Natural Shocks is a darkly hilarious tour-de-force written by Lauren Gunderson, the most-produced playwright in America. A woman is forced into her basement when she finds herself in the path of a tornado. Trapped there, she spills over into confession, regret, long-held secrets, and giddy new love. But as the storm approaches, she becomes less and less sure where safety lies — and how best to defy the danger that awaits.
The timing is intentional: April 20 is the 19th anniversary of Columbine and the day of the National School Walkout, organized by the student activists in Parkland, Florida. The reading at the Fountain Theatre starts on April 20th at 11:19am, the date and exact time of the Columbine shooting.
“The Fountain Theatre has a long history of social and political activism,” explains Sachs. “Our celebrity reading of All the President’s Men at LA City Hall and our world premiere of Robert Schenkkan’s Building the Wallare recent examples. With Lauren’s play, I believe we need to add our voice, as theatre artists and citizens, to the national outcry of young people across the country against gun violence and advocate for gun control in this country.”
Amy Pietz has appeared in over 300 episodes of television, most recently starring opposite Jason Alexander on Hit The Road. She was a series regular on No Tomorrow, The Nine Lives of Chloe King, Aliens in America, Rodney, The Weber Show, Muscle and Caroline in the City (SAG Award Nomination for Best Actress in a Comedy). She has had recurring or guest starring roles on: You’re The Worst, The Magicians, The Office, Trust Me, Maron, How To Get Away With Murder, Dexter, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and many others. Film roles include those in The Year of Spectacular Men, Halfway, Prom, The Pact II, Autumn Leaves, Rudy, Jingle All the Way, Dysenchanted, Jell-Oh Lady, The Whole Ten Yards, and others. Her favorite theatre credits include: Stupid Fucking Bird at the Theatre @ Boston Court (Ovation Award, LA Drama Critics Circle Award), The Boswell Sisters at The Old Globe Theatre, Christmas In Naples at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, Lobby Hero at the Odyssey Theatre (Ovation nominated), Fiorello and Company (Ovation Award nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Musical). Currently producing a film on gun control called Bodyman, Amy is passionate about getting guns off of our streets.
Victoria Platt is currently in Antaeus Theatre Company’s production of Native Son. THEATRE: Jelly’s Last Jam (BROADWAY), Building the Wall and Roxy in Cyrano (Fountain Theatre), Venice (Public Theater & Kirk Douglas Theatre – Ovation Award Nom), Sammy (Old Globe), Pippin (Mark Taper Forum, Asphalt (Red Cat), Atlanta (Geffen). Select TV/FILM: Major Crimes, Bones, The Mentalist, Castle, Criminal Minds and contract roles on both All My Children & Guiding Light; H4 (adaptation of Henry IV which she co-produced with Harry Lennix & Terrell Tilford) and as Josephine Baker in HBO’s Winchell. Upcoming film: #Truth (Charles Murray dir.), The Gleaner (opp. Angus MacFadyen, Harry Lennix dir.), Interference, Framed and CW’s Lucifer.
Suanne Spoke has an extensive career in theatre, television & film, appearing in the critically acclaimed film Whiplash and starring in the feature film Wild Prairie Rose, winning multiple awards on the festival circuit. On television Suanne recurred on Switched at Birth, Famous in Love and has guest-starred on many others. She can currently be seen recurring on General Hospital. She has performed at numerous theatres and has won every major acting & producing award in Los Angeles including three-time recipient of the Ovation Award/Lead Performance by an Actress. She was most recently seen in the West Coast premiere of Athol Fugard’s Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek at the Fountain Theatre. Suanne serves on the faculty at the California Institute of the Arts, teaching acting in the Graduate Film Directing program.
Sabina Zuniga Varela, a native New Mexican based in Los Angeles, is an artist, educator and organizer committed to the path of social justice, authentic representation and storytelling. She is an award winning theatre actor with an MFA from the University of Southern. California. She also holds an MA in Special Education with a focus on twice-exceptional/gifted learning. She is currently a producing director for the LA based theatre company: By The Souls of Our Feet. Most recently she was seen on stage at The Oregon Shakespeare Festival & Portland Center Stage in the title role of Luis Alfaro’s Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles and was seen in Season 3, Episode 3 of ABC’s American Crime.
Based on Hamlet’s “To be or not to be,” Natural Shocks is a classic Gunderson play: a 60-minute tour-de-force that bursts to life when we meet a woman waiting out an imminent tornado in her basement. She overflows with quirks, stories, and a final secret that puts the reality of domestic violence and guns in America in your very lap. The play is part confessional, part stand up, and part reckoning.
“The play is written as a solo play for one actress,” explains Sachs. “I have Lauren’s permission to have four actresses read the role, as one voice. Together, they are one woman — and all women. I think having the play read by four women adds diversity, theatricality and a stylized musicality that is worth exploring.”
“I wrote the story to continue to push the narrative away from the perpetrators of gun violence and toward the people whose lives are lost, shattered, and shadowed because of it. So many of these people are women. And there is such a tight connection between violence against women and gun violence,” insisted Gunderson.
Gunderson is right: the connection between domestic violence and gun violence is well documented. More than half of the mass shootings from 2009-2016 involved a partner or family member. Nearly half of American women who are murdered are killed by their intimate partners. American women are 16 times more likely to be killed by a gun than women in other developed nations. The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that the woman will be killed. In short, domestic violence and grievances against women are the “canary in the coalmine” for gun violence. Any effort to end gun violence must address domestic violence as well.
Lauren M. Gunderson is the most produced playwright in America of 2017, the winner of the Lanford Wilson Award, the Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award and the Otis Guernsey New Voices Award, she is also a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and John Gassner Award for Playwriting, a recipient of the Mellon Foundation’s 3-Year Residency with Marin Theatre Company, and a commissioned playwright by Audible. She studied Southern Literature and Drama at Emory University, and Dramatic Writing at NYU’s Tisch School where she was a Reynolds Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship. Her work has been commissioned, produced and developed at companies across the US including South Cost Rep (Emilie, Silent Sky), The Kennedy Center (The Amazing Adventures of Dr. Wonderful And Her Dog!), Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The O’Neill, The Denver Center, San Francisco Playhouse, Marin Theatre, Synchronicity, Berkeley Rep, Shotgun Players, TheatreWorks, Crowded Fire and more. She co-authored Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley with Margot Melcon, which was one of the most produced plays in America in 2017. Her work is published at Playscripts (I and You, Exit Pursued By A Bear, The Taming, and Toil And Trouble), Dramatists (The Revolutionists, The Book of Will, Silent Sky, Bauer, Miss Bennet) and Samuel French (Emilie). Her picture book Dr Wonderful: Blast Off to the Moon was released from Two Lions / Amazon in May 2017.
Gilbert Glenn Brown and Suanne Spoke in ‘The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek’.
The Fountain Theatre has been honored with 4 Stage Raw Awards for its 2015 productions of The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek and Citizen: An American Lyric.
The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek was the West Coast Premiere of Athol Fugard’s new play about South African artist Nukain Mabuza. The world premiere of Stephen Sachs’ stage adaptation of Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric dramatized racism in America.
The Fountain nominees are:
Supporting Female Performance – Suanne Spoke, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek
Leading Male Performance – Thomas Silcott, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek
Adaptation – Stephen Sachs, Citizen: An American Lyric
‘Citizen: An American Lyric’ at the Fountain Theatre
Using multimedia and the written word, Stage Raw is a digital journal dedicated to discovering, discussing and honoring L.A.-based arts and culture. The Stage Raw Theater Awards are dedicated to honoring the swath of innovative works of theater in Los Angeles County, in venues of up-to-99-seats.
The STAGE RAW Celebration is Monday, April 25 at Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring Street (VIP reception 6 p.m.; doors Open at 6:30. Awards Program begins at 7:30pm), General Admission Tickets are $25, VIP Tickets $100, available atstageraw.com.
As the year draws to an end, the Fountain Theatre is delighted to be highlighted on many of the annual “Best of 2015” lists that are starting to appear.
Los Angeles Times theatre critic Charles McNulty selected our west coast premiere of Athol Fugard’s The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek to his Best Theater of 2015, hailing it as “Another in the Fountain Theatre’s series of expertly acted productions of the great South African playwright.”
Gilbert Glenn Brown and Suanne Spoke in ‘The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek’
by Darlene Donloe
The name Gilbert Glenn Brown has become synonymous with “good works” around the L.A. theater world.
A handsome gent with a bright, poetic smile, Brown enjoys a career that has spanned film, television and theater. His theatrical credits are extensive, and the list of directors and actors that he’s shared a stage with reads like a Who’s Who of Los Angeles theater.
On this particular day, as the sun is setting after an extremely warm afternoon, Brown is sitting on the upstairs patio of the Fountain Theater, dapper in a gray cap, blue-and-white rolled up checkered shirt and gray vest. He’s ready to talk about the actor’s life that he’s carved out.
Known for bringing all of himself—and none of himself—to his roles, Brown has delivered a number of stellar performances, playing vivid and memorable characters that have earned him the COLSAC Best Lead Performance Award, two Los Angeles Drama Critics Awards and an LA Weekly Award.
He made women swoon and men suck in their guts delivering an arousing performance as Shango, the neighborhood bad boy in Tarell Alvin McCraney’s original comedy/drama, In The Red and Brown Water, directed by Shirley Jo Finney. He was the intense and absorbing older brother Ogun Size in McCraney’s The Brothers Size, also directed by Finney. Most recently, he was probably the most sensually-charged Polyneices ever to grace a stage in the Ebony Repertory Theatre’s The Gospel At Colonus.
This production marks the Fountain Theatre’s 15-year relationship with the playwright that began in 2000 when Fountain Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs directed Fugard’s The Road to Mecca. It was then that Fugard, an Academy Award winner for Tsotsi (Best Foreign Language Film), recipient of the 2011 Tony for lifetime achievement—and a multiple Obie and Tony Award-winner best known for his plays rooted in the scars of South African apartheid—reportedly began to call the Fountain his “artistic home on the West Coast.”
Inspired by the work of real-life outsider artist Nukain Mabuza, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek is set in South Africa in the 1980s. It tells the story of elderly Nukain, a farm worker and self-taught artist who has spent years painting the rocks and boulders at Revolver Creek, transforming them into a garden of flowers.
The play, which also stars Thomas Silcott, Philip Solomon and Suanne Spoke, begins when the final, most challenging unpainted stone and a young boy named Bokkie (Nukain’s assistant) “force Nukain to confront his legacy as both an artist and a black man in 1980s South Africa,” where the horrible injustices of apartheid still prevailed at the time—dividing the country into black and white.
The minute he read the script, Brown jumped at the chance to play Jonathan, the grown-up version of Bokkie, who returns to Revolver Creek to restore the faded rocks as a tribute to Nukain, the friend he loved.
“What I like about Jonathan is the need he feels to come back and stand up for someone he loves,” says Brown. “He comes back to stand up for someone who wasn’t able to stand up and say I’m a man, or say that he mattered.”
Although he’s a “huge fan” of the playwright, this is the first time that Brown has tackled an Athol Fugard play. “I am familiar with his activism,” Brown says, “and using theater as a means of activism. I was groomed, in a sense, to look at issues head on. It’s about telling the truth with the material. I read the play and I was blown away by it because of the honesty of the material.”
“What’s wonderful about Gilbert,” says Simon Levy, who is directing the show, “is that he’s this beautiful combination of sensitivity and danger,” says Levy. “He possesses a deep well of emotion that reveals itself in surprising ways so that the character always feels kinetic and honest.”
“I think I understand where Simon wants to go with this piece,” Brown says. “He’s very clear on making sure that the audience can connect with the story and with the living, breathing human beings—not in a superficial way. It’s a wonderfully written piece.”
Brown is working with a dialect coach to get Jonathan’s South African accent right. “I want to honor the person I’m portraying [and] the people who actually speak that language…and be so connected, that I don’t think it’s an accent, it’s just how I speak.”
Now that Brown has had several weeks to ingest the material, he’s gained more insight into the meaning and intent of Fugard’s words. Comments from a documentary on apartheid that Brown watched as research added to his understanding:
“An activist said apartheid not only jails the people that are oppressed,” Brown recalls, “but also the jailers because they are caught in a cycle. You become dehumanized when you think someone is not as much as you are. Until you can say this happened, and acknowledge that it happened, there will be no movement. The people affected are not going to let it go. I realize now that it’s an opportunity to see each other as human beings.
“That is what the play means to me,” Brown says. “I’m always looking for truth.” Continue reading →
Cast, company and audience members swept into our upstairs cafe Saturday night to celebrate the opening night performance of our west coast premiere of Athol Fugard’s new play, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek. Food, drink and joyfulness followed a marvelous performance that earned a standing ovation.
Internationally acclaimed playwright Athol Fugard returns to the Fountain Theatre with this beautifully heartfelt new drama. Directed by Simon Levy, it features Gilbert Glenn Brown, Thomas Silcott, Philip Solomon, and Suanne Spoke.
At last night’s preview performance of The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek, the theatre was packed with 80 students from Mission Viejo High School who came with energy, enthusiasm, and questions for the cast and director. A terrific Q&A discussion was held immediately after the performance and everyone — artists, students and teachers — had a wonderful time.
The students were from humanities classes and already familiar with the work of playwright Athol Fugard. One student shared that eight years ago she had actually visited the actual hillside in South Africa where Nukain Mabuza painted his famous rocks. She found the play — and seeing the set with its colorful, rocky landscape — very moving and meaningful. The students asked many interesting and insightful questions of cast members Gilbert Glenn Brown, Thomas Silcott, Philip Solomon, Suanne Spoke, and director Simon Levy. The discussion was moderated by Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs.
This special evening was part of Theatre as a Learning Tool, the Fountain Theatre’s educational outreach program making the live theatre experience accessible to students.
Previews begin this Friday night, October 30th, for our upcoming west coast premiere of Athol Fugard’s beautiful and heartfelt new play, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek. We thought we’d grab this opportunity for you to meet the cast.
GILBERT GLENN BROWN plays the role of Jonathan Sejake. Gilbert received his BFA from Tisch School of the Arts. Theater credits include Gospel at Colonus (Ebony Repertory Theatre Company), The Brother Size, In the Red & Brown Water and Live From Death Row… The Scottsboro Boys (Fountain Theatre), Spunk, (True Colors Theatre Company), Rio, The Musical (2012 New York Musical Theatre Festival), Martin: Before the Dream (NEC), A Time to Love, Charleston Olio, Harriet Jacobs (Kansas City Rep), Civil War Christmas (Huntington Theater), Forgive Me (NY International Fringe Festival), TopDog/UnderDog, (Seattle Rep/Circle Theatre Group), Miss Evers Boys (The Complex), DWB in Beverly Hills (Matrix Theatre). Some of his film & TV credits include Dreamgirls, Rain, Children of the Struggle, recurring this Fall on The Inspectors, recurring on Mercy, ER, The O.C., Cold Case, Shark, CSI: Miami, The Shield. gilbertglennbrown.com
THOMAS SILCOTT plays the role of Nukain Mabuza. He is happy to be performing his second production at The Fountain Theatre and his second premiere of an Athol Fugard play with them. Happy 25th Anniversary! Past projects include Bring In Da Noise/ Bring In Da Funk (Broadway Tour), To Kill A Mockingbird (Alliance Theatre), As You Like It (Colorado Shakespeare Festival), Our Town (Gloucester Stage Company), Othello (Kingsmen Shakespeare Company), Master Harold and The Boys (The Colony Theatre), Coming Home (The Fountain Theatre & Berkeley Repertory Theatre), Paint Your Wagon (Geffen Playhouse). T.V. and Film credits include Gods and Generals, Girlfriends, Desperate Housewives, The Others, Entourage, Raising The Bar, Criminal Minds: Beyond Boarders, Rosewood. Tom is a recipient of an Ovation and an L.A. Weekly award and a nominee for two N.A.A.C.P. awards.
PHILIP SOLOMON plays the role of Bokkie. Philip lives in Santa Ana, California and is a seventh grader at Santiago Charter Middle School in Orange, CA. His credits include Sacrificing Simone by Aretha Thomas (Porticos Art Space in Pasadena), Sleeping Beauty and Her Winter Knight (Lithgow Family Productions at the Pasadena Playhouse), back-up dancer to Hannah Kirby on season 8 of NBC’s The Voice, a co-starring role on the “Fresno Girl” episode of Nickelodeon’s Sam and Cat and a national commercial for Hilton Homewood Suites. He is a member of St Mary’s Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in Culver City.
SUANNE SPOKE plays the role of Elmarie Kleynhans. Suanne is a multi-award winning actor who can currently be seen recurring on Switched at Birth and in the Academy Award winning film, Whiplash. TV credits include Criminal Minds, Happy Endings, Private Practice, and she appears in a very funny special feature on the DVD of Once Upon A Time. She will be seen in Christopher Guest’s new film Mascots and the upcoming indie feature Wild Prairie Rose. Having appeared on many local stages including Company of Angels, the Road, Deaf West, Inside the Ford with the wonderful Fountain Theatre, Suanne has won the Ovation Award for Best Actress in both David’s Mother and Napoli Milionaria and was also nominated for Streetcar Named Desire at Deaf West Theatre. She currently is on the faculty of California Institute of the Arts teaching acting in the Graduate Film Directing Program and is producing, along with her husband, K.C. Marsh, the documentary Warne Marsh: An Improvised Life. Thank you all here at the Fountain Theatre for this fantastic opportunity.
The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek is inspired by a real life story. Nukain Mabuza has spent his life transforming the rocks at Revolver Creek into a vibrant garden of painted flowers. One final rock remains. With his young pal Bokkie at his side, will he do it? Even in the new South Africa, can a person — and a nation — truly see inside the soul of another human being?
The Fountain Theatre continues its 15-year relationship with master playwright Athol Fugard, presenting the West Coast premiere of his newest play. Directed by Simon Levy, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek opens on November 7 at the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood.
Both Fugard and the Fountain come full circle with Painted Rocks, a play inspired by the work of real-life outsider artist Nukain Mabuza. In 1972, a personal encounter with outsider artist Helen Martins, a reclusive and ostracized figure in a small, ultra-conservative Afrikaans community who had created an extraordinary collection of statues in her back yard, led to Fugard’s celebrated play, The Road to Mecca. And it was the Fountain’s Los Angeles premiere of that play in 2000, directed by Fountain co-artistic director Stephen Sachs, that introduced the playwright to the theater he would come to call his “artistic home on the West Coast.”
“Forty years later [after my encounter with Helen Martins], I became aware of another outsider artist worthy of the same attention, working in completely different circumstances and also with a different medium,” wrote Fugard on the website of South Africa’s Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Studies, where he is currently an artist-in-residence. “The environment of present-day South Africa made me realize the true potential of Nukain’s story, and that, even though he worked on the fringes, it can in fact not be fully realized without taking on the realities of his existence in apartheid South Africa.”
In the play, the aging Nukain (Thomas Silcott) has spent his life transforming the rocks at Revolver Creek into a vibrant garden of painted flowers. Faced with the presence of the final unpainted rock — and at the insistence of his young companion, Bokkie (Philip Solomon) — he is forced to confront his legacy as an artist and a black man in 1980s South Africa. When the landowner’s wife (Suanne Spoke) arrives to demand he stop painting, the deep racial conflict of the country is viscerally exposed. Twenty years later, in what has become the new South Africa, the man called Bokkie as a child (Gilbert Glenn Brown) returns to restore Mabuza’s lifework.
“Possibly, at this moment in our history, the stories that need telling are more urgent than any of the stories that needed telling during the apartheid years,” Fugard said in an interview with NPR.
“At the heart of Athol’s beautiful new play is the issue of seeing and being seen – as an artist, as a man, especially as a black man,” says Levy. “It’s an on-going, universal problem that Athol has spent his life exploring and exposing and humanizing. To be seen for who you really are, and to be loved and honored for that. It’s a beautiful message, and one we need to hear over and over again.”
The author of over 30 plays and recipient of countless accolades including an Academy Award, Obie and the 2011 Special Tony Award for Lifetime in the Theatre, Athol Fugard is best known for his plays about the frustrations of life in contemporary South Africa and the psychological barriers created by apartheid. Widely acclaimed around the world, his plays include Boesman and Lena (Obie Award, Best Foreign Play), Sizwe Bansi Is Dead (Tony Award, Best Play), A Lesson from Aloes (New York Drama Critics Circle Award, Best Play), the semiautobiographical Master Harold…and the Boys (Writers Guild Award, Outstanding Achievement) and The Road to Mecca(New York Drama Critics Circle Citation, Best Foreign Play, London Evening Standard Award, Best Play). The first white South African playwright to collaborate with black actors and workers, some of his works, such as Blood Knot, were initially banned in South Africa. In his first two post-apartheid plays, Valley Song (1995) and The Captain’s Tiger (1998), Fugard addressed more personal concerns, but in Sorrows and Rejoicings (2001) he focused on the complex racial dynamics of South Africa’s new era. In 2005 his novel, Tsotsi (1980), was adapted for the screen, winning the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
When Fugard saw the Fountain’s Los Angeles premiere of The Road to Mecca in 2000, he was so impressed that he offered the company world premiere rights to an as-yet-unwritten new work. In 2004, Stephen Sachs directed the world premiere of Exits and Entrances. The production garnered production and direction awards from both the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle and the Ovations, and Sachs went on to direct acclaimed regional productions around the country, including an off-Broadway production at Primary Stages and the UK premiere at the 2007 International Edinburgh Festival. Since then, the Fountain has produced four premieres of Fugard’s plays including the American premiere of Victory (two LADCC awards and four LA Weekly nominations, and named “Best of 2008” by the Los Angeles Times);the West Coast premiere of Coming Home (three LA Weekly awards including “Ensemble” and “Direction,” LADCC award for “Lead Performance”); the U.S. premiere of The Train Driver (three LA Weekly awards); and the U.S. premiere of The Blue Iris (LA Weekly Award nomination for best ensemble).
The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek premiered to critical acclaim at the Signature Theatre in New York City earlier this year. The New York Times called it “tender and ruminative” and Newsday wrote, “Fugard stamps indelible human faces on faraway reports of the world’s news.”
Set design for the Fountain Theatre production of The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek is by Jeffrey McLaughlin; lighting design is by Jennifer Edwards; sound design is by Peter Bayne; costume design is by Naila Aladdin Sanders; props are by Dillon Nelson; dialect coach is Nike Doukas; assistant stage manager is Terri Roberts; production stage manager is Rita Cofield; associate producer is James Bennett; and Stephen Sachs and Deborah Lawlor produce for the Fountain Theatre.
Currently celebrating its 25th anniversary, 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 with the 2014 Ovation Award for Best Season and the 2014 BEST Award for overall excellence from the Biller Foundation; the Fountain play Bakersfield Mist in London’s West End starring Kathleen Turner and Ian McDiarmid; the sold-out Forever Flamenco gala concert at the 1200-seat John Anson Ford Amphitheatre; and the last six Fountain productions consecutively highlighted as Critic’s Choice in the Los Angeles Times. The Fountain has been honored with six Awards of Excellence from the Los Angeles City Council for “enhancing the cultural life of Los Angeles.”