Tag Archives: Terri Roberts

You Have Changed Me Forever: Remembering ‘The Normal Heart’

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Tim Cummings, Bill Brochtrup, “The Normal Heart”, Fountain Theatre, 2013.

by Tim Cummings

“Hello, you don’t know me. I hope you get this message. Sometimes, when you try to send a message to someone you’re not ‘friends’ with on Facebook, it gets blocked, or you have to ‘approve’ it. I hope you’ll approve this message if it gets to you.

 I saw The Normal Heart on Saturday night, and haven’t slept well since. My father died of AIDS in 1995. I was 15. Except he didn’t die of AIDS, he died of ‘cancer.’ Except we all knew it was AIDS because he was gay and had been sleeping around with men for years. We were a Catholic family, and so shame was tantamount to pretty much everything, especially my dad’s secret life. There were a lot of years after he died where Thanksgiving and Christmas and birthdays and anniversaries were lonely days, hollow days where not much was said and my sister and I would sit with our mom around the table and stare at our food.

Watching you on stage, the frustration and rage, it was so palpable it cracked me open, like an egg, and I feel like I can feel again. Except now I feel a lot of rage too. I feel like the rage is taking its revenge, saying, “You ignored me for 20 years and now I own you.” I feel like you brought it into my life. It was like you were breaking barriers up there. I could feel how uncomfortable the audience was at times. Like they were afraid of you. I was too, I guess, but also relieved. I don’t know what you are doing up there, or how you manage to live the role several times a week, but I want you to know that you have changed me forever. More than the play. More than the production. YOU.

I didn’t know who Larry Kramer was before the other night, but I’ve been reading up on him and watching videos on YouTube. He wanted to change things and wake people up and he could only do it by shattering everyone around him that wouldn’t listen. He’s lucky someone like you can interpret his intentions. I will probably see the show again before it closes. For now, I’m figuring out what to do with these feelings. Like, how do I forgive my dad? How do I talk to my mom, after all these years, about what really happened? How many more people out there are just like me, waiting for something to come along and break them open? Too many innocent men died. For nothing. I think I might take boxing lessons.”

In the summer of 2013, I was 40 (and a half) years old and really taking stock of my life, as one is wont to do at 40 (and a half). I had been in Los Angeles exactly a decade at that point, and reflecting on my career as an actor: roles won, roles lost, characters deeply inhabited, their skins later shed like a snake once a show ended, reviews, awards, pounds gained and dropped again, friends made and later lost, the worry over male pattern baldness. That summer, I contemplated the possibility that the ‘acting thing’ was more of a hobby than a profession. Things had changed drastically after I moved from New York to LA. In NY, I was working on Broadway, making a living acting. I was on a good trajectory there.

Where I grew up, and in my time, theater had always felt like a great act of rebellion, a middle-finger held up high to everything normal and expected and accepted. Thespians were teased and bullied, but I prided myself on being subversive, anathema to their pack mentality and bougie normality. Theater was punk af. In LA, however, acting suddenly felt like trying to be part of the popular kids again. Clique mentality. I wanted no part of it. How will I succeed if I have no interest in playing by the rules? I’ve always hated rules. I didn’t want to be hot or muscular or skinny or alpha or tan or…commercially viable in any way. I didn’t want to do things the way they were supposed to be done. I desired to shave my head, ring my eyes with racoon-black eyeliner, cover my body in tattoos, pierce every part of me, paint like Pollock, join a band. I contemplated whomever managed to pull off “LA success” with bitter disdain and a kind of squishy envy. That’s okay—I’m not above being human. Actors are not superheroes, despite the way the media depict them and fame & fortune define them.

I happened to be perusing the labyrinthian interwebs that summer when I discovered a breakdown for The Normal Heart, Larry Kramer’s seminal 1985 agit-prop manifesto about AIDS in the early-to-mid 1980s and how he and his friends banded together to create GMHC (Gay Men’s Health Crisis). The Fountain Theatre in Hollywood was set to produce, overseen by one of the theatre’s founders and Co-Artistic Director, the outstanding Stephen Sachs. The play hadn’t been done in LA in about twenty years, and though it had been given a slick, starry revival on Broadway a few years prior, it felt, perhaps, like something that sunny, surfery Southern California had no right to consider. It’s my (arguably harsh) opinion that LA has always felt too granola (read: passive) for the righteous anger of stories birthed in New York City by New Yorkers.

Nonetheless, The Fountain had a reputation for mounting plays with a social justice bend, and Kramer’s behemoth was certainly no exception. I drafted a cordial email to the casting director asking to be seen. (I’m a firm believer that if you want something done, you do it yourself, and immediately. In other words, I wasn’t going to ask the manager to ask the agent if I had been submitted and then wait around, to neither receive a response nor an appointment time.) When casting responded to my inquiry I assumed the team would want to see me for the role of Bruce Niles, the strapping gay ex-marine. At 6’2” , broad-shouldered, and north of 200lbs, I figured it was the only role they’d consider me for. Instead, they asked me to prepare the role of Ned Weeks, the play’s antagonistic protagonist. Ned is molded out of the playwright himself, the pejorative Larry Kramer. It was the true story of him and his friends, after all, and he was going to tell it his way. It’s a colossal script, with a role as immense as Hamlet, and on nearly every page it elucidates Ned’s pushiness, outspokenness, and righteous anger.

How does an audience go on a journey, and root for, a disagreeable character?  Continue reading

The magic glows to life at ‘Baby Doll’ tech rehearsal

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Baby Doll tech rehearsal 

It happens so often at tech rehearsal. And yet, each time it happens, it feels like the first. That magic moment when the colored lights are turned on the first time, the sound is turned up, the costumes are put on, the props are placed in hand. Suddenly the weeks of hard work in the empty rehearsal room blossom to life as the design elements add their wonder. This happened, this week, in tech rehearsals for our upcoming West Coast Premiere of Tennessee Williams’ Baby Doll. It opens July 29.

The cast worked through their cues under the watchful eyes of lighting designer Ken Booth, set designer Jeff McLaughlin, sound designer/composer Peter Bayne, costume designer Terri A. Lewis and props designer Terri Roberts, all under the guidance of production stage manager Emily Lehrer and director Simon Levy.

The meticulous process of technical rehearsals — when light & sound cues are painstakingly timed and drilled — can be tedious. But the end result can be marvelous. As was the case this week with Baby Doll. It’s going to be a beautiful production.  

Enjoy these snapshots from tech rehearsal. You’ll be dazzled when you see the finished production.  

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‘Baby Doll’ company gathers for thrilling first reading at Fountain Theatre

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Sometimes you have a first reading of a play with a new cast and it doesn’t go so well. The script may be solid and the cast experienced and professional. But the magic may not happen immediately.

This was not the case yesterday at our first read-through of Tennessee Williams’ Baby Doll with this fabulous cast. The magic happened. Immediately.

It was one of those wondrous occasions when actors, director, production team and play all came together in a thrilling first read-through of a colorful and dynamic script. As the actors read the script together for the first time, the play soared off the page. 

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The gathering began in extraordinary fashion. Actress Karen Kondazian, playing Aunt Rose Comfort, has starred in many Williams plays and knew the playwright personally. Before rehearsal began yesterday, Karen displayed a small black box and slowly opened it. She carefully unwrapped the contents and held it up in the palm of her hand like a scared relic: a pair of Tennessee Williams’ glasses. It was passed around the table. Each company member examined the glasses, some put them on and had the unique experience of “seeing through the eyes” of one of America’s great playwrights.    

Fountain Co-Artistic director Stephen Sachs welcomed the company and guided them through the paperwork at hand. Director Simon Levy spoke briefly about the play. Then the cast — Daniel Bess, Karen Kondazian, Lindsay LaVanchy, John Prosky and George Roland — read the script. And the play immediately leapt to life.

Joined at the table were Co-Artistic Director Deborah Lawlor, associate producer James Bennett,  production stage manager Emily Lehrer, assistant stage manager Miranda Stewart, props designer Terri Roberts and publicist Lucy Pollak. 

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PHOTO SLIDESHOW: Opening Night Party for LA Premiere of ‘My Mañana Comes‬’

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Lawrence Stallings, Richard Azurdia, Jossara Jina, Pablo Castelblanco, Armando Molina, Emily Lehrer

The house was packed Saturday night for the opening night of our Los Angeles Premiere of Elizabeth Irwin’s fast, funny and powerful new play, My Mañana Comes‬

The thrilling performance was followed by a lively reception upstairs in our charming cafe. The delicious food was provided by Marouch, a local Lebanese and Armenian restaurant. Fountain Friends and audience members had a wonderful time meeting the cast and company.

Directed by Armando Molina,  My Mañana Comes‬  features Richard Azurdia, Pablo Castelblanco, Peter pasco and Lawrence Stallings. The play offers an inside look at four busboys in a fancy NY restaurant as they joke wildly with each other and struggle to better their lives and chase the American Dream.

Our Fountain LA Premiere is already earning rave reviews. “This production of My Mañana Comes is an exemplar of ensemble acting, ” hails Theatre Notes.”The players are extraordinary.”  

Enjoy these photos from the Opening Night Party! 

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My Mañana Comes‬ Now playing to June 26 (323) 663-1525 MORE/Get Tickets  

PHOTO SLIDESHOW: Fountain Family and friends enjoy closing party of ‘Dream Catcher’

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Fun time in our upstairs cafe.

Even the most vivid dreams come to an end. The Dream Catcher company awoke Monday night from their 2-month reverie and enjoyed their final performance followed by a lively reception in our upstairs cafe. Another magical evening at the Fountain.

Dream Catcher enjoyed an extended two-month run that earned rave reviews. Actors Elizabeth Frances and Brian Tichnell gave a thrilling performance Monday night. They were joined at a fabulous party in our upstairs cafe by director Cameron Watson, playwright Stephen Sachs, stage manager Emily Lehrer, Co-Artistic Director Deborah Lawlor and producer Simon Levy, associate producer James Bennett and props designer Terri Roberts. Others attending were Jennifer Finch (“I and You”), Sabina Zuniga Varela (“El Nogalar”), Barbara Beckley (Colony Theatre), Michael Seel (Theatre@Boston Court), Dany Margolies, Sandy Baldonado, Kevork & Cecile Keshishian, and videographer Paolo Durazzo.     

This dream now ends. Another dream begins.

Enjoy these photos!

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PHOTOS: First rehearsal for world premiere of new play ‘Dream Catcher’

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All eyes on director Cameron Watson.

Actors, director and production team gathered yesterday afternoon for the first rehearsal of our world premiere production of Dream Catcher by Stephen Sachs. The new play about climate change, cultural change and the moral consequences of personal choice opens January 30.

Producer Simon Levy welcomed the company and director Cameron Watson shared his vision for the production. Playwright Stephen Sachs offered his insight on the script as actors Elizabeth Frances and Brian Tichnell watched and listened.  Also present were Co-Artistic Director Deborah Lawlor, associate producer James Bennett, stage manager Emily Lehrer, designers Terri A. Lewis and Terri Roberts, assistant director Alana Dietze. A special guest at the table was Michael Van Duzer, writing a feature story for ThisStage magazine on the development of the new play.

After the remarks and a brief discussion, the script was opened and the new play was read aloud by the two talented actors. The room immediately filled with the passion and intensity of the play, sent soaring by the heat and fervor of the actors. It was clear, even at this first reading, that Dream Catcher was going to be an extraordinary ride for artists and audiences alike.

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Solar power confronts spirit power in the world premiere of ‘Dream Catcher’ by Stephen Sachs

Mojave station sunriseSolar power confronts spirit power in a new drama by Stephen Sachs about climate change, cultural change and the moral consequences of personal choice. Cameron Watson directs Elizabeth Frances and Brian Tichnell in the world premiere of Dream Catcher, opening January 30 at the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood.

Roy is the youngest member on a team of high-level engineers brought in to launch the most important project of his career — the construction of a solar energy plant in the middle of the Mojave Desert — when the sudden discovery of long-buried Native American artifacts threatens 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.

Inspired by a true event, Sachs wanted to address global warming, climate change and other large issues but weave them into something personal and intimate.

“I’ve always been interested in the battle between science and spirituality, and where they intersect,” he says. “How they are similar, each relying on a kind of faith to explain what we sometimes can’t see. And the paradox of moral certainty. Even when we’re campaigning for something good, sometimes we are forced to discover that we are not who we think we are.”

“This play is messy, complicated, volatile and exciting,” says Watson. “There’s no right or wrong, no bad guy – at least not for the obvious reasons. The muscularity of it got my attention right away. As soon as I read it, I knew I had to be involved, which doesn’t happen often.”

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Cameron Watson has received critical acclaim for directing Antaeus Theatre Company hit productions of Picnic (“Best Plays of 2015,” Time Out Los Angeles, and “Best of Los Angeles Theater 2015, Bitter Lemons) and Top Girls, which The Los Angeles Timesnamed one of the “Ten Best Stage Productions of 2014.” Other credits include the Los Angeles premiere of Cock (Rogue Machine Theatre); All My Sons (The Matrix Theatre Company); Trying, The Savannah Disputation, Grace and Glorie (The Colony Theatre); I Never Sang for My Father (The New American Theatre); I Capture the Castle, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey); and Rolling with Laughter in London’s West End. He wrote and directed the Miramax feature film Our Very Own, starring Allison Janney in an Independent Spirit Award-nominated performance. He created the new comedy series Break a Hip, starring Christina Pickles alongside Octavia Spencer, Peri Gilpin, Priscilla Barnes, Jim Rash and Allison Janney.

Elizabeth Frances finalElizabeth Frances has performed at various theaters including the Mark Taper Forum, La Jolla Playhouse, Los Angeles Theater Center, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, Native Voices and the Kirk Douglas Theater. She has worked with artists such as Travis Preston, Phil Soltanoff (Mad Dog Theater), Jim Findlay (Wooster Group), Shirley Jo Finney and Chris Anthony, and performed in world premiere by writers Randy Reinholz, Marcus Gardley, Josefina Lopez, Carolyn Dunn and Melinda Lopez. Film/TV credits include Ghost Forest,Hunting (Cannes), Her Story (produced by Eve Ensler) and Drunktown’s Finest(Sundance) with executive producer Robert Redford. Elizabeth was featured as one of twelve actors in the ABC Networks’ Talent Showcase. She holds a BFA from CalArts.

Brian TichnellBrian Tichnell’s theater credits include Circle Jerk (REDCAT); Some Cars (Padua Playwrights); Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate (L.A. Theatre Works national tour);Peace In Our Time, The Curse of Oedipus and Macbeth (Antaeus Theatre Company); Camino Real (Theatre @ Boston Court); and Hamlet (Oxford Shakespeare Festival). On TV, he recurs as Eric on Silicon Valley and has also been seen in Castle, The Newsroom, Body of Proof and Happy Endings among others. Originally from South Mississippi, Brian attended the University of Mississippi and California Institute of the Arts.

Sachs LA Times feature AUG 2015 croppedStephen Sachs’ plays include Citizen: An American Lyric (adapted from the internationally acclaimed book by Claudia Rankine); Heart Song (Fountain Theatre, Florida Stage); Bakersfield Mist (2012 Elliot Norton Award, Best New Play; produced in London’s West End with Kathleen Turner and Ian McDiarmid, in regional theaters across the US, and translated into other languages and performed worldwide); Cyrano (LA Drama Critics Circle Award, Best Adaptation); Miss Julie: Freedom Summer (Fountain Theatre, Vancouver Playhouse, Canadian Stage Company, LA Drama Critics Circle award and LA Weekly award nomination for Best Adaptation, and recently published by Dramatist’s Play Service); Gilgamesh (Theatre @ Boston Court); Open Window(Pasadena Playhouse, Media Access Award for Excellence); Central Avenue (PEN USA Literary Award finalist, Back Stage Garland award, Best Play); Sweet Nothing in My Ear(PEN USA Literary Award finalist, Media Access award, NEA grant award); Mother’s Day; The Golden Gate (Best Play, Drama-Logue); and The Baron in the Trees. He wrote the teleplay for Sweet Nothing in My Ear for Hallmark Hall of Fame which aired on CBS starring Marlee Matlin and Jeff Daniels. Sachs co-founded The Fountain Theatre with Deborah Lawlor in 1990.

Consulting with the Fountain on Dream Catcher are Jean Bruce Scott, producing executive director and co-creator of Native Voices at the Autry, and her staff. Set design is by Jeffrey McLaughlin; lighting design is by Luke Moyer; sound design is by Peter Bayne; costume design is by Terry A. Lewis; props are by Terri Roberts; production stage manager is Emily Lehrer; associate producer is James Bennett; andSimon Levy 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 2014 Ovation Award for Best Season and the 2014 BEST Award for overall excellence from the Biller Foundation; the just-closed West Coast premiere of Athol Fugard’s The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek, named to Los Angeles Times theater critic Charles McNulty’s “Best Theater of 2015” list; and the last seven Fountain productions consecutively highlighted as “Critic’s Choice” in the Los Angeles Times.

Dream Catcher opens January 30 and runs to March 21.

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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.

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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.

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West Coast Premiere of a new play by Athol Fugard at the Fountain Theatre

Painted Rocks_graphic_medThe 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.”

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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.”

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The Fountain Theatre launches its 25th Anniversary with the Los Angeles premiere of “Reborning”

Ryan Doucette, Kristin Carey and Joanna Strapp.

Ryan Doucette, Kristin Carey and Joanna Strapp.

How far would you go to create a family?

Launching the Fountain Theatre’s 25th Anniversary Season, Simon Levy directs Kristin Carey, Ryan Doucette, Joanna Strapp — and some very unusual, one-of-a-kind dolls — in the Los Angeles premiere of Reborning by Zayd Dohrn. How far would you go to create a family?. A darkly funny psychological thriller that takes an unsettling look at work, motherhood and the power of healing, Reborning opens at the Fountain Theatre on Jan. 24.

In Reborning, a young artist who crafts custom-made dolls begins to suspect that a demanding client may be the mother who abandoned her at birth. As she tries to unravel the mystery, she discovers the path to her own “reborning.”

“The play is funny and twisted, but also deeply emotional and very moving,” says Levy.

Ryan Doucette and Joanna Strapp

Ryan Doucette and Joanna Strapp

A reborn doll is a manufactured vinyl doll that has been transformed to resemble a human baby with as much realism as possible. Although many consumers collect reborns as they would regular dolls, others use them to replace a child they once lost or a child that has grown up. The dolls often come with fake birth or adoption certificates, and their “parents” care for them as they would an infant. Because of their realistic appearance, reborn dolls have occasionally been mistaken for real babies and rescued from parked cars after being reported to the police by passers-by.

“It’s a pretty dark play, but kind of a comedy too,” explains Dohrn, who first became aware of reborn dolls when his wife was pregnant and they were searching for baby clothes online.

“We stumbled across numerous sites and forums for reborn dolls,” he says. “Buyers would testify how the dolls comforted them. I was trying to balance my own fears and hopes about becoming a father with my work as a writer and an artist, and I became fascinated. These dolls are realistic enough to be upsetting — beautiful and grotesque and odd all at once.”

Reborning received a workshop production at The Public Theater in New York City, followed by a world premiere production at The SF Playhouse in San Francisco. San Francisco’s Eagle News called it “A major triumph… a taut thriller that will keep audiences on the edge of their seats. You don’t want to miss it,” while the Chronicle praised the play’s ability to balance “humor, suspense, and trauma.” The SF Weekly wrote, “Reborning proves that grim topics and taboos can also be damn funny.”

Zayd Dohrn

Zayd Dohrn

Zayd Dohrn’s other plays include Outside People (The Vineyard Theatre/Naked Angels), Want (Steppenwolf First Look) and Sick (Berkshire Theatre Festival. His work has also been produced and developed at Playwrights Horizons, the Atlantic Theater Co., Manhattan Theatre Club, Goodman Theatre, South Coast Rep, Ars Nova, Kitchen Dog, Theatre for One, Boston Playwrights’, New York Theatre Workshop and the Royal Court Theatre in London, among others. He has written screenplays for the American Film Company, Bedlam Productions, and Vox3 Films, as well as a pilot for HBO. He earned his MFA from NYU and was a Lila Acheson Wallace Fellow at Juilliard, where he twice received Lincoln Center’s Lecomte du Nouy Prize. He teaches playwriting and screenwriting at Northwestern University.

Simon Levy

Simon Levy

Simon Levy was honored with the 2011 Milton Katselas Award for Lifetime Achievement in Directing by the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle. Directing credits at the Fountain include The Normal Heart (LADCC Award for Best Revival), Cyrano (LADCC Awards for Direction and Production), A House Not Meant to Stand; Opus (LA Weekly Awards, Best Director); Photograph 51;The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore (Backstage Garland Award, Best Direction); The Gimmick (Ovation Award-Solo Performance); Master Class (Ovation Award-Best Production); Daisy in the Dreamtime (Backstage Garland Awards, Best Production and Direction); Going to St. Ives; The Night of the Iguana; Summer & Smoke (Ovation Award-Best Production); The Last Tycoon, which he wrote and directed, (5 Back Stage  awards, including Best Adaptation and Direction); and Orpheus Descending (6 Drama-Logue awards, including Best Production and Direction). What I Heard About Iraq, which he wrote and directed, was produced worldwide including the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (Fringe First Award) and the Adelaide Fringe Festival (Fringe Award), was produced by BBC Radio, and received a 30-city UK tour culminating in London. He has written the official stage adaptations of The Great Gatsby, Tender is the Night, and The Last Tycoon for the Fitzgerald Estate, all published by Dramatists Play Service.

Set design for Reborning is by Jeff McLaughlin; lighting design is by Jennifer Edwards; sound design is by Peter Bayne; costume design is by Naila Aladdin Sanders; prop design and set dressing are by Misty Carlisle; consulting doll artist is Amy Karich; associate producer is James Bennett; assistant stage manager is Shawna Voragen; and the production stage manager is Terri Roberts

Reborning  (323) 663-1525  MORE INFO/Get Tickets