Acclaimed actress Kathleen Chalfant will lead the cast for the Fountain Theatre’s live-stream reading of France-Luce Benson‘s docudrama on immigration, Detained, on Wednesday, May 20th. The Tony nominated and Obie winning actress’ distinguished stage career, both on Broadway and Off-Broadway, includes Tony Kushner’s Angels in America: Millennium Approaches and Margaret Edson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Wit.
Actors joining Chalfant are Victor Anthony, France-Luce Benson, Rolando Chusan, Liza Fernandez, Aleisha Force, Dion Graham, Matt Kirkwood, Sofia Riba, Ariel Sandino, Felix A. Solis, Aldo Uribe, Karl O’Brien Williams.
Based on interviews with individuals who are facing deportation, as well as the judges, lawyers, and activists who are involved in these cases, Detained is a new documentary theater piece about immigration, deportation, and detention in the United States.
“France-Luce has incorporated the voices of all the stakeholders from immigrants to ICE officers and everyone in between, ” says Chalfant, who has been involved in the new play’s development. “The play provides a very important human perspective so that we see that the current system is neither necessary nor inevitable and is certainly not the way it has always been done.”
“The coronavirus crisis makes this already appalling system even crueler and now even murderous,’ she adds.
The live-stream reading of Detained on Wednesday, May 20, will air live at 5pm PST/8pm EST on the Fountain Theatre’s Facebook page, YouTube Channel and on Zoom.
We’ve been told what it is, what it isn’t. What’s in it, what’s not. But how many have actually read it for themselves? Even some members of Congress haven’t read it.
Robert Mueller told us the report speaks for itself. But who can give voice to the report? Our Los Angeles theatre community, that’s who.
The Fountain Theatre will host a single, 15-hour Mueller Report Read-A-Thon, offering citizens of Los Angeles the opportunity to hear the Mueller Report read aloud, on Thursday, July 18 from 9 a.m. to midnight.
On Tuesday, it was announced that former special counsel Robert Mueller will testify before Congress on July 17, the day before the Fountain Read-A-Thon.
Earlier this month, a reading was hosted by NY theater companies, and a marathon reading is scheduled for July at the Arena Stage in Washington D.C. This week, an all-star celebrity reading of a new play, adapted from the Mueller Report by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan, was streamed live on social media.
“The Fountain has a long history of using theater as a trigger for political and social action,” says Fountain Theatre co-artistic director Stephen Sachs. “My larger purpose for the Read-a-thon is not to disseminate details about the report — although that is important. The greater goal is to give the public and our Los Angeles theatre community the opportunity to engage, to take some kind of expressive action. I see it as similar to a protest march. But all of us are marching from our stages.”
Readers at the Fountain will include over 90 readers representing the diversity of Los Angeles, including actors, artistic leaders, community leaders and business people. Confirmed to read so far: Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell; actors Alfred Molina, Jeff Perry, Richard Schiff, Rob Nagle, Frances Fisher, Harry Groener, Karen Kondazian, Bill Brochtrup and Jenny O’Hara; artistic directors Daniel Henning (Blank Theatre) and John Flynn (Rogue Machine); playwright Justin Tanner; and theater journalist Steven Leigh Morris. A complete list of readers is available at www.fountaintheatre.com/event/mueller, where anyone interested in participating can also sign up for a 10-minute reading slot. The Fountain Theatre Read-A-Thon will be streamed live on the Fountain’s Facebook and Twitter pages. The Fountain Theatre Café will be open throughout the event.
Los Angeles Theatres supporting the Read-A-Thon include: 24th Street Theatre, Blank Theatre Company, Boston Court Pasadena, Celebration Theatre, Company of Angels, Cornerstone Theater Company, Echo Theatre Company, Hero Theatre Company, The Inkwell Theatre, Latino Theatre Company, The Los Angeles LGBT Center, Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble, The Matrix Theatre Company, Moving Arts, New American Theatre, Open Fist, Playwrights Arena, Road Theatre Company, Rogue Machine, Skylight Theatre, Stacie Chaiken and What’s the Story?, The Victory Theatre Center, Vs. Theatre Company, Whitefire Theatre, Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum
The Odyssey Theatre Ensemble in West L.A. will hold a separate marathon reading, breaking it up into two 8-hour sessions on Monday, July 22 and Tuesday, July 23, each from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.
According to Odyssey Theatre artistic director Ron Sossi, “Political projects like Chicago Conspiracy Trial, Tracers, McCarthy and Rapmaster Ronnie have always been a large part of the Odyssey’s 50-year history. Sadly politically-oriented work has been missing from American stages of late. This live reading of the Mueller Report at two different L.A. theaters is a refreshing and exciting reminder of the heady days of ‘60s/’70s activism, and, hopefully, a sign that the local theater scene is becoming re-engaged.”
The Odyssey event, curated by Not Man Apart artistic director John Farmanesh-Bocca, will include 20-minute readings by long-standing company members, friends and celebrities including Councilmember Paul Koretz; film and stage actors Alfred Molina, Frances Fisher, Brenda Strong, Norbert Weisser, Michael Nouri, Ray Abruzzo, Darrell Larson and Gregg Henry; Richard Montoya of Culture Clash; spoken word artist Steve Connell; Cornerstone Theater Company members Shishirand Bahni Kurup; Padua Playwrights founding artistic director Murray Mednick; plus many more. A complete list of readers will be available at www.odysseytheatre.com.
Admission to both Read-A-thons is free and open to the public. Audience members may come and go throughout each event.
“Ms. Smith Goes to Washington” at Los Angeles City Hall
by Christine Deitner
On Thursday, January 24th a lucky group of citizens in Los Angeles was treated to a unique experience–The Fountain Theatre’s reading of a gender-switched adaptation of Sidney Buchman’s screenplay, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.The Fountain’s Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs adapted the work that was hosted by Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell.An impressively talented ensemble of tv, film, and theatre veterans gathered in the John Ferraro Council Chamber in Los Angeles City Hall and though the original work is 79 years old the gender switch makes it feel like yesterday’s tweetstorm or this morning’s news.
Sponsored, in part, by the Feminist Majority Foundation and in association with the League of Women Voters, the event’s cast included Joshua Malina, Jeff Perry, Bellamy Young, Sam Waterston, Alan Blumenfeld, Gilbert Glenn Brown, Leith Burke, Tim Cummings, Cameron Dye, Spencer Garrett, Chet Grissom, Morlan Higgins, Aurelia Myers, Jenny O’Hara, Felix Solis, Jack Stehlin, Mark Taylor, and Sal Viscuso.
Councilmember O’Farrell introduced Mr. Sachs with a moving speech about the importance of the arts in society.
“Politics falls short of completely illuminating the complexity of issues,” he stated, “this is where the arts come in.”
In 2017, Mr. O’Farrell hosted the Fountain’s reading of All The Presidents Men and he noted that he hopes this will become an annual event.Reflecting on the record number of women who now hold public office, O’Farrell also spoke about the role that local artists play as public servants, illuminating issues in unique ways.
In Sachs’ version, an idealistic, newly elected female senator finds herself fighting corruption in male-dominated Washington. Bellamy Young’s take on the movingly patriotic Jennifer Smith [originally Jefferson played by James Stewart] is endearing and as successful as a figure of naive nobility as Mr. Stewart was in the film.It doesn’t seem like Mr. Sachs had to change very much beyond references to gender [Girl Rangers here instead of Boy Rangers] and one reference to “fake news” that worked very well in context, but boy does Jennifer Smith’s predicament feel familiar.
It’s Governor Hopper’s daughter [it was a son in the film] who encourages her father to choose Jennifer with the line “It’s 1939, not the dark ages, pop.” and a list of women who have held office before.It shouldn’t have been surprising to hear it but we can thank Mr. Sachs for educating us about these women that included Senators Rebecca Latimer Felton  and Hattie Caraway .Sam Waterston has the role of one of two villains, Senator Joseph Paine; a man who knew Jennifer’s father yet openly wonders whether they can “control a woman” in Congress. The other is Jim Taylor, a nefarious businessman/mob figure played by Jeff Perry.
Fans of the film will know that Smith speaks fondly of his father a number of times, recalling that he often said, “Lost causes are the only ones worth fighting for.”As Jennifer learns that a swath of land in her state is going to be turned into a useless dam that is only an avenue for graft, she becomes determined to fight for that land where she was hoping to create a girls camp for young women across the nation.Joshua Malina is her charmingly cynical assistant Chester Saunders [Jean Arthur in the film] who begrudgingly assists her in writing a bill for that girl’s camp.As they work together, Jennifer’s enthusiasm for the bill starts to wear down Saunders’ certainty it will fail and when she becomes aware of the relief bill that includes the dam, she decides to filibuster with his help.
Paine and his pro-dam cohorts do all they can to attack Jennifer’s character as they angrily state any blocking of the relief bill will lead to starving the people.Paine likens her attempt to hold the floor to holding the people hostage.There was an audible gasp in the audience followed by a few laughs for this reading took place near the end of Trump’s wall-inspired government shutdown.All of the pain that shutdown was inflicting on government workers was present in the room at that moment.
Jennifer stands firm in her convictions, even when Paine reads telegrams purportedly from her home state asking her to stop. She reads the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence and goes on till her voice is hoarse and even Paine can’t take her suffering anymore.He breaks down and admits everything – and when Waterston embodied that moment, he tore the roof off the place, it was awe-inspiring.Jennifer and Saunders have one last moment of celebration before the ends that felt a little rushed but that might have been due to the fact that the TVs behind the cast popped on.
In lieu of credits, images of every woman who has held a seat in Congress appeared in succession on the screens. Members of the audience stood to applaud them, with more standing when California’s own Nancy Pelosi and Diane Feinstein appeared.But it wasn’t till the video closed on a split screen image featuring Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren that the whole house got to their feet shouting.It was a memorable, moving moment that reminded this reviewer of all the things that can be good and honorable and right in this country.It also seemed like a hell of an idea for a presidential ticket in 2020 but that just shows how easy it was to get swept up in Jennifer Smith’s patriotic fervor.Ms. Smith may seem naive and inexperienced, but that character’s faith in what is good in the country is honorable and constant – and those are traits we could all stand to develop in our own lives today.
Saturday night’s exhilarating reading of All the President’s Men at Los Angeles City Hall was an historic event. Not only was it a powerful statement advocating Freedom of the Press and honoring American journalism, it demonstrated a watershed moment in our city’s engagement with local arts organizations. Never has the City of Los Angeles handed over its Council Chamber to a theatre company and partnered with it in this way. We applaud Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell and his staff for making it possible.
The Fountain Theatre believes that events like All the President’s Men, where art and politics intersect to enhance our civic discourse, are essential to an informed society. We believe a small theatre can do big things. As Charles McNulty stated in his feature story on our event in the Los Angeles Times, “it is heartening to see an intimate theater like the Fountain advocating for what is in our collective interest as a nation.”
Jeff Perry and Joe Morton, co-stars on ABC-TV’s hit series Scandal, took on the roles of Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee and anonymous source “Deep Throat,” joining alumni of The West WingBradley Whitford as Bob Woodward and Joshua Malina as Carl Bernstein; Richard Schiff as Post local news editor Harry Rosenfeld; and Ed Begley, Jr. as managing editor Howard Simons. The cast also featured Sam Anderson, Leith Burke, Seamus Dever, James Dumont, Arianna Ortiz, Spencer Garrett, Deidrie Henry, Morlan Higgins, Anna Khaja, Karen Kondazian, Rob Nagle, Virginia Newcomb, Larry Poindexter and Andrew Robinson. The reading was directed by Stephen Sachs, with sound design by Peter Bayne.
The reading supported, in part, the Society of Professional Journalists, the nation’s oldest organization representing American journalists, founded to protect journalism and dedicated to the continuation of a free press. We were honored to be joined by the Los Angeles Press Club, which supports, promotes, and defends quality journalism in Southern California with the belief that a free press is crucial to a free society. And The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, defending the fundamental rights of each citizen as outlined in the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
“We have a commander-in-chief who does not respect or even understand the freedoms embedded in our Constitution or its First Amendment,” said Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who hosted the reading in the John Ferraro Council Camber. “The Trump administration’s war on the First Amendment includes repeated degradations of the role of media in our society and repeated invocations of ‘fake news’ when the absolute truth does not suit him, blacklisting press on occasion, including, and not ironically, The Washington Post, [and] open discrimination and intolerance under the guise of religious freedom.”
“In Los Angeles, we hold these values dear,” O’Farrell continued. “Donald Trump and his administration do not represent our values. The state of California and the city of Los Angeles, we are leading the resistance. All of us gathered here tonight, we are part and parcel of that resistance.”
“I am so proud of our city,” stated Stephen Sachs in his remarks before the reading. “What other major city in the country would hand over City Hall to its artists? Would have its Councilmembers allowing artists to literally sit in their seats for one night to express an urgent fundamental truth about our country through their art?”
“To every news man and news woman in this room,” Sachs continued. “To every reporter, every elected official, every artist, every citizen – we offer this reminder of hope. The truth will set us free.”
“Nothing’s riding on this except the First Amendment of the Constitution, freedom of the press, and maybe the future of the country.” — Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, as portrayed by Jason Robards in ‘All The President’s Men’
Bradley Whitford (The Post, Get Out, The West Wing), Joshua Malina (Scandal, The West Wing), Richard Schiff (The Good Doctor, The West Wing) and Ed Begley, Jr. (Future Man, St. Elsewhere, The West Wing) will head the cast of a special, one-night only reading of William Goldman’s screenplay for All The President’s Men, presented by the award-winning Fountain Theatre in partnership with the City of Los Angeles and with exclusive permission from Warner Bros Entertainment and Simon & Schuster. The free event will be hosted by Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrelland will take place in the John Ferraro Council Chamber of Los Angeles City Hall on Saturday, January 27 at 7:30 p.m. A catered reception will follow in the City Hall Rotunda.
Based on the book by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the 1976 film All The President’s Men tells the story of their Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation of the Watergate scandal, which brought down the presidency of Richard M. Nixon.
“This high-profile reading will be a statement asserting the First Amendment, advocating freedom of the press and honoring the tenacity of American journalism in a free society,” says Fountain Theatre co-artistic director Stephen Sachs, who will direct the reading. “As the current administration is under investigation, the echo of Watergate rings loud and clear. Reporters from The New York Times and Washington Post have been heroes, warriors for our democracy, as they were forty-five years ago.”
According to Councilmember O’Farrell, “All the President’s Men is a reminder of the parallels between Richard Nixon and the corruption that brought his presidency to an end and the current state of corruption overshadowing the Donald Trump administration. I want to thank the Fountain Theatre for producing this live reading, which underscores the importance of art in its many forms that can illuminate the conditions that affect us as a nation and as a society.”
Adds Sachs “We are profoundly grateful to Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell’s office and the City of Los Angeles for taking the extraordinary and unprecedented action of hosting the reading at Los Angeles City Hall, in the City Council Chamber, as a sign of solidarity. I am very proud of our city.”
The event is co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Press Club, which exists to support, promote, and defend quality journalism in Southern California with the belief that a free press is crucial to a free society. Although admission to the reading is free of charge, any voluntary donations will support, in part, the Society of Professional Journalists, the nation’s oldest organization representing American journalists, founded to improve and protect journalism and dedicated to the perpetuation of a free press.
The Fountain Theatre is one of the most successful intimate theaters in Los Angeles, providing a creative home for multi-ethnic theater and dance artists. The Fountain has won over 225 awards, and Fountain projects have been seen across the U.S. and internationally. Recent highlights include being honored for its acclaimed 25th Anniversary Season in 2015 by Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Los Angeles City Council; the inclusion of the Fountain’s Citizen: An American Lyric in Center Theatre Group’s Block Party at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. The Fountain’s most recent production, the world premiere of Building the Wall by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan, ran for five months and was named “L.A. hottest ticket” by the Los Angeles Times.
All The President’s Men takes place on Saturday, Jan. 27 at 7:30 p.m. in the John Ferraro Council Chamber, Room 340 of Los Angeles City Hall, 200 N Spring St., Los Angeles, CA90012. Admission is free. Seating is extremely limited. Please go to www.FountainFreePress.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire. No walk-ups will be permitted.
The Fountain Theatre is hosting a free reading of the powerful new play, We Will Not Be Silent, on Thursday, July 20 at 7pm. Written by David Meyers and directed by Cameron Watson, the cast for the reading features Steven Culp, Jim French and Elizabeth Lanier. Recently presented at the Contemporary American Theatre Festival, BroadwayWorld applauded the play as “gripping” and DC Theatre Scene hailed it as “superb.”
The true story of Sophie Scholl, a German college student who led the only act of public resistance to the Nazis during World War II, David Meyers’ play examines the moral strength and clarity that led a group of students to risk their lives for a righteous, but hopeless, cause.
The Fountain offers the free staged reading as an adjunct to its currently running production of Building the Wall.
Free to the public. Reservations necessary. (323) 663-1525 or click here.