Recent Blog Posts
- Shirley Jo Finney Lifted Every Soul
- Fountain Theatre will host memorial celebration for Shirley Jo Finney at Kirk Douglas Theatre Dec. 12
- NOW CASTING: Graceful, angelic Black actress/dancer for “Freight” West Coast Premiere at Fountain Theatre
- Fountain Theatre mourns the passing of one of its own: Celebrated director Shirley Jo Finney
- J. Alphonse Nicholson stars in West Coast premiere of ‘Freight’ for limited run at Fountain Theatre
Archives by Month
Search Our Blog
Email SubscriptionJoin 107 other subscribers
Follow Blog via EmailJoin 107 other subscribers
Connect With Us
Follow us on TwitterMy Tweets
Tag Archives: performing arts
Fountain Theatre will host memorial celebration for Shirley Jo Finney at Kirk Douglas Theatre Dec. 12
A respected and beloved Los Angeles theater director who worked at regional theaters across the country and in South Africa, Finney was also an established television and film director. She was the winner of numerous honors and awards, including for eight productions she directed at the Fountain over the course of a decades-long artistic relationship. Her acclaimed staging of the Fountain’s production of Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine was one of three chosen to inaugurate CTG’s Block Party at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in 2017. Finney passed away on October 10 at the age of 74 following an eight-month battle with cancer.
“We invite the Los Angeles theater community to gather with us to honor this extraordinary artist,” says Fountain Theatre artistic director Stephen Sachs. “The celebration is open to anyone who was touched by Shirley Jo’s life. All are welcome.”
The Kirk Douglas Theatre is located at 9820 Washington Blvd, Culver City CA 90232. Parking is free with validation underneath City Hall, located across the street from the theater on the corner of Culver Blvd. and Duquesne Ave. (entrance on Duquesne).
Reservations can be made online at https://tinyurl.com/CelebratingShirleyJo.
NOW CASTING: Graceful, angelic Black actress/dancer for “Freight” West Coast Premiere at Fountain Theatre
The Fountain Theatre is seeking a Black actress with dance training or who moves well for the West Coast Premiere of FREIGHT: The Five Incarnations of Abel Green starring J. Alphonse Nicholson. Nicholson reprises his Off-Broadway, tour-de-force performance, highlighted in the New York Times as Critic’s Pick.
STORYLINE: Five versions of an African American everyman travels through time in different incarnations, from a 19th-century minstrel to a fallen, out-of-work mortgage broker. In each life, Abel Green is guided, distracted, helped, or hindered by a handful of characters with whom his destiny is forever intertwined.
THE CONDUCTOR – 20 to 39 years old, Black woman. Seeking a Black actress with dance training or who moves well. Striking, graceful, angelic. This unique role is a silent presence weaving throughout the play. A Spirit Queen. Duties also include assisting the production stage manager with backstage functions.
Producer/Theatre Company: Stephen Sachs/Fountain Theatre
Director: Joseph Megel
Writer: Howard L. Craft
Casting Director: Stephen Sachs
Audition Date: 10/26/2023
Rehearsal Date: 10/30/2023
Opening Date: 11/12/2023
Closing Date: 12/16/2023
Rate of Pay / Contract: AEA 99-Seat Contract
The Fountain Theatre presents the West Coast premiere of Freight: The Five Incarnations of Abel Green, a timely and timeless theatrical journey written by Howard L. Craft, directed by Joseph Megel, and starring J. Alphonse Nicholson (Broadway’s Tony award-winning A Soldier’s Play; co-star P-Valley on Starz; Netflix’s They Cloned Tyrone). The limited 21-performance run takes place November 12 through December 16, with low-priced previews beginning November 9.
Nicholson reprises his off-Broadway, tour-de-force star turn as five versions of an African American everyman who travels through time in different incarnations, including a 19th Century minstrel, a faith healer, an FBI informant, a struggling actor, and an out-of-work mortgage broker. In each life, Abel is guided, distracted, helped or hindered by a handful of characters with whom his destiny is forever intertwined. We meet each new iteration of Abel Green on a train, which changes in appearance in accordance with each time period and serves as a link between dimensions.
“Freight operates on the premise that a person’s spirit, or soul, comes to the world because there is something the soul needs to learn,” says Craft. “If the soul does not learn it, then it comes back to the world again and again until it’s successful. The soul can exist concurrently in different time periods, in multiple dimensions of the same universe.”
Inspired by the painting “Slow Down Freight Train” by Rose Piper, the play started out as a 10-minute monologue for North Carolina’s “Activated Art at the Ackland” series. That scene was later expanded in collaboration with Megel and Nicholson to create the current, full-length production.
“The three of us have great chemistry,” Craft explained in an interview. “This is not the first piece we’ve done together. I’m from Durham [North Carolina] and Alphonse is from Greensboro; there are a lot of similarities in these places. He just really gets the rhythm of my writing. And Joseph has a way of pulling things out of an actor, and out of a playwright. He has a very light touch, but he brings so much up.”
Freight earned rave reviews off-Broadway at the New Federal Theatre. “Mr. Nicholson transforms from one Abel to the next in front of us… distinct and entertaining,” raved The New York Times in its “Critic’s Pick” review. New York’s Amsterdam News enthused, “intensely written and stunningly performed,” and Berkshire Fine Arts calls Freight “a superb play.”
Named one of Essence magazine’s “Of the Essence Screen Kings,” Nicolson is a two-time NAACP Image Award nominee for his role inP-Valley, and other notable credits include Just Mercy (Warner Bros.), Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker (Netflix), Blue Bloods (CBS), Mr. Robot (USA), Shots Fired (FOX), Marvel’s Luke Cage (Netflix), Tales (BET), The Blacklist (NBC), and Chicago PD (NBC). In addition to A Soldier’s Play, his theater credits include Signature Theatre’s twice extended off-Broadway premiere of Dominque Morisseau’s Paradise Blue, directed by Tony winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson, and Days of Rage at 2nd Stage. He was recently seen in the remake of White Men Can’t Jump (Disney/20th Century Studios) and They Cloned Tyrone (Macro/Netflix). Next up: The Sterling Affairs (FX), Black Spartans (Buffalo 8 Productions) and Albany Road.
The creative team for Freight at the Fountain includes scenic designer Joel Daavid; lighting designer Alison Brummer, sound designer Marc Antonio Pritchett; video designer Eamonn Farrell; costume designer Danyele Thomas; and props designer Rebecca Carr. The production stage manager is Kaitlyn R. Cramer.
Secure, on-site parking is available for $5. Running time for Freight is approximately 90 minutes with no intermission. Patrons are invited to relax before and after the show at the Fountain’s upstairs indoor/outdoor café.
by Stephen Sachs
“Isn’t that the theatre where they did Last Summer at Bluefish Cove?” It was 1990, and I heard that a lot. My business partner, Deborah Lawlor, and I had just acquired the Fountain Theatre in East Hollywood. We had only an empty building and the dream of transforming it into an energetic artistic home that produced high-quality, meaningful theatre. As it turned out, we also took over a stage where a ground-breaking play ran for two sold-out years just a short while before.
After an 80-performance run Off-Broadway, Last Summer at Bluefish Cove by Jane Chambers opened at the Fountain Theatre in 1983, with Jean Smart reprising the role of Lil. The ensemble, directed by Hilary Moshereece, also included Camilla Carr, Dianne Turley Travis, Shannon Kriska, Linda Cohen, Sandra J. Marshall, Nora Heflin, and Lee Carlington. Jean Smart was honored with the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Actress. The Fountain production also received a Certificate of Outstanding Theatre from the City of Los Angeles.
That twenty-four-month run of Bluefish Cove at the Fountain Theatre was a turning point for the lesbian community in Los Angeles at the time, a benchmark achievement in L.A. theater, and a milestone in the history of the Fountain. For many queer women, it was the first time they saw themselves on stage in a play written by a lesbian. For straight audiences, it was an entertaining glimpse into a world that held many of the same needs and fears as their own. It was exhilarating.
We now live in dangerous, disturbing times. At least 417 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the United States since the start of the year — a new record. People around the country face violence and inequality because of who they love, how they look, or who they are.
The Fountain Theatre offers this play as public affirmation that we all ache for the same human connection, we all seek love and friendship, no matter our differences. Many who were here forty years ago have never forgotten how this funny, tender play changed their lives. Generations of young queer women today, born after the play was produced here on Fountain Avenue, will visit Bluefish Cove for the first time this summer and discover for themselves what all the joy and excitement was about.
Stephen Sachs is the Artistic Director of the Fountain Theatre.
Set in 1974, Bluefish concerns a group of queer women who spend their summers together in a remote seaside town. Their enclave is disrupted when Eva, a naïve straight woman separated from her husband, stumbles unaware into their circle and falls for the charming, tough-talking Lil. This iconic lesbian play bursts with heartfelt friendship, laughter, and love.
Last Summer at Bluefish Cove plays on our Outdoor Stage at 7pm Fridays – Mondays beginning next week. Low-priced previews begin Wednesday, June 14. Opening Night is Saturday, June 17, with a dessert reception to follow. The show runs through Sunday, August 27. TICKETS/MORE INFO.
While the cast of our summer production, Last Summer at Bluefish Cove, have been hard at work rehearsing, Sets-to-Go has been hard at work building the incredible set designed by our fabulous scenic designer, Desma Murphy.
Last week, the set for the Bluefish Cove beach cottage where a group of lesbian women spend their summers together was loaded onto our Outdoor Stage. Soon to come will be the rocks and dock of the cove.
Check out this short video chat with Desma and watch the magic happen as the crew installs the set and Bluefish Cove begins to become a reality.
Last Summer at Bluefish Cove begins previews on June 14, opens on June 17, and runs through August 27. Tickets/More Info.
Welcome to Bluefish Cove. The Fountain Theatre will transform the parking lot surrounding the set on its outdoor stage to create an oceanfront experience for its 40th-anniversary production of the groundbreaking comedy/drama, Last Summer at Bluefish Cove by Jane Chambers. Directed by Hannah Wolf, performances take place June 17 through August 27, with low-priced previews beginning June 14.
Set in 1974, a group of queer women spend their summers together in a remote oceanfront town on Long Island. Their lesbian enclave is disrupted when Eva, a naïve straight woman recently separated from her husband, stumbles unaware into their circle and falls for the charming, tough-talking Lil. This heartfelt play, a landmark in lesbian history, is bursting with friendship, laughter, love and hope, bringing well-rounded, three-dimensional characters that transcend stereotypes and preconceptions to the stage.
“The play ran for two years, from 1981-1983, at the Fountain Theatre 40 years ago starring Jean Smart, before Deborah Lawlor and I acquired the building and established our company,” says Fountain artistic director Stephen Sachs. “It was a benchmark achievement in L.A. theater, a turning point for L.A.’s queer community, and a milestone in the history of our building. Many women saw and remember it. Now its time for generations of young gay women born after the play was produced here to experience it for themselves.”
The all female–identifying and non–binary cast and creative team includes actors Sarah Scott Davis, Allison Husko, Tamika Katon–Donegal, Lindsay LaVanchy, Noelle Messier, Stephanie Pardi, Ann Sonneville, Stasha Surdyke and Ellen D. Williams, as well as scenic designer Desma Murphy; lighting designer R. S. Buck, sound designer Andrea Allmond, costume designer Halei Parker, prop master Rebecca Carr and intimacy director Savanah Knechel. The production stage manager is Chloe Willey, and Gina DeLuca is assistant stage manager.
One of the first playwrights to depict love between women as happy, healthy, and well-adjusted, Jane Chambers (1937-1983) changed the course of American drama with works informed by second-wave feminism and the burgeoning gay rights movement, including A Late Snow (1974), Last Summer at Bluefish Cove (1980) and My Blue Heaven (1981). A prolific writer, Chambers also authored novels, poetry, and essays in addition to penning scripts for film and television. She trained as an actress at Rollins College and the Pasadena Playhouse because female students were not admitted to writing classes, and enjoyed success as an off-Broadway performer.
“(Bluefish Cove) was a benchmark achievement in L.A. theater, a turning point for L.A.’s queer community, and a milestone in the history of our building. … Now its time for generations of young gay women born after the play was produced here to experience it for themselves.”
In 1964, Chambers moved to Maine where she worked for MWTW-TV as a content producer and on-air personality. During President Johnson’s War on Poverty, Chambers took a position as arts coordinator with Jobs Corp, creating theater with inner-city youths. While earning a bachelor’s degree at Goddard College, Chambers returned to New York, co-founded Women’s Interart Theatre with Margot Lewitin, and met her life partner, talent agent Beth Allen. Chambers was diagnosed with a brain tumor and died in 1983. Her pioneering spirit is honored by an annual prize given in her name: The Jane Chambers Award for Playwriting is administered by The Women and Theatre Program. Chambers’ impact on American drama is also celebrated by a reading series at TOSOS (The Other Side of Silence) Theatre.
By Terri Roberts
Earlier this month, eager students and their chaperones from three area high schools visited the Fountain Theatre for specially arranged morning performances of our current hit show, The Lifespan of a Fact. These kids had either been participants in Fountain Voices, the Fountain’s acclaimed theatre education program, or were recruited because they were active in their established high school theatre programs. Many of them already had an interest in the arts, some were newly exposed to it, and quite a few were even considering careers as writers and/or performers. All of them were thrilled to be seeing the show.
On Friday, March 3rd, 44 students from Hollywood High School and 15 students from Helen Bernstein High School were bussed to the Fountain to see Lifespan. A week later, on March 10th, approximately 60 students arrived from Compton Early College High School. Pre-show snacks and lunch were provided in the Fountain’s charming upstairs café, and the kids chatted excitedly about both seeing the show and the Q&A with the cast (Inger Tudor, Jonah Robinson, Ron Bottitta) and director (Simon Levy) that followed the performance.
Ali Nezu, Magnet Coordinator for the New Media Academy and the Performing Arts Magnet at Hollywood High School was also excited for the opportunity. “It’s just been a blessing to have such an amazing group of artists and board members and community people that just love and respect the arts and that understand how desperately we need the arts to create social change,” she said. “And the learning that happens in a situation like this, and the engagement level of the students in the content and their own growth is just so much more than in a situational classroom. So I love that we are inspiring students to experience that but then inspire them and empower them to do that in their own lives moving forward.”
“It’s just been a blessing to have such an amazing group of artists and board members and community people that just love and respect the arts, and that understand how desperately we need the arts to create social change,” says Ali Nezu, Magnet Coordinator for the New Media Academy and the Performing Arts Magnet at Hollywood High School.
“I really appreciate how Fountain Voices teaches students how to get into someone else’s shoes,” enthused Ebony Haywood, who teaches English and Theatre at Compton Early Collage. “To understand how someone else is thinking, to how do you put this story together? How do you present, and represent, this story on stage? It’s like an exercise in being human.”
Sherrick O’Quinn, the Fountain’s Theatre Education Manager, agrees. “Fountain Voices is instrumental in giving kids an opportunity to realize and find their voice,” he says. “The programming we are providing is giving them the tools to learn how to be change agents of the future by using the theater arts to communicate their own stories that can change lives, hearts, and minds. Whether it’s learning how to use playwriting or visiting our theater to see a show, we’re creating accessibility to the arts when we’re seeing students increasingly not being given those opportunities – especially in underserved communities.”
To learn more about Fountain Voices, contact Sherrick O’Quinn at email@example.com.
To purchase tickets to see The Lifespan of a Fact, now extended to April 30th, call 323/663-1525 or visit www.fountaintheatre.com.
The Fountain Theatre is pleased and honored to welcome award-winning journalist Erin Aubry Kaplan to its Board of Directors. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Ms. Kaplan brings a longtime passion for theater and culture to the Fountain organization. She says, “I like to think that the narrative of theater, its goal of illuminating humanity in full without shying away from its most challenging aspects, informs what I do as a writer.” Plus, she’s a dog lover. What’s not to like?
Ms. Kaplan is a journalist, essayist and author who has been writing about race, politics, culture, individuality, and the confluence of all those things since 1992. She has been a weekly op-ed columnist for the Los Angeles Times (the first Black person to hold the position), staff writer and columnist for the LA Weekly, and contributing writer to the New York Times opinion, Politico and HuffPost.
She is the author of two books, ‘Black Talk, Blue Thoughts and Walking the Color Line: Dispatches From a Black Journalista‘ (2011) and ‘I Heart Obama’ (2016). In 2001 she won the PEN USA West Award for Journalism for her essay, ‘Blue Like Me.’ Her work has been widely anthologized in essay collections, notably ‘Rise Up Singing: Black Women Writers on Motherhood,’ which won an American Book Award in 2004. She serves on the board of Capital & Main, an investigative news website that focuses on economic inequality and injustice.
“When my friend Diana Buchhantz invited me to join the Fountain board last year,” she explains. “I was honored and thrilled. I had been looking for a way to reconnect with theater. As a journalist I chiefly write about politics, race and culture, but I’ve always been equally passionate about theater; I have an MFA in acting, and spent years writing theater reviews and features for the LA Weekly when I was a staff writer there. That experience allowed me to experience the breadth and depth of the theater scene in greater L.A., and it was a revelation. Especially at the Fountain, whose shows were uniformly excellent. “
What are her goals as a board member?
“I hope to help the Fountain continue its tradition of mounting great productions that are highly entertaining, thought-provoking and, most importantly, fearless and forward-thinking. I hope also to be a benefit to Fountain Voices and other educational programs that seek to grow and diversify theater audiences, as well as cultivate talent that doesn’t necessarily have access to the traditionally cloistered world of theater. Arts are what we urgently need in these turbulent political times, and theater is a voice that can best speak to them.”