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Looks like the Fountain may have another hit on its hands. Our world premiere of Dream Catcher by Stephen Sachs is earning rave reviews and has been spotlighted as Ovation Recommended by members of LA Stage Alliance. Broadway World hails it as “an incredible tour de force” and ShowBuzzNYC exclaims that it’s “an emotional rollercoaster thrill ride.”
Directed by Cameron Watson and starring Elizabeth Frances and Brian Tichnell, Dream Catcher is performed in a thrilling in-the-round setting (“Fountain 360”) until March 21.
Enjoy this new video highlighting the fabulous press quotes earned by this passionate production.
When you see On The Spectrum at the Fountain Theatre you not only get a funny and touching glimpse into a unique world rarely seen. You also witness a truly one-of-a-kind performance. The three actors in On The Spectrum — Jeanie Hackett, Virginia Newcomb and Dan Shaked — have all deservedly earned rave reviews from critics and audiences alike. Newcomb’s portrayal of Iris, the young woman with lower-functioning autism and acute physical and neurological challenges yet blessed with a deep and richly imaginative inner life, is extraordinary. Critics have hailed her performance as “astounding”, “wondrous” and “breathtaking”.
The challenges of the role are enormous. In addition to her non-stop physical ticks, twitches, movement and behavior, Iris struggles with speech and painfully wrestles with forming words and sentences. She communicates online and unseen via the written text of her blog and website (“The Other World”). When forced to converse in person with another human being, she types her thoughts into a hand-held Proloquo computer device which, in turn, “speaks” for her in a computerized voice.
This means 80% of Virginia’s live performance is achieved in tandem with Iris’s recorded voice (also done by Newcomb). For the actress, it requires tremendous focus, concentration and non-stop physical commitment to the role for the full 90 minutes of the play. Audiences watching her performance have no idea how hard it is (nor should they). But all agree it is vivid, powerful, funny, deeply moving and utterly unforgettable.
How does she do it?
Before auditioning, what was your impression when you first learned about the play? The role of Iris? Any preconceptions?
My initial response was pretty visceral. The general themes appealed to me immediately; love, courage, fear, humanity. I think I’ve said to several people some variation of, “This is one of those roles that will make me better at what I do.” Not to mention, having worked with The Fountain before, I trusted they would do the story justice.
How did you prepare for the audition?
I knew this was a role that would take quite a bit of research to do it justice. Given the nature of auditions, it was impossible to bring in all of that in just a couple days. So, I focused on those initial emotional reactions to the piece. I did some research online and found a few mannerisms that I felt would heighten my believability. Mostly, I allowed myself the freedom to express my own quirks, imagination, and fears. I think those discoveries remain the root of this character.
How did you feel when you learned you got the role?
Thrilled and terrified. It was kind of a moment of, “Oh, okay, I guess this is really happening.” That’s a funny dichotomy; feeling confidence and doubt simultaneously.
Iris is such a unique, challenging and demanding role — both physically and mentally. How did you prepare for it?
I really held on to those initial feelings. I believe if something makes you feel so strongly, so quickly, ultimately that will be the key to the character. Before this, I didn’t have any personal experiences with Autism. But there’s a very rare disease in my family called DRPLA that certainly impacted my choices. It is very different, but there are physical manifestations that I was able to draw from. It also informed my understanding of the difference between one’s physical existence and mental acuteness. Our director, Jacqueline Schultz, was able to arrange time for us to observe at The Help Group, one of the premiere schools for students with special needs. Perhaps my most valuable experience was attending their high school Valentine’s Day dance. Dan Shaked and I both remarked on feeling this sense of freedom and non-judgment in the room. Not to belittle the challenges they face, but I have certainly come to appreciate the perspective of those “on the spectrum”. Beyond that, I spent a lot of time looking at videos (of which I was surprised to find quite a few). Autistic activism is a very present community. It was not difficult to engross myself in that world. I’ve found other inspiration in studying birds, wild horses, and all the fantastical imagery already written into the play.
Much of Iris is recorded in Voice Over. What is that experience like, as an actress? Connecting your physical life with the recorded Voice Over track?
At first, it was a little like rehearsing different characters. We had rehearsals where I worked on the voice then our stage manager, Corey, would do the lines and sometimes even Jacqueline, then we recorded a temporary track so I could really focus on the physical life. We wanted to fully explore the character before committing to one version of the recording. Iris’s idealistic voice is the voice most like me and the one that really shows us her intelligence. So, it was important that it was fully explored. Our sound designer, Peter Bayne, has also done a really great job at maintaining a since of intimacy. We put it all together during tech week. It’s become a bit of a dance between me, Corey, and Iris — never being sure who exactly is leading.
The physical demands of the role must take a toll. Are you exhausted after every performance?
When we started putting all the elements together (the physical, mental, and emotional life and then technically; video, VO, audience) I went through an adjustment period. After our first previews I was a sore, sweaty, dehydrated, and an emotional mess. My body wasn’t quite sure what the hell I was doing to it. I’ve since found some sort of balance. Some nights I still leave feeling a little beaten up, but it’s something to be proud of. This is my marathon or battle.
Do you have any favorite moments in the play? As an actress?
It’s been important for me that Iris not be portrayed as a victim. She certainly has many moments of vulnerability, but my favorite moments are when she’s able to assert herself. She has moments of true heroism in this play and those are my favorite to play.
What kind of response are you getting from anyone in the Autism community after seeing you on stage?
The most validating responses have been from those who have personal experiences with Autism. I’ve had several people tell me I’m doing it justice; that it’s believable and that’s really what it all comes down to. People are very touched by the story and the characters. So, I’m just thrilled that it resonates.
What was/is your greatest fear in doing the role?
When playing a character with any kind of ‘disability’ you want it to be believable. The Autism spectrum is so broad that it gave me the freedom to really create something unique for Iris, but also made it difficult to find specific examples of someone like her. I’ve just had to trust my director and all other aspects of the collaboration. I know that it can be uncomfortable for some audience members, but I try to keep it honest. My mother sent me a beautiful letter, “Don’t be afraid of making anyone uncomfortable. Maybe through Iris you’re teaching them to accept someone different in a way they hadn’t thought of before.” It feels like a big responsibility, but that’s the beautiful thing that art can do for humanity.
What part of Iris do you most identify or empathize with? Is there any part of her character that you personally connect most deeply to?
Her imagination. I was a very shy introverted child. I would fanaticize and draw a lot. Along the way, I began to intuit that a more public form of expression was my journey. It wasn’t easy for me at first, still sometimes isn’t really, but it’s my hero’s quest. Iris’s journey into the real world is not all that different from mine. We just have different limitations. It’s kind of my thing to recognize that which scares me the most and run right through it. All of my best qualities are formed out of those moments.
You and Dan Shaked have a nice chemistry on stage together. With Mac and Iris both having communication issues — how did you and Dan find ways to connect as actors?
Dan is really fantastic. There was no trust barrier to get over; it was just so immediately comfortable. We are each other’s spring board for any frustrations we might be having about the characters. Both of our characters have some juxtaposing characteristics and that can be confusing. It helps to have someone trying to break the code along with you. Having so little eye contact with someone you’re supposed to fall in love with can be difficult, but there are so many other ways to connect that it actually heightens the experience. We have to really pay attention and feel the other’s presence by smell, sound, touch, etc. It’s really fun. He and I both love the little differences that happen night to night, too. Sometime the VO speaker goes out, sometimes his headphones break, sometimes M&M’s are going everywhere, but it’s comforting knowing your partner and you can handle it.
What was the process with Jacqueline Schultz as a director?
Jacqueline came to the table with such passion and knowledge. A true artist, she knew how to lay the ground for us to freely create. She really let me run with Iris. I never heard her say pull back. If anything she’d say, “Great, okay now more of that.” She helped push me through any fears I had. I’m very grateful to her for helping me find Iris.
This is your second Fountain production. Do you enjoy working at the Fountain? How does it compare to other theaters in LA?
The Fountain is so good at what they do. It’s a big part of why I chose to do this play. I was already familiar with how the team at The Fountain could elevate a production. I was confident they’d bring Ken LaZebnik’s beautiful story to life. They are no question one of the best intimate theatres in LA. It’s a family and you really feel a part of it when you’re working here.
Do you think the character of Iris will “stay with you” for a while, after the run ends?
Well, she’s certainly welcome to. I’ve adored playing Iris. She is my courage and fear personified.
What are your plans after SPECTRUM closes?
Take a break, if the universe lets me. I’ve been going non-stop for a while. I shot three films last year and then the play. I have plans to head back South for a bit. I haven’t seen my family in over a year. It’ll be nice. Then? We’ll see.
On The Spectrum Now to April 28 (323) 663-1525 MORE
This production is sponsored, in part, by The Help Group.
LA Premiere Held Over to Celebrate Black History Month
The Fountain Theatre has extended the Los Angeles premiere of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s lusciously theatrical and boldly original In the Red and Brown Water through the end of February, in honor of Black History Month. Performances will continue through December 16 as previously scheduled, then resume on January 5 for an additional eight weeks through February 24.
Lyrically weaving together elements of urban contemporary realism with West African mysticism, In the Red and Brown Water tells the tale of Oya, who can run faster than anyone—but not fast enough to escape her destiny. Her journey from the promise of youth to the complicated yearnings of womanhood is joyous, raucous, raw and brazenly beautiful.
The Fountain production has been declared “100% Sweet” by Bitter Lemons, a website that aggregates Los Angeles theater reviews, and which, in a rare editorial comment, writes, “Once again, the Fountain Theatre shows that they are the class of Los Angeles theater, big or small… this is simply what theater is meant to be.” The Los Angeles Times raves, “CRITIC’S CHOICE! Beyond the fact that it is sensational, the Fountain Theatre’s production of ‘In the Red and Brown Water’… introduces Los Angeles audiences to a dramatic poet in the process of discovering his singular voice and shows how magnificently one of L.A.’s better small theaters can serve bold new talent.” The LA Weekly agrees, “GO! A visceral fable that rises up from the underbelly of America,” and Back Stage calls In the Red and Brown Water “a production that explodes in sounds, images, and extraordinary performances.”
It took the Fountain three years to obtain rights to produce McCraney’s play, which first exploded on the theater scene with a production at New York’s Public Theatre in 2009. On his personal Facebook page, Los Angeles Times Theater Critic Charles McNulty posts, “I love [the Fountain Theatre] production — even more than the one at the Public Theater. LA Theater is not to be underestimated!”
In the Red and Brown Water is helmed by multiple award-winning director Shirley Jo Finney. Diarra Kilpatrick stars as Oya in “a lead performance that is so good you wonder if somehow the designers may have concocted some kind of CGI image in front of your eyes instead of a living breathing human being; her movement, range of emotion and depth of passion is so indescribable that it will literally take your breath away.” (Colin Mitchell, Bitter Lemons). The ensemble also includes Dorian Christian Baucum, Peggy A.Blow, Gilbert Glenn Brown, Justin Chu Cary, Stephen Marshall, Simone Missick, Iona Morris, Theodore Perkins and Maya Lynne Robinson.
Performances of In the Red and Brown Water continue through February 24 on Thursdays (through December 13 only),Fridays and Saturdays @ 8 pm and Sundays @ 2 pm (dark December 17 through January 4). Call (323) 663-1525 or go to www.FountainTheatre.com.
Emotional Comments from College Students: ‘In the Red and Brown Water’ Transcends with “Not just a voice for all people, but for the ages”
College students from Fashion Institute for Design and Merchandising attended a recent performance of In the Red and Brown Water. The students are in their first or second year of college and are mostly 18 to 22 years old. Their teacher is Alan Goodson, who is also an actor who has appeared on our Fountain stage.
“The class is called Seminar in the Arts,” explains Goodson. “The students are generally visual artists of one kind or another, but have had little or no exposure to other artistic media – so I try to broaden their artistic horizons by taking them to theatre, classical music, and architectural walks. ”
After seeing In the Red and Brown Water at the Fountain, the students were required to write about their experience. Here are some comments:
“I was extremely moved by ‘In the Red and Brown Water’ and would most definitely recommend this play to others. I went into this play close-minded because I have never been one to enjoy plays all that much, but this play was very intriguing and captured my attention from the start.”
“Tarrell Alvin McCraney (the writer) tells a story of a young girl, Oya (the magnificent Diarra Kilpatrick), who may be able to outrun everyone, but she cannot escape her fate. Oya’s journey, from her promising youth to the complications of womanhood, is a joyous, raw and openly beautiful portrayal. . . . Going into the play with an open mind is essential, most of the audience were FIDM students who had no idea what lay ahead of them; one of them being me. I truthfully did not expect myself to enjoy ‘In the Red and Brown Water’ as much as I truly did. It is not a play with a happy-ever-after ending; this was to show that not everyone leaves the earth pleased. Life is about lessons and hardships that make the person who they are, Oya’s journey showed her heartache, happiness, sorrow, all in one lifetime. She had a beautiful life of joy and despair, and we all were privileged to see this acted out on stage. And while all but one of the characters are people of color, the play’s themes of self-discovery, choices, and destiny transcend race. McCraney is not just a voice for all people, but for the ages.”
“I was completely lost in a different world and truly feeling the raw emotions portrayed on stage thanks to an intimate theatre and exquisite actors. . . . ‘In the Red and Brown Water’ leaves the audience questioning and interpreting. Which is the reason why people create or look at art in the first place.”
“This production had a talented, enthusiastic cast that made the play very intimate, real and entertaining. This play will indefinitely engrave a sense of passion and inspiration in the hearts and minds of everyone that gets the opportunity to experience it.”
“The play allows your emotions to be heightened throughout the cultural, relatable, and life-inspiring performance. It was wonderfully executed, designed, and detailed, allowing the audience to understand the purpose and plot of the wonderful story. Overall, the play allows you to be a part of the emotional rollercoaster that the characters feel.”
“The play really spoke to my emotions, making me feel as though I was on the rollercoaster ride with Oya. This was due to the ten brilliant cast members, the set design and the intriguing storyline. It was an honor to attend one of the plays of Tarell Alvin McCraney at the Fountain Theatre in such a small, intimate setting. The play would not have left me feeling the emotions I did if it was in a larger theater. I highly recommend this play to someone who wants to broaden his or her horizons and set foot into the life of someone else.”
“The story of Oya and McCraney’s lives came together beautifully to create a story easily relatable for most people. With excellent lighting techniques and subtle props, the message is clearly portrayed and allows the audience to become a part of the scene using imagination. Without the wonderful performances by the actors, actually becoming the characters, the play would not have been as powerful. This play may relate personally to some, but provides a deep message for all.”
“I would definitely recommend the play, ‘In the Red and Brown Water”, to my family and friends. The experience watching this method of theatre performance revealed a way to capture scenes, dialogue, settings, and so on, that I never knew about. I thought this play was amazing. Overall, I highly enjoyed my time at the Fountain Theatre and would love to go back and see other plays.”
“Throughout the play, the different aspects of the script and how the performance was carried out truly inspired me and were easily relatable, as everyone goes through the common troubles of life. . . . The theme of this play and performance inspired me in creative ways for current assignments and has positively affected my views of smaller theatres.”
In the Red and Brown Water has also earned Rave Reviews from critics everywhere, including being highlighted as Critic’s Choice in the Los Angeles Times.
It runs to December 16th. (323) 663-1525 More
“Sensational!” – LA Times
RAVE! CRITIC’S CHOICE! “Beyond the fact that it is sensational, the Fountain Theatre’s production of “In the Red and Brown Water” by Tarell Alvin McCraney is important for two reasons: It introduces Los Angeles audiences to a dramatic poet in the process of discovering his singular voice and it shows how magnificently one of L.A.’s better small theaters can serve bold new talent.” – Los Angeles Times
RAVE! “Every player scores a memorable impression, above all the luminous lead Diarra Kilpatrick, who can inhabit a simple soul yet express her intensely complicated inner torment … [Director Shirley Jo Finney] indisputably remains at the top of her game.” – Hollywood Reporter
RAVE! “A production that explodes in sounds, images, and extraordinary performances.” – Backstage
RAVE! “An astonishing accomplishment! Skilfully aided by director Shirley Jo Finney, the superb cast works poetry, myth, dance, chanting and music into the mix.” – Total Theater
RAVE! “Electrifying! … A unique piece full of dancing, singing, haunting story telling and enchanting characters … It is like nothing you have ever seen before and something that is utterly fascinating and highly entertaining.” – ALittleNightMusing
RAVE! GO! “Compelling! A visceral fable that rises up from the underbelly of America.” – LA Weekly
RAVE! “Perfection! Finney’s excellent directorial work … The casting is flawless.” – LA Beat
RAVE! “Unforgettable! An excellent cast!” – ArtsinLA
RAVE! “This is the show to see!” – CaribPress
RAVE! “A new, important, and original voice in American theatre … a talented cast … Especially moving … heart-wrenching” – BlogCritics
RAVE! “Diarra Kilpatrick is a breath of fresh air in her daring performance … Gilbert Glenn Brown nearly steals this show (at least as far as the women are concerned) with an explosive and arousing performance … terrific … hilarious … a steady cast anchored by theater veterans Iona Morris and Peggy A. Blow.” – Donloe’s Lowdown
Now Playing! (323) 663-1525 More
Rave Reviews! Critic’s Choice in the Los Angeles Times!
The Fountain Theatre and Deaf West Theatre have announced a four-week extension of Cyrano, a signed/spoken adaptation of “Cyrano de Bergerac” that has been re-set in modern-day Los Angeles. The Fountain/Deaf West co-production will continue Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm through July 8.
Written by Fountain Theatre co-artistic director Stephen Sachs (Bakersfield Mist) and directed by Simon Levy, Cyrano stars Deaf West actor Troy Kostsur in the title role as a brilliant deaf poet hopelessly in love with Roxy, a beautiful hearing woman. But Roxy doesn’t understand sign language and instead loves Chris, his hearing brother. Can Cyrano express his love to Roxy with his hands? Or must he teach Chris to woo her, to “speak his words” for him? American Sign Language (ASL) becomes the language of love in this new spin on a classic love story.
Over a dozen reviewers have weighed in, earning Cyrano a score of “100% Sweet” on Bitter Lemons, the website that aggregates reviews of Los Angeles theater. “CRITIC’S CHOICE… inspired and inspiring! —Los Angeles Times; “CRITIC’S PICK…clever and deeply moving… bridges the gap between [deaf and hearing] worlds with poignancy and a huge dose of humor.” — Back Stage; “Skillful and impressive… terrific performances.” —LAist; “5 STARS… a poignant, inventive, riotously funny and marvelously satisfying masterpiece!”—Santa Monica Daily Press; “Nothing short of amazing… a dazzling accomplishment.” —Talkin’ Broadway; “A gem… fascinating on so many levels.” —Buzzine; “Superlative… an evening not to be missed.” —StageHappenings; “GO! [a] glorious swirl of words floating around the stage.” —LA Weekly; “An extraordinary production of a terrific play” —Latin Heat; “A sheer and exceptional pleasure.” —LifeInLA.
Cyrano continues through July 8 at The Fountain Theatre. For reservations and information, call 323 663-1525 or click here.
photos by Ed Kreiger