre’s critically acclaimed Los Angeles premiere of I And Youwillextend for two added performances on Saturday, June 20 at 8pm and Sunday, June 21 at 2pm.
On the night before a class assignment is due, Caroline and Anthony plumb the mysteries of a Whitman poem…unaware that a deeper mystery has brought them together. Written by Lauren Gunderson and directed by Robin Larsen, our Los Angeles Premiere stars Jennifer Finch and Matthew Hancock and has earned outstanding critical praise, including highlighted as Critic’s Choicein the Los Angeles Times.
Jennifer Finch and Matthew Hancock
“ CRITIC’S CHOICE… a stunning exploration of cosmic interconnectedness … a testimonial to the power of intimate theater.” — Los AngelesTimes
“WOW! At once funny, captivating, and profoundly moving, a powerful piece of theater … Two of the finest young actors you’ll see all year!” – StageSceneLA
“ DAZZLING…those performances are extraordinary… moving, unearthly, and completely satisfying” — Los Angeles Post
“ DYNAMIC… one of those plays you’ll want to see more than once…a great story beautifully told” — Discover Hollywood
“ UPLIFTING… SUPERB… compelling performances … the Fountain has a gift for presenting extraordinary plays which are at once entertaining and thought-provoking, and ‘I and You’ is no exception.” — Examiner
“ BEAUTIFUL… packs a real punch … a very lovely play” — ArtsBeatLA
Jennifer Finch and Matthew Hancock
With these two added performances, only 10 performances remain. The run now ends Sunday, June 21, 2pm. Get Tickets/More Info
“It was great. It was really amazing,” exclaims student
What’s better than skipping class to see an acclaimed production of the Los Angeles Premiere of an award-winning play? Students from three Los Angeles area high schools — Campbell Hall, John Marshall High School, and Westmark School — enjoyed a special matinee yesterday ofI And Youat the Fountain. For some, it was their first time seeing a professional production of a play. For many, it was an experience they’ll never forget.
The full house of students had a great time watching the funny and heartfelt comedy/drama starring Jennifer Finch and Matthew Hancock about two high school students discovering they share a mysterious connection. Many were blown away by the sudden twist of the powerful ending. The Fountain production of I And You has been highlighted as Critic’s Choice in the LA Times, hailed as “a testimonial to the power of intimate theater.”
After the performance, the students engaged in a lively Q&A Talkback with the two actors.
The students came by bus from three schools representing three communities in the LA area. This special daytime student matinee was made possible through Theatre As A Learning Tool, the Fountain Theatre’s educational outreach program making the live theatre experience accessible to students in Southern California.
At The Fountain, we’re always pleased and excited to introduce important playwrights to Los Angeles audiences. As we gear-up to start performances of our funny and powerful Los Angeles Premiere ofI And You, we’re eager for you to meet award-winning playwright Lauren Gunderson. Audiences have been enjoying her plays in regional theatres around the country. Now Lauren makes her Los Angeles debut with us here at the Fountain. We couldn’t be more thrilled.
Lauren Gundersonis the 2014 winner of the Steinberg/ATCA New Play award and was a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for I and You. She studied Southern Literature and Drama at Emory University, and Dramatic Writing at NYU’s Tisch School where she was a Reynolds Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship. Her work has been commissioned, produced and developed at companies across the US including South Cost Rep (Emilie, Silent Sky), The Kennedy Center (The Amazing Adventures of Dr. Wonderful And Her Dog!), The O’Neill, Denver Center, Berkeley Rep, Shotgun Players, TheatreWorks, Crowded Fire, San Francisco Playhouse, Marin Theatre, Synchronicity, Olney Theatre, Geva and more. Her work is published at Playscripts (I and You, Exit, Pursued By A Bear, and Toil And Trouble) and Samuel French (Emilie). She is a Playwright in Residence at The Playwrights Foundation, and a proud Dramatists Guild member. She is from Atlanta, GA and lives in San Francisco.
In her play I And You, two high-school teenagerswho meet under extraordinary circumstances. Caroline is sick and hasn’t been to school in months. Anthony suddenly arrives at her door bearing a beat-up copy of Walt Whitman’s ‘Leaves of Grass’ and an urgent assignment from their high school lit teacher. As these two let down their guards and share their secrets, the poetry assignment unlocks a much deeper mystery that has brought them together.
A Quick Chat with Lauren Gunderson
What is ‘I And You’ about?
This play is really about connection and the surprises we find when we really get to know people. In many ways it’s a Hero’s Journey but in miniature, so the heroes that we wouldn’t expect are two teenagers doing a project on Walt Whitman, but through a kind of, what might seem like a kind of vanilla assignment, blossoms this understanding and healing and a kind of transcendent communion that happens between these two unlikely heroes. So through that we found out about how we’re all connected to each other and life and death and meaning.
Jennifer Finch and Matthew Hancock in “I And You”
What does this play mean to you?
This is a very special play for me because it reminds us that we’re all heroes and we’re all the main characters of our own stories even though we may seem not that in the privacy of our own homes, in this case, in Caroline’s teenage girl room. But from these really beautiful, profound, and private moments can come great stories, universal tales, about connection and meaning. That’s really where it stems from. I think that teenagers can teach us a lot, as much as we can teach them, so I hope that this is a play that finds some of its power in that teenagers can bring their parents and parents can bring their teens and everyone can come around this play and feel like it’s speaking to them and about them.
What was your inspiration behind all this?
Jennifer Finch and Matthew Hancock
Well I’ve always loved Walt Whitman— who doesn’t?—so it starts there. And I was really fascinated about how people find each other and how we impact each other in ways we don’t even know when we first meet. So that, spinning it all together with a bunch of surprises, a bunch of profound, funny moments, and really meaningful, deeper stuff, all weaving up into a play that’s about what we mean to each other. So in that way it’s a play I’ve been wanting to write for a long time, and through writing it, I’ve kind of changed how I know playwriting, how I tell a story, what a story is really about and what we want a story. so it’s changed me a lot through writing it, as much as I hope it’s changed people through seeing it.
Are there any similarities between you and these characters?
Jennifer Finch and Matthew Hancock
That’s a good question. I think there’s probably more similarity between Caroline and me than I would 11 like. But that’s what’s fun about writing, when you think about trying to write about really real characters, is you steal from yourself, you steal from your family and friends, you steal little details about life, and I think it’s those details that make it actually feel more universal. So Caroline likes cats a lot, she likes Jerry Lee Lewis, she likes Elvis, she has a very snarky attitude about things, but she’s very plugged in to herself. But in many ways I’m very like the other character, Anthony, too. I love jazz, he loves jazz. He kind of has a nerdy relationship to things that he’s passionate about, which I might relate to. But it’s really about really curious, smart, funny kids, and I think all of us hope that that part of ourselves is still alive and well no matter how old we get.
What do you hope audiences will get from this play?
I would love this community to get a sense that we’re all in one story together. Even though we might not think a 16- year-old has much to tell as 60-year old or a 50-year-old or a 40-year-old, of course they do, because we’re all human beings and we’re all looking for meaning, and we’re all looking to live a life that matters, a life of love and compassion and being understood. And those things don’t ever change, whether you’re six or 60. So I think that’s the biggest gift. It’s also an interesting thing to resuscitate Walt Whitman, not that he has any press problems, but when you look at a poem that’s over 150 years old and you find that it’s still relevant, I think it’s a metaphor for theatre as a whole. It’s an art form that’s so old and so basic, in a real fundamental way, still matters to us now, and can pull it together in one room and have on great cathartic experience together. I think that’s theatre at its best, and I hopefully this play is part of that tradition.
“I and This Mystery, here we stand” —Walt Whitman’s ‘Song of Myself’
On the night before a class assignment is due, Caroline and Anthony plumb the mysteries of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass — unaware that a much deeper mystery has brought them together. The Los Angeles premiere ofI and You by Lauren Gunderson, winner of the 2014 Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award, opens onApril 11 at the Fountain Theatre, directed by Robin Larsen.
Only in high school would two completely unconnected people — feisty, chronically ill Caroline and levelheaded basketball star Anthony — be paired to collaborate on a project to deconstruct a poem about the interconnectivity of everything.Jennifer Finch(7 Redneck Cheerleadersand Hellcab with Elephant Theatre Company) andMatthew Hancock (Oshoosi inThe Brothers Size at the Fountain) star as two smart and funny teens who share an unknown and profound bond.
“Whitman says that we are all one because we are all equal, even though it might not look like it at times. There is a universal oneness,” said Gunderson in an interview.
“These two precocious teenagers and Walt Whitman’s epic poem of humanity have something to teach us all,” says Larsen. “That we are supremely connected, to each other, to the earth, to the stars, and that recognizing this connection, becoming conscious of it, is perhaps the point of our existence.”
Jennifer Finch and Matthew Hancock
I and Youwas commissioned by South Coast Repertory (which also commissioned Gunderson’sEmilie: La Marquise Du Chaltelet Defends Her Life Tonightin 2009 andSilent Skyin 2011). The play received readings at SCR’s Pacific Playwrights Festival in April 2012 and as part of Magic Theatre’s new play development Magic @ the Costume Shop program. It premiered at the Marin Theatre Company in the fall of 2013, the first production in a series of “rolling world premieres” made possible by the National New Play Network’s Continued Life of New Plays Fund; subsequent NNPN productions took place at the Olney Theatre Center in Olney, Maryland and the Phoenix Theatre in Indianapolis, Indiana.I and You went on to win the 2014 Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award and was a finalist for the 2014 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.American Theatremagazine put it on the cover of its July/August 2014 issue and featured the script in its entirety.
Playwright Lauren Gunderson
Lauren Gunderson studied Southern literature and drama at Emory University, and dramatic writing at NYU’s Tisch School where she was a Reynolds Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship. Her work has been commissioned, produced and developed at companies across the U.S. including South Coast Rep (Emilie, Silent Sky), the Kennedy Center (The Amazing Adventures of Dr. Wonderful And Her Dog!), the O’Neill, Denver Center, Berkeley Rep, Shotgun Players, TheatreWorks, Crowded Fire, San Francisco Playhouse, Marin Theatre, Synchronicity, Olney Theatre, Geva and more. Her work is published at Playscripts (I and You, Exit, Pursued By A Bear andToil And Trouble) and Samuel French (Emilie). She is a playwright-in-residence at the Playwrights Foundation and a member of the Dramatists Guild. Originally from Atlanta, GA, Gunderson lives in San Francisco.
Robin Larsen has been chosen to receive the 2015 Milton Katselas Award for Career Achievement in Direction by the Los Angeles Drama Critic’s Circle, to be presented at the LADCC awards ceremony on March 16, and the production ofA Delicate Balance that she directed for Odyssey Theatre Ensemble is a current nominee for the circle’s McCulloh Award for Revival.Other directing credits includeMrs. Warren’s Profession at Antaeus; the L.A. premiere of David Harrower’sBlackbirdfor Rogue Machine (LADCC nomination, Best Production; five “Best of 2011” lists including theLos Angeles TimesandLA Weekly); the world premiere ofPursued By Happinessby Keith Huff at the Road Theatre Company (Los Angeles Times“Critic’s Choice”); and the West Coast premiere ofThe Fall To Earthby Joel Drake Johnson, starring JoBeth Williams, at the Odyssey (LADCC Nomination, Huffington Post “2012 Top Los Angeles Theater Productions”). Robin’s West Coast premiere ofFour Places,also by Joel Johnson, at Rogue Machine was one of the most lauded plays of the 2010 L.A. theater season, winning Ovation, LADCC and Backstage Garland awards for Best Production. For the Black Dahlia Theatre, Robin directed the West Coast premiere ofTryst(five Ovation Award nominations including Best Production and Best Director, threeLA WeeklyAwards including Best Play, and twoBackstage Garland Awards including Best Director) and the L.A. premiere of David Schulner’sAn Infinite Ache(Los Angeles Times“Critic’s Choice”). Robin is an Academy Award-winning filmmaker whose work has screened at festivals around the world. Her web seriesSex & Marriage, created with playwright John Pollono, can be seen on Justin Lin’s YouTube network YOMYOMF.
Set design forI and You is byTom Buderwitz; lighting design is byJeremy Pivnick; sound design is byJohn Zalewski; costume design is byJocelyn Hublau Parker; production stage manager isJosephine Austin; associate producer isJames Bennett; andStephen Sachs,Deborah Lawlorand Simon Levy produce for the Fountain Theatre.
Currently celebrating its 25th anniversary, 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 over 225 awards, and Fountain projects have been seen across the U.S. and internationally. Recent highlights include being honored with the 2014 Ovation Award for Best Season and the 2014 BEST Award for overall excellence from the Biller Foundation; the Fountain playBakersfield Mist in London’s West End starring Kathleen Turner and Ian McDiarmid; the sold-outForever Flamencogala concert at the 1200-seat John Anson Ford Amphitheatre; and the last four Fountain productions consecutively highlighted as Critic’s Choice in theLos Angeles Times. The Fountain has been honored with six Awards of Excellence from the Los Angeles City Council for “enhancing the cultural life of Los Angeles.”
“Do anything, but let it produce joy.” ― Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
Our company of theatre artists for our upcoming LA Premiere of I And You produced joy at the first rehearsal Monday afternoon at the Fountain. Actors Matthew Hancock and Jennifer Finch met for the first time under the caring eye of director Robin Larsen. Matthew returns to the Fountain after his acclaimed performance in The Brothers Size.
At the I And You first rehearsal, director Robin Larsen spoke about her vision for the play and producer Stephen Sachs guided the company through the production paperwork. Also present at the first reading were co-artistic director Deborah Lawlor, producing director Simon Levy, associate producer James Bennett, stage manager Josephine Austin, dramaturg Christopher Breyer, and publicist Lucy Pollak. Once the opening business was done, the two actors read the script marvelously.
I and You is a funny and beautifully moving new play by Lauren Gunderson about two high school kids thrown together under unusual circumstances. Caroline is sick and hasn’t been to school in months. Anthony suddenly arrives at her door bearing a beat-up copy of Walt Whitman’s ‘Leaves of Grass’ and an urgent assignment from their high school lit teacher. As these two let down their guards and share their secrets, the poetry assignment unlocks a much deeper mystery that has brought them together. Winner of the 2014 Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award, finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Playwrighting Prize, and nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for Best New Play, I and You is a funny and haunting play about youth, life, love, and the strange transcendent connections between us all.
Heather Wolf at the casting table for ‘I And You’ at the Fountain Theatre.
What I Learned Watching Other Actors Audition
by Heather Wolf
Ready? Show of hands: How many actors have ever wished to be the proverbial fly on the wall at an audition? Well, volunteering to be an audition reader may just contribute to that most integral tool in an actor’s arsenal: keeping your sanity.
I was given the opportunity to sit on the other side of the casting table during the Fountain Theatre’s casting of I and You, directed by Robin Larsen. It really was an invaluable experience. In preparation for the actor’s life (read constant, unavoidable rejection), there are countless articles, books and instructors all trying to drill in to our sensitive, artist brains that it is not personal. Well, let me add my voice to the throng: It is NOT PERSONAL.
How can I say such a thing? Knowing that it is, quite literally, your life? I know what makes it such a personal and consuming experience for an actor. But across that table, it really is nothing personal. In a good way. Guess what? While you walk out the door obsessing over every moment from your audition, your pic & res is already in the “Yes”, “No” or “Maybe” pile and probably not for the reasons you think.
You may have been the production team’s favorite actor and won’t even get a callback because of [insert-character- stat-here]. How is that fair? How is this supposed to help with the whole staying sane thing? What you keep hearing is true: all you can be is you, all you can control is your work, let the rest go. I am a witness.
More good news: everyone staring at you from across that casting table is on your side. They want you to be great as much as you do. They understand the courage it takes just to walk through that door. When they smile and welcome you and try to put you at ease, it is genuine. So breathe, try and calm those pesky nerves and remember why all those people are there. Putting actors first is the modus operandi of The Fountain Theatre and they actually deliver. Even if you’re just passing through on an audition. After hearing the same lines read over and over, hour after hour, day after day, they are still rooting for you when you walk through that door; hoping that you will be the answer to their casting prayers. It is as difficult for, and means as much to, the people on the other side of the casting table as it does to you.
The audition room at the Fountain Theatre.
As an actor, I intellectually understood these concepts. But experiencing it first-hand from the other side of the casting table is another thing altogether. Every actor should be an audition reader at least once. If offered the opportunity, grab it. It really is a priceless and freeing experience for any actor.
So, here are my ten audition tips taken from the other side of the table:
Relax. They want you to be there. They are on your side. They want every single actor who walks in — including you — to be the answer to their casting prayers.
Be professional. Be prepared. Be on time. Arriving early is on time and on time is late.
Always bring your headshot and resume. Even if you know they already have it. At the end of the day when the headshots are spread across the casting table so they can make their callback choices, you want your lovely face shining up at them from that table reminding them who your are. Not an empty blank white sheet of paper with your name scribbled on it.
Do your work. All you can really control is what you put into your audition. You may be a cold-read ninja and think you can just walk in and nail it. But if you have actually been provided advanced notice with the sides and the script, take that gift! Give yourself every advantage. You’ll need it.
You don’t have to memorize the lines. It impresses no one. I know many actors feel that having their lines memorized is part of doing the work, but that is not what matters most. This from Stephen Sachs, award-winning director and co-founder of The Fountain Theatre: “We really don’t care if the lines are memorized or not. It means nothing to us. What matters is their performance, the freedom of their work. Often, an actor will memorize the lines thinking it will “free” them and enable them to do their best work but then they are concentrating so hard on remembering the words that it completely locks them up. I see it all the time.”
It is okay to make mistakes. Honestly. Skipping a line, having to start over, glancing at your sides, does not impact whether you’re cast or not. Strive for perfection, just don’t be derailed when imperfection strikes. It may be the best part of our day.
Be flexible and directable. Most actors claim they love direction. Listen and process what you are being given. Because if you go back and give the exact same read? Your goose is pretty well cooked. If you need clarification, ask!
The audition room is a “no fly” zone. Walk calmly, don’t fly in and out the door. The second you have said your last line and hear “thank you” doesn’t mean you are required to turn tail and run. Gather your things, say your final “goodbye” or “have a nice day” and exit at a reasonable pace. I promise, you have the time.
Leave it in the room. However you feel you did, leave it in the room. Your job is done. It is out of your control. Just keep on keepin’ on.
Be an audition reader at least once. Volunteer, ask friends, do a show and run your own session, but find a way. The perspective it gives you as an actor, the understanding of the process, knowing first hand what the other side of the table has to deal with and what you can and cannot control, is genuinely priceless. At least it was for me.