LA STAGE Alliance announced yesterday that the Fountain Theatre has been honored with 18 Ovation Award nominations, the largest number of any intimate theatre for the 2018/19 season. The Fountain’s nominations include Best Season for overall excellence.
The Ovation Awards are the only peer-judged theatre awards in Los Angeles, created to recognize excellence in theatrical performance, production, and design in the Greater Los Angeles area.
During the 2018-29 season, there were 278 total productions registered for the Ovation Awards from 124 different producing bodies, resulting in 199 total nominations for 64 distinct productions presented by 43 organizations. These productions were voted on by 272 Ovation Awards voters — vetted individuals from the Greater Los Angeles area who are working theatre professionals.
The Fountain Theatre received the following Ovation Award nominations:
BEST SEASON Fountain Theatre Cost of Living Daniel’s Husband Hype Man: a Break Beat Play
BEST PRODUCTION OF A PLAY (Intimate Theatre) Cost of Living Daniel’s Husband
ACTING ENSEMBLE OF A PLAY Cost of Living Daniel’s Husband
DIRECTION OF A PLAY John Vreeke – Cost of Living
LEAD ACTOR IN A PLAY Tim Cummings – Daniel’s Husband Felix Solis – Cost of Living
LEAD ACTRESS IN A PLAY Katy Sullivan – Cost of Living
FEATURED ACTOR IN A PLAY Tobias Forrest – Cost of Living
FEATURED ACTRESS IN A PLAY Jenny O’Hara – Daniel’s Husband Xochitl Romero – Cost of Living
LIGHTING DESIGN (Intimate Theatre) Chu-Hsuan Chang – Hype Man: A Break Beat Play Jennifer Edwards – Daniel’s Husband John Garofalo – Cost of Living
There is the rule of law, and there are the laws of the heart. Which do we follow and when? The Fountain Theatre presents the funny, passionate and poignant Southern California premiere of Daniel’s Husband, the 2018 off-Broadway hit play by Michael McKeever that was hailed as “compelling” by The New York Times, “emotionally charged” by the Huffington Post and “beautiful and powerful” by the Daily Beast. Opening night is set for May 4, with performances continuing through June 23. Pay-what-you-want previews begin May 1.
A bold commentary on love, commitment and family in our perilous new world, Daniel’s Husband reunites director Simon Levy, who helmed the Fountain’s 2013 award-winning production of The Normal Heart, with the stars of that production, Bill Brochtrup and Tim Cummings. This time, the two play Daniel Bixby and Mitchell Howard — a seemingly perfect couple. What isn’t so perfect is that Daniel desperately longs to be married, but Mitchell doesn’t believe in it. When an unexpected turn of events puts their perfect life in jeopardy, they are thrust into a future where love may not be enough.
“When I first read Daniel’s Husband, I fell in love with the love story and was deeply moved by it,” says Levy. “One of the central questions the play asks is, ‘How far will you go to fight for the one you love?’ The characters wrestle with what it means to be committed to someone, to be ‘married’ — and what’s legally and morally lost if we don’t tie the knot. McKeever’s play may be about gay marriage, but it’s a universal story that reminds us to grab those we love and hold them close. Love really is precious; and when we find someone we truly love, we should fight for them with everything we have.”
Also in the cast are Jenny O’Hara (the Fountain’s Bakersfield Mist) as Daniel’s mother, and Ed Martin and Jose Fernando as the couple’s good friends. The creative team includes set and props designer DeAnne Millais, lighting designer Jennifer Edwards, sound designer Peter Bayne and costume designer Michael Mullen. The production stage manager is Jessica Morataya. Stephen Sachs, Deborah Culver and James Bennett produce for the Fountain Theatre.
Daniel’s Husband premiered at South Florida’s Island City Stage in 2015 before going on to enjoy successful off-Broadway runs at New York City’s Primary Stages in 2017 and again at the Westside Theatre in 2018.
“I practically had to carry my best friend out of the theater in New York,” Los Angeles Times theater critic Charles McNulty recently noted in a spring arts preview article that highlighted the Fountain’s production.
Michael McKeever’s other plays include 37 Postcards, Suite Surrender, Charlie Cox Runs with Scissors, Stuff and Melt, and have been produced at Florida Stage (Manalapan), Marin Theatre Company (Marin County), Hudson Stage Company (New York), Phoenix Theatre (Indianapolis) and Caldwell Theatre Company (Boca Raton) among many others. His comedies have played in some of the most prestigious theaters in Europe, including Komödie Dresden (Dresden), Och-Teatr (Warsaw) and Theater in der Josefstadt, Kammerspiele (Vienna). He has been honored with an NEA Residency Grant (New Theatre, Miami) and has been a three-time finalist for Humana Fest’s nationally renowned Heideman Award. He is the recipient of five Carbonell Awards; two Silver Palm Awards; and three Florida Individual Artist Fellowships. He is also an award-winning actor and designer. He is a founding member of the award-winning theatre Zoetic Stage in Miami. He resides in South Florida and is a member of the Dramatists Guild and Actors’ Equity.
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 recent 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.
Sometimes what you’re searching for is right where you started. The Fountain Theatre presents a powerful, funny and deeply moving mother-daughter story by Jeremy J. Kamps. Multiple award-winning Shirley Jo Finney returns to the Fountain to direct the world premiere of Runaway Home for a Sept. 16 opening.
Three years after Hurricane Katrina, the unhealed wounds of New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward continue to fester. Camille Spirlin (ABC’s American Koko, Fox TV’s Rosewood, Nickelodeon’s Marvin Marvin) stars as 14-year-old runaway Kali. Rhyming, stealing and scamming her way through the still-destroyed neighborhood, she embarks on a journey to pick through the wreckage of what used to be her life. While the rest of the country’s attention drifts, the neighborhood’s residents are left to repair the damage from the inside out. As their attempts at renewal leave a path of destruction in their wake, Kali bears witness to what the floodwaters left behind. Also in the cast are Leith Burke (Citizen: An American Lyric at the Fountain,Neighbors at the Matrix), Jeris Lee Poindexter (The Darker Face of the Earth,Central Avenue, Gem of the Ocean at the Fountain),Armando Rey (Men on the Verge of a His-panic Breakdown at Macha Theatre), Maya Lynne Robinson (In the Red and Brown Water at the Fountain – LADCC Award, Best Ensemble), Brian Tichnell (Dream Catcher at the Fountain, HBOs Silicon Valley, L.A. Theatre Works’ national tour of The Graduate) and Karen Malina White (Citizen: An American Lyric and The Ballad of Emmett Till – Best Ensemble LADCC and Ovation Awards – at the Fountain, currently in As You Like It at Antaeus).
“This play couldn’t be more timely,” says Fountain co-artistic director Stephen Sachs. “Hurricane Katrina may have ceased in 2005, but the storm of racism, poverty and class inequality rages on in our country to this day. We need look no further than Flint, Michigan, to see systemic government prejudice against citizens of color and the poor. But as Jeremy’s play so beautifully demonstrates, the bonds of family and community will weather any storm.”
When Kamps traveled to New Orleans two years after Katrina to volunteer “gutting and mucking” (stripping homes to the studs to remove mold), he had been teaching middle school in Connecticut. He already had an idea in his head about a runaway girl who collects other people’s garbage, finding meaning in the meaningless.
“Kali’s world paralleled the displacement, hope for renewal, fracture and resilience I was seeing in the social-political reality of the Lower 9th Ward,” he explains. “Whenever a character’s inner life and experience are so congruent with an important social issue, that’s the story I want to write.”
While in New Orleans, Kamps met Antoine, a man in his ‘70s who had just returned to what had been his family’s home for generations. Antoine was going from house to house trying to trace relatives, friends, acquaintances and neighbors, to find out what had happened to them in the years since the storm. “His friendship helped me honor the stories of this community in a truthful way — to see the past, present and future of the Lower 9th through their eyes,” says the playwright.
According to Finney, “Because the media painted them as poor and impoverished, most people don’t realize that the residents of the Lower 9th were working class homeowners. Those homes had been in families for generations. Members of the community were expecting government funds so they could rebuild, but because of red tape and bureaucracy, the money never came, or it took so long that people had to end up using it for rent or just to eat.”
“The mother-daughter relationship becomes the pivotal heart space in this story about this community,” she continues. “The play is very funny because Kali is so spirited, but the rage, helplessness and loss that Kali and her mother share are the core of the play. That is the challenge they both struggle with to find their way back to each other and home. What happens to people when they aren’t seen, when they don’t feel safe? How do you begin to rebuild your life when nobody cares?”
Jeremy Kamps’s plays have received awards and recognition including the William Saroyan Human Rights Award Finalist (2016); Page 73 Semi-Finalist (2017); Ruby Lloyd Apsey Award (Gutting); The Goldberg Prize; Woodward International Playwriting (What It Means To Disappear Here); Hudson Valley Writers Center and the NYU Festival of New Works (Water Hyacinth). His play Breitwisch Farm will be produced by Esperance Theater Company in NYC later this year. Recent productions include Gutting, presented by the National Black Theatre of Harlem and What It Means To Disappear Here (Ugly Rhino, NYC). His work has been produced/developed with Esperance Theater Company, Company Cypher at the National Black Theatre of Harlem, Ugly Rhino, Dixon Place, Hudson Valley Shakespeare, The Amoralists and New York Theatre Workshop. His fiction has been published in The Madison Review and The Little Patuxent; has been honored with the H.E. Francis Award, the Howard/John Reid Fiction Prize and was a Lamar York Prize finalist; and has been recognized in Glimmertrain, Inkwell, The Caribbean Writer and New Millenium. He is a member of the Emerging Writers Group at the Public Theater. Also an educator and activist, Jeremy has lived and worked for lengthy periods of time in Latin America, India and East Africa, where he focused on support and empowerment for former child soldiers, displaced peoples and child rights. He recently received the Theatre Communications Group “On the Road” grant to return to Kenya where he conducted drama workshops as part of his research for a new play on flower farms. He has facilitated drama and writing workshops around the world and for all ages. He has an MFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU Tisch School of the Arts.
Shirley Jo Finney has previously directed acclaimed Fountain productions of Citizen: An American Lyric (selected for CTG’s first annual Block Party at the Kirk Douglas Theatre), The Brothers Size, In the Red and Brown Water (for which she earned her second Ovation award), Heart Song, The Ballad of Emmett Till, Yellowman, Central Avenue and From the Mississippi Delta. Her work has been seen at the McCarter Theater, Pasadena Playhouse, Goodman Theater, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Cleveland Playhouse, L.A. Theatre Works, Crossroads Theater Company, Actors Theater of Louisville Humana Festival, Mark Taper Forum, American College Theatre Festival, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and at the State Theater in Pretoria, South Africa, where she helmed a critically acclaimed production of the South African opera, Winnie, based on the life of political icon Winnie Mandela. For television, she directed several episodes of Moesha, and she garnered the International Black Filmmakers ‘Best Director’ Award for her short film, Remember Me.She is the recipient of the African American Film Marketplace Award of Achievement for Outstanding Performance and Achievement and leader in Entertainment.
The creative team for Runaway Home includes scenic designer Stephanie Kerley Schwartz, lighting designer Jennifer Edwards, composer/sound designer Peter Bayne, costume designer Naila Aladdin Sanders, props designer DeAnne Millais, choreographer TylerJanet Roston and dialect coach Tyler Seiple. The production stage manager is Jessaica Shields; associate producer is James Bennett; and Stephen Sachs, Simon Levy and Deborah Lawlor produce for the Fountain Theatre.
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 for its acclaimed 25th Anniversary Season in 2015 by Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Los Angeles City Council; the 2014 Ovation Award for Best Season and the 2014 BEST Award for overall excellence from the Biller Foundation; the inclusion of the Fountain’s Citizen: An American Lyric in Center Theatre Group’s upcoming Block Party at the Kirk Douglas Theatre; and the naming of seven Fountain productions in a row as “Critic’s Choice” in the Los Angeles Times. The Fountain’s most recent production, the world premiere of Building the Wall by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan, ran for five months and was named “L.A. hottest ticket” by the Los Angeles Times.
Lawrence Stallings, Pablo Castelblanco, Richard Azurdia, Peter Pasco
It was announced today that the Fountain Theatre has been nominated for seven Stage Raw Theatre Awards for two productions in the 2016 season. Our Los Angeles premiere of My Manana Comes by Elizabeth Irwin and the world premiere of Stephen Sachs’ Dream Catcher were acknowledged with the following nominations:
Leading Male Performance – Lawrence Stallings, MY MAÑANA COMES
Supporting Male Performance – Peter Pasco, MY MAÑANA COMES
Playwriting – Elizabeth Irwin, MY MANANA COMES
Two Person Performance – Elizabeth Frances & Brian Tichnell, DREAM CATCHER
Lighting Design – Jennifer Edwards, MY MAÑANA COMES
Set Design – Michael Navarro, MY MAÑANA COMES
Production Design – Dillon Nelson, MY MAÑANA COMES
Just beyond the elegant dining room of an Upper East Side restaurant, service workers angle for shifts, pray for tips and cling to dreams of life beyond their daily back-of-house grind. Armando Molina directs the Los Angeles premiere of My Mañana Comes by Elizabeth Irwin, opening April 16 at the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood.
The minimum wage crisis and rights for undocumented workers lie at the center of Irwin’s funny and powerful new play.
Starring as four busboys working in the kitchen of an upscale French restaurant in Manhattan are Richard Azurdia (Backyard at Echo Theater Company, Bill & Joan at Sacred Fools, one of 54 “fascinating Angelenos” profiled in LA Weekly’s 2015 People issue), Pablo Castelblanco (Sálvese quien pueda at the Leonardus Theatre in his native Bogotá, Colombia) Peter Pasco (Our Lady of 121st Street at the Victory, Seven Spots on the Sun at Theatre @ Boston Court) and Lawrence Stallings (original productions of Book of Mormon on Broadway, Hair and Passing Strange off-Broadway).
Expertly juggling delicate entrees and fussy customers, the young men face off with management and with each other when a sudden pay cut threatens their dignity, their dreams for a better life — and their friendship.
“This is exactly the kind of play we like to do at the Fountain,” suggests co-artistic director Stephen Sachs. “It’s fast-paced, hip and funny, but it also opens a window into a community we don’t often see, gives voice to a community that is usually not heard. You really get to know and care about these guys – the relationships, camaraderie and the sharing of dreams.”
According to Molina, “Irwin gets to the truth about who these guys are, the reality beneath the tropes. She shatters preconceptions.”
Irwin, who worked in the restaurant industry for many years, wanted to explore what undocumented immigration means to people who are directly affected by it — both those who are undocumented and those who work alongside and have relationships with them.
“This story explores the complications and nuances of their lives,” she said in an interview.
Set design for My Mañana Comes is by Michael Navarro; lighting design is by Jennifer Edwards; sound design is by Christopher Moscatiello; costume design is by Magdalena Guillen; props and set dressing are by Dillon Nelson; production stage manager is Emily Lehrer; associate producer is James Bennett; and Stephen Sachs, Simon Levy and Deborah Lawlor produce for the Fountain Theatre.
The Fountain Theatre continues its 15-year relationship with master playwright Athol Fugard, presenting the West Coast premiere of his newest play. Directed by Simon Levy, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek opens on November 7 at the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood.
Both Fugard and the Fountain come full circle with Painted Rocks, a play inspired by the work of real-life outsider artist Nukain Mabuza. In 1972, a personal encounter with outsider artist Helen Martins, a reclusive and ostracized figure in a small, ultra-conservative Afrikaans community who had created an extraordinary collection of statues in her back yard, led to Fugard’s celebrated play, The Road to Mecca. And it was the Fountain’s Los Angeles premiere of that play in 2000, directed by Fountain co-artistic director Stephen Sachs, that introduced the playwright to the theater he would come to call his “artistic home on the West Coast.”
“Forty years later [after my encounter with Helen Martins], I became aware of another outsider artist worthy of the same attention, working in completely different circumstances and also with a different medium,” wrote Fugard on the website of South Africa’s Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Studies, where he is currently an artist-in-residence. “The environment of present-day South Africa made me realize the true potential of Nukain’s story, and that, even though he worked on the fringes, it can in fact not be fully realized without taking on the realities of his existence in apartheid South Africa.”
In the play, the aging Nukain (Thomas Silcott) has spent his life transforming the rocks at Revolver Creek into a vibrant garden of painted flowers. Faced with the presence of the final unpainted rock — and at the insistence of his young companion, Bokkie (Philip Solomon) — he is forced to confront his legacy as an artist and a black man in 1980s South Africa. When the landowner’s wife (Suanne Spoke) arrives to demand he stop painting, the deep racial conflict of the country is viscerally exposed. Twenty years later, in what has become the new South Africa, the man called Bokkie as a child (Gilbert Glenn Brown) returns to restore Mabuza’s lifework.
“Possibly, at this moment in our history, the stories that need telling are more urgent than any of the stories that needed telling during the apartheid years,” Fugard said in an interview with NPR.
“At the heart of Athol’s beautiful new play is the issue of seeing and being seen – as an artist, as a man, especially as a black man,” says Levy. “It’s an on-going, universal problem that Athol has spent his life exploring and exposing and humanizing. To be seen for who you really are, and to be loved and honored for that. It’s a beautiful message, and one we need to hear over and over again.”
The author of over 30 plays and recipient of countless accolades including an Academy Award, Obie and the 2011 Special Tony Award for Lifetime in the Theatre, Athol Fugard is best known for his plays about the frustrations of life in contemporary South Africa and the psychological barriers created by apartheid. Widely acclaimed around the world, his plays include Boesman and Lena (Obie Award, Best Foreign Play), Sizwe Bansi Is Dead (Tony Award, Best Play), A Lesson from Aloes (New York Drama Critics Circle Award, Best Play), the semiautobiographical Master Harold…and the Boys (Writers Guild Award, Outstanding Achievement) and The Road to Mecca(New York Drama Critics Circle Citation, Best Foreign Play, London Evening Standard Award, Best Play). The first white South African playwright to collaborate with black actors and workers, some of his works, such as Blood Knot, were initially banned in South Africa. In his first two post-apartheid plays, Valley Song (1995) and The Captain’s Tiger (1998), Fugard addressed more personal concerns, but in Sorrows and Rejoicings (2001) he focused on the complex racial dynamics of South Africa’s new era. In 2005 his novel, Tsotsi (1980), was adapted for the screen, winning the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
When Fugard saw the Fountain’s Los Angeles premiere of The Road to Mecca in 2000, he was so impressed that he offered the company world premiere rights to an as-yet-unwritten new work. In 2004, Stephen Sachs directed the world premiere of Exits and Entrances. The production garnered production and direction awards from both the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle and the Ovations, and Sachs went on to direct acclaimed regional productions around the country, including an off-Broadway production at Primary Stages and the UK premiere at the 2007 International Edinburgh Festival. Since then, the Fountain has produced four premieres of Fugard’s plays including the American premiere of Victory (two LADCC awards and four LA Weekly nominations, and named “Best of 2008” by the Los Angeles Times);the West Coast premiere of Coming Home (three LA Weekly awards including “Ensemble” and “Direction,” LADCC award for “Lead Performance”); the U.S. premiere of The Train Driver (three LA Weekly awards); and the U.S. premiere of The Blue Iris (LA Weekly Award nomination for best ensemble).
The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek premiered to critical acclaim at the Signature Theatre in New York City earlier this year. The New York Times called it “tender and ruminative” and Newsday wrote, “Fugard stamps indelible human faces on faraway reports of the world’s news.”
Set design for the Fountain Theatre production of The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek is by Jeffrey McLaughlin; lighting design is by Jennifer Edwards; sound design is by Peter Bayne; costume design is by Naila Aladdin Sanders; props are by Dillon Nelson; dialect coach is Nike Doukas; assistant stage manager is Terri Roberts; production stage manager is Rita Cofield; associate producer is James Bennett; and Stephen Sachs and Deborah Lawlor 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 play Bakersfield Mist in London’s West End starring Kathleen Turner and Ian McDiarmid; the sold-out Forever Flamenco gala concert at the 1200-seat John Anson Ford Amphitheatre; and the last six Fountain productions consecutively highlighted as Critic’s Choice in the Los 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.”
Launching the Fountain Theatre’s 25th Anniversary Season, Simon Levy directs Kristin Carey, Ryan Doucette, Joanna Strapp — and some very unusual, one-of-a-kind dolls — in the Los Angelespremiere of Reborning by Zayd Dohrn. How far would you go to create a family?. A darkly funny psychological thriller that takes an unsettling look at work, motherhood and the power of healing, Reborning opens at the Fountain Theatre on Jan. 24.
In Reborning, a young artist who crafts custom-made dolls begins to suspect that a demanding client may be the mother who abandoned her at birth. As she tries to unravel the mystery, she discovers the path to her own “reborning.”
“The play is funny and twisted, but also deeply emotional and very moving,” says Levy.
Ryan Doucette and Joanna Strapp
A reborn doll is a manufactured vinyl doll that has been transformed to resemble a human baby with as much realism as possible. Although many consumers collect reborns as they would regular dolls, others use them to replace a child they once lost or a child that has grown up. The dolls often come with fake birth or adoption certificates, and their “parents” care for them as they would an infant. Because of their realistic appearance, reborn dolls have occasionally been mistaken for real babies and rescued from parked cars after being reported to the police by passers-by.
“It’s a pretty dark play, but kind of a comedy too,” explains Dohrn, who first became aware of reborn dolls when his wife was pregnant and they were searching for baby clothes online.
“We stumbled across numerous sites and forums for reborn dolls,” he says. “Buyers would testify how the dolls comforted them. I was trying to balance my own fears and hopes about becoming a father with my work as a writer and an artist, and I became fascinated. These dolls are realistic enough to be upsetting — beautiful and grotesque and odd all at once.”
Reborning received a workshop production at The Public Theater in New York City, followed by a world premiere production at The SF Playhouse in San Francisco. San Francisco’s Eagle News called it “A major triumph… a taut thriller that will keep audiences on the edge of their seats. You don’t want to miss it,” while the Chronicle praised the play’s ability to balance “humor, suspense, and trauma.” The SF Weekly wrote, “Reborning proves that grim topics and taboos can also be damn funny.”
Zayd Dohrn’s other plays include Outside People (The Vineyard Theatre/Naked Angels), Want (Steppenwolf First Look) and Sick (Berkshire Theatre Festival. His work has also been produced and developed at Playwrights Horizons, the Atlantic Theater Co., Manhattan Theatre Club, Goodman Theatre, South Coast Rep, Ars Nova, Kitchen Dog, Theatre for One, Boston Playwrights’, New York Theatre Workshop and the Royal Court Theatre in London, among others. He has written screenplays for the American Film Company, Bedlam Productions, and Vox3 Films, as well as a pilot for HBO. He earned his MFA from NYU and was a Lila Acheson Wallace Fellow at Juilliard, where he twice received Lincoln Center’s Lecomte du Nouy Prize. He teaches playwriting and screenwriting at Northwestern University.
Simon Levy was honored with the 2011 Milton Katselas Award for Lifetime Achievement in Directing by the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle. Directing credits at the Fountain include The Normal Heart (LADCC Award for Best Revival), Cyrano (LADCC Awards for Direction and Production), A House Not Meantto Stand; Opus (LA Weekly Awards, Best Director); Photograph 51;The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore (Backstage Garland Award, Best Direction); The Gimmick (Ovation Award-Solo Performance); Master Class (Ovation Award-Best Production); Daisy in theDreamtime (Backstage Garland Awards, Best Production and Direction); Going to St. Ives; The Night of theIguana; Summer & Smoke (Ovation Award-Best Production); The LastTycoon, which he wrote and directed, (5 Back Stage awards, including Best Adaptation and Direction); and Orpheus Descending (6 Drama-Logue awards, including Best Production and Direction). What I Heard About Iraq, which he wrote and directed, was produced worldwide including the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (Fringe First Award) and the Adelaide Fringe Festival (Fringe Award), was produced by BBC Radio, and received a 30-city UK tour culminating in London. He has written the official stage adaptations of The Great Gatsby, Tender is the Night, and The Last Tycoon for the Fitzgerald Estate, all published by Dramatists Play Service.
Set design for Reborning is by Jeff McLaughlin; lighting design is by Jennifer Edwards; sound design is by Peter Bayne; costume design is by Naila Aladdin Sanders; prop design and set dressing are by Misty Carlisle; consulting doll artist is Amy Karich; associate producer is James Bennett; assistant stage manager is Shawna Voragen; and the production stage manager is Terri Roberts.
‘Broomstick’ set design by Andrew Hammer (photo by Ed Krieger)
Jenny O’Hara’s mesmerizing solo performance in our acclaimed LA Premiere of Broomstick has been rightly hailed by critics as a “tour-de-force”. The same can certainly be said of the extraordinary set design by Andrew Hammer. Andrew has created an absolutely enchanting witch’s cottage that is magically rich, detailed and charming and somehow manages to be both spooky and inviting at the same time. Audiences have been marveling and buzzing about the marvelous set after each performance. We thought you’d like to meet the guy who created the set — and all the buzz.
Andrew received his training at Pacific Conservatory Theatre and has designed sets throughout Southern California. In addition to set design, he is currently a paint and color specialist at Walt Disney Imagineering.
What drew you to accepting to design Broomstick?
First and foremost, the setting of the script was really exciting to me. A Disney-esque witch’s cottage in the woods? What could be more interesting to design? The recommendation of the Fountain from designer Brad Kaye was also a huge coup.
When you first read the script, what did you think?
My first reaction was “Oy Vey! It’s in verse?” But like so many works, it is an entirely different beast when it is read out loud by an actor. And with Jenny performing it? Well, she transforms it
What is your normal process in designing a set? Was Broomstick typical of your process or different?
Well, there really isn’t a “normal” process. What was specifically atypical about the Broomstick process was that [director] Stephen Sachs had a very clear idea of what he wanted and also an amazing sketch to communicate it. I’ve never received so much from a director before. A designer’s ultimate goal is to give the director what he wants, so it was like receiving Cliff’s Notes and made my job so much easier. Of course, I’m an artist and have a (GIANT) ego, so I did have some changes to make it my own. So much of the time, directors don’t know what they want. They can tell you what they don’t want, but that’s usually after you’ve drawn it.
What were the challenges of designing the set?
Unlike larger theaters that we learn about and cultivate our craft in at school, 99-seat houses in LA are always … well … unique, small and never ideal spaces, almost never designed as theaters. I initially envision the set way too large, and then it is a process of scaling it down to something that can fit within the space, and serve all the needs of the show. I wanted the set to be able to “transform” when she is in the thick of her stories, but budget and time and other factors designated that most of that needed to happen through lighting.
What influences did you want to bring into your design? What elements were important to you?
Stephen was also specific that he wanted a Disney look, which is a look I know well. I wanted to make the Witch’s cottage quaint, and beautiful, in a spooky way. I wanted to physically manifest her lack of sanity presenting her cottage as messy, and look like a period episode of Hoarders.
One of the fantastic elements of the set is all the marvelous and detailed set dressing. Where did all that terrific stuff come from?
I happen to be a Halloween aficionado, and I’ve been creating fake candles since I was eighteen so all of the candles and lanterns come from my own collection. I have [props/set dressing designer] Misty Carlisle to thank for letting me take over the set dressing, because I just went crazy with it. The endless amount of stuff onstage is a combination of the Fountain’s stock, borrowed items, and endless shopping at thrift stores. I like to get my hands dirty and don’t have the luxury of a greens man, so I took to nature to find branches, weeds and those pesky leaves that always get caught on Jenny’s dress.
How was your collaboration with the director and other designers?
Stephen is very clear at communicating what he wants, yet open to ideas. He’s very passionate and would very frequently perform moments of the show and describe what he wanted to happen. His excitement was infectious and made it very easy to get into. [Lighting designer] Jennifer Edwards and I have worked together so much, she is like a sister to me. I’m very spoiled that she’s realized that as long as I get what I want, I’m happy, and everyone else is going to be better off. She still manages to give the director everything he needs, make the show look stunning, and with only 24 channels? It’s baffling.
Your set for Broomstick is earning rave reviews from critics and generating a lot of excited response from audiences who see it. Does that give you pleasure? How does it feel to have a set design that evokes such enthusiasm?
Its very exciting, and it feels very good to get that praise. The finished set created a lot of very hard work for a lot of people, not just myself. There are moments when I feel people, and myself wondering… “Why are you creating this much work?” It’s wonderful to have that sigh of relief and realize that all the hard work has not gone unnoticed.
What is your current job at Disney Imagineering? What do you do? Do you enjoy it?
I’m a paint and color specialist with Imagineering and, yes, I am loving it. It was a dream since I was a child to work there and, by now, it’s a really pleasant surprise to have it happen. Because of my background in design, I’ve already been given buying and set dressing opportunities.
What projects do you have coming up in the future?
Design projects as fun as Broomstick are rare, so right now I’m concentrating on being at Disney full time. I’m involved with a number of super secret projects right now, including Disneyland Shanghai, and have already been asked to go to Shanghai, which would be very exciting!
Is She Really A Witch? Whatever Happens, She’ll Put a Spell On You …
Trick or Treat. Director Stephen Sachs and actress Jenny O’Hara (Bakersfield Mist) reunite for the wickedly entertaining, spine-chilling West Coast premiere of Broomstick by John Biguenet. A funny, poignant and “spell” binding tale about the magic of the human heart, Broomstick opens at the Fountain Theatre on Oct. 11.
Set in Appalachia and written entirely in verse, Biguenet’s charming and mesmerizing solo play introduces us to a wacky, bizarre old woman living in an odd little shack deep in the woods… who just may happen to be a witch. Creepily funny and frightening, she takes us back to our childhoods when, in our innocence, we first wrestled with good and evil. As she unveils her life, we journey with her down a shadowy path somewhere between our material world and the realm of fantasy. But this is no Hansel and Gretel fairytale; in Broomstick, justice is meted out swiftly and harshly.
“In the course of this crazy old lady’s attempt to explain and justify herself to an unexpected visitor, certain truths come out,” says Sachs. “It’s up to the audience to decide how much is fact and how much is imagined – and to what extent all of our realties are influenced by what is in our heads and in our hearts.”
Jenny O’Hara in ‘Broomstick’
Broomstick was first produced in a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere by New Jersey Repertory Company (Long Branch, NJ), Montana Repertory Theatre (Missoula, MT) and Southern Rep (New Orleans, LA) with support from the National New Play Network’s Continued Life of New Plays Fund. “Broomstick doesn’t settle for just entertaining… the show shocks with moments of unexpected insight… Biguenet’s writing [is] so skillful that you might not even realize the play was written in verse until you’re already fifteen or twenty minutes into it,” wrote the TriCity News.
Jenny O’Hara was last seen at the Fountain in the long-running Bakersfield Mist, written and directed by Sachs. She has starred on Broadway in the female version of The Odd Couple, The Iceman Cometh, Promises, Promises, The Kid and The Fig Leaves Are Falling. Regional and L.A. credits include 4000 Miles and Our Mother’s Brief Affair (South Coast Rep), Seder, Little Egypt The Musical and The Bold Girls (Matrix), The Body Of Bourne (Taper), Lanford Wilson’s Sympathetic Magic; the LADCC-nominated Book Of Days at Theatre Tribe, and the Drama-Logue award-winning The Fox. TV credits include Big Love; King of Queens; Costello; Life’s Work; My Sister Sam; NCIS; The Closer; House; Cold Case; CSI; Nip/Tuck; Grey’s Anatomy; Ghost Whisperer; Six Feet Under; The Practice; and If These Walls Could Talk 2. Films include M. Night Shyamalan’s Devil; Heartbeat; Ridley Scott’s The Matchstick Men; Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River; Forty Shades of Blue; Two Weeks; Jonathan Toomey; How To Make Love To A Woman; Hit List; Extract; Angie; andCareer Opportunities. She is a founding member of EST (Ensemble Studio Theatre) in N.Y.C. and L.A., and is also a member of the Matrix and Theatre Tribe Companies.
Stephen Sachs is a multi-award winning director and playwright. His play, Bakersfield Mist, which he directed at the Fountain starring Jenny O’Hara and Nick Ullett, recently completed a successful run in London’s West End with Kathleen Turner and Ian McDiarmid. Other directing credits include the Los Angeles premiere of My Name Is Asher Lev; Completeness by Itamar Moses, starring Jason Ritter; Warren Leight’s Side Man starring Christine Lahti and Tony-winner Frank Wood; a three-city tour in China directing Top Secret for LA Theatre Works; the L.A. premiere of Conor McPherson’s Shining City (LA Weekly Award); the world premiere of Miss Julie: Freedom Summer at the Fountain, Canadian Stage Company (Toronto), Vancouver Playhouse and Edinburgh Fringe Festival; Euripides’ Hippolytos at the Getty Villa in Malibu, Gilgamesh at Theatre @ Boston Court, West Coast premiere of String of Pearls at the Road Theatre, Arthur Miller’s After the Fall (4 Ovation awards including Best Production and Best Director), Sweet Nothing in My Ear (Fountain Theatre, Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago, Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis), and many others. Sachs has a special relationship with Athol Fugard, who calls the Fountain his “artistic home on the West Coast,” and has directed the premieres of six of the master playwright’s works including the U.S. premieres of The Blue Iris and The Train Driver (LA Weekly Award, Best Director); West Coast premiere of Coming Home (Best Director, LA Weekly award); U.S. premiere of Victory (NAACP Award, Best Director); world premiere of Exits and Entrancesat the Fountain (Ovation and LA Drama Critics Circle awards, Best Director) and Off-Broadway at Primary Stages in New York (NY Outer Critics Circle nomination Best New Play); and L.A. premiere of Road to Mecca. Sachs has twice won the LA Ovation Award for Best Director of a Play and has been twice nominated for the SDC Zelda Fichandler Award, recognizing an outstanding director who is making a unique and exceptional contribution to theatre in their region. He co-founded The Fountain Theatre with Deborah Lawlor in 1990.
John Biguenet made his mark as a fiction writer around 2000 when Ecco (an imprint of HarperCollins) published his story collection, “The Torturer’s Apprentice,” and a novel, “Oyster.” In the past decade, he has focused on theater, producing a string of plays including a Katrina-themed trilogy about the flooding of New Orleans —Rising Water (2007), Shotgun (2009) and Mold (2013) — that has been the subject of articles in American Theatre, The American Scholar and elsewhere. He was awarded a Marquette Fellowship for the writing of Night Train, his new play, which he developed on a Studio Attachment at the National Theatre in London and which premiered at New Jersey Rep Theatre in 2011. In 2008, Biguenet was named Theatre Person of the Year at the Big Easy Theatre Awards, the region’s major professional theater awards. He received the Louisiana Writer Award in 2012. Having served twice as president of the American Literary Translators Association and as writer-in-residence at various universities, he is currently the Robert Hunter Distinguished University Professor at Loyola University in New Orleans.
Set design for Broomstick is by Andrew Hammer; lighting design is by Jennifer Edwards; sound design is by Peter Bayne; costume design is by Shon LeBlanc; prop design and set dressing are by Misty Carlisle; dialect coach is Tyler Seiple; associate producer is James Bennett; and the production stage manager is Terri Roberts.
Broomstick opens on Saturday, Oct. 11 and continues through Nov. 30, with performances Thursdays,Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., except Friday, Oct. 31, when audience members are invited to “trick or treat” at the Fountain with an early curtain at 6 p.m. – come in costume! Preview performances take place Oct. 4 through Oct. 10. For reservations and information, call 323-663-1525 or click here.