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.
Casting is now complete for our upcoming West Coast Premiere of On the Spectrum by Ken LaZebnik, directed by Jacqueline Schultz. Awarded a 2012 Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award citation and granted a 2011 Edgerton Foundation New American Play award, On the Spectrum is a funny and touching love story between a young man with Asperger’s and a young woman with autism. Previews begin March 9th and it opens March 16th.
Meet The Cast:
Dan Shaked (Mac) is from New York and making his Fountain Theatre debut. He is a graduate of NYU Tisch School of the Arts drama program and studied at The Lee Strasberg Film/Theater Institute and at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. He can be seen in the upcoming films “The Broken” and “Homeward”, the TV movie “Gilded Lilys” with Blythe Danner, and was a guest star on ABC’s “Body of Proof”. He played the lead role in the film “Storm up the Sky,” selected for the Tribeca Film Festival. He has worked at LaMaMA in New York City and played the lead role in Boston’s UnderGround Railway Theater’s production of Naomi Wallace’s “The Fever Chart” at the Central Square Theatre in Cambridge.
Virginia Newcomb (Iris) was last seen at the Fountain Theatre in the 2011 West Coast Premiere of the rarely-seen Tennessee Williams play A House Not Meant to Stand. She recently co-starred on stage in The Grapes of Wrath at Knightsbridge Theatre, Sweet Bird of Youth at the Marilyn Monroe Theatre and This Property is Condemned at the Globe Playhouse. She has appeared on TV’s “The Office” and “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and can be seen in the new comedy webseries “Bandmates“. Virginia stars in the lead role in “The Boogeyman”, a feature film based on Stephen King’s short story.
Jeanie Hackett (Elisabeth) is well known to Los Angeles theater audiences. She served as Artistic Director of two prestigious Los Angeles ensemble companies: The Classical Theatre Lab & The Antaeus Company. She has played several roles for LA Theater Works, including Trifles with Amy Madigan. And with The Antaeus Company: Tonight at 8:30 & The Autumn Garden, along with numerous readings & workshops. Broadway credits include Stella in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire (with Blythe Danner) at Circle in the Square & Belle in Eugene O’Neill’s Ah, Wilderness at the Roundabout. Off-Broadway she’s been seen in new plays at Soho Rep, The Promenade & The Harold Clurman Theaters. She received her Equity card at the Williamstown Theater Festival where she appeared in over a dozen plays such as The Greeks, Room Service, The Bay at Nice, Summerfolk & The Front Page among others. She’s performed at the Pasadena Playhouse, South Coast Rep, Center Theater Group, Long Wharf, Three River Shakespeare Festival & The Tennessee Williams Arts Center playing leading roles in Richard III (Lady Anne) The Winter’s Tale (Perdita, Hermione) The Taming of The Shrew (Kate) Hamlet (Ophelia) Cyrano de Bergerac (Roxanne) Uncle Vanya (Yelena) Old Times (Kate) Arms and The Man (Louka) How the Other Half Loves(Teresa) Vieux Carre (Jane Sparks) & Present Laughter (Joanna) among others. Other LA Theater credits include: The Seagull (Matrix), Black Box (Odyssey), Phaedra (Getty Villa), Light & Pera Palas (Theatre@Boston Court), Kate Crackernuts (24th Street Theater) & Andromache in The Trojan Women at CBS Radford. Recent film work includes: The Words (with Bradley Cooper & Dennis Quaid),Take Me Home Tonight (with Topher Grace), King of California (with Michael Douglas) & Post Grad (with Michael O’Keefe & Carol Burnett.) Favorite television work: Lie to Me, Lincoln Heights, Medium, Criminal Minds, The “L” Word, Charmed, Judging Amy (recurring) & playing Queen Margaret from Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 3 on The West Wing. On the Spectrum marks her debut at the Fountain Theatre.
On the Spectrum March 16 – April 29 (323) 663-1525More Info
We hear it a lot about playwriting—that there’s no money in it. Whether or not that’s actually true, I had the opportunity to talk about this issue recently when I met with a young playwright, a senior at Northwestern University’s Creative Writing for the Media Program, who wanted to pick my brain about how I’ve managed to make it as a career playwright.
But first: let’s try and define make it. I, like a lot of playwrights, struggle. I struggle to write, and to write well. I struggle to get productions, workshops, grants, commissions, and more. Like hundreds of other playwrights, I spend days putting together applications to get into conferences, festivals, and residencies. And, like hundreds of other playwrights, I receive many more rejection letters than congratulatory calls.
Second: let’s define career. If you mean a reliable paycheck—nope (see above). If you mean health benefits or financial security—not a chance. If you mean a profession that steadily moves forward, increasing in stature and scope and visibility… possibly… depends… could happen one day. As writers, so much is out of our control.
In 2010, New York magazine ran a brief piece on Bruce Norris (and his then-new play Clybourne Park) that’s always haunted me. To this day, I remember it vividly thanks to the number $19,000. This was how much Mr. Norris said he earned the year before. Earned. All year. This, from an acclaimed and brilliant writer, who’s had plays produced across the world. To me, this announcement was not only a brave thing to declare publicly, it was a revelation. After Todd London and Ben Pesner’s incredibly insightfulOutrageous Fortune, David Dower’s years of field study… there it was again, in bold print. In New York magazine. A monetary truth exposed.
It is indeed the rare playwright who gets to announce playwriting as a job, a real-life, full-time gig.
And I know this, I do. I knew it going into this field. And still, when this Northwestern student sincerely asked me “Is it worth it?” I found myself nostalgic for the days when I used to immediately answer that question with an unqualified, urgent, booming Yes. But these days, with a kid and a husband and responsibilities and more, my answer has grown in complexity. And, especially with young playwrights, I want to share open and honestly about where I am today with this notion of worth—of value.
Half of the time, and especially in a country where The Arts (and arts programs) are in a constant struggle for survival, my belief that the value of art trumps the value of cash remains unshaken. But then, the other half of the time, when the mail comes in and my school loans are due or my son needs a filling that isn’t covered by insurance…well, that’s where things get complicated. At what cost are we choosing to live the lives of playwrights? Or artists?
“Is playwriting worth it?” My answer to this student was: financially? For where I am today, right now? No. But… in almost every other aspect: yes. Playwriting is worth it. But why? With the amount of energy I spend on writing, the time away from my family, the funds I shell out to attend readings and workshops in other states with no guarantee of production, no guarantee that if I do get a production another one’s coming along, what is the value of playwriting? Or better yet, what can’t I put a price on?
“The Children” (2012, Theatre@Boston Court)
For me, it turns out the answer is collaboration. Or more specifically: a collaboration that works. The experience that I had working with director Jessica Kubzansky and dramaturg Emilie Beck on The Children couldn’t be measured in dollar signs. I was fortunate enough to work with two artists who attacked the play with great care and sensitivity, who asked incisive questions, who challenged my every line but never lost sight of the origins of the play’s beating heart. When collaboration works, you leap together. You dig together. You forgive together. When collaboration works, you learn to become a better artist, communicator, listener, leader, and follower.
How many other professions make this kind of deeply personal exchange possible? Where the work includes sharing who you are and why you are? And how do you place a value on that? Can you put a price on that conversation? That dialogue? That sharing of your core identity in pursuit of a common purpose and goal?
Collaborators build something together. We hear the phrase “the theater community” used often. And that’s what this collaboration built for me. A community. A home—for myself, for my play, for ideas and emotions and a mission. These are all things I greatly value—it’s what I hold dear.
Here’s what I want to say about the money part: wherever we go, we pay for the privilege of community. Governments have taxes. Clubs have fees. Religious organizations have tithes. It’s not exactly analogous, but maybe playwriting is like Social Security. It’s something you will always pay into because it provides you a social safety net. You contribute—with money and time and sacrifice—to a community of artists who shore you up, challenge your evolution, and provide you a place in the world. In this instance, the word value can literally mean a bargain.
Michael Elyanow is a playwright. The Children was produced in 2012 at The Theatre @ Boston Court. A Lasting Mark, commissioned by Hartford Stage, was part of Manhattan Theatre Club’s 2011 7@7 Reading Series. The Idiot Box, published by Samuel French, was produced at Open Fist and Naked Eye theatres. Ten-minute plays Banging Ann Coulter and Game/Over were Humana Festival finalists. Michael is currently writing a play commission for the Carleton College Department of Theatre & Dance.
During the holiday season, the LA Times (aka LAT) demonstrated anew its curiously constricted view of the importance of the other LAT — LA theater.
Times theater critic Charles McNulty’s year-in-review roundup included a Top 11 list of theatrical productions, of which only two (Blackbird and Peace in Our Time) were LA-originated. Two other shows on his list, The Cripple of Inishmaan and Let Me Down Easy, were imported by LA area theaters. One Orange County production, Circle Mirror Transformation, also made McNulty’s list.
The other six shows on the list – more than half of the total – included a Canadian import McNulty saw in La Jolla (Jesus Christ Superstar), three shows he saw in New York (The Book of Mormon, The Motherfucker with the Hat and The Normal Heart), and two he saw in London (Luise Miller and One Man, Two Guvnors). McNulty also wrote a separate year-end essay that mentioned other shows, including four LA-originated productions, but they didn’t appear on his Top 11 list.
Whenever a critic tries to cover more than one geographical area in a year-end theater assessment, especially if traveling among the areas involves crossing not only continents but also oceans, I wonder how the critic could possibly have seen enough of the contenders in any one of the areas to make reasonably comprehensive judgments. To be fair to McNulty, it’s true that he wrote that these were the shows that “had me clapping loudest at home and abroad” – not that these were necessarily the best shows in the 2011 theatrical world or even in these particular cities.
Even so, a lot of readers probably assume that the chief LA Times critic reviews or at least sees most of the better LA shows. But it ain’t necessarily so.
I looked up the record of what McNulty wrote about in 2011, courtesy of one of the databases at the LA Public Library. I found 52 reviews of individual theater productions within LA and Orange counties (plus one review at Long Beach Opera and a RADAR L.A. commentary that included brief comments on several shows).
It’s no surprise that he reviewed Center Theatre Group shows more often than those of any other company – a total of 13 in 2011. The surprise about his CTG coverage is that only two of those 13 were at CTG’s flagship venue, the Mark Taper Forum. Four were at CTG’s largest theater, the Ahmanson, while seven were at CTG’s smallest venue, the Kirk Douglas. McNulty wrote about eight productions at Geffen Playhouse and seven at South Coast Repertory. He covered five shows at Broad Stage (all of them imports).
So 33 of his 52 individual theater reviews in Los Angeles and Orange counties took place at those four companies, which are more or less regarded as the “1%” of LA theater by many of the “99%” who work elsewhere in the vast LA theater terrain.
McNulty also spent time in the major San Diego theaters, reviewing five shows at La Jolla Playhouse and four at the Old Globe (plus one at San Diego Rep, which he later re-reviewed when it came to LA).
Oddly enough, McNulty largely avoided one of our major theaters, the Pasadena Playhouse, even though 2011 was the year when it rebounded from bankruptcy. McNulty reviewed only one of the playhouse’s productions, Dangerous Beauty. He ignored the return of the playhouse’s Sheldon Epps as a director in Blues for an Alabama Sky (it opened the same night as the Mark Taper Forum’s Vigil – but McNulty didn’t review Vigil either).
Although 2011 was the year when A Noise Within moved from Glendale to larger digs in Pasadena, McNulty wrote only about the company’s opening show (Twelfth Night) in the new theater, not about the final season of three (better) productions in the former space or the new theater’s second show.
"Small Engine Repair" at Rogue Machine
He didn’t write about any of the four 2011 shows that won the top production honors at last year’s Ovation Awards ceremony (A Raisin in the Sun, Kiss Me Kate, Small Engine Repair, Jerry Springer: the Opera), nor has he has ever written (in his six years at the Times) about Troubadour Theater Company, which won the “best season” Ovation for the second time in three years.
He reviewed no 2011 shows at most of the companies that make up the middle tier of Equity-contracted LA theaters – the Colony, International City Theatre, East West Players, Theatricum Botanicum, Independent Shakespeare, the Falcon, Ebony Rep, Theatre West, Native Voices – nor did he write about anything at the larger musicals-only companies such as Musical Theatre West. He reviewed one production each at Reprise, REDCAT and the Skirball, plus the only Getty Villa production that was open for review in 2011. He wrote about one show each at the larger Pantages and Montalban theaters and at the Hollywood Bowl, as well as Cirque du Soleil’s Iris.
On the small theater (99-Seat Plan) level, he reviewed eight productions, including two at Boston Court and one each at six other venues. That’s eight out of the 371 productions that used the 99-Seat Plan in LA County in 2011, according to tentative figures from Actors’ Equity. Continue reading →
Without stage managers the show would not go on. Yet they are the most unsung of theatrical professionals. Believing they should have a chance to shine, this is part of a series of Q & A articles with Southland stage managers. Next up is Terri Roberts who is currently stage managing the hit Bakersfield Mistat the Fountain Theatre.
How did you become a stage manager?
I fell into it by accident. Or not – depending on your point of view. In the fall of 2003 I set up and ran concessions for The Theatre @ Boston Court for their inaugural production of Romeo and Juliet, Antebellum New Orleans 1836. That led to me becoming a dresser for Juliet and the women, doing costume repairs, moving sets and props – generally pitching in wherever help was needed. The stage manager, Jennifer Scheffer, was impressed with my work, so the following fall she invited me to be her ASM for a new musical she was stage managing. It was an Equity gig, so I was eligible to join the union on my very first stage management job!
"The Ballad of Emmett Till"
Do you have a favorite show you have stage managed?
There have been a few, actually, and for several different reasons (although the common denominator is the cast and/or director and designers. You just can’t beat working with really good, talented people!) However, The Ballad of Emmett Till at the Fountain Theatre holds a particularly tender place in my heart. Our dear Ben Bradley was just beginning rehearsals for it when he was murdered on New Year’s Day 2010. It was Ben who brought me into the Fountain in the first place, so when Stephen Sachs asked me if I would be willing to be the assistant stage manager, I immediately said “yes” – not only because I needed the work, but because it was something I could do to honor Ben. I only came into the show right before tech, but Shirley Jo Finney (who took over as director) and the cast and stage manager were incredibly welcoming and loving, and I bonded quickly with them. We were all connected both by the show (which was brilliant) and by the tragedy of losing Ben, so the whole thing was an extraordinarily personal, profound experience.
Do you have any funny stage managing memories that you cherish?
Well, it wasn’t funny while it was happening, but now…!
In late 2006 I was stage managing a show called Rockers at Theatre West. It had been cold and stormy all day, and during the show it began to rain. It was the first storm of the season, and it was a really heavy rain. About 15 minutes from the end of the show I started to hear a strange noise in the wall. It was rushing water, and the water was starting to pour into the booth through an opening in the wall.
I grabbed the small booth trashcan and stuck it under the flow of water, then snuck out of the booth and grabbed another trashcan from the lobby. I spent the last part of the show doing a wild, one-woman bucket brigade between the booth and the lobby bathrooms, carrying and dumping trash cans full of water to keep the booth from flooding while simultaneously trying to not disturb the audience (who were just a few feet in front of me), trying to call theatre staff for help on my cell phone, and trying to run the last few cues and get the show properly ended!
As soon as the show was over I was able to grab members of the cast and crew to help . . . the whole thing made for a great combined sense of drama, hilarity, accomplishment and teamwork!
Terri with "Bakersfield Mist" actors Jenny O'Hara and Nick Ullett
What is your current project?
I’m currently stage managing Bakersfield Mist at the Fountain Theatre, which opened on 11 June – and we’re still running! Bakersfield Mist is a wonderfully fun show about the nature and perception of art, and the audience response to it has been unbelievable. This is my sixth show at the Fountain, and my second working with Stephen on a production he has both written and directed. (And hopefully, it won’t be my last!) We’re definitely closing on 18 December, so if you haven’t seen it yet, well, as Maude would say, what the *$#! are you waiting for?!
Acclaimed LA Theatre artist Luis Alfaro and director Laurie Woolery will lead the artistic team for the West Coast Premiere of Tanya Saracho‘s El Nogalar, the next production opening at the Fountain in January. Woolery will direct the new play, Alfaro will serve as dramaturg.
Laurie Woolery is the Associate Artistic Director of Cornerstone Theatre in Los Angeles. Recently, Ms. Woolery directed The Language Archive by Julia Cho at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. She has also directed Amor Eterno – Six Lessons in Love (an anthology by six Latino playwrights) for the grand opening of the Ricardo Montalban Theatre, Bryan Davidson’s Reflecting Back at the Los Angeles Central Library as part of the National Tour of the American Originals exhibit and Richard Coca’s solo piece The Day I Flipped Off Jimmy Carter for SCR’s Hispanic Playwrights Project.
As a director, educator and actor, Laurie has worked at South Coast Repertory (former Director of the Theatre Conservatory), Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Inge Center for the Arts, Denver Center, Los Angeles Theatre Center, Ricardo Montalban Theatre, Deaf West Theatre, fofo Theatre, Highways Performance Space, A Noise Within, Bonderman, Sundance Playwrights Lab as well as the Sundance Children’s Theatre.
Luis Alfaro is a Chicano writer/performer/director known for his work in poetry, theatre, short stories, performance and journalism. He is also a producer/director who spent ten years at the Mark Taper Forum as Associate Producer, Director of New Play Development and co-director of the Latino Theatre Initiative.
Luis is the recipient of a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation fellowship, popularly known as a “genius grant,” awarded to people who have demonstrated expertise and exceptional creativity in their respective fields. A Rockefeller Fellow and University of California Regents Chair Fellow, he is the only artist to have won two awards in the same year from The Kennedy Center’s Fund for New American Plays. He is also the recipient of awards from the National Endowment of the Arts, Theatre Communications Group and PEN USA, among others. He is featured in over 25 anthologies, has an award-winning spoken word CD, and was nominated for a local Emmy for his short film, Chicanismo.
His recent plays include Oedipus El Rey (Magic Theatre, Woolly Mammoth, Theatre@BostonCourt) and Electricidad (Teatro Vision-San Jose, Mark Taper Forum-Los Angeles, Goodman Theatre-Chicago, Borderlands Theatre-Tuscon).
World premiere production of "El Nogalar" at the Goodman Theatre, Chicago.
El Nogalar (The Pecan Orchard) by Tanya Saracho is inspired by Anton Chekhov’s classicThe Cherry Orchard and charts a Mexican family’s experience as their way of life is threatened by encroaching drug cartels, violence and economic upheaval. Set in present-day Northern Mexico and infused with Spanish, Spanglish and Espanglés, it’s a comical and moving story about the choice between adapting to the changing world or being left behind.
Video Trailer from the Goodman production:
El Nogalar at the Fountain Theatre will begin previews Jan 14, opens Jan 21 – Feb 26. (323) 663-1525