by Stephen Sachs
“Isn’t that the theatre where they did Last Summer at Bluefish Cove?” It was 1990, and I heard that a lot. My business partner, Deborah Lawlor, and I had just acquired the Fountain Theatre in East Hollywood. We had only an empty building and the dream of transforming it into an energetic artistic home that produced high-quality, meaningful theatre. As it turned out, we also took over a stage where a ground-breaking play ran for two sold-out years just a short while before.
After an 80-performance run Off-Broadway, Last Summer at Bluefish Cove by Jane Chambers opened at the Fountain Theatre in 1983, with Jean Smart reprising the role of Lil. The ensemble, directed by Hilary Moshereece, also included Camilla Carr, Dianne Turley Travis, Shannon Kriska, Linda Cohen, Sandra J. Marshall, Nora Heflin, and Lee Carlington. Jean Smart was honored with the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Actress. The Fountain production also received a Certificate of Outstanding Theatre from the City of Los Angeles.
That twenty-four-month run of Bluefish Cove at the Fountain Theatre was a turning point for the lesbian community in Los Angeles at the time, a benchmark achievement in L.A. theater, and a milestone in the history of the Fountain. For many queer women, it was the first time they saw themselves on stage in a play written by a lesbian. For straight audiences, it was an entertaining glimpse into a world that held many of the same needs and fears as their own. It was exhilarating.
We now live in dangerous, disturbing times. At least 417 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the United States since the start of the year — a new record. People around the country face violence and inequality because of who they love, how they look, or who they are.
The Fountain Theatre offers this play as public affirmation that we all ache for the same human connection, we all seek love and friendship, no matter our differences. Many who were here forty years ago have never forgotten how this funny, tender play changed their lives. Generations of young queer women today, born after the play was produced here on Fountain Avenue, will visit Bluefish Cove for the first time this summer and discover for themselves what all the joy and excitement was about.
Stephen Sachs is the Artistic Director of the Fountain Theatre.