Tag Archives: Jane Doe

For this L.A. couple, societal issues in ‘Human Interest Story’ are personal

Dick Price and Sharon Kyle

Dick Price and Sharon Kyle

by Dick Price and Sharon Kyle

With his stunning world premiere presentation of Human Interest Story at the Fountain Theatre, playwright and director Stephen Sachs stitches together issues deeply affecting American society, delivering them with a witty edge and kinetic punch that thrilled the audience the night we attended.

Our colleague and friend, Eric A. Gordon, just published a delightfully detailed review with us: Human Interest Story,’ Playwright Stephen Sachs’s Righteous Rage Against Corporate Heartlessness. Rather than replicate his work—or, rather foolishly, try somehow to top it—we’ll share the ironic way Sachs’ themes struck the two of us. Ironies abound, as you’ll see.

At curtain rise, long-time opinion columnist Andy Kramer (played by Rob Nagle) is about to lose his job in a cost-cutting move by his newspaper’s new owners, who are decimating the staff and moving quickly online to save the paper from folding, a fate so many print publications have suffered in recent years.

On his way out the door, as a way to give the new editors the finger, Andy concocts a letter purportedly written by an anonymous homeless woman, Jane Doe, who’s so bereft by her plight that she promises to kill herself on the approaching Fourth of July.

And, of course, in this digital age, the letter immediately goes viral, generating lots of hits on the paper’s website and saving Andy’s job. Problem is, the editors want to know more—lots more—about Jane Doe.

And, of course, in this coincidental world, Andy soon stumbles across a homeless black woman (Tanya Alexander) living in the park, who, after some negotiation, agrees to play Jane Doe. Together they use their ruse to shed a harsh light on the plight of the homeless while saving their own bacon.

But, as Jane Doe will later say, “there’s no good way to do a bad thing,” so problems ensue: rising media stardom, intruding corrupt politicians, distracting sexual escapades, and soulless publishing magnates all colliding in an engrossing stew—“ripped from the headlines,” you might say. You’ll need to see the play—and you absolutely should—to see how all this works out.

Our first irony: Hours before we saw the play, the two of us were at LA CAN (Los Angeles Community Action Network) on West 6th Street, in the heart of L.A.’s sprawling Skid Row, helping to plan the “Radical King” event planned for April 4th.

Moreover, to avoid the crush of L.A.’s highway traffic, we frequently take surface streets to activist meetings we attend downtown, a route that takes us through Skid Row. At one point, we had to stop taking this shortcut because Sharon would break down in tears at the sight of so many of her people—black people—pushing shopping carts down the street, huddling in the endless rows of tents, shaking their fists at an unforgiving sky. At one time, her former brother-in-law had been among them, a Vietnam vet devastated by his wartime experiences and brief capture by the Viet Cong.

And long ago, Dick had been executive director (some would call him “house daddy”) of a halfway house in Torrance where many homeless were among the residents, an experience that showed him that beneath the grime and tattoos and missing teeth, they were every bit as human as he—and not some kind of alien beings you might only see in news reports or passing by quickly in your car.

homeless man

A second irony, of course, is that for the past 12 years we’ve published two online magazines,LA Progressive and Hollywood Progressive, which are in the mix of the shift away from print publication to digital, which has caused the loss of so many editorial jobs like Andy’s.

And again moreover, in Dick’s last job working for other people (other than Sharon), he worked on venerable print magazines at the very start of the move to the digital world, his job to figure out how to preserve revenue—and his staff’s jobs—while moving online.

While readership levels rose dramatically with the much wider reach the Internet afforded, his readers were much less willing to pay for the privilege as they had with print magazines—and the money they did pay had to first go through the Web publishing shop, which took most of the gravy, shrinking the editorial staff bit by bit. His version of Andy, walking out the front door with his belongings in a cardboard box, became an all-too-common sight.

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Rob Nagle, Tanya Alexander in “Human Interest Story.”

But the third irony is perhaps the most telling. Sachs’s play has the middle-aged white “word slinging” columnist ghostwriting speeches and articles for the somewhat younger black homeless woman—who, by the way, was an award-winning fourth grade teacher before bad luck put her on the street. Point being that the white man assumed he needed to do the thinking and writing for a black woman, who, by the way she spoke and acted and carried herself, could surely have used her own words and thoughts quite nicely, thank you very much, given the chance.

Now, at the Dick & Sharon collective, Dick would never dream of putting words in Sharon’s mouth. But our parallels to the play are strong—older white man (she’ll remind you), younger black woman, joined not just with an ampersand but at the hip for years on end. Many days we spend the entire 24 hours within 30 feet of each other, talking to the same people, watching the same programs, reading many of the same things, chewing through the day’s events as one.

We’re together most of the time when the world comes at us, but how we interpret that world, especially around issues of race, can be quite different (one of us says “quite,” the other “somewhat”). If we hear news of yet another unarmed black man gunned down by police or a black mother sent to prison for enrolling her child in the wrong school or reports of a friend suspiciously denied a job or promotion, Dick hears it, hurts for it, perhaps discusses it, and moves on. But then hours later he’ll find Sharon still sunk down in despair for the endless targeting of her people, thinking of her son’s safety, her brothers’ safety, black people’s safety and well-being in general.

See, if Dick walks out our front door, pretty quick he’s just another white dude walking down the street in a mostly white neighborhood, the consequences of racism becoming increasingly intellectual. Sharon doesn’t have that luxury.

So, the heart of Human Interest Story — for us, at least — is the interplay of racism in our lives, white and black, that rot at the heart of America’s soul.

Go see for yourself.

More Info/Get Tickets

This post originally appeared in Hollywood Progressive.

Now casting: Fountain Theatre world premiere ‘Human Interest Story’

HIS prelim image

The Fountain Theatre is now casting roles available in the world premiere of the new play, Human Interest Story, written and directed by Stephen Sachs.  The timely  drama examining homelessness and ethics in journalism is scheduled to open February 15, 2020.

Newspaper columnist Andy Kramer is laid off when a corporate takeover downsizes the City Chronicle. In retaliation, Andy fabricates a letter to his column from an imaginary homeless woman named “Jane Doe” who announces she will kill herself on the 4th of July because of the heartless state of the world. When the letter goes viral, Andy is forced to hire a homeless woman to stand-in as the fictitious Jane Doe. She becomes an overnight internet sensation and a national women’s movement is ignited. A funny and riveting tale on the ethics of American journalism, homelessness, the worship of celebrity and the need to tell your own story.

Now Casting the Following Roles:

BETTY FRAZIER/JANE DOE
35 to 45 years old, Black/African American female. Laid-off elementary school teacher Betty Frazier has been homeless two years. She becomes an overnight media sensation as the fictitious Jane Doe. Strong-willed, compassionate, deep feeling, smart, nobody’s fool. She has come from the hell of darkness and is now reaching for light. Fiercely fighting to be seen and be heard, she discovers her own voice. The one she always had.

MILLER/BAUMAN
Caucasian male. Seeking a versatile actor to play many roles including Miller, a cold-blooded, ruthless newspaper editor, and Bauman, a scheming far-right political campaign aide.

HERNANDEZ/MORAN
40 to 50 years old, Hispanic male. Seeking a versatile actor to play many roles including Hernandez, an ardent by-the-book newspaper Assistant Editor, and Moran, a polite sturdy bodyguard.

NAKESHA/TV HOST
35 to 50 years old, Black/African American female. Seeking a versatile actor to play many roles including Nakesha, a hard-working impassioned school principal and TV Host, a razor-sharp intellectual black feminist.

Rehearsal starts Monday, January 6th, 2020. The production runs February 15 – April 5, 2020.  Contract: AEA 99-Seat. Auditions: November 11 -22, 2019.

Email headshot & resume: casting@fountaintheatre.com

Fountain Theatre announces 2019-20 season of diverse, funny and meaningful new work

2019 season ft bldg nightThe Fountain Theatre has announced a 2019-20 season of vibrant, thought-provoking, fresh and funny new work by a diverse group of playwrights, each of whom explores important social and cultural issues from a wholly unique perspective.

Over the course of 16 months, the company will offer up a series of Los Angeles, California, Southern California, West Coast and world premieres that tackle questions of politics, racism, gun control, human rights, cultural identity and more.

“Our 2019-20 season is our most ambitious ever,” says Fountain co-artistic director Stephen Sachs. “It perfectly reflects who and what we are as a theater organization. It’s a season of diversity, a rich mixture of new plays representing a wide variety of communities. Our goal is for Los Angeles to see itself on our stage, and this season certainly offers that.”

Details of the Fountain Theatre’s 2019-20 season are as follows: 

Hype Man by Idris Goodwin 

West Coast premiere. In Idris Goodwin’s “break beat play,” 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 artistic expression as an act of social protest. Winner, 2018 Elliot Norton Award. Directed by Deena Selenow.  Feb. 23 – April 14, 2019 

Daniel’s Husband by Michael McKeever 

Southern California premiere. Michael McKeever’s witty, passionate, funny and, ultimately, heartrending play takes an unflinching look at how we choose to tie the knot — or not. 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. Then, a life-altering event forces both men to realize that, even in an enlightened society, the denial of fundamental rights leads to devastating results. Starring Bill BrochtrupTim Cummings and Jenny O’Hara; directed by Simon Levy May 4 – June 23, 2019

Hannah and the Dread Gazebo by Jiehae Park

California premiere. Hannah is two weeks away from becoming a board-certified neurologist when she receives a strange package from her grandmother, who may—or may not—have just ended her life in a most flamboyant fashion. The mystery leads Hannah and her family on a surreal, funny, heartbreaking adventure back to their roots in South and North Korea and the forbidden Demilitarized Zone that divides them. Wildly theatrical, Jiehae Park’s startling new comedy twists together creation myths and family histories to explore what it means to walk the edge between cultures. July 13 – Sept 1, 2019

Between Riverside and Crazy by Stephen Adly Guirgis

Los Angeles premiere. You can’t beat City Hall, but you can try. In this darkly comic, 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama by Stephen Adly Guirgis, ex-cop and recent widower Walter ‘Pops’ Washington has made a home for his newly paroled son in his sprawling, rent-controlled Riverside Drive apartment. But now the NYPD is demanding his signature to close an outstanding lawsuit, the landlord wants him out, the liquor store is closed, and the church is on his back — leaving Pops somewhere between Riverside… and crazy. Sept. 21 – Nov. 10, 2019

 Jane Doe by Stephen Sachs

World premiere. In this contemporary retelling of the 1941 Frank Capra classic film Meet John Doe adapted by Fountain Theatre co-artistic director Stephen Sachs (Cyrano, Arrival & Departure, Citizen: An American Lyric), a newspaper writer fabricates a letter to his column from an imaginary homeless woman named “Jane Doe” who announces she will kill herself on the 4th of July because of greedy corporations, corrupt politicians and how hostile and heartless the world has become. When the writer hires a woman to stand-in as the fictitious “Jane”, a national movement is ignited by citizens aching for a savior. Jan. 18 – March 8, 2020 

If I Forget by Steven Levenson

Los Angeles premiere. Simon Levy directs this powerful tale of a Jewish family and a culture at odds with itself by Steven Levenson (book-writer of the hit musical Dear Evan Hansen). Michael is a liberal Jewish studies professor reuniting with his two sisters to celebrate their father’s 75th birthday. A political and deeply personal play about history, responsibility, and what we’re willing to sacrifice for a new beginning, told with vicious humor and unflinching honesty. If I Forget was a New York Times “Critic’s Pick,” while DC Metro calls it “one of the greatest Jewish plays of this century.” March 28 – May 17, 2020

In addition, the Fountain will continue to offer its acclaimed Forever Flamenco dance series every month.

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 being honored for its acclaimed 25th Anniversary Season in 2015 by Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Los Angeles City Council; the inclusion of the Fountain’s Citizen: An American Lyric in Center Theatre Group’s Block Party at the Kirk Douglas Theatre and again, last year, as the centerpiece of Our L.A. Voices at Grand Park; and an all-star reading of All The President’s Men at Los Angeles City Hall. The Fountain’s 2018 productions of The Chosen and Arrival & Departure each enjoyed months-long sold out runs and were named Los Angeles Times “Critic’s Choices.” The company’s most recent production, the 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 by theater critic Charles McNulty, who called the Fountain “on par with the Mark Taper Forum and Geffen Playhouse at their best. 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.” 

For more information about the Fountain Theatre’s 2019-20 season, call (323) 663-1525 or go to www.FountainTheatre.com.