Tag Archives: Shon LeBlanc

World premiere ‘Human Interest Story’ explores homelessness and truth in journalism

Andy Jane Doe blue

Rob Nagle and Tanya Alexander in “Human Interest Story.”

“The line between where you are now and sleeping in your car is much thinner than you think.” The Fountain Theatre presents the world premiere of a timely new play, written and directed by Stephen Sachs (Arrival & Departure, Citizen: An American Lyric, Bakersfield Mist), about homelessness, celebrity worship and the assault on American journalism. Human Interest Story opens at the Fountain on Feb. 15, where performances continue through April 5.

Set in the fast-moving world of new media, Human Interest Story chronicles the journey of newspaper columnist Andy Kramer, played by award-winning actor Rob Nagle (recent credits include Apple Season at Moving Arts and The Judas Kiss at Boston Court). Suddenly laid off when a corporate takeover downsizes his paper — a print publication struggling for readers in changing times — Andy fabricates a letter to his column in retaliation. The letter, from an imaginary homeless woman named “Jane Doe” who announces she will kill herself on the 4th of July because of the heartless state of the world, goes viral, and Andy is forced to hire a homeless woman (Tanya Alexander —  Mono/Poly at the Odyssey and Future Sex Inc. at the Lounge) to stand-in as the fictitious Jane. She becomes an overnight internet sensation and a national women’s movement is ignited.

According to Sachs, the play is about how contrary and opposing impulses can hide in the same human being. “A newspaper columnist, in the course of writing a human interest story on another individual, is forced to confront truths about himself,” he explains.

The cast also includes James Harper, previously seen at the Fountain in The Accomplices, as newspaper publisher Harold Cain. Playing multiple roles are Richard Azurdia (My Mañana Comes at the Fountain), Aleisha Force (Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra at Virginia Shakes, Maggie in Dancing at Lughnasa at Barnstormers Theatre), Matt Kirkwood (Our Class at Son of Semele, The Goat or, who is Sylvia? at the LGBT Center) and Tarina Pouncy (Vendetta Chrome at Coeurage Theatre; Les Blancs at Rogue Machine; and The Old Settler at International City Theatre, for which she garnered an NAACP award).

The creative team for Human Interest Story includes scenic and video designer Matthew G. Hill; lighting designer Jennifer Edwards; composer and sound designer Peter Bayne; costume designer Shon LeBlanc; video hair and makeup designer Diahann McCrary; and prop master Michael Allen Angel. The production stage manager is Emily Lehrer, and the assistant stage manager is Nura FerdowsiSimon LevyJames Bennett and Deborah Culver produce for the Fountain Theatre. Producing underwriters include David and Mary Jo VolkLaurel and Robert SiltonLois Tandy; and Toby and Daniel Bernstein. The executive producer is Karen Kondazian.

The story was initially inspired by the 1941 Frank Capra classic film Meet John Doe.

Stephen Sachs is the co-founder and co-artistic director of the Fountain Theatre and the author of 15 plays. Recent work includes his Deaf/Hearing love story, Arrival & Departure (“Critic’s Choice,” Los Angeles Times); his stage adaptation of William Goldman’s screenplay for All the President’s Men, starring Bradley Whitford and Joshua Malina at L.A. City Hall; and his stage adaptation of Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric, which premiered at the Fountain Theatre and was remounted by Center Theatre Group at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. His play Bakersfield Mist is performed worldwide. Sachs’ screenplay Sweet Nothing in my Ear, based on his play, was made into a CBS TV movie starring Jeff Daniels and Marlee Matlin. As director, he is a two-time Ovation Award winner and was recently honored by the Los Angeles City Council for “his visionary contributions to the cultural life of Los Angeles.”

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 hundreds of awards, and Fountain projects have been seen across the U.S. and internationally. Recent highlights include all-star readings of Ms. Smith Goes to Washington and All the President’s Men at Los Angeles City Hall. The Fountain’s 2018 productions of The Chosen and Arrival & Departure each enjoyed months-long sold out runs and was named a Los Angeles Times “Critic’s Choice.” The company’s recent West Coast premiere of Martyna Majok’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Cost of Living, was named to the Los Angeles Times’ “Best of 2018” list. This season, the Southern California premiere of Daniel’s Husband and the currently extended Los Angeles premiere of Between Riverside and Crazy were each named to multiple “Best of 2019” lists.

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Fountain Theatre Wins 26 Awards from StageSceneLA For Excellence in 2013-14

The Fountain Theatre has gobbled up 26 Theater Awards from Stage SceneLA for our acclaimed 2013-14 productions of The Normal Heart, My Name is Asher Lev and The Brothers Size. StageSceneLA editor Steven Stanley announced the winners this week after seeing and reviewing 268 productions from September 1, 2013 through August 31, 2014. The overall awards list is long and there are multiple winners in many categories.  All of it demonstrating, as Steven Stanley affirms, that “theater in Los Angeles and its surrounding communities is alive and thriving and quite often simply as good as it gets. “

These 2013-14 Fountain productions received the following awards:

The Normal Heart 

Tim Cummings and Bill Brochtrup in 'The Normal Heart'.

Tim Cummings and Bill Brochtrup in ‘The Normal Heart’.

  • Production of the Year – The Normal Heart
  • Best Director, Drama – Simon Levy
  • Best Performance, Lead Actor – Tim Cummings
  • Best Performance, Lead Actor – Bill Brochtrup
  • Best Performance, Featured Actress – Lisa Pelikan
  • Best Performance by an Understudy – Ray Paolantonio
  • Best Performance, Featured Actor – Matt Gottlieb
  • Best Performance, Featured Actor – Fred Koehler
  • Best Performance, Featured Actor – Stephen O’Mahoney
  • Memorable Performance, Featured Actor – Dan Shaked & Jeff Witzke

My Name Is Asher Lev

Jason Karasev, Anna Khaja and Joel Polis in 'My Name Is Asher Lev'.

Jason Karasev, Anna Khaja and Joel Polis in ‘My Name Is Asher Lev’.

  • Best Production, Drama – My Name is Asher Lev
  • Best Director, Drama – Stephen Sachs
  • Best Performance, Lead Actor – Jason Karasev
  • Best Performance, Featured Actor – Joel Polis
  • Best Performance, Featured Actress – Anna Khaja
  • Best Costume Design – Shon LeBlanc
  • Best Lighting Design – Ric Zimmerman 
  • Best Scenic Design – Jeff McLaughlin 

The Brothers Size

Gilbert Glenn brown  and Matthew Hancock (photo by Ed Krieger)

Gilbert Glenn Brown and Matthew Hancock in ‘The Brothers Size

  • Best Director – Shirley Jo Finney
  • Best Ensemble Cast, Drama
  • Best Choreography, Play – Ameenah Kaplan
  • Memorable Lighting Design – Pablo Santiago
  • Best Scenic Designer – Hana S. Kim

Multiple Productions: 

  • Sound Design/Composer of the Year – Peter Bayne, The Brothers Size, The Normal Heart
  • Best Props Design – Misty Carlisle – Asher Lev, Brothers Size, Normal Heart

Our thanks to Steven Stanley and StageSceneLa for this acknowledgement.  We appreciate and applaud his enthusiasm and support for theatre in Los Angeles.   

For the complete list of StageSceneLA Award winners click here.

Production photos by Ed Krieger

 

 

Jenny O’Hara Stars in the Wickedly Entertaining West Coast Premiere of ‘Broomstick’ at the Fountain Theatre

BROOMSTICK postcard front

Is She Really A Witch? Whatever Happens, She’ll Put a Spell On You …

Trick or Treat. Director Stephen Sachs and actress Jenny O’Hara (Bakersfield Mist) reunite for the wickedly entertaining, spine-chilling West Coast premiere of Broomstick by John Biguenet. A funny, poignant and “spell” binding tale about the magic of the human heart, Broomstick opens at the Fountain Theatre on Oct. 11.

Set in Appalachia and written entirely in verse, Biguenet’s charming and mesmerizing solo play introduces us to a wacky, bizarre old woman living in an odd little shack deep in the woods… who just may happen to be a witch. Creepily funny and frightening, she takes us back to our childhoods when, in our innocence, we first wrestled with good and evil. As she unveils her life, we journey with her down a shadowy path somewhere between our material world and the realm of fantasy. But this is no Hansel and Gretel fairytale; in Broomstick, justice is meted out swiftly and harshly.

“In the course of this crazy old lady’s attempt to explain and justify herself to an unexpected visitor, certain truths come out,” says Sachs. “It’s up to the audience to decide how much is fact and how much is imagined – and to what extent all of our realties are influenced by what is in our heads and in our hearts.”

Jenny O'Hara in 'Broomstick'

Jenny O’Hara in ‘Broomstick’

Broomstick was first produced in a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere by New Jersey Repertory Company (Long Branch, NJ), Montana Repertory Theatre (Missoula, MT) and Southern Rep (New Orleans, LA) with support from the National New Play Network’s Continued Life of New Plays Fund. “Broomstick doesn’t settle for just entertaining… the show shocks with moments of unexpected insight… Biguenet’s writing [is] so skillful that you might not even realize the play was written in verse until you’re already fifteen or twenty minutes into it,” wrote the TriCity News.

Jenny O'Hara

Jenny O’Hara

Jenny O’Hara was last seen at the Fountain in the long-running Bakersfield Mist, written and directed by Sachs. She has starred on Broadway in the female version of The Odd Couple, The Iceman Cometh, Promises, Promises, The Kid and The Fig Leaves Are Falling. Regional and L.A. credits include 4000 Miles and Our Mother’s Brief Affair (South Coast Rep), Seder, Little Egypt The Musical and The Bold Girls (Matrix), The Body Of Bourne (Taper), Lanford Wilson’s Sympathetic Magic; the LADCC-nominated Book Of Days at Theatre Tribe, and the Drama-Logue award-winning The Fox. TV credits include Big Love; King of Queens; Costello; Life’s Work; My Sister Sam; NCIS; The Closer; House; Cold Case; CSI; Nip/Tuck; Grey’s Anatomy; Ghost Whisperer; Six Feet Under; The Practice; and If These Walls Could Talk 2. Films include M. Night Shyamalan’s Devil; Heartbeat; Ridley Scott’s The Matchstick Men; Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River; Forty Shades of Blue; Two Weeks; Jonathan Toomey; How To Make Love To A Woman; Hit List; Extract; Angie; andCareer Opportunities. She is a founding member of EST (Ensemble Studio Theatre) in N.Y.C. and L.A., and is also a member of the Matrix and Theatre Tribe Companies.

Stephen Sachs is a multi-award winning director and playwright. His play, Bakersfield Mist, which he directed at the Fountain starring Jenny O’Hara and Nick Ullett, recently completed a successful run in London’s West End with Kathleen Turner and Ian McDiarmid. Other directing credits include the Los Angeles premiere of My Name Is Asher Lev; Completeness by Itamar Moses, starring Jason Ritter; Warren Leight’s Side Man starring Christine Lahti and Tony-winner Frank Wood; a three-city tour in China directing Top Secret for LA Theatre Works; the L.A. premiere of Conor McPherson’s Shining City (LA Weekly Award); the world premiere of Miss Julie: Freedom Summer at the Fountain, Canadian Stage Company (Toronto), Vancouver Playhouse and Edinburgh Fringe Festival; Euripides’ Hippolytos at the Getty Villa in Malibu, Gilgamesh at Theatre @ Boston Court, West Coast premiere of String of Pearls at the Road Theatre, Arthur Miller’s After the Fall (4 Ovation awards including Best Production and Best Director), Sweet Nothing in My Ear (Fountain Theatre, Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago, Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis), and many others. Sachs has a special relationship with Athol Fugard, who calls the Fountain his “artistic home on the West Coast,” and has directed the premieres of six of the master playwright’s works including the U.S. premieres of The Blue Iris and The Train Driver (LA Weekly Award, Best Director); West Coast premiere of Coming Home (Best Director, LA Weekly award); U.S. premiere of Victory (NAACP Award, Best Director); world premiere of  Exits and Entrancesat the Fountain (Ovation and LA Drama Critics Circle awards, Best Director) and Off-Broadway at Primary Stages in New York (NY Outer Critics Circle nomination Best New Play); and L.A. premiere of Road to Mecca. Sachs has twice won the LA Ovation Award for Best Director of a Play and has been twice nominated for the SDC Zelda Fichandler Award, recognizing an outstanding director who is making a unique and exceptional contribution to theatre in their region. He co-founded The Fountain Theatre with Deborah Lawlor in 1990.

John Biguenet made his mark as a fiction writer around 2000 when Ecco (an imprint of HarperCollins) published his story collection, “The Torturer’s Apprentice,” and a novel, “Oyster.” In the past decade, he has focused on theater, producing a string of plays including a Katrina-themed trilogy about the flooding of New Orleans —Rising Water (2007), Shotgun (2009) and Mold (2013) — that has been the subject of articles in American Theatre, The American Scholar and elsewhere. He was awarded a Marquette Fellowship for the writing of Night Train, his new play, which he developed on a Studio Attachment at the National Theatre in London and which premiered at New Jersey Rep Theatre in 2011. In 2008, Biguenet was named Theatre Person of the Year at the Big Easy Theatre Awards, the region’s major professional theater awards. He received the Louisiana Writer Award in 2012. Having served twice as president of the American Literary Translators Association and as writer-in-residence at various universities, he is currently the Robert Hunter Distinguished University Professor at Loyola University in New Orleans.

Set design for Broomstick is by Andrew Hammer; lighting design is by Jennifer Edwards; sound design is by Peter Bayne; costume design is by Shon LeBlanc; prop design and set dressing are by Misty Carlisle; dialect coach is Tyler Seiple; associate producer is James Bennett; and the production stage manager is Terri Roberts.

Jenny O'Hara

Jenny O’Hara

Broomstick opens on Saturday, Oct. 11 and continues through Nov. 30, with performances Thursdays,Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., except Friday, Oct. 31, when audience members are invited to “trick or treat” at the Fountain with an early curtain at 6 p.m. – come in costume! Preview performances take place Oct. 4 through Oct. 10.  For reservations and information, call 323-663-1525 or click here.

rehearsal photos: Ed Krieger

‘My Name Is Asher Lev’ at the Fountain Theatre is “an unforgettable experience. Don’t miss it.”

Joel Polis and Jason Karasev

Joel Polis and Jason Karasev

Thought-provoking, unpredictable and wholly magnificent

by David C. Nichols

Saw My Name is Asher Lev last night. Will likely be thinking about it for quite some time to come. The Fountain Theatre continues its ongoing roll with this potent three-hander based on Chaim Potok’s best seller about an Orthodox Jew in post-WWII Brooklyn torn between Hasidic tradition and his nascent artistic gifts. That last aspect typifies the production, which is, even by this venue’s high standards, thought-provoking, unpredictable and wholly magnificent. 

Stephen Sachs has done meaningful direction before, and often. Yet the emotional acuity, transitional clarity and specificity of detail he mines from Aaron Posner’s affecting adaptation is at an elevated level from anything previous seen. Design credits are refined and resourceful across the board: Jeff McLaughlin’s symbolist set, Ric Zimmerman’s pin-point lighting plot, Shon LeBlanc’s usual spot-on wardrobe choices, Diane Martinous’ wigs — it’s ALWAYS about the hair — and Lindsay Jones’ evocative music and sound cues add immeasurably to an unusually engrossing and polished execution.

Speaking of which, the cast is exceptional — seamlessly vivid, nuanced and committed. Jason Karasev, so memorable in Tape at the Fringe a couple of cycles back, is heartbreaking as the title character at various ages, surmounting the pitfalls of playing so wide a range with faultless technique, so invested that a late-inning embarrassed moment finds him blushing, just as the character would.

Joel Polis has long been a local exemplar of character acting, so proficiency is expected. However, his assumption of Asher’s father, rabbi, uncle, artistic mentor, etc. literally seems like a different person with each entrance, from subtleties of dialect to physical posture and so forth. An astonishing turn, even from this actor.

And the ever-remarkable Anna Khaja, whose name this observer would enjoy merely seeing in print, reaches mesmeric, even preternatural depths inhabiting respectively, Asher’s mother, first patroness and the artist’s model who elicits the aforementioned blush, her inwardly shifting reactions and light-to-dark-and-back modulations defying criticism — a transcendent performance.

Which essentially describes the whole deeply touching show. It’s an early bar-setter for the theatrical year, an unprepossessing triumph for all concerned and an unforgettable experience. Don’t. Miss. It.

David C. Nichols is a freelance theater reviewer at the Los Angeles Times.

 

 

PHOTO SLIDESHOW: Production Design Meeting for ‘My Name is Asher Lev’ at the Fountain Theatre

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The design and production team for our upcoming Los Angeles Premiere of My Name Is Asher Lev gathered on Saturday 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 and sound supporting three talented actors who play a variety of characters.

At Saturday’s production meeting, director Stephen Sachs spoke to the designers and shared his vision for the play. Producer Simon Levy led the meeting with Technical Director Scott Tuomey. Adding their artistic contributions were set designer Jeff McLaughlin, lighting designer Ric Zimmerman, costume designer Shon LeBlanc, props designer Misty Carlisle, and production stage manager Terri Roberts. Composer/sound designer Lindsay Jones was out-of-town but a few samples of his gorgeous original music were played.      

Based on the bestselling novel by Chaim Potok, My Name Is Asher Lev is the powerful coming-of-age story of a Jewish boy’s struggle to become an artist against the will of his Orthodox parents, community and tradition. Asher Lev could be the next Picasso. But as the son of devout Hasidic parents who struggle to understand the value of his art, Asher Lev is torn apart. He knows he is commanded to honor his parents, but he must also be true to himself. As we glimpse the pieces of Asher’s painful past, we witness events that climax in his most famous work and the decision that will change his life forever. A recent hit Off-Broadway and winner of the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play and the John Gassner Award.

The Los Angeles Premiere at the Fountain theatre stars Jason Karasev, Anna Khaja, and Joel Polis

Snapshots from the ‘Asher Lev’ Design Meeting

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My Name is Asher Lev Feb 15 – April 19 (323) 663-1525  MORE