Tag Archives: Joel Polis

Fountain Theatre Honored at Stage Raw Awards

Joel Polis, Jenny O'Hara, Matthew Hancock, Gilbert Glenn Brown

Actors Joel Polis, Jenny O’Hara, Matthew Hancock, Gilbert Glenn Brown

The first-ever Stage Raw Awards were held last night at the Los Angeles Theatre Center in Downtown LA.  Founded by local arts journalist Steven Leigh Morris,  Stage Raw is a digital journal dedicated to discovering, discussing and honoring L.A.-based arts and culture. The Stage Raw Awards specifically honor achievements in LA intimate theaters with 99-seats or fewer.   

The Fountain Theatre received 13 Stage Raw Award nominations for three of its 2014 productions. Two Fountain artists were honored: Joel Polis won the Best Supporting Actor Award for his performance in our LA Premiere of My Name is Asher Lev, and lighting designer Pablo Santiago won for his work on our LA Premiere of The Brothers Size.  

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Fountain Theatre Honored With 13 Nominations for First Annual Stage Raw Theater Awards

The Brothers Size

‘Gilbert Glenn Brown and Matthew Hancock in ‘The Brothers Size’

Stage Raw today announced its first Stage Raw Los Angeles Theater Awards, honoring professional excellence in theaters of up to 99 seats for the 2014 calendar year.  The Fountain Theatre has been honored with 13 nominations:

  • Production of the Year – The Brothers Size Size Size
  • Direction – Stephen Sachs, My Name is Asher Lev 
  • Direction – Shirley Jo Finney, The Brothers Size Brothers Size
  • Ensemble – The Brothers Size
  • Supporting Actress –  Anna Khaja, My Name is Asher Lev
  • Supporting Actor – Joel Polis, My Name Is Asher Lev
  • Supporting Actor – Theodore Perkins, The Brothers Size
  • Solo Performance – Jenny O’Hara, Broomstick 
  • Original MusicPeter Bayne, The Brothers Size
  • Choreography – Ameenah Kaplan, The Brothers Size 
  • Adaptation – Aaron Posner, My Name Is Asher Lev 
  • Lighting Design – Pablo Santiago, The Brothers Size 
  • Production Design – Broomstick 

Full list of nominees

Stage Raw Award Night is April 13th at Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring Street, downtown Los Angeles. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., show starts at 7:30 p.m.

PHOTO SLIDESHOW: Fountain Stars Shine at Ovation Award Nominee Reception

The cast of 'My Name is Asher Lev': Joel Polis, Anna Khaja and Jason Karasev.

The cast of ‘My Name is Asher Lev’: Joel Polis, Anna Khaja and Jason Karasev.

Fountain actors enjoyed a lively evening of camaraderie and celebration at the Ovation Award Nominee Reception Monday night hosted by LA Stage Alliance and held at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. The reception toasts all theatre artists nominated for Ovation Awards this year, honoring excellence in the LA theatre community. Award Night is Nov 2nd.

The Fountain Theatre has received six 2014 Ovation Award nominations this year:

  • Best Season The Normal Heart, My Name is Asher Lev, The Brothers Size
  • Best Production of a PlayMy Name is Asher Lev
  • Best Lead Actress in a Play – Anna Khaja, My Name is Asher Lev
  • Best Acting Ensemble for a Play – Jason Karasev, Anna Khaja, Joel Polis, My Name is Asher Lev
  • Best Acting Ensemble for a Play – Gilbert Glenn Brown, Matthew Hancock, Theodore Perkins,  The Brothers Size
  • Best Choreography – Ameenah Kaplan, The Brothers Size 

Two Fountain productions have earned nominations for Best Acting Ensemble in a Play, and the casts from both My Name is Asher Lev and The Brothers Size were at the Nominee Reception enjoying themselves. An exuberant evening to celebrate LA theatre and experience the joy and goodwill of artistic community. 

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This year’s Ovation Awards ceremony will be held at the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse on November 2 at 7:00 PM. Full list of all Ovation Award nominees


Fountain Theatre Earns 6 Ovation Award Nominations Including Best Season and Best Production of a Play

"My Name is Asher Lev"

Anna Khaja, Joel Polis and Jason Karasev in “My Name is Asher Lev”

The Fountain Theatre is pleased to announce that it has received six 2014 Ovation Award nominations, including in the prestigious categories of Best Season and Best Production of a Play. Fountain productions eligible for the 2013-14 Ovation voting season were our riveting revival of The Normal Heart, and our acclaimed Los Angeles premieres of  My Name is Asher Lev and The Brothers Size.  The Ovation Awards ceremony will take place on Sunday, November 2 at 7pm at the historic San Gabriel Mission Playhouse in San Gabriel.

Often hailed as LA’s version of the Tony Awards, the peer-judged Ovation Awards recognize excellence in theatrical performance, production and design in the Greater Los Angeles area.  For the 2013-2014 voting season, there are a grand total of 195 nominations for 78 productions, presented by 49 companies. There were 318 total productions registered from 137 companies. 

Gilbert Glenn Brown, Matthew Hancock, Theodore Perkins in 'The Brothers Size'.

Gilbert Glenn Brown, Matthew Hancock, Theodore Perkins in ‘The Brothers Size’.

The LA Times has referred to the Ovation Awards as the “highest-profile contest for local theatre.”

The Fountain Theatre has been honored with the following 2014 Ovation Award nominations:

  • Best Season The Normal Heart, My Name is Asher Lev, The Brothers Size
  • Best Production of a PlayMy Name is Asher Lev
  • Best Lead Actress in a Play – Anna Khaja, My Name is Asher Lev
  • Best Acting Ensemble for a Play – Jason Karasev, Anna Khaja, Joel Polis, My Name is Asher Lev
  • Best Acting Ensemble for a Play – Gilbert Glenn Brown, Matthew Hancock, Theodore Perkins,  The Brothers Size
  • Best Choreography – Ameenah Kaplan, The Brothers Size 

The preeminent Best Season category honors a company’s overall excellence throughout an entire season. Over the years, The Fountain has dominated the Best Season nominations category. This year now marks the 5th time that The Fountain Theatre has been nominated for Best Season since the category was created 6 years ago, winning the award in 2011. The Fountain has also won the Ovation Award for Best Production of a Play 5 times. 

Stephen O'Mahoney, Tim Cummings

Stephen O’Mahoney, Tim Cummings in ‘The Normal Heart’.

For a full list of all the nominees click here.

Fountain Theatre Wins 26 Awards from StageSceneLA For Excellence in 2013-14

The Fountain Theatre has gobbled up 26 Theater Awards from Stage SceneLA for our acclaimed 2013-14 productions of The Normal Heart, My Name is Asher Lev and The Brothers Size. StageSceneLA editor Steven Stanley announced the winners this week after seeing and reviewing 268 productions from September 1, 2013 through August 31, 2014. The overall awards list is long and there are multiple winners in many categories.  All of it demonstrating, as Steven Stanley affirms, that “theater in Los Angeles and its surrounding communities is alive and thriving and quite often simply as good as it gets. “

These 2013-14 Fountain productions received the following awards:

The Normal Heart 

Tim Cummings and Bill Brochtrup in 'The Normal Heart'.

Tim Cummings and Bill Brochtrup in ‘The Normal Heart’.

  • Production of the Year – The Normal Heart
  • Best Director, Drama – Simon Levy
  • Best Performance, Lead Actor – Tim Cummings
  • Best Performance, Lead Actor – Bill Brochtrup
  • Best Performance, Featured Actress – Lisa Pelikan
  • Best Performance by an Understudy – Ray Paolantonio
  • Best Performance, Featured Actor – Matt Gottlieb
  • Best Performance, Featured Actor – Fred Koehler
  • Best Performance, Featured Actor – Stephen O’Mahoney
  • Memorable Performance, Featured Actor – Dan Shaked & Jeff Witzke

My Name Is Asher Lev

Jason Karasev, Anna Khaja and Joel Polis in 'My Name Is Asher Lev'.

Jason Karasev, Anna Khaja and Joel Polis in ‘My Name Is Asher Lev’.

  • Best Production, Drama – My Name is Asher Lev
  • Best Director, Drama – Stephen Sachs
  • Best Performance, Lead Actor – Jason Karasev
  • Best Performance, Featured Actor – Joel Polis
  • Best Performance, Featured Actress – Anna Khaja
  • Best Costume Design – Shon LeBlanc
  • Best Lighting Design – Ric Zimmerman 
  • Best Scenic Design – Jeff McLaughlin 

The Brothers Size

Gilbert Glenn brown  and Matthew Hancock (photo by Ed Krieger)

Gilbert Glenn Brown and Matthew Hancock in ‘The Brothers Size

  • Best Director – Shirley Jo Finney
  • Best Ensemble Cast, Drama
  • Best Choreography, Play – Ameenah Kaplan
  • Memorable Lighting Design – Pablo Santiago
  • Best Scenic Designer – Hana S. Kim

Multiple Productions: 

  • Sound Design/Composer of the Year – Peter Bayne, The Brothers Size, The Normal Heart
  • Best Props Design – Misty Carlisle – Asher Lev, Brothers Size, Normal Heart

Our thanks to Steven Stanley and StageSceneLa for this acknowledgement.  We appreciate and applaud his enthusiasm and support for theatre in Los Angeles.   

For the complete list of StageSceneLA Award winners click here.

Production photos by Ed Krieger



SLIDESHOW: Akiva Potok, Son of ‘Asher Lev’ Author Chaim Potok, Attends Performance of Acclaimed Production at the Fountain Theatre

Akiva Potok with the 'Asher Lev' cast

Akiva Potok with the cast from ‘My Is Asher Lev’

Author’s Son Enjoys The Play And Celebrates His Birthday

We were so pleased and honored to welcome a special guest to a recent performance of our critically acclaimed production of My Name Is Asher Lev at the Fountain. Akiva Potok, son of the novel’s author Chaim Potok,  attended the play, engaged the audience in a post-show discussion following the performance, and celebrated his birthday with the Asher Lev company upstairs in the cafe. It was another unforgettable night at the Fountain.

Akiva Potok is a filmmaker living in Beverly Hills.  After seeing the Fountain production of the stage adaptation of his father’s novel, Akiva commented to director Stephen Sachs: “Indeed it was a wonderful night. Your production of the play cuts deeply into the emotions of that family; I was very moved. The Q&A after was very rewarding and great fun for me. And thank you for letting me celebrate my birthday with your cast and crew.”

The Fountain’s LA premiere of My Name Is Asher Lev, starring Jason Karasev, Anna Khaja and Joel Polis,  has earned wide critical acclaim including being highlighted as Critic’s Choice in the Los Angeles Times. The run has been extended to May 18th.  

Enjoy These Snapshots with Akiva Potok & Company

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My Name Is Asher Lev Now – May 18th (323) 663-1525  MORE 


Smash Hit ‘My Name Is Asher Lev’ Extends to May 18 at the Fountain Theatre

Jason Karasev, Anna Khaja and Joel Polis in 'My Name Is Asher Lev'.

Jason Karasev, Anna Khaja and Joel Polis in ‘My Name Is Asher Lev’.

The Fountain Theatre will extend its critically acclaimed Los Angeles premiere of My Name is Asher Lev through May 18.

Designated a “Critic’s Choice” by the Los Angeles Times and “a moving and rich experience” by the Hollywood Reporter, the Fountain’s production of Aaron Posner’s award-winning stage adaptation of Chaim Potok’s novel continues to receive rave reviews in the press and enjoy sold out houses.

“Eloquent … The play resonates with double-edged truths … striking visual and emotional strokes … it unfolds in achingly personal terms,” writes the Times, while the Hollywood Reporter commends “a peerless realization by a splendid cast.” The Santa Monica Daily Press raves, “Just-about-perfect… [a] stellar presentation bound to resonate with everyone,” and BroadwayWorld calls the Fountain production “extraordinary.”

Directed by Stephen Sachs and starring Jason Karasev, Anna Khaja and Joel Polis, My Name Is Asher Lev is the powerful story of a young Jewish painter and his struggle to become an artist at any cost – even against the will of his parents and the traditions of his ultra-orthodox Hasidic community. Exploring questions of art, family, religion and loyalty, this extraordinary adaptation is a compelling look at the cost of individuality.

My Name Is Asher Lev Extended to May 18 (323) 663-1525  MORE

What Does It Mean When We Say ‘Jewish Theatre’?

Jason Karasev, Anna Khaja and Joel Polis in 'My Name Is Asher Lev'.

Jason Karasev, Anna Khaja and Joel Polis in ‘My Name Is Asher Lev’.

by David Witinsky

Okay, thought experiment. I’ll say a phrase, you give me the first image that pops into your mind. Ready? Go: Jewish theater.

I’m gonna hazard a guess that one of three things came to mind: a) a grainy black and white of the Yiddish King Lear on 2nd Avenue, b) either Diary of Anne Frank or Fiddler on the Roof or c) your orthodontist in Little Shop at the local JCC.

All due respect to Yiddish, Anne, and your orthodontist, but as a theater maker in the twenty-first century, I’m not exactly turned on by any of those images. (I’ll cop to a huge soft spot for Fiddler, but it’s still not thrilling—just kind of sweet.)

Because really, Jewish theater? What does that mean? Is that redundant (insert your “theater would be dead without the Jews” joke here). Is it just old fashioned (are we talking Yiddish theater?). It could be contentious (is it Israeli theater?). Maybe it’s just Broadway (but maybe that’s reductive)?

But I’ve got to tell you, I’ve spent the last ten years thinking about it, and the last three actively pursuing it, and I think what it could mean—what it should mean—is vital, exciting, cutting-edge art that speaks to us now.

The tools are there:

  • A millennia-old tradition of argument and dialogue. (A good place for theater to start.)
  • A gorgeous mass of mysticism and magic. I’m talking dybbuks and spirits and archangels and flaming swords. This stuff is made for the stage.
  • A love of the intellectual and the idealistic stretching from the minutae of every day life to the grandest notions of human justice, goodness, and righteousness.
  • A deep attachment to text. We love our texts.
  • A cultural history filled with great stories.
  • A bit of tragedy. Can’t make theater without that.
  • Funny. Definitely got some funny.

I would submit that right now, we’re not quite using all these great tools. We’re a bit stuck on two subjects (dysfunctional families with ogre-like mothers and the Holocaust), one style (realism), and a growing disconnect between the artists who want to make this work, and the theater community in which it would be made.

Today, Jewish life and the Jewish conversation are alive with ideas that are resonant with theater life and theater conversations—open dialogue, social and civic justice, international collaboration, and new modes of creating sacred space and time for an overstimulated population.

Like the theater, these amazing ideas live in the context of a world of shrinking resources, right-drifting politics, and a disconnect with a mass audience. In the Jewish world, there’s a lot of handwringing over intermarriage and dwindling numbers; in the theater, there is a constant concern over brain drain to more lucrative media like film and TV.

So What Do We Do Now?

David Winitsky

David Winitsky

Three years ago, I started a venture called the Jewish Plays Project, a development center for new Jewish theater. In that time, I and my colleagues have read and reviewed 512 new Jewish plays from 450 writers in twenty-six states and eight countries over. That’s a huge outpouring of ideas and energy.

Based on that work, here are a few ideas, and a few plays that I’ve worked on that are great examples. (Producers or Artistic Directors who want to look at any of these plays—contact me ASAP.)

1. Embrace the mystical in our ancient texts
Yes, it’s dense. Sure, much of it might be in Hebrew. But it’s like a gold mine if we get into it. These are not your Hebrew school lessons. These are subversive, radical, sexy, dark stories full of complex motives and results. The stories in our texts are the stuff of theatrical gold, if we can go and get them.

We need to take a page from Wilson, Lorca, and Rivera and bring the magic and the spiritual onto our stage. Hasidic folktales, are hallucinogenic, trippy tours through the subconscious of a highly ordered society. This stuff should be catnip for dramatists. (See He Who Laughs by Ian Cohen, Estelle Singerman by David Rush, and Modern Prophet by Sam Graber).

2. Invite Everyone
The best part of all of this is that you don’t have to be a Jew to get into any of it. In today’s world, we all have access to culture from all over the world. Some of the best Jewish theater is being created by people who are not religious or cultural Jews (The Whipping Man by Matthew Lopez comes right to mind). I always make sure we have a good group of non-Jewish playwrights in the work the JPP develops—often their insights are among the most profound. The non-Jewish directors, actors, designers, et al who interact with the JPP’s work often learn more and have their horizons expanded more than I do. (Check out Lauren Yee’s The Hatmaker’s Wife, Lenelle Moises’ The Many Faces of Nia, and Cory Hinkle, Victoria Stewart, and Jeremy Wilhem’s Clandestino)

3. Let’s talk about Israel
Ah, Israel. Palestine. Israel? Let’s just say the Middle East. Not only is it one of the most contentious, complicated, vexing questions in the Jewish world, it has instant import for the global community, too. And in its very short history, it has amazing stories of tragedy and triumph and moral questioning.

I know it’s tough. It can be tiring. But it’s so enmeshed in deep questions: faith and modernity, socialism and capitalism, war and peace (literally), nationality versus ethnicity, law versus history! What theater maker worth her salt wouldn’t want to get into that?

And if there is a future there that does not involve some kind of mass tragedy, I truly believe it is up to us—up to the artists and the thinkers and the creators—to envision it. What does this part of the world look like in fifty years? (Further reading: Six by Zohar Tirosh-Polk, Goodnight, Mrs. Bernstein by Lauren Kettlerand Close to Home by Jonathan Gillis).

4. Leave anti-Semitism
Jews today are, by and large, a free and prosperous people with more power and influence than ever. That’s a huge difference between Jewish culturally-specific work and other cultural groups. Our goal in Jewish theater is not to liberate or empower Jews—that happens in other ways. Our goal should be to liberate and empower everyone through the best of Jewish culture.

(Don’t get me wrong. Anti-Semitism is certainly alive and well in our world, but its not a central factor in the way most of us live (particularly in America). And preparing for potential future anti-Semitism means we are living from a place of fear, and that’s not where great art lives.)

And yes, I include the Holocaust in this idea. The JPP does not develop plays about the history of the World War II period or its immediate aftermath, not because its not important, but because it’s already been done. The body of Holocaust dramatic literature is significant and of high quality. The more remain stuck in that moment, the harder it is to…


Joel Polis, Anna Khaja and Jason karasev in ‘My Name Is Asher Lev’

5. Be in the now
Jewish life is ancient. That’s what’s cool about it. But in its best aspects, it does not concentrate on that long history. Jewish ideas—and the best Jewish theater—are about how we live today. How this mass of life lessons, gained through hard-fought experience, can teach us to live now. (Plays I Love: Let Me Go by Jonathan Caren, a People by Lauren Feldman, Esther’s Moustache by Laurel Ollstein.)

Whether we embrace text, religion, magic, history, or philosophy, there is something for all of us that can help us be better humans today.

David Winitsky is the director of the Jewish Plays Project (www.jewishplaysproject.org), a development house for 21st Century Jewish theater based in NYC. David has directed or assisted on Broadway, off-Broadway, and regionally. Member: Lincoln Center Directors Lab and Emerging Artists Theatre. This post originally appeared on HowlRound.

My Name Is Asher Lev Now to April 19  (323) 663-1525  MORE

Fountain Supporters Enjoy Lively and Engaging Insider Event for ‘My Name Is Asher Lev’

A lively discussion on religion and art.

A lively discussion on religion, family and art.

A happy group of Fountain Theatre supporters enjoyed a lovely evening of food, drinks and lively conversation last night at the beautiful Westwood home of Dorothy and Stanley Wolpert. The exclusive Fountain Insider Event also included the cast and director of our current hit production of My Name Is Asher Lev, members of the Fountain staff, and Rabbi Jim Kaufman. The evening was coordinated by Fountain Director of Development, Barbara Goodhill

The social gathering provided the Fountain with the opportunity to give select Fountain Family members an exclusive ‘Inside Peek” at our current production and to express our gratitude and appreciation to those contributing at a determined level to the Fountain Fund.

In attendance at the Insider Event were hosts Dorothy and Stanley Wolpert, Fountain Co-Artistic Directors Deborah Lawlor and Stephen Sachs, Producing Director Simon Levy, Director of Development Barbara Goodhill; actors Jason Karasev, Anna Khaja and Joel Polis; Rabbi Jim Kaufman; and Fountain Family members Adrienne BrandrissAshley and Debbie Posner, Bette Billet, Carole Black, Dr. Fred and Phyllis Gottlieb, Drs. Carol and Bruce Marcus, Evelyn Duboff, Grace and David Millington, Marianne Weil, Patricia Oliansky and Peter Barna.

Fountain Co-Artistic Directors Deborah Lawlor and Stephen Sachs opened the evening by expressing their thanks to the supporters gathered and shared exciting news about what’s currently happening at the Fountain and events coming soon. Rabbi James Kaufman then led an invigorating and insightful discussion on the issues illuminated by our current production, My Name Is Asher Lev. The cast and director answered questions and shared their creative process. And our invited patrons offered their own fascinating personal comments. Overall, a lively discussion on religion, art, family, and the power of theatre.   

Our sincere thanks to Dorothy and Stanley Wolpert for hosting last night’s event in their lovely home. We look forward to the next Insider Event for our next production of The Brothers Size, at the private home of a Fountain member to be announced. Join us!

Enjoy These Snapshots From Our Insider Event

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The Fountain Fund is an ongoing program offering Fountain patrons the opportunity to support the Fountain Theatre on a year-round basis.  We can not do what we do without you. To find our more and how to join, please contact Barbara Goodhill at (818) 907-7159 or email barbara@goodhillcommunications.com

My Name Is Asher Lev Now to April 19 (323) 663-1525  MORE    

‘My Name Is Asher Lev’ at the Fountain Theatre is “an unforgettable experience. Don’t miss it.”

Joel Polis and Jason Karasev

Joel Polis and Jason Karasev

Thought-provoking, unpredictable and wholly magnificent

by David C. Nichols

Saw My Name is Asher Lev last night. Will likely be thinking about it for quite some time to come. The Fountain Theatre continues its ongoing roll with this potent three-hander based on Chaim Potok’s best seller about an Orthodox Jew in post-WWII Brooklyn torn between Hasidic tradition and his nascent artistic gifts. That last aspect typifies the production, which is, even by this venue’s high standards, thought-provoking, unpredictable and wholly magnificent. 

Stephen Sachs has done meaningful direction before, and often. Yet the emotional acuity, transitional clarity and specificity of detail he mines from Aaron Posner’s affecting adaptation is at an elevated level from anything previous seen. Design credits are refined and resourceful across the board: Jeff McLaughlin’s symbolist set, Ric Zimmerman’s pin-point lighting plot, Shon LeBlanc’s usual spot-on wardrobe choices, Diane Martinous’ wigs — it’s ALWAYS about the hair — and Lindsay Jones’ evocative music and sound cues add immeasurably to an unusually engrossing and polished execution.

Speaking of which, the cast is exceptional — seamlessly vivid, nuanced and committed. Jason Karasev, so memorable in Tape at the Fringe a couple of cycles back, is heartbreaking as the title character at various ages, surmounting the pitfalls of playing so wide a range with faultless technique, so invested that a late-inning embarrassed moment finds him blushing, just as the character would.

Joel Polis has long been a local exemplar of character acting, so proficiency is expected. However, his assumption of Asher’s father, rabbi, uncle, artistic mentor, etc. literally seems like a different person with each entrance, from subtleties of dialect to physical posture and so forth. An astonishing turn, even from this actor.

And the ever-remarkable Anna Khaja, whose name this observer would enjoy merely seeing in print, reaches mesmeric, even preternatural depths inhabiting respectively, Asher’s mother, first patroness and the artist’s model who elicits the aforementioned blush, her inwardly shifting reactions and light-to-dark-and-back modulations defying criticism — a transcendent performance.

Which essentially describes the whole deeply touching show. It’s an early bar-setter for the theatrical year, an unprepossessing triumph for all concerned and an unforgettable experience. Don’t. Miss. It.

David C. Nichols is a freelance theater reviewer at the Los Angeles Times.