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
Have you heard of Rabbi Joachim Prinz? Probably not. In August of 1963, he and Martin Luther King, Jr. were among the ten leaders of the March on Washington. Preceding King to the platform on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial before King declared his dream to the world, Prinz delivered a stirring speech against silence in the face of injustice. It was an expression of his life-long commitment to equality and tolerance.
“Neighbor is not a geographic term. It is a moral concept,” he said. “When I was the rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime, I learned many things. The most important thing that I learned under those tragic circumstances was that bigotry and hatred are not ‘.the most urgent problem. The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem is silence.”
This past weekend, more than 50 years later, women across the nation marched on Washington once again. And on the Thursday prior to marching, on the eve of the Presidential Inauguration, the Fountain Theatre made a pledge. It would not be silent.
Streaming live on Facebook, the Fountain joined 728 other theaters in all 50 states who gathered outside theaters nationwide to create a “light” for these dark times ahead. The Ghostlight Project offered theater artists and patrons the opportunity to renew a pledge to stand and protect the values of inclusion, participation, and compassion for everyone, regardless of race, class, religion, country of origin, immigration status, (dis)ability, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
What is a ghostlight? When our theaters go dark at the end of the night, we turn on a “ghost light” – offering visibility and safety for all who might enter. This is our theatrical tradition and the inspiration for this national event. Like a ghostlight, the light we created on January 19th represents our commitment to provide safety, a safe harbor, for everyone. To resist intolerance at all levels.
Fountain folk were asked to make signs, affirming “I Am” and “I Fight For”. Take a look.
On Thursday night, a crowd of Fountain Family members — actors, directors, stage managers, patrons and supporters — gathered outside the theatre at exactly at 5:30pm to join the live feed on Facebook. A statement was read by Fountain Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs, and the group switched on the portable lights they were asked to bring, in symbolic gesture of adding light into the coming darkness.
The ceremony continued inside. Morlan Higgins played guitar and sang a song by Woody Guthrie. Stephen Sachs listed three Fountain productions of plays that dramatized the issues of tolerance, equality, and inclusion. My Mañana Comes brought to life the struggle of immigration, The Ballad of Emmett Till shed light on racism, and the The Normal Heart articulated the fight against AIDS and social prejudice in the gay community. Stephen then introduced cast members from these productions, each performing selections giving voice to these themes. It was very powerful and moving.
Quoting Rabbi Prinz, Sachs then announced the Fountain Theatre’s pledge that it “will not be silent.” He then instructed the group to once again switch on their portable lights, as he turned on the Fountain ghostlight that stood on stage, as a beacon of hope.
The Fountain ceremony ended with everyone joining Morlan on guitar and singing together the lively gospel song, “This Little Light of Mine”. Afterwards, the group gathered upstairs in the cafe for excited conversation, pizza and beer.
It was an inspiring and joyous evening. Like the light we shine, we will carry our pledge forward into the new year, and the years forever after. We will not remain silent.
It’s been a challenging year, hasn’t it? A year of change, division and loss And a year of hope, unity and bright accomplishments.
The Fountain Theatre ends 2016 soaring on the wind of uplifting achievements. Our world premiere stage adaptation of Citizen: An American Lyric has been chosen to be highlighted in CTG’s Block Party at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in April. Our premieres of Dream Catcher, My Mañana Comes and Baby Doll earned rave reviews and extended runs.Forever Flamenco sizzled this summer at the outdoor Ford Theatre. Bakersfield Mist returned to delight audiences through the holidays and is still running through January. We continued serving communities year round through our educational outreach programs. We broadened our long-term stability by partnering with new foundations and supporters.
For 26 years, The Fountain Theatre has provided a public space where a wide variety of citizens gather together to experience stories that illuminate what it means to be a human being.
The public discourse across our nation and on our stage in 2016 revealed many things. One being: words matter. What we say to each other, and how we say it, matters. As in the finest plays, language has power. Has impact. In soliloquy and in dialogue. On our intimate stage, and far beyond Fountain Avenue, our dialogue — our conversation — with YOU, our Fountain Family, matters.
Which words would you use to describe the Fountain Theatre? Which words express who we are, what we do? Co-Founding Artistic Directors Deborah Lawlor and Stephen Sachs share with you some words they’d choose. Take a look!
Lawrence Stallings, Pablo Castelblanco, Richard Azurdia, Peter Pasco
The Fountain Theatre has been honored with three Ovation Award nominations for its Los Angeles Premiere of My Mañana Comes by Elizabeth Irwin. Directed by Armando Molina, the fast-paced comedy/drama about four busboys in the kitchen of an upscale restaurant drew rave reviews. The talented cast featured Richard Azurdia, Pablo Castelblanco, Peter Pasco and Lawrence Stallings.
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.
The Fountain Theatre production of My Mañana Comes has received the following nominations:
Best Production of a Play
Best Acting Ensemble of a Play – Richard Azurdia, Pablo Castelblanco, Peter Pasco and Lawrence Stallings
Best Scenic Design – Michael Navarro
For the 2015/16 Ovation Awards voting season, there were 280 productions registered from 116 different organizations, resulting in nominations for 70 productions from 45 organizations. These productions were voted on by 233 Ovation Awards voters — vetted individuals from the Greater Los Angeles area who are working theatre professionals.
The 27th Annual LA STAGE Alliance Ovation Awards will occur on Tuesday, January 17, 2017 at The Ahmanson Theatre in Downtown Los Angeles. More info
Philip Solomon, Thomas Silcott “The Painted Rocks at revolver Creek”
The Fountain Theatre has been honored with 23 awards of excellence from StageSceneLA for productions in its 2015-16 season. Fountain productions awarded were the west coast premiere of Athol Fugard’s The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek, the world premiere of Dream Catcher by Stephen Sachs, the Los Angeles premiere of My Mañana Comes by Elizabeth Irwin, and the west coast premiere of Tennessee Williams’ Baby Doll.
Since 2007, Steven Stanley’s StageSceneLA.com has spotlighted the best in Southern California theater via reviews, interviews, and its annual StageSceneLA Awards.
The Fountain has been honored with the following awards this 2015-16 season:
YEAR’S BEST INTIMATE THEATERS The Fountain Theatre
OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION, DRAMA (INTIMATE THEATER) The Painted Rocks At Revolver Creek
OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION, COMEDY-DRAMA (INTIMATE THEATER) My Mañana Comes
Last week, I got to see the Fountain’s current production: a new Tennessee Williams piece called Baby Doll. The circumstances of how this piece came to the stage were a bit unorthodox for a Williams play. It started out as a screenplay adaptation of an older Williams one-act play called 27 Wagons Full of Cotton. Williams adapted it for film in 1956, and it wasn’t until recently that Emily Mann and Pierre Laville re-adapted the film for the stage. I was very curious to see this piece that had started out as a one-act before going to film and then back to the stage. There must have been something truly powerful about the story itself to go back and forth between those mediums.
“Baby Doll” movie (1956)
I certainly wasn’t wrong about that. Baby Doll is a powerful, immersive story. The events that unfold keep you on edge throughout the show. On top of that, watching this piece in the Fountain’s intimate house made it even more impactful. I felt like I was directly in the story with these characters, with a direct stake in what happened to them. After the show, I watched the 1956 film version of Baby Doll, and it felt like the biggest thing missing was the immediacy and urgency that the staged version, particularly in the Fountain, provided the audience. Other than that main difference, however, the play stayed very true to Williams’ original screenplay – the original dialogue was mostly preserved, and the details of the story were almost identical. In comparing the two, it was clear that this particular story was even more powerful when it was right in your face, up close and personal.
‘Baby Doll’ at the Fountain
The Fountain’s production takes a physically and emotionally abusive and manipulative marriage between Baby Doll, a young and impressionable woman, and Archie Lee Meighan, an angry and lonely older man, and pushes it into the audience’s faces, forcing them to confront the uncomfortable dynamics of domestic violence and abuse. The audience is confronted with the uncomfortably predatory nature of their marriage, before we are met with Silva Vacarro, a handsome younger man who seems to be Archie Lee’s opposite in every way. He’s charming, mysterious, and Baby Doll clearly finds him intriguing. He is clearly Baby Doll’s true romantic interest, as well as the foil to Archie Lee’s unpredictable anger and abuse.
Just when I thought the story was leading in a predictable direction, though, it became clear that Silva had ulterior motives for flirting with Baby Doll. We spend the majority of the rest of the show watching him alternate between seducing her and emotionally manipulating her for information. I felt a strange discomfort watching them, because I wasn’t sure whether or not I was rooting for them to be together. They clearly had chemistry, so much so that watching their characters together in such a small theatre felt like I was invading their privacy somehow. At the same time, there were moments where he was clearly prodding her for information by pushing her boundaries, or by making her feel special and tended to in a way that he knew she wasn’t getting with Archie Lee. By this time, I was quite literally on the edge of my seat, watching with bated breath to see what would happen next. There were moments where I was sure Silva would get rid of Archie Lee somehow and he and Baby Doll would run off together into the sunset. But then there were other moments where I really couldn’t tell if he truly cared for Baby Doll at all, or if he was just a master manipulator.
This kind of theatre is of a special type: the kind that makes you think and confront difficult, uncomfortable issues, and provokes thought and visceral emotions from its audiences. Theatre is such a special way to present and portray relationships between people, in a way that makes you feel and think about the nature of human connection. The power of the story, as well as the amazing talent and chemistry between the actors in this company, reminded me that theatre can do so much; it is meant to confront and provoke, and to tell stories that audiences can connect to in some way.
I felt very lucky to get to see not just one but three Fountain productions in my time here. My Mañana Comes, Forever Flamenco at the Ford, and Baby Doll were certainly all incredibly different from one another, but they all had an impact on me: they brought forth an important message or story, or provided an outlet for a vibrant but underexposed community to celebrate beautiful art. All of them presented a piece of art, with performers and creators that had a clear passion and message.
These shows have made me proud to be a part of the Fountain family, and to get to work at such an organization. This blog post is bittersweet for a lot of reasons, the biggest of which is that today is my last day working at the Fountain. I’m moving up to San Francisco the day after tomorrow, and I’m going to miss the Fountain family so so much. I am so thankful to everyone here at the Fountain, and at the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, that made these past ten weeks possible! I know that I have people rooting for me here, and I’m so grateful for that.
This is me signing off – thank you to all that followed my internship saga and read my musings on theatre and arts. And thank you to everyone in the Fountain family for this journey. I wouldn’t feel at all prepared to jump into my next adventure if it had not been for all of you, and all I learned from you!
Our thanks to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the LA County Arts Commission for the support of their LA County Arts Intern program.
Lawrence Stallings, Pablo Castelblanco, Richard Azurdia, Peter Pasco
by Victoria Montecillo
Last weekend, I got to watch our production of My Mañana Comes on its closing weekend. It’s three days later, and I’m still thinking about it. After hearing about the show and the kind of work that the Fountain produces from Stephen Sachs and Barbara Goodhill, I was eager to see the work in action. I knew that the show was about four busboys in a high-end restaurant, and that the show would touch on issues surrounding immigration and fair pay, but I was otherwise walking in with no expectations of what I was about to see.
Playwright Elizabeth Irwin
One of the first things that captured me within the first couple of scenes was the reality of it all. I knew the playwright was a woman, and I was stunned at her ability to capture the conversations between these young men so well. I could feel each unique voice and personality from the four characters, which only made the story even more riveting.
I felt like this play really sneaks up on you, in the best way possible. For a while, it’s just four guys working in a kitchen trying to make ends meet, teasing each other, and sharing their lives with one another. And in the next moment, you’re suddenly aware of how much you care about each of these men. They’re each dealing with their own set of challenges, and you can feel yourself rooting for them. And suddenly you’re watching these characters you care about struggling to fight for equal pay, providing for their families, and maintaining their friendships with each other.
As a theatre geek, I have to say that I have a soft spot for powerful pieces of theatre that don’t have a happy ending. They end, instead, by giving the audience something to think about, and with the gut-wrenching realization that theatre is, in fact, an avenue for real stories about real people. Perhaps after the show that I saw, the actors all came out smiling and ready to answer all of our questions and discuss the piece in an illuminating and inspiring talkback, but stories like that don’t always end that way. This piece, and the incredible actors in the cast, were telling a much bigger story of real struggle.
On top of all of that, the audience gets to witness all of this unfold in the Fountain’s cozy, 78-seat theatre. Their space made us feel like we were all apart of this story, and part of the action. Seeing this particular piece in such a small space helped me realize how effective it can be to tell stories in a smaller space, where there seems to be no separation or distance between the performers and the audience. Everything is shared, and that makes the experience all the more powerful.
Pablo Castelblanco and Peter Pasco
Another thing I really appreciated about this production was how well it brought to light very specific perspectives within cultural identity. In the talkback with the cast after the show, which was moderated by Stephen Sachs, an audience member praised actor Peter Pasco for his portrayal of Whalid, a young Mexican-American man with no claim to his own heritage. Pasco responded to the audience member, expressing the difficulty that many first-generation and second-generation Americans have with the culture of their families, especially when visiting their “home countries”. As I clearly remember him explaining his own experiences in relation to Whalid’s in the talkback, “When I’m here in the United States, everyone sees me as Peruvian, even though I feel that I’m American. But when I’m in Peru visiting my family, I don’t feel like a Peruvian at all.” His words deeply resonated with me, as a first-generation Filipino-American. Getting to see a character like that onstage, as well as hearing the actor speak about it so eloquently afterwards, was a very special feeling.
It was sad to see such a beautiful piece as My Mañana Comes in its closing weekend, but I felt lucky to be apart of one of the many audiences that got to see such a powerful piece at the Fountain, with an unbelievable cast bringing such an important story to life. One of the most inspiring things to see after the show was all of the people in the audience who were clearly so moved by the performance; there was one woman behind me who clearly wanted to express her gratitude to the actors for sharing such an important story, but she was far too overcome with emotion. There were countless people around me who made a point of thanking the actors and the Fountain Theatre for bringing such an important and relevant piece to audiences in this community, and I was again reminded of the magic and power of live theatre, and all it can do to bring communities together through art and storytelling.
After earning rave reviews, an Ovation Recommendation, recognition from the Fringe Festival and strong audience response, our Los Angeles Premiere of My Mañana Comes completed its glorious 11-week run on Sunday afternoon. The sold-out final performance was followed by a joyous catered reception.
Written by Elizabeth Irwin and directed by Armando Molina, the play brought to life the friendship and conflict between four busboys working in an upscale restaurant. The fabulous cast featured Richard Azurdia, Pablo Castelblanco, Peter Pasco and Lawrence Stallings.
The Fountain audience leapt to its feet in a standing ovation for the final performance on Sunday, then joined the company upstairs in our cafe for a post-show party.
“We’re very proud of this production, ” beamed Co-Artistic Director Deborah Lawlor. “A riveting play about important issues performed brilliantly by a powerful cast. Who could ask for more?”
Next up at the Fountain: the West Coast Premiere of Tennessee Williams’ Baby Doll.
How does theatre dramatize important social, political and cultural issues in a way that is compelling and meaningful? Can a play bring to life the challenges of immigration and the struggle of undocumented workers in a story that reveals the human being behind the stereotype? Isn’t it remarkable how the magic of theatre pulls us into the personal lives of these colorful characters in this play and then delivers a heart-stopping blow at the end that forces you to examine your own belief systems about yourself?
These compelling questions — and more — were some of the topics raised in a heartfelt Q&A discussion with the cast following yesterday’s matinee performance of My Mañana Comes. The audience included young people and adults from The Unusual Suspects Theatre Company, a non-profit organization that makes theatre accessible to low income youth and adults. The program also uses theatre as a vehicle to create community and empower, educate and give artistic voice to young people.
My Mañana Comesis a funny and powerful new play about four busboys — three Mexican, one African American — in a upscale restaurant who battle issues of immigration, fair pay for labor, and chasing the American Dream. The play utilizes fast-paced dialogue and slang in both English and Spanish. That same diversity was reflected in the cultural mix at yesterday’s Q&A when the discussion was conducted and translated in both Spanish and English.
The interchange between artists and young people in the community was made possible through the Fountain Theatre’s educational outreach program, Theatre as a Learning Tool, which provides the life-enhancing experience of live theatre to underserved young people throughout Southern California.
“Our goal at the Fountain is to use the power of theatre to put a human face on the social, political and cultural issues of our day,” says Co-Artistic Director Stephen. “And to open the eyes and minds and hearts of young people. There is nothing more rewarding than making theatre available to those in our community who otherwise have little or no access to what theatre can do.”