Tag Archives: TV

These three Fountain actresses, now TV stars, stay close since forming bonds on stage

Psychologist Carl Jung introduced the word “synchronicity”,  coining it to describe a “meaningful coincidence,” when unrelated events seem to happen for a reason.  Synchronicity is something you feel. When, for no outward reason, the stars align and the right people come together at the right time and the result is something meaningful and long lasting. 

Synchronicity is what occurred with the cast of the 2012 Fountain Theatre LA premiere of Tarell Alvin McCraney‘s In the Red and Brown Water.  Magic happened not only on stage. Friendships were formed seven years ago that remain strong to this day. And three actresses from that cast — Simone Missick, Maya Lynne Robinson and Diarra Kilpatrick — are now enjoying a blossoming of their TV careers at the same time. Coincidence? We don’t think so.

Simone Missick, last seen at the Fountain in Citizen: An American Lyric, co-starred on the Netflix TV series Luke Cage as Misty Knight. She just signed the lead role in the new CBS legal drama pilot Courthouse.  

Diarra Kilpatrick is the creator and star of American Koko, an ABC digital original series, earning her an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy/Drama Series, Short Form. She created, wrote, and starred in the comedy pilot The Climb for Amazon, and is set to star in a new comedy for Showtime opposite Keenen Ivory Wayans.  

Maya Lynne Robinson, recently on stage at the Fountain in Runaway Home, is now a series regular on ABC’s Roseanne spinoff  The Connors, playing the role of Geena Williams-Conner.  

We asked these three dynamic actresses to share their thoughts on In the Red and Brown Water, and how theatre can form bonds that last a lifetime.

The race

In the Red and Brown Water, Fountain Theatre, 2012.

What was it about In The Red and Brown Water that created such close ties? 

MLR: For me, it stemmed from the fact that I was 3 months new in town and didn’t have a foundation/tribe yet. In the Red and Brown Water was the first project I was cast in once I moved to LA. I met these wonderfully creative and down-to-earth people and when you find those type of people, you shouldn’t let them go.

SM: I think what started at the table, with our director, Shirley Jo Finney, had a huge impact in creating a family amongst the cast and crew. To be able to discuss the play, the characters, inside and out and know that you were working with artists who took the work as seriously as you, made us all feel like we were experiencing something different and special. We knew we could trust one another onstage, and that trust helped us to build bonds as artists and as friends. But there is also a level of divine placement when it came to that production. Each of us were appointed to be there for those six plus months, for only God knows the reason, and to then be a part of each others lives. We’ve been there for each other through marriages, babies, cross country moves, and amazing work opportunities.  It is just one of those special blessings, that so many of us gelled, and we found sisters and brothers, aunties and cousins in one another.

DK: I do believe [director] Shirley Jo Finney brought together a great group of not only artists but people. It was a joy playing with them and I’m grateful that we’ve s formed such loving, supportive bonds. We made a family and even though that’s common in the theater, this is a particularly special group of artists.   Every one of us has continued to grow as artists and as people, I mean to the person. And I’m so, so proud of us.

What’s your favorite memory from that production?

MLR: Singing warm ups and prayer together before the show.  There was something about our vibration that made me happy to do the show with these people every day for almost six months.

SM: There are sooooo many. Some of them stay in the vault. But one of them is Maya Lynne stomping her feet to get some of our other (not as rhythmically gifted brothers) on beat. She earned a nickname from that. 

RED BROWN gals

Maya Lynne Robinson, Diarra Kilpatrick, Simone Missick, Iona Morris, 2018.

With whom from the cast have you most stayed in touch?

SM: All of us are on a text message chain that we connect through. This past Valentine’s Day, we all sent silly pictures to say we loved each other.  I had the fortune to work with Shirley Jo four more times after that production, and she is such a special influence in my career and in my life. Our stage manager, Shawna and I have worked together again. I love that girl. Diarra and Maya Lynne are people that I talk to more often. We are all around the same age, experiencing some of the same career “firsts”, and we are always shooting each other a text of congratulations and cheering one another on. But the Red Brown family got together for a Christmas brunch, and FaceTimed with Stephen Marshall who moved to NY, so he wouldn’t be left out. We just love each other!

MLR: Whether we speak daily or once a year, we all pick up right where we left off. We have text message chains during holidays and big events. We try to have a reunion whenever possible. Half of us got together for a reunion earlier this year.

What is it about theatre — and the Fountain Theatre in particular — that creates a feeling of family? 

MLR: There is a sense of family at the Fountain Theatre. From the exterior and interior style all the way to the intimacy of the spaces, the Fountain Theatre fosters closeness, authenticity and talent. 

SM: Live theatre is an experience like no other. It is the artist’s equivalent to trapeze work, but the net is your fellow cast members. You are sailing through the air, with the audience there witnessing you doing emotional gymnastics, and every moment is alive and terrifying and electrifying. The intimacy of the Fountain leaves no room for hiding. You have to be vulnerable and authentic at every turn. That experience is one that creates a bond with your acting partners, because you are all there being honest and alive together. 

DK: In The Red and Brown Water was a beautiful experience. I remember being in church and was particularly prayerful about opening myself up to new opportunities and challenges and ways to express myself.  After service, Erinn Anova came up to me and said she was helping to cast a play at the Fountain and wanted to make sure she brought me in for it. She had seen me in something else and thought I’d be right for the lead. I so badly had wanted to work at The Fountain and with Shirley Jo. So, every step of the Red/Brown journey felt as synchronistic as that. Like it was meant to be. Like magic.

SM: I’ve managed to keep my Red Brown family close through it all. It truly was an experience of a lifetime that I will always cherish.

Photos: Fountain Theatre’s all-star reading of ‘All the President’s Men’ soars at LA City Hall

Company 1

The company of ‘All the President’s Men’

Saturday night’s exhilarating reading of All the President’s Men at Los Angeles City Hall was an historic event. Not only was it a powerful statement advocating Freedom of the Press and honoring American journalism, it demonstrated a watershed moment in our city’s engagement with local arts organizations. Never has the City of Los Angeles handed over its Council Chamber to a theatre company and partnered with it in this way. We applaud Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell and his staff for making it possible.

The Fountain Theatre believes that events like All the President’s Men, where art and politics intersect to enhance our civic discourse, are essential to an informed society.  We believe a small theatre can do big things.  As Charles McNulty stated in his feature story on our event in the Los Angeles Times, “it is heartening to see an intimate theater like the Fountain advocating for what is in our collective interest as a nation.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Jeff Perry and Joe Morton, co-stars on ABC-TV’s hit series Scandal, took on the roles of Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee and anonymous source “Deep Throat,” joining alumni of The West Wing Bradley Whitford as Bob Woodward and Joshua Malina as Carl Bernstein; Richard Schiff as Post local news editor Harry Rosenfeld; and Ed Begley, Jr. as managing editor Howard Simons. The cast also featured Sam AndersonLeith BurkeSeamus DeverJames Dumont, Arianna OrtizSpencer GarrettDeidrie HenryMorlan HigginsAnna KhajaKaren KondazianRob NagleVirginia NewcombLarry Poindexter and Andrew Robinson. The reading was directed by Stephen Sachs, with sound design by Peter Bayne. 

The reading supported, in part, the Society of Professional Journalists, the nation’s oldest organization representing American journalists, founded to protect journalism and dedicated to the continuation of a free press. We were honored to be joined by the Los Angeles Press Club, which supports, promotes, and defends quality journalism in Southern California with the belief that a free press is crucial to a free society. And The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, defending the fundamental rights of each citizen as outlined in the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

“We have a commander-in-chief who does not respect or even understand the freedoms embedded in our Constitution or its First Amendment,” said Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, who hosted the reading in the John Ferraro Council Camber. “The Trump administration’s war on the First Amendment includes repeated degradations of the role of media in our society and repeated invocations of ‘fake news’ when the absolute truth does not suit him, blacklisting press on occasion, including, and not ironically, The Washington Post, [and] open discrimination and intolerance under the guise of religious freedom.”

“In Los Angeles, we hold these values dear,” O’Farrell continued. “Donald Trump and his administration do not represent our values. The state of California and the city of Los Angeles, we are leading the resistance. All of us gathered here tonight, we are part and parcel of that resistance.”

“I am so proud of our city,” stated Stephen Sachs in his remarks before the reading. “What other major city in the country would hand over City Hall to its artists? Would have its Councilmembers allowing artists to literally sit in their seats for one night to express an urgent fundamental truth about our country through their art?”

“To every news man and news woman in this room,” Sachs continued. “To every reporter, every elected official, every artist, every citizen – we offer this reminder of hope. The truth will set us free.”

Fountain Theatre to present ‘West Wing’ cast reading of ‘All the President’s Men’ at LA City Hall

ATPM cast image“Nothing’s riding on this except the First Amendment of the Constitution, freedom of the press, and maybe the future of the country.” — Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, as portrayed by Jason Robards in ‘All The President’s Men’

Bradley Whitford (The Post, Get Out, The West Wing), Joshua Malina (Scandal, The West Wing), Richard Schiff (The Good Doctor, The West Wing) and Ed Begley, Jr. (Future Man, St. Elsewhere, The West Wing) will head the cast of a special, one-night only reading of William Goldman’s screenplay for All The President’s Men, presented by the award-winning Fountain Theatre in partnership with the City of Los Angeles and with exclusive permission from Warner Bros Entertainment and Simon & Schuster. The free event will be hosted by Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell and will take place in the John Ferraro Council Chamber of Los Angeles City Hall on Saturday, January 27 at 7:30 p.m. A catered reception will follow in the City Hall Rotunda.

Based on the book by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the 1976 film All The President’s Men tells the story of their Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation of the Watergate scandal, which brought down the presidency of Richard M. Nixon.

“This high-profile reading will be a statement asserting the First Amendment, advocating freedom of the press and honoring the tenacity of American journalism in a free society,” says Fountain Theatre co-artistic director Stephen Sachs, who will direct the reading. “As the current administration is under investigation, the echo of Watergate rings loud and clear. Reporters from The New York Times and Washington Post have been heroes, warriors for our democracy, as they were forty-five years ago.”

According to Councilmember O’Farrell, “All the President’s Men is a reminder of the parallels between Richard Nixon and the corruption that brought his presidency to an end and the current state of corruption overshadowing the Donald Trump administration. I want to thank the Fountain Theatre for producing this live reading, which underscores the importance of art in its many forms that can illuminate the conditions that affect us as a nation and as a society.”

Adds Sachs “We are profoundly grateful to Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell’s office and the City of Los Angeles for taking the extraordinary and unprecedented action of hosting the reading at Los Angeles City Hall, in the City Council Chamber, as a sign of solidarity. I am very proud of our city.”

The event is co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Press Club, which exists to support, promote, and defend quality journalism in Southern California with the belief that a free press is crucial to a free society. Although admission to the reading is free of charge, any voluntary donations will support, in part, the Society of Professional Journalists, the nation’s oldest organization representing American journalists, founded to improve and protect journalism and dedicated to the perpetuation of a free press.

The Fountain Theatre is one of the most successful intimate theaters in Los Angeles, providing a creative home for multi-ethnic theater and dance artists. The Fountain has won over 225 awards, and Fountain projects have been seen across the U.S. and internationally. Recent highlights include being honored for its acclaimed 25th Anniversary Season in 2015 by Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Los Angeles City Council; the inclusion of the Fountain’s Citizen: An American Lyric in Center Theatre Group’s Block Party at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. The Fountain’s most recent production, the world premiere of Building the Wall by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan, ran for five months and was named “L.A. hottest ticket” by the Los Angeles Times.

All The President’s Men takes place on SaturdayJan. 27 at 7:30 p.m. in the John Ferraro Council ChamberRoom 340 of Los Angeles City Hall200 N Spring St.Los Angeles, CA 90012. Admission is free. Seating is extremely limited. Please go to www.FountainFreePress.com or email  freepress@fountaintheatre.com to inquire. No walk-ups will be permitted.

 

 

Fountain actresses are now conquering television and breaking barriers

fountain-actresses

Simone Missick, Taraji P. Henson, and Tina Lifford

They are, first and foremost, talented actresses now starring in some of the most popular shows on television. They are strong women conquering an industry dominated by men. They are women of color leading a new wave of diversity now finally being demonstrated on TV screens. And they are all members of the Fountain Family, seen in acclaimed productions on our intimate Fountain stage   

Simone Missick is now taking TV by storm co-starring as Misty Knight on the new Netflix series Marvel’s Luke Cage. She plays the first black female superhero in the history of television. The new series is now being seen in 180 countries.  There is already talk of giving Simone her own series in a Misty Knight spinoff. 

luke-cage-wp

Simone Missick as Misty Knight in ‘Marvel’s Luke Cage’

Simone’s launch to TV stardom is the stuff of local LA theatre legend. She was catapulted from acting in a play at the intimate Fountain Theatre to co-starring in a new popular television series as an iconic Marvel superhero. It’s the kind of plucking from obscurity to stardom of which most actors dream. 

CITIZEN Fountain Theatre feel most colored

Simone Missick in ‘Citizen: An American Lyric’ at the Fountain Theatre

Simone got the call to audition for the series while appearing on stage at the Fountain Theatre in our 2015 hit production of Citizen: An American Lyric. Shuttling back and forth between auditioning for the TV role and performing weekends at the Fountain, she knew it was a longshot. Suffering from a head cold, she flew to New York one final time to audition and test for the part. Sworn to secrecy by TV producers, Simone couldn’t share details with her Fountain cast about the role she was up for. But we knew it was big and important. We all waited. 

Then she got word.    

“I got a call from Jeph Loeb who was the head of Marvel. He kind of just said, ‘Prepare for your life to change,’” says Simone. “And what does that even mean for an actor who’s been working, doing theatre and short films in LA for 10 years? You can just never anticipate when that call is going to come, what it will really be. It was amazing.”

tina-lifford

Tina Lifford

Tina Lifford was also on stage at the Fountain with Simone in the same production of Citizen: An American Lyric. She now co-stars as Violet Bordelon, an aunt to the three estranged Bordelon siblings on OWN’s acclaimed drama Queen Sugar. The new series was  created, directed and executive produced by Ava DuVernay. Oprah Winfrey also serves as executive producer.  

Queen Sugar is groundbreaking. It is produced by a black-owned network and overseen by two black women—one who owns the network (Winfrey) and the other (DuVernay) as showrunner, head writer and director. All of the directors guiding every episode in season one have been women.  

“It’s exciting that we get to represent the excellence that is living in people of color,” says Tina. “The excellence that hasn’t necessarily had a platform before, which is why Ava is championing the whole inclusive movement. She is saying, there’s all of these stories and talents in every face of talent-making to tell those stories, and we’re going to show you who they are. That’s exciting.”

queen-sugar

Taraji P. Henson was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in the film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. She now stars as Cookie Lyon on the smash hit Fox series Empire, for which she won a Golden Globe Award and has twice been nominated for an Emmy. In 2016, Time magazine named Henson one of the 100 most influential people in the world on the annual Time 100 list.

taraji-empire

Taraji P. Henson as Cookie Lyon on ‘Empire’

Taraji appeared in our Fountain west coast premiere of The Darker Face of the Earth by Rita Dove. She has maintained her connection with the Fountain Family, seeing Fountain productions and visiting with our casts and companies after performances. 

taraji-et-cast2

Taraji P. Henson and the cast of ‘The Ballad of Emmett Till’

The Los Angeles Times has dubbed Diarra Kilpatrick as “a force of nature”. She is not only a dynamic actress. She is a gifted writer and ambitious creator. Her American Koko digital series, originally produced for her YouTube channel, received the Best Web Series Award at the American Black Film Festival and was lauded as a “Web Series You Should Be Watching” by Essence Magazine. ABC’s streaming service ABCd has now acquired American Koko, with Emmy winner and Oscar nominee Viola Davis producing.

“Diarra is an exceptional talent in that she cannot be put in a category,” says Davis. “She has a unique voice that transcends her generation.”

The Race

Diarra Kilpatrick “In the Red and Brown Water”

Diarra starred in the Fountain Theatre’s acclaimed and award-winning Los Angeles Premiere of Tarell McCraney’s In the Red and Brown Water. Diarra played Oya, a lightning-fast runner, in the stunning and lyrical drama. Since that dazzling production, Diarra has been sprinting ever since.  She is now also developing The Climb for Amazon. She will write and star in the project.   

deidrie-game-of-silence

Deidrie Henry on ‘Game of Silence’

The list of Fountain actresses goes on. Deidrie Henry has mesmerized audiences in such Fountain productions as Yellowman and Coming Home. She co-starred as Detective Liz Winters on the NBC TV series Game of Silence and is the national TV commercial character Annie for Popeyes.  Monnae Michaell (Citizen: An American Lyric) plays Nina on the new TV series The Good Place. Tonya Pinkins (And Her Hair Went With Her) is Ethel Peabody on the television show Gotham. Tinashe Kajese will be seen in the upcoming TV movie The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Fountain veterans Tracie Thoms, Karen Malina White, Juanita Jennings, Adenrele Ojo are seen often on TV. 

“I’m always thrilled to see one of our actors, any actor, male or female, succeed in the film and TV industry,” says Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs. “But to see these extraordinary women achieve these accomplishments and create change, knowing that they come from our Fountain Family, makes me even more delighted and proud.” 

Why LA Actors Do Theatre in Los Angeles

Blue silhouetteby Stephen Sachs

When Joseph Campbell spoke of the power of myth he didn’t have LA stage actors in mind. Yet a powerful and prevailing myth has spread for years in theater centers throughout the country about why actors do theater in Los Angeles. The legend claims that LA actors are somehow less serious and do theater only to be seen by casting directors in “the Industry” and not for the art of the work. This is simply not true. The idea that actors in Los Angeles only do theater for the purpose of showcasing themselves with the hope of being cast in television or film is not only an insulting and disrespectful myth, it is a lie.

As the Artistic Director of a leading theater in Los Angeles for 24 years and a longtime theater director, I have an insider view of the truth. It has been my experience over more than two decades that the hundreds, maybe thousands, of LA actors I have worked with do a play for one fundamental reason: they are passionate and committed to the work. The LA actors I’ve worked with have been fiercely dedicated, hard-working, highly-skilled, deeply impassioned and utterly professional.

I believe actors are extraordinary creatures. And actors who do theater in Los Angeles, even more so. They tackle challenges unique to this region, not faced in other cities. Particularly those acting in productions in one of LA’s many intimate theaters like mine where the pay is next-to-nothing and the reward is decidedly artistic.

The LA actor navigates a theater landscape in Los Angeles unlike any other in the United States. There are a handful of large production houses and a collection of mid-sized venues. These, however, are dominated by a network of more than 100 intimate theaters (99 seats or less) webbed throughout the region. And that’s what LA is: a region stretched over 469 square miles, not a city. An immense terrain of diverse neighborhoods too vast and spread-out to be walkable, connected only by freeways. No centralized Theater District.

Skyline-Los-Angeles-Night

Intimate theaters in Los Angeles operate under the AEA 99-Seat Plan. This one-of-kind agreement was created years ago to address the unique plight of the stage actor in Los Angeles. Overseen by Actors Equity, the Plan permits Equity actors to work in intimate theaters in LA without the benefit or salary of a formal contract. Actors are paid a ridiculously low stipend. In pure dollars-and-cents, factoring in expenses and wages lost elsewhere over the course of rehearsals and a run, it can actually cost an actor money to do a play in Los Angeles. So why do it? Because much of the most satisfying work and most challenging new plays are being done in these intimate theaters. Actors long to act in these plays for the same reason we ache to produce them: for the sake of the art. Nobody makes any money.

Debunking the myth, the LA actor often commits to a play under tremendous self-sacrifice, not self-promotion. They reschedule or give up Film & TV auditions, change their day-job schedules, cancel shifts as waiters, rearrange travel plans, postpone weddings, fail to attend funerals, miss family events – all to be in weeks of rehearsals  and then months running a play, all for next-to-nothing money in a theater that holds only a few dozen people. Why? Because they are dedicated to their craft.

I’ve seen LA stage actors turn down high-paying roles in movies and TV shows because it conflicted with a play they were doing at my theater. If “getting seen” by The Industry were their true motive for being with us, why would they do such a thing?

Actors may move to Los Angeles with the hope to make money in movies and television. What they find, however, may surprise them and save their artistic lives: a thriving Los Angeles theater scene of generous, talented artists. Actors may book an episodic to feed themselves and pay their bills, but they do a play to feed their souls and pay their dues as an artist. They come to LA to break into The Industry. They stay to be part of a Community.

Hollywood still heralds itself as “the movie capital of the world” despite the fact that fewer movies are actually shot here anymore. More plays are now produced each year in Los Angeles than major motion pictures. Yet LA still fights for its right to be called a “theater town.” The fact is: Los Angeles has more theaters and creates more theater productions than any other city in the world. More than New York or Chicago. More than London. That’s right. Los Angeles. How’s that for irony?

Los Angeles is also home to more working artists than any other major city in the United States, including New York. According to a report commissioned by the Center for Cultural Innovation (CCI), Los Angeles employs the largest pool of artists of any metropolis in the nation. Surprised? Los Angeles supports more than five times as many artists in the performing arts than any other US city, substantially exceeding New York.

Stephen Sachs

Stephen Sachs

I’ve directed actors in cities around the country, in Canada and the United Kingdom. The Los Angeles stage actor is as trained and as talented, as intelligent and inventive as any actor anywhere. A good actor is a good actor, no matter the coast. Sure, I’ve seen bad theater and bad actors in Los Angeles. I’ve also seen bad theater and bad actors in Chicago, New York and London. I’ve also seen truly extraordinary performances by actors in Los Angeles. In this respect, LA is no different than any other major city. If only it were perceived that way by the rest of the country.

The myth is that acting in a play in Los Angeles is only beneficial as a vehicle or stepping stone to something else more important. But LA theater actors, the ones in the trenches, the ones on the stages, don’t see it that way. To them there is nothing more important. They work too hard and surrender too much to do theater for any purpose other than perfecting their craft. Actors are artistic athletes. They need to work out, stretch their muscles, push themselves, and be challenged.

Actors don’t do theater in LA to be seen. They’re not on stage to serve themselves. They are here, like actors everywhere, to serve their art.

Stephen Sachs is the Co-Artistic Director of the Fountain Theatre. This post originally appeared in HowlRound.

 

Spotlight: Actress Maya Lynne Robinson Moves from NY to LA and Lands ‘In The Red and Brown Water’

Maya Lynne Robinson

Maya Lynne Robinson

Actress Maya Lynne Robinson moved from New York City to Los Angeles in May, 2012. Two months later, she booked her first play in LA. And what a play and production it turned out to be! To her (and our) good fortune, Maya was cast in the ensemble as the gossipy Nia in our Los Angeles Premiere of In the Red and Brown Water. The production has drawn critical acclaim, been named “Best in Theater 2012” by the Los Angeles Times, and has been extended to Feb 24th.

Why did you move from New York to Los Angeles?

I wanted a change.  I was living in NYC, but working regionally and I wanted to move somewhere where I could live and work.  I also came to focus more on film and television.  I have an extensive theatre background and wanted to broaden my options.   

Any preconceptions about LA being a “theater town”? The Hollywood Industry?

I didn’t know that LA was a theater town!  I thought my focus immediately would be on film and television and “networking.”  That’s the Hollywood Industry perception I was told about.  LA has been much more than networking for me.  It’s helped me create a little family, a sense of community and belonging that I hadn’t felt in a long time, professionally and personally.  I moved here knowing only three people.  

I knew the acting talent pool would be fierce, but I didn’t have any thoughts, one way or the other, on if the actors would be great.  All I thought about was becoming a part of that acting pool.

Maya Lynne Robinson (right) as Nia, Simone Missick (left) as Shun, in "In the Red and Brown Water" at the Fountain Theatre

Maya Lynne Robinson (right) as Nia, Simone Missick (left) as Shun, in “In the Red and Brown Water” at the Fountain Theatre.

‘In the Red and Brown Water’ is your first play in LA.

Yes, it’s  is my first play here.  I moved here in the middle of May and by August 2nd was cast in this fabulous production.  I feel really blessed.  Thank you Shirley Jo Finney and Erinn Anova for believing in my talent, with no one knowing anything about me.  I was fresh off the boat!  And thank you to Stephen Sachs, Simon Levy and Deborah Lawlor for allowing me to be a part of the Fountain family.

What has the ‘Red/Brown’ experience been like for you?

This experience has been very interesting for me.  Extremely emotional; taking me out of a comfort zone that I didn’t know I had.  I expected it to be professional.  I never expected the personal bonds to be so strong with the rest of the cast and crew.  We’ve become a family.  I’ve also grown up a bit and learned a lot about who I am.  I felt very “East Coast” when I moved here. Now I just feel like me. It’s hard to put into words, you know?  I’m still transitioning. 

The Fountain Theatre

The Fountain Theatre

How has your experience been working at the Fountain?

The Fountain has been fabulous.  I love the fact it looks like a home. Theatre should feel like coming home.  It’s been a great experience.  I didn’t have expectations of what LA theatre companies would be.  I just dove in.

How do you like living in Los Angeles?

It’s winter time!  70 degrees!  How do YOU think I like LA?!  I love the snow, I’m originally from Cleveland, but a snow less winter hasn’t been that bad.  The traffic though… I can do without the traffic. 

Is it different being an actor in New York versus being an actor in LA?

I’m not sure I’ve processed the differences yet.  I’ve just been blessed to meet people and work immediately.  I spent one week performing ‘Red/Brown’ at night and shuttling to San Diego to be on set during the day.  It  was a very different experience for me; exhausting and fulfilling. 

What are your plans after ‘Red/Brown’ closes?  

To keep acting, finish my one woman show, introduce LA to me. I’m also looking for representation.  I booked this show on my own, but some help, would be fantastic.  Oh, and go on vacation!

In the Red and Brown Water Now – Feb 24  (323) 663-1525  More

TV Show Changes Role From Hearing to Deaf to Nab Deaf Actor in ‘Cyrano’

Troy Kotsur

A remarkable thing — perhaps even historic — happened in a Hollywood casting office last week. The team for the TV show “Criminal Minds” took the extraordinary step of rewriting a character in an episode from a hearing role into a deaf role solely so they could hire a deaf actor. The “Criminal Minds” casting director  had seen deaf actor Troy Kotsur on stage in our smash hit production of Cyrano at the Fountain Theatre and was so blown away by his performance that he convinced the TV team to change the role in the upcoming episode from a hearing character to a deaf character just so they could hire Kotsur.

Video Trailer for ‘Cyrano’ at the Fountain

click “cc” if you need captioning

As Troy tells it:

I walked into the casting director’s office and saw about 10 hearing actors in the waiting room.  They were auditioning the same role as I was going for.

After I auditioned, I felt great with the choices I made to present the character and how I went with the flow with the Criminal Minds team in the room.

At first, I assumed they did not know much about Deaf people.  During the process, I thought: Did they understand anything I signed? Could they tell if I played the way they wanted the character to be?  Did they see the details I brought with my face, eyes and body language for the character?  Could they tell the difference between hearing actors and Deaf actors?  Is there a difference?  Or could only an expert, who knew both cultures, catch the differences? Did the team know what they were looking for? Most teams don’t know until they see what the actors bring in the room.

Deep down inside, I was hoping they wouldn’t hire me because I was Deaf.  I wanted to believe they would hire me because of the skills, nuances, and the specifics of what I was able to give for my character, for their story.  Good acting.

After I auditioned, I felt that it was possible that they did see the specifics and moments.  It was a positive experience.

I learned later that originally the character had lots of action and no speaking lines.  They gave the character to a hearing actor, Matthew Jaeger.  Matthew has worked with Deaf West Theatre in the past with Deaf and hearing actors.  He asked the Criminal Minds team to give Deaf actors a chance to show their work because they can do this character just as well.  I’m grateful to Matthew Jaegger who encouraged the Criminal Minds team to give Deaf actors a chance.  This all wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for Matt.

I also learned that the casting director saw Cyrano at the Fountain Theatre.  I had no idea.  It’s wonderful to have casting directors and writers see plays at the Fountain and Deaf West for the opportunity it gives for more jobs for Deaf actors.  It’s challenging for Deaf actors to get jobs because there aren’t many written roles for Deaf actors to play.  Non-speaking roles or Deaf characters are roles I usually audition for.

The Criminal Minds team decided to give it a shot.  They did a re-write after they saw my audition.  What a journey and a blessing.  I am curious to know how the writers will write, to dive into a Deaf person’s mind!”

Troy’s agent, Liz Hanley with Bicoastal Talent, is thrilled.

“I have had the pleasure of repping many deaf artists over the years,” she says. “I always count it as a great success when a deaf client lands a ‘hearing’ role. I have always submitted deaf actors for roles they were right for, whether the breakdown called for a deaf actor or not. Through hundreds of submissions, I have only convinced a casting office or producer four times to see a deaf actor for a role that wasn’t labeled “deaf”. All four times resulted in a job.”
“If only Hollywood was more willing to see deaf actors on all roles. Thanks to the awesome Cyrano production,a Hollywood mind was opened.”
Troy will continue dazzling audiences (and casting directors)  in the lead role of Cyrano until the run ends with a final extension on July 29.

Troy Kotsur and Erinn Anova in “Cyrano”

“I’m happy that Cyrano got extended twice so that more people have the chance to experience opening their minds and souls to what this show is about” says Troy. ” It gives many people a new perspective or a new light with depth, having two cultures and languages on stage.  We’re all basically the same. The ability and skill to communicate can either bring you closer or farther away.”

“I hope this play and more plays like it can continue to inspire writers to create more stories for Deaf actors to get more work.”

Cyrano  Final Extension to July 29  (323) 663-1525   More Info