For many folks throughout Los Angeles, June means the end of school, the pageantry of graduation ceremonies and the long awaited start of summer. For the more than 600,000 LGBT citizens in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, June is LA Pride Month, when the city bursts into rainbow colors and Angelenos everywhere celebrate equality and inclusion with festivals, parades and special events saluting the LGBTQ+ community.
The Fountain Theatre embraces Pride Month with a busy June that highlights several LGBTQ+ events, including the acclaimed run of a hit play about gay marriage, a discussion and book signing by a lesbian author, a workshop production of a new play by a gay playwright centered on a transgender character, and an evening of short dramatic works by women, trans and queer performing artists in the LA community.
LA Pride Events at the Fountain Theatre
Daniel’s Husband – The acclaimed Southern California Premiere of Michael McKeever’s funny and poignant new play on gay marriage is a bonafide smash hit, earning rave reviews everywhere and sold-out houses nightly. Extended to July 28. More
Body Beautiful – A workshop production of Leigh Curran’s new play on love, aging and gender confusion. June 5-6, 12-13 @ 8pm. More
I was going to write a hardcopy letter but decided to use this route instead. Please, if you think it appropriate, pass my comments along to all of the cast members.
As you know, I was in the audience last Friday. Somehow or other I had missed seeing this play up until now. It was and is a very important play in the history of g/l/b/t rights and the AIDS epidemic. As someone who joined his local gay rights organization in Seattle one week to the day after the beginning of the Stonewall riots, I have been very involved with the movement since then. However, given the passage of time, some of my memories of that awful period in my life and the life of this country had dimmed. The superb job you did on the play brought that whole awful period back to me with stunning clarity. I left the theater an emotional mess.
While I am sure that I took away a different experience from others in the audience last Friday, I was happy to see younger people there. Hopefully they came away with some inkling of what we went through then. I had forgotten, over time, the maddening denial of governmental officials as well as members of the press that anything was going on that needed attention. One of the important aspects of that period that the play brought to life was the pain we all felt as our friends died with frightening suddenness. All of these emotions were brought to the audience in a very palpable way.
Tim Cummings and Bill Brochtrup
I do not want to single out any performer more than another for praise as everyone contributed to the effectiveness of the evening. I must say though that Tim Cummings certainly brought all the passion and anger of his character to life very effectively. Bill Brochtrup was a great foil to that anger. His progression in the disease was very effective, especially the makeup he wore at the end of the play. Having had several close friends die of the disease, when he appeared towards the end his appearance caused me to suddenly remember that yes, that was exactly what my friends looked like. Stephen O'Mahoney's portrayal of a closeted gay person wanting to come out but unable to because of his job and background hit the right note. Matt Gottlieb's portrayal of a man trying to be supportive of his brother but also constrained by his professional responsibilities also rang true. Fred Koehler's anguish at the end over his job as well as what was happening in his life as part of the GMHC was heartbreaking. Lisa Pelikan's anger at what was happening and her inability to get anyone to do anything about it rang true. Dan and Jeff and Verton's rolls as important supporting characters were just right for their roles. In short I want to say thank you to all of you. The cast of course are deserving on praise but also the director and the rest of the crew for provided me with one of the most important evenings of theater I've had in many, many years.
I come in to Los Angeles frequently for cultural events as there is nothing here in the desert to equal the quality of what I can see in Los Angeles. This evening was well worth the late-night drive back to Palm Springs. You all are to be commended for doing an outstanding job.
Andrew F. Johnson, Palm Springs, CA
The Normal Heart Now to Dec 15th (323) 663-1525 MORE
Enjoy this new promo video for our acclaimed production of The Normal Heartby Larry Kramer. Our exclusive Los Angeles revival directed by Simon Levy has earned rave reviews, overwhelming audience response, and has been extended to December 15th by popular demand.
This promo video was created by our friends and colleagues at the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). GLAAD amplifies the voice of the LGBT community by empowering real people to share their stories, holding the media accountable for the words and images they present, and helping grassroots organizations communicate effectively. By ensuring that the stories of LGBT people are heard through the media, GLAAD promotes understanding, increases acceptance, and advances equality.
The Fountain Theatre production of The Normal Heart has been hailed “brilliant” and “outstanding” and a “must-see”. It is highlighted as a Critic’s Pick and is Ovation Award Recommended. Broadway World exclaims, “This production at the Fountain Theatre certainly exemplifies that great theatre is alive and well in Los Angeles.”
The cast features Verton R. Banks, Bill Brochtrup, Tim Cummings, Matt Gottlieb, Fred Koehler, Stephen O’Mahoney, Ray Paolantonio, Lisa Pelikan, Dan Shaked and Jeff Witzke.
Continuing its ongoing series of post-show Q&A Talkback discussions immediately following performances of The Normal Heart, the Fountain Theatre will host a conversation on “Religion, AIDS and the LGBT Community” this Friday night, Nov 1st. Led by Rev. Kathy Cooper-Ledesma of the Hollywood United Methodist Church (aka the Red Ribbon church) and Rev. Joe Shore-Goss of MCC in the Valley, the post-show audience discussion will also include members of the cast and the director.
Rev. Joe Shore-Goss
The Fountain Theatre is committed to reaching out and serving the wide variety of diverse communities that create the vibrant fabric of Los Angeles. At the Fountain, we encourage our audiences to not only watch a play but also engage in the conversation. Please join us for these invigorating, inspiring and thought-provoking discussions. See our acclaimed and powerful production of The Normal Heart this Friday and stay for the conversation.
The Normal Heart has been extended to December 15th! MORE
Actors from our acclaimed production of The Normal Heart participated in the Models of Pride LGBT Youth Conference today at the University of Southern California (USC). This one-day conference is presented by the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center’s LifeWorks program and focuses on the concerns and interests of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) youth up to age 24, and their allies.
The Models of Pride conference offers over 100 workshops, a huge resource fair, exciting entertainment, lunch and dinner, and an evening dance with DJ. The workshops cover many areas of life that are experienced by LGBT youth transitioning to adulthood including but not limited to LGBT issues.
The Normal Heart actors were joined at the conference today by Fountain Co-Artistic Stephen Sachs and Associate Producer/ASM Terri Roberts . The Fountain hosted a table at the outdoor event. The group handed out flyers, interacted with hundreds of young people, and networked with dozens of other organizations. It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon and a very productive day.
Reaching out to young people is a vital goal and ongoing process for the Fountain Theatre and the company of The Normal Heart. The smash hit production has educational, historical, cultural and artistic importance for young audiences who were born after the initial AIDS crisis exploded on the scene in the early 1980’s. The Fountain was determined to be at today’s LGBT Youth Conference. To keep AIDS and Gay Rights awareness alive in young minds and remind young people that the battle is not over. And to encourage them to see an important play that brings these issues — and so much more — dramatically and passionately to life.
Enjoy These Snapshots from Today’s Conference
The Normal Heart Extended to Dec 15th (323) 663-1525MORE
The Normal Heartis Larry Kramer’s groundbreaking drama about public and private indifference to the onset of the AIDS crisis, and one man’s fight to awaken the world to its urgency. The title of the play is taken from a line in a poem by W.H. Auden: “We must love one another or die.”
“We have invited Rev. Bacon to talk about the important issues dramatized in the play, including gay rights, the continuing AIDS crisis, same-sex marriage equality and the importance of social activism,” says Fountain Co-Artistic Director and producer Stephen Sachs, who will moderate the discussion.
In 2000, The Normal Heart was named “one of the 100 greatest plays of the 20th century” by the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain. The Fountain Theatre’s exclusive L.A. revival, the first time the play has been seen in Los Angeles in over 16 years, has been receiving rave reviews (“Critic’ Pick” – BroadwayWorld, “Pick of the Week” – LA Weekly, “A Must See” – EDGE) and playing to sold out houses since it opened in September.
Tim Cummings, Bill Brochtrup in ‘The Normal Heart’.
Ed Bacon is the rector of All Saints Church in Pasadena, Calif., a 4,000-member multi-ethnic urban Episcopal parish with a reputation for energetic worship, a radically inclusive spirit and a progressive peace and justice agenda. His energies focus on leadership in anxious times; peacemaking; interfaith relations; integrating family, faith and work systems; articulating the Christian faith in non-bigoted ways; and the belief that “political activism is in the DNA of the church.” He is a passionate advocate for peace and justice in the community, the nation and the world. He has received several honors for his peace and interfaith work. He is a founder of Beyond Inclusion and Claiming the Blessing (working for justice for the LGBT community) and a co-founder of the Abrahamic Faiths Peacemaking Initiative. He serves on Human Rights Watch California Committee South and on other national and community boards. Ed has been a guest on Oprah’s “Soul Series” on XM’s Oprah & Friends Radio and on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
The discussion with Rev. Ed Bacon will follow the performance on Friday, Oct. 11 at 8 p.m. and is included in the ticket price. For reservations and information, call 323-663-1525 or go to www.FountainTheatre.com.
Tim Cummings and Bill Brochtrup in rehearsal for ‘The Normal Heart’ .
by Don Grigware
The Normal Heart hasn’t been done in years. Tell me about the play’s relevance today, from your perspective.
The play mentions gay marriage, which is relevant today: DOMA being struck down, Prop 8 being ruled unconstitutional, more and more states are voting to allow for it. The play also brings up the failures of the health care system, and those are relevant today as well. We’ve yet to see what Obamacare results in, ultimately, but I have hope. The play discusses homophobia, bigotry, closeted gays, politics, conspiracy theories, etc. Those are all relevant now.
Suicide among LGBT youth has been tragically high, of course there’s this putrid Putin/ Russia debacle. The gay-bashing rate in NYC is currently on an alarming rise, which includes the murder of Mark Carson on May 18th, shot directly in the head after his assailant hurled anti-gay slurs at him and his companion. Right in the heart of the West Village. To be honest, I don’t think there will ever be a time this play is not relevant. It’s only a matter of who is brave enough to produce it, as it is not an easy play to do.
What about your character and how he affects the issues at hand? What are the challenges in playing him?
Tim Cummings and Bill Brochtrup, ‘The Normal Heart’ at the Fountain Theatre.
Ned Weeks goes from hesitant participant to full-blown activist and loses nearly everything along the way: his family, his friends, his love, his station in life. Ned is a fighter. A warrior. He does not understand why other people cannot fight back the way he does, and ultimately this alienates him from his community. He will do whatever it takes to wake people up and make them pay attention to this epidemic. He wants pride for the gay community, not shame, not hiding. He wants gay men to think with their hearts and minds, not their pecs and cocks.
The challenges in playing him are that his intensity, passion, Jewish intellectualism, rallying, rants about promiscuity, confrontational nature, and bursts of outrage are not things that can be handled delicately. Yet, we are in this intimate space—so it’s about striking a balance. Where can we hold back? Where do we need to go forward full throttle?
Talk a little about Lisa Pelikan and your working with her – now in 2 plays.
Tim Cummings and Lisa Pelikan in ‘The New Electric Ballroom’
A passionate perfectionist, a questioner, a force, a presence, a joy. With those mesmerizing blue eyes, to boot. Definitely an actor’s actor. Oddly enough, she is also making me take off my clothes in this, just like she did in The New Electric Ballroom. Ha.
Your participation in Ballroom was the best. I really enjoyed your performance. Was that harder to do than Heart, or easier since you are Irish and probably have lived through a lot of similar experiences in Ballroom? (Or am I all wet?)
Thanks, Don. That was a fantastic experience. Yes, I am Irish, but I tend to play Jewish men a lot, too, as I am now. I grew up in New York, surrounded by an abundance of Irish, Irish/Italian, and Jewish heritage. It comes naturally, I suppose.
What I loved about Ballroom was the transformational aspect: my character, Patsy, goes from smelly chubby fishmonger to sexy, slick, pop idol—right before the audience’s eyes. No special effects, no cutaways, no magic. Just good old fashioned in-your-face theatre. Brilliant playwriting and storytelling.
Was that harder than The Normal Heart? I don’t think anything will be harder than The Normal Heart. The role of Ned might be bigger than Hamlet. He barely leaves the action. He never stops talking. He rarely calms down. The level of stage skill—physical prowess, emotional intensity, collaborative endurance—required to play Ned assures he will likely never be conveyed by any actor that is incompetent, lazy, or timid. Larry Kramer was clever to have written Ned the way he did.
Tim Cummings and Carmela Corbett in “Eurydice” at South Coast Rep (2012).
Speak about your writing career.
I write novels, short stories, plays, screenplays, and poetry.
I released a collection called Orphans in the summer of 2011. It’s an idiosyncratic assemblage of short stories, poetry, screenplays, plays, and a film treatment. I wanted to put all the different writing forms together in one weirdly prismatic vessel, and unleash it unrepentantly onto the world. So, I did.
I have a full-length novel called Jake Curve that my agent in NYC is working on. It’s a story of a brilliant little boy who loses his identical twin to a mysterious disappearance, and how he contends with the difficulties of his family falling apart. Ultimately it is a story questioning the validity of family, and whether it is okay to leave them behind if you don’t fit in there.
My most recent play, Bully, is an exploration of this pandemic of teenagers committing suicide for being bullied for being gay. It’s a deeply polemical slaughtering of what masculinity is supposed to mean in today’s day and age. It pays homage to William Golding’s seminal masterpiece about savagery versus civilization, Lord of the Flies, probably my favorite book.
Writing or acting, if you had to make a choice?
Yikes! Can’t I conjoin them and be both? We’ll call it wricting! ‘Hi, I’m Tim, and I’m a wrictor.’
Who are your favorite actors?
Argh, this is a hard one—
Meryl Streep, Mark Rylance, Kate Winslet, Simon Pegg, Edie Falco, Sean Penn, Viola Davis, Richard Jenkins, Kristin Wiig, Gene Wilder, Jack Lemmon, Gene Hackman, Bryan Cranston, Richard Pryor, Benicio del Toro. I like people with passion. Jack Nicholson, he’s another. Gary Oldman. Cate Blanchett.
Also, many of our brilliant LA locals, like Anne Gee Byrd, Jenny O’Hara, John Getz, Hugo Armstrong. Our town is so ridiculously chockablock with talent. And no, not all of it is in the Fame and Fortune industry—it’s right there, in your face, on our small stages.
Your favorite playwrights? Tracy Letts, Maria Irene Fornes, Enda Walsh, Ruth Margraff, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Albee, Chekhov, O’Neill, Shaw.
Any role you haven’t played yet that you are yearning to play?
Jonny ‘Rooster’ Byron (Jerusalem). Willy Loman (Death of a Salesman). Eddie Carbone (A View From The Bridge). George (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf). Thomas in Enda Walsh’s Misterman. Father Brendan Flynn (Doubt). Medea, in some awesome, twisted, all-male version. A one-man version of The Crucible. I’d also like to do The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh.
As I get older, I get to play increasingly interesting and substantial roles. The best is yet to come, I feel. I don’t fear or ward off age in any capacity. Bring it, I say. Look at Judi Dench, for fu**’s sake. Clint Eastwood. Bette White!
Anything else you care to add?
Looking forward to taking part in The Skylight Theatre Company’s honoring of Terrence McNally in a four-day event at the end of September called Salute. I was very honored to be asked. And, of course, I’m looking forward to The Normal Heart opening, and audiences experiencing it for its beauty and intensity. I hope it encourages conversations, think-tanks, and outrage.
Don Grigware writes his own blog and writes for Broadway World.
The Normal Heart Sept 21 – Nov 3 (323) 663-1525MORE