Tag Archives: Scott Tuomey

Fountain opens 2018 season with newly revised stage version of Chaim Potok’s ‘The Chosen’

THE CHOSEN 5

The cast of ‘The Chosen’ in rehearsal.

Friendship, faith and fatherhood. Jonathan ArkinAlan BlumenfeldDor Gvirtsman and Sam Mandel star in The Chosen, the award-winning stage adaptation by Aaron Posner and Chaim Potok of Potok’s beloved novel. Simon Levy directs for a January 20 opening at the Fountain Theatre, where performances continue through March 25. The Fountain celebrates the novel’s 50th anniversary (last April) with the West Coast premiere of Posner’s new, streamlined version.

Set in Williamsburg, Brooklyn against the backdrop of World War II, the revelation of the Holocaust and the desperate struggle of Zionism, The Chosen is a moving coming-of-age story about two observant Jewish boys who live only five blocks, yet seemingly worlds, apart. When Danny, son of an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic tzaddik, injures the more traditionally Orthodox Reuven during a baseball game between their rival yeshivas, their two universes collide and a unique friendship is born.

“This powerful story shows how essential it is to consider the views of those who are different from us,” says Levy. “It’s an antidote to the toxicity of our times. Potok beautifully depicts what it means to bridge chasms — between modernity and tradition, the secular and the sacred, Zionism and Hasidism, adolescence and adulthood, friendship and family, fathers and sons, the head and the heart, and the struggle to choose for ourselves, to fight for what we believe in and who we want to be.”

According to Posner, “Through the story of two remarkable boys and their remarkable fathers, Potok asks us to contemplate a world where we chose to fill our lives with greater meaning… and where complexity, understanding, compassion and reconciliation are among our highest values.”

In 1967, Potok burst upon the literary scene with The Chosen, his first novel, sometimes referred to as a “Jewish Catcher in the Rye.” A best-seller, it was nominated for the National Book Award and through the years has become a must-read both in and out of the classroom. In 1992, in celebration of its 25th anniversary, it was republished as a young reader’s classic. A film starring Rod Steiger was released in 1981, and a short-lived off-Broadway musical debuted in 1988. Before his death in 2002, Potok collaborated with Posner on the stage version, which debuted in 1999 at the Arden Theater in Philadelphia, where Posner was a co-founder and resident director. Now, nearly 20 years later, Posner has rewritten the script to create a new version, which premiered last month at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, CT.

In an interview with the Connecticut Jewish Ledger, Posner explained that he has made a number of changes to the script. “I think it’s now a more dynamic, more streamlined play,” he said. “I’m really very excited about this new version. I think it’s going to be stronger in every way. I love the old version, too but I’m hoping this is even better.”

The creative team for The Chosen includes scenic and props designer DeAnne Millais, lighting designer Donny Jackson, video designer Yee Eun Nam; composer and sound designer Peter Bayne, costume designer Michele Young, hair and makeup designer Linda Michaels and dialect coach Andrea CabanRabbi Jim  Kaufmanconsults. The production stage manager is Miranda Stewart; technical director is Scott Tuomey; associate producer is James Bennett; and Stephen Sachs and Deborah Lawlor produce for the Fountain Theatre.

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.

Get Tickets

High school freshman proves she can pound nails with the best of them

Ava Morgan

Ava Morgan

Ava Morgan may be slight of build — with smart eyes and a bright smile — but she’s a powerhouse at building sets. The enthusiastic high-schooler joined our stage carpentry team as part of a two-week summer internship program at the Fountain. 

Ava lives with her family in Los Angeles and is a freshman at Marlborough School in Hancock Park. She got interested in the technical backstage life of theatre — props, lights, set building — in 7th grade. For two years, she performed a variety of backstage jobs in plays at school. Marlborough Technical Director, Doug Lowry, was impressed and eager to encourage her growth and education.

“He asked me if I’d be interested in interning at a professional theater for a few weeks during the summer,” Ava explains. “When we talked about it more, he brought up the Fountain and we decided to give it a shot. It worked out great.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Lowry contacted Stephen Sachs at the Fountain Theatre and Ava was immediately put to work as an intern building sets for our upcoming West Coast Premiere of Tennessee Williams’ Baby Doll. As a stage carpenter, she was cutting lumber, building flats and platforms, and putting it all together with the rest of the professional team. Soon, she was also climbing ladders, striking and hanging lights. 

“I absolutely liked working at the Fountain,” she beams. “I am not sure exactly what I expected it to be, especially since this was my first time having a job of sorts outside of school. I liked working in areas that I have basic training in, but have not had the opportunity to focus on them at school. I think it actually was a good thing to do it in an unfamiliar setting with people I haven’t worked with before.”

Foremost was Scott Tuomey, the Fountain Technical Director for 26 years who has overseen every production since the theatre’s founding in 1990. He mentored Ava’s internship, guiding her through the techniques of professional stage craft. 

“I had a lot of one-on-one time with Scott,” says Ava. “Which allowed me to ask more questions than I would in a group setting and learn more about not only what to do and how to do it but why. I had a great time working with him.”

And, says Ava, it was a valuable educational experience. 

“I think one of the most important things I learned was how to communicate with coworkers who were older and more experienced than me, ” she admits. “I also learned much more about how to translate designs into sets and the various skills related to carpentry.”

Her brief internship now over, Ava is enjoying some summer vacation time with her family before returning to school. She is grateful for her time at the Fountain and sends “a huge thanks to everyone who made it happen.”

Will she come back to see her handiwork on Baby Doll when it opens at the Fountain?

“Definitely!” she beams. “I’m excited to see the final product.” 

A new year, a new play, a new seating configuration

FT stage in the round 2

Construction underway for in-the-round seating for ‘Dream Catcher’.

Director Cameron Watson wants Fountain audiences to walk into the theatre and immediately be surprised. To encounter the unexpected. For his mounting of the world premiere of Stephen Sachs’ Dream Catcher, patrons will be startled the moment they step through the lobby door: the seating has been changed to a dynamic in-the-round configuration.

DREAM CATCHER Prod Mtg 2

Cameron Watson

“This play is volatile and exciting,” says Watson. “The muscularity of it got my attention right away.”

Watson doesn’t want audiences to experience the kinetic energy of Dream Catcher in the conventional way. Instead of sitting in the dark and watching the play as an observer, audiences will surround the playing area on all sides and be inside the world of the play with the two characters.

Dream Catcher is set in an empty stretch of the barren Mojave Desert. The construction of a huge solar energy plant in the middle of the desert is threatened to come to a halt when the sudden discovery of long-buried Native American artifacts are found on the site. Changing the theatre seating to an in-the-round configuration opens up the space to help evoke a feeling of wide expanse. It also creates a sacred circle for the audience, a sense of ritual and ancient storytelling that is central to Mojave Native culture. Even the hoop shape of an actual dream catcher is circular, signifying unity.

“I felt like it needed to be a circular, almost tribal, space,” says Watson. “I felt like it is told in a ring. Communal. That we all need to be part of the experience and commune with the story. Inclusive. The circular space echoes the vastness and isolation of the wide open space and also the circular configuration of the solar field in the desert.”

Dream Catcher_seating_1-7-15

The new set is being created by award-winning and longtime Fountain designer Jeff McLaughlin. Changing the audience seating required extra effort for Fountain Technical Director Scott Tuomey and his crew.

This is not the first time the Fountain has experimented with altered seating. In 1993, The Seagull starring Salome Jens was performed in-the-round. Athol Fugard’s The Train Driver had a three-quarter setting in 2010, with the audience seated on three sides.

But this current in-the-round seating for Dream Catcher is unique and has an immediate impact on the total feeling of the space. It is kinetic, energetic and alive.

Which is exactly what Cameron Watson is wanting.

More Info/Get Tickets Now

 

PHOTOS: Production team gathers for world premiere of new play ‘Dream Catcher’

DREAM CATCHER Prod Mtg 1The production and design team for our upcoming world premiere of Dream Catcher met at the Fountain yesterday for its first meeting to discuss launching the exciting new play by Stephen Sachs. Solar power confronts spirit power in this riveting new drama about climate change, cultural change and the moral consequences of personal choice. Inspired by a true incident, Dream Catcher opens in January.

Thursday’s production meeting was led by producer Simon Levy. Playwright Sachs and director Cameron Watson shared their vision for the new play with set designer Jeffrey McLaughlin, lighting designer Luke Moyer, sound designer Peter Bayne, costume designer Terri Lewis, and props designer Terri Roberts. Also present were technical director Scott Tuomey, associate producer James Bennett and stage manager Emily Lehrer.

In Dream Catcher, Roy is the youngest member on a team of high-level engineers brought in to launch the most important project of his young career: the construction of a solar energy plant in the middle of the Mojave desert. But Roy suddenly finds himself thrust into the center of a crisis when the discovery of long-buried Native American artifacts threaten to bring the billion-dollar operation to a halt. The disaster gets deeply personal when the whistle-blower turns out to be Opal, the fiery and unpredictable young Mojave Indian woman with whom Roy has been having an affair.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Fountain Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs is the author and/or adaptor of thirteen plays, including such Fountain hits as Citizen: An American Lyric, Heart Song, Cyrano, Bakersfield Mist,  Miss Julie: Freedom Summer, Sweet Nothing in my Ear and Central Avenue.

Cameron Watson recently directed acclaimed productions of Picnic and Top Girls at The Antaeus Company, and Cock at Rogue Machine Theatre.

More Info 

 

3rd graders enjoy artistic expression on ‘Painted Rocks Day’ at Fountain Theatre

SAM_0563Students from our neighborhood Ramona Elementary School on Mariposa Street only had to walk around the corner to experience a unforgettable  day of creativity, fun and artistic expression at the Fountain Theatre. The kids joined Fountain staff for ‘Painted Rocks Day’, a community arts event inviting the students to visit the theatre, learn about Outsider Art and rock painting, then choose and paint their own smooth rocks to express their world view and inner selves.

The educational activity was a satellite event of the Fountain Theatre’s west coast premiere of Athol Fugard’s The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek, dramatizing the life and vision of South African artist Nuzain Mabuza who painted hundreds of rocks on a hillside in bright colors and patterns to create his visionary “flower garden” .

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Led by teacher Eric Arboleda, the twenty-four 3rd graders arrived Friday morning and were given tours of the Fountain Theatre by staff members. The group was shown the remarkable ‘Painted Rocks’ set on the main stage, complete with real dirt, plants and a vibrant collection of painted rocks and boulders. 

Fountain intern Lexi Lallatin lead the class in a lesson discussing examples of Outsider Art and how art can be created by ordinary found objects. Lexi shared the story of Nuzain Mabuza and encouraged the students to imagine how they might transform everyday objects in their daily lives into magical art pieces.

The group then moved outside to the Fountain parking lot where a long art table holding rocks, paints and brushes was waiting. The students excitedly dove in and went to work. Each chose their own rock and were told to paint it however they wished, with as many colors and patterns they imagined, to express who they were and their own inner vision.  

The results were extraordinary. Simple gray stones were transformed into vibrant talismen of color and bright patterns.   The students thoroughly enjoyed themselves. They painted, laughed and chatted excitedly as they worked for one hour. Donuts and juice were served.  

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The rocks painted by the students will remain on display in the lobby of the Fountain Theatre throughout the run of The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek to December 14th. At that time, the rocks will then be given to the students to take home.   

We wish to thank American Builders Supply in Pacoima for donating the rocks for the students to paint, and Stan’s Doughnuts for the snacks. A shout-out to Fountain staff members Lexi Lallatin, James Bennett, Scott Tuomey, and Barbara Goodhill for helping to make the event a joyous success.   

‘Painted Rocks Day’ with Ramona Elementary School was created through Theatre As a Learning Tool, the Fountain Theatre’s educational outreach program dedicated to making art accessible to students and young people in Los Angeles.      

The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek is now playing and runs to December 14th. More Info/Get Tickets 

Fountain Theatre Celebrates 25 Years of Intimate Excellence

Co-Founders and Co-Artistic Directors Stephen Sachs and Deborah Lawlor

Co-Founders and Co-Artistic Directors Stephen Sachs and Deborah Lawlor

Fountain Theatre staff gathered yesterday at Hollywood’s Off Vine restaurant to celebrate the 25th birthday of the organization. The Fountain Theatre was founded on April 1st, 1990, when Stephen Sachs and Deborah Lawlor joined forces to assume ownership of a charming Spanish-style theatre building on Fountain Avenue in East Hollywood that had been a rental house for more than forty years. Sachs and Lawlor had other plans.

“Deborah and I wanted to create an artistic home where theatre and dance artists could develop new work in a safe, supportive and nurturing environment,” says Sachs. “We were looking for the right venue. It had to be special, warm, magical. And feel like home.”

“When I first walked into the Fountain and stood on the stage, I knew,” adds Lawlor.  “The relationship of the  audience to the stage, the gentle curve of the seating on three sides. The way the audience seating embraced the stage.  It felt so intimate and inviting.”  

They acquired the building. The upstairs office rooms were empty. No furniture. No desks. No chairs. No phones. Laughs Lawlor, “We sat on the floor in the empty office and looked at each other and said, ‘Now what?'”       

They opened the doors to the new Fountain Theatre on April Fool’s Day, “the perfect day to launch a new theatre company.”

Happy Birthday, Fountain Theatre!

Happy Birthday, Fountain Theatre!

Over the next quarter of a century that followed, the Fountain Theatre has risen to become one of the most highly respected and well-honored theaters in Los Angeles. The Fountain has engaged thousands of artists and served hundreds of thousands of audience members. It has created new plays that have been performed in regional theaters across the nation, Off-Broadway, London’s West End, the Edinburgh Festival, translated into other languages and produced around the world, and made into a movie for television. It has produced the premieres of new plays by nationally acclaimed playwrights and was instrumental in launching and hosting the creation of Deaf West Theatre. Over 25 years, the Fountain has also blossomed into becoming the foremost presenter of flamenco in Los Angeles, producing over 650 concerts in its intimate venue and eight summer seasons at the 1200-seat outdoor Ford Theatre . And it holds the distinction of being honored with more nominations and winning more Ovation awards than any other intimate theatre in Los Angeles, winning the preeminent Best Season Award twice in six years.

The Fountain staff celebrates 25 years.

The Fountain staff celebrates 25 years.

Celebrating at the Fountain’s birthday lunch on the outdoor patio at Off Vine were Co-Founders/Co-Artistic Directors Stephen Sachs and Deborah Lawlor, Producing Director Simon Levy, Technical Director Scott Tuomey, Associate Producer James Bennett, Director of Development Barbara Goodhill, book keeper Licia Jaccard, Board member Dorothy Wolpert and actress Jacqueline Schultz.

For Sachs and Lawlor, acknowledging the long list of achievements over the Fountain’s 25-year history is deeply gratifying.

“Most important, we are a creative home. We are the artistic home to a large and ever-growing family of artists and audience members who care deeply about the sacred and transcendent experience of sharing live theatre in an intimate relationship with each other. Human beings gathering together in a space, bringing stories to life that illuminate what it means to be a human being. This is what we do. It has been our honor and privilege to serve Los Angeles these past 25 years.”

Onward and Upward for 25 more! 

Happy Holidays from the Fountain Theatre

(back row) Simon Levy, Stephen Sachs, Scott Tuomey (front row) Deborah Lawlor, james Bennett, Barbara Goodhill.

(back row) Simon Levy, Stephen Sachs, Scott Tuomey, (front row) Deborah Lawlor, James Bennett, Barbara Goodhill.

                                  Peace, Love and Happy Holidays                                      From our Fountain Family to Yours.

 What’s up at the Fountain? FountainTheatre.com

Lipstick, S’mores and Being Part of a Family

Gabby BROTHERS SIZE Opening Night

Summer Internship Ends But a Fountain Home Remains

by Gabby Lamm

How do I possibly I write a blog post that encapsulates all that I’ve learned at The Fountain this summer?  Without it being 100 pages and then some.

I could make a list of all the technical skills I’ve learned from the tutelage of Stephen, Simon, Barbara, James, Scott, and Deb over the past 10 weeks.  Among many other things:  I now know the ins and outs of soliciting: the necessity of following up, the intricate art of phone calls, messages, and emails, and all oh-so-crucial thank you note. I have practiced reading and evaluating plays, I have attended performances on behalf of the theatre, and I even helped to plan and execute The Fountain’s first ever Student Night. I have fought with my fair share of printers, and actually won some of those battles. These are all things that I can (and most assuredly will) list on my resume.

Gabby, Barbara Goodhill & Alice Kors

Gabby, Barbara Goodhill & Alice Kors

But that will not be my answer when I’m asked what I learned during my summer internship at The Fountain Theatre.

What will my answer be? Thanks for asking!

I learned how to work as part of a team. I learned about determination, about not giving up even when everything indicates that I won’t succeed. I learned the value of optimism and positivity when dreaming up a project. I learned how important it is to work through anxiety and self-doubt, and the amazing things that will then follow after  putting those feelings aside and trusting that I can rely on my team if something goes wrong. I learned some really great jokes.

Best of all, I am now able to call a group of amazing and inspirational people my family.

Thank you to Stephen, Simon, and Deb for allowing me to go beyond what was outlined in my job description to experience the wide variety of responsibilities involved in working a theatre.

Alice, Gabby, William, Barbara & Scott

                                   Alice, Gabby, William, Barbara & Scott

Thank you to Barbara for the incredible lessons you taught me, not only regarding fundraising and event planning, but also general life skills that have already begun to have a tremendous impact on my life outside of work.

Thank you to James for putting up with my near constant questions, whether about the box office and our patrons or the devil machines (also called printers), and for listening to my awful jokes and pretending they were funny.

Thank you to Scott for making me laugh at jokes even more terrible than my own, for showing and explaining the technical aspects of theatre not involved in my desk job, and for fixing my necklace that one time and my glasses that other time.

Thank you to William for bringing a smile and a positive presence every time you came to the office.

Gabby & Misty check their lipstick at 'Forever Flamenco'

Gabby & Misty check their lipstick at ‘Forever Flamenco’

Thank you to Licia for enduring front row seats to the intern desks every time you were in the office.

Thank you to Terri for letting me watch the show from the booth (which is most certainly not built for 3 people, and making it work anyway).

Thank you to Misty for your truly invaluable help and support during Student Night and Forever Flamenco! at the Ford, and for letting me use your lipstick.

Gabby Lamm & Alice Kors

Gabby Lamm & Alice Kors

And, last but certainly not least, a huge thank you to Alice, my partner in crime and lunchtime, for working with me day in and day out; for encouraging me when I doubted myself; for providing endless entertainment, jokes, and snapchat opportunities; for modeling what it looks like to be passionate about your dreams and how to believe in a goal until you make it happen. Oh, and also for that s’mores sandwich on our last day of work. Yum.

I am very sad to have to leave my post at The Fountain, but I know that I will be back for every show and event that happens when I am in town. I am proud to call myself a permanent member part of the Fountain Family.

Our thanks to the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and County Board of Supervisors for their support of the Summer Arts Internship program.  

‘A Fountain of Work’ at the Acclaimed and Award-Winning Fountain Theatre

FT angel building JT photoby Sylvie Drake

When Stephen Sachs was a student at Agoura High, he won a national high school writing award and was offered several writing scholarships. He turned them all down. Why? “I wanted to be an actor,” he answered a bit sheepishly.

He became one in the 1980s, but it’s the old story. As reality set in, he began to direct, write plays and help run theatre companies. He was a manager at Ensemble Studio Theatre, worked behind the scenes at Stages in Hollywood, and with Joan Stein and Suzie Dietz at the Canon Theatre in Beverly Hills. Until he got a phone call “out of the blue” from Deborah Lawlor, another independent theatre producer.

image

Deborah Lawlor and Stephen Sachs

Lawlor had met Sachs at Stages when she rented space there, and was impressed by him. While recuperating from a serious auto accident in New York, she decided that, if she survived, she would do what she’d always wanted: have her own theatre. She called Sachs and asked him to run it with her. That was 1990. You might say that the rest is history, but not so fast…

“I was just starting to develop as a playwright and director,” Sachs said. “Deborah had a dance background. She was part of the avant-garde dance scene in New York in the 1960s and 70s. The Judson Dance Theater, Café Cino, the whole thing. Her idea was to create an artistic home for theatre and dance artists.”

As a wise friend once told me, we tend to enter our lives through the back door. Looking around for a suitable space, Lawlor and Sachs were shown a funky building at 5060 Fountain Avenue in Hollywood and fell in love with it. They named it the Fountain for the street it sat on, but also, Lawlor said, “I liked the idea of a fountain of work…”

“We opened our doors on April Fool’s Day 1990—the perfect day to start a theatre company,” said Sachs, “and we’ve been there ever since. Los Angeles being such a diverse city, we wanted to do work that would give voice to a variety of communities.”

Which is how the theatre’s association with Flamenco dance began.

Flamenco dancer Maria Bermudez

Flamenco dancer Maria Bermudez

“Through Deborah,” specified Sachs. “Shortly after we opened she asked, ‘Have you ever seen a Flamenco concert?’ I said no and she said, ‘Come with me.’ We got in the car, drove up to Santa Barbara and she introduced me to Roberto Amaral, a well respected Flamenco teacher and choreographer. I saw my first Flamenco concert and was blown away. ‘We’re going to do that at The Fountain,’ Deborah said. And now we’re the foremost regular presenters of Flamenco in Los Angeles.

“When we started it was just Deborah, me and the building. We plugged in a couple of phones, drove down Western Avenue and bought a couple of desks. We had to assemble them ourselves. We made our own programs on a manual typewriter. It was all very small, very modest.”

In many ways, it still is. “But from the beginning,” added Sachs, “we felt we were on to something. We did The Golden Gate, a play I had adapted from a charming novel by Vikram Seth about yuppies, gays and straights living in San Francisco—romantic and fun, beautifully written, and entirely in verse. It was like 30-somethings meet Shakespeare. We did it up in San Francisco, so right out of the gate, our work was being noticed. It’s just been a slow kind of gentle growth ever since.”

Key words: Slow. Gentle. Growth. Add: Challenging.

While next year will mark their 25th year in business at the same address in a virtually unchanged environment, and they have a lot to show artistically for the past quarter century, big profit is not one of them. Lawlor has delivered financial support when needed, while Sachs has delivered a stream of noteworthy plays, becoming that unusual creature: a playwright and director with his own sandbox. Together, they’ve built a loyal audience and done work that has brought them recognition and has traveled pretty far afield.

Sachs has had 11 of his plays produced during that time, many of them at the Fountain, quite a few elsewhere—from The Pasadena Playhouse to Toronto, from Chicago’s Victory Gardens to Vancouver. A quick Google search offers an impressive list of directing and playwriting credits.

Rochelle (Pamela Dunlap) finds release through dance in 'Heart Song'.

Rochelle (Pamela Dunlap) finds release through dance in ‘Heart Song’.

Currently, his play Heart Song, which recently premiered at the Fountain and is about the transformation of a middle-aged Jewish woman “separated from her tribe and very much alone,” is filling up houses at Florida Rep. His 2012 two-hander, Bakersfield Mist, about the encounter of a celebrated art dealer with a woman in a Bakersfield trailer convinced she owns a major work of art, opens in June at The Duchess Theatre in London’s West End. It features Kathleen Turner and Ian McDiarmid.

“There’s been something special about this play from the start,” said Sachs. “I directed the world premiere at the Fountain and was on the 101 freeway driving to my first production meeting, when I had a call from my agent telling me the script had been optioned for New York. I had to pull over!”

Bakersfield Mist received three other productions around the country as part of the National New Play Network (NNPN), an organization of theaters of which The Fountain is a member. It was founded in 1998 with the intent of giving new plays more than one production.

“They do this thing called ‘rolling world premieres,’ ” Sachs explained, “guaranteeing at least three productions of a new play. Sweet Nothing In My Ear, another play of mine that premiered at the Fountain, went around the country through NNPN and then was made into a Hallmark movie with Marlee Matlin and Jeff Daniels. A new version of Strinberg’s Miss Julie that I wrote was produced that way as well. We want to continue doing more of that.”

Bakersfield Mist had productions at Wellfleet Harbor Theatre in Cape Cod, New Rep in Boston, the New Jersey Rep and was optioned by Sonia Friedman, a major New York and London producer. “They’d never seen a production of it,” said Sachs. “They read that script sent by my agent and optioned it for London and New York. Now they control the U.S. rights.”

Ian McDiarmid and Kathleen Turner in the London production of "Bakersfield Mist"

Ian McDiarmid and Kathleen Turner in the London production of “Bakersfield Mist”

In 2004, the Fountain drew the attention of no less a playwright than South Africa’s Athol Fugard, who chose the tiny Fountain for the world premiere of an exquisite and very personal two-character play: Exits and Entrances. It was followed by the U.S. premiere of Fugard’s The Blue Iris, The Train Driver, Victory and the West coast premiere of Coming Home.

When asked how many productions the Fountain puts on per year, Sachs answered: “Trick question. We’ll announce four, but actually do two or three. Our productions tend to extend and run for a while which is a nice problem to have. So we announce four and see how it goes.”

Productions are no longer pegged to specific dates, but to seasons — Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter — allowing for greater flexibility. Sachs and Lawlor threw out the old model of rigid slots when they found themselves closing hits because they had committed to a new show on a given date. With just 80 seats to sell, they had to think more creatively. “We changed everyone to a flexible pass and we’ve never looked back. This allows us to keep a hit going. It also allows our subscribers the flexibility to come at their convenience—a good thing when decisions today tend to be so last-minute.”

So is the small physical plant a plus or a minus?

“It’s a question we’ve been wrestling with for years,” Sachs acknowledged, “a tug between ambition and what is right for the company. We even explored Hollywood quite a bit, looking to find maybe a second space or larger building, thinking, boy, how much bigger we could be. Yet talking with Fugard about this, he said, ‘Don’t. Don’t do it.’ Maybe he’s right…”

"The Train Driver" by Athol Fugard

“The Train Driver” by Athol Fugard

So here’s the dilemma: Awards and recognition are certainly not lacking, but breaking even—let alone making money—is a perennial struggle. The staff has ballooned to six people: Lawlor and Sachs, producing director Simon Levy, tech director Scott Tuomey, associate producer James Bennett and head of subscriptions Diana Gibson. The budget has “a little more than doubled” since they opened their doors. It does not easily enable profit.

“There are times when I wish we had more seats, a bigger stage,” said Sachs, “but there are plenty of examples out there of smaller theatres that have gone on to larger buildings and have regretted it or have lost something in the move; suddenly the focus becomes the real estate and maintaining the overhead.

“I don’t ever want to lose the magic of this intimate space. It makes for such a visceral experience. But after almost 25 years, there’s also a question of growth. We can’t become stagnant or complacent and we do want to continue building forward. You don’t want to sell your soul and you don’t want to lose what makes this theatre special.”

Lawlor concurred. She’s writing a play for which she’s received a grant and acknowledged that “our losses have decreased; we may even show a tiny profit this year.”

The future?

“Expanding fund-raising; exploring the possibility of adding 19 seats to our existing space. Not easy,” said Sachs, “but we can do that under the 99-seat Equity Waiver and 19 seats could make a difference. Other than that, we’re looking to expand our exposure across the country and having more of our work done at other theatres.”

So the funky Fountain remains the-little-theatre-that-could, on its funky street with its broken sidewalk, its postage-stamp parking lot, and widely enjoyed by many people who apparently have found out that they really, really like what it has to offer.

 

SLIDESHOW: Production Design Meeting for Our Upcoming LA Premiere of ‘The Brothers Size’

 

Director Shirley Jo Finney shares her vision for 'The Brothers Size'.

Director Shirley Jo Finney shares her vision for ‘The Brothers Size’.

The design and production team for our upcoming Los Angeles Premiere of The Brothers Size by Tarell Alvin McCraney gathered this week to discuss the many design elements needed for the production. It’s going to be a beautiful and powerful production with a fluid, quick-moving mixture of set, lights, music, movement and sound supporting three talented actors. 

Director Shirley Jo Finney spoke to the designers and shared her vision for the play. Producers Simon Levy and Deborah Lawlor led the meeting with Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs, Associate Producer James Bennett and Technical Director Scott Tuomey. Adding their artistic contributions were set designer Hana S. Kim (via speaker phone!), lighting designer Pablo Santiago, costume designer Naila Aladdin-Sanders, choreographer Ameenah Kaplan, composer/sound designer Peter Bayne, music director Brenda Lee Eager, and production stage manager Terri Roberts

Award-winning director Shirley Jo Finney returns to direct The Brothers Size, the second play in McCraney’s Trilogy, following our acclaimed and award-winning In the Red and Brown WaterThe Brothers Size is a hot-blooded, music-filled drama from one of the country’s most exciting new voices. After a homecoming in the bayous of Louisiana, the Size brothers, Ogun and Oshoosi, try to start fresh. This haunting, funny, and heartbreaking tour de force probes sexuality, coming of age, and the bonds of family as the brothers struggle to discover identity and to unearth a new sense of freedom.

The Los Angeles Premiere at the Fountain theatre stars Gilbert Glenn Brown, Matthew Hancock  and Theo Perkins. 

Enjoy These Snapshots

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

More Info