Tag Archives: USC

Fountain Theatre’s audio play Numbered Days, a moving, true love story, launches today

Being Valentine’s Day, treat yourself to being swept away by the love and healing powers of music and the written word in Numbered Days, the true-life love story of two passionate artists who used the power of their artistry to sustain them through their “numbered days” as a couple. Playwright Corey Madden has transformed her poetic memoir into a four-episode audio play produced by the Fountain theatre that launches today.

How can art, and the process of creating it, help us cope with hardship? Numbered Days turns Madden’s poems about the battle with cancer she shared with her beloved husband, composer Bruno Louchouarn, into an audio art piece meant to bring healing to others.

Two-time Emmy®, Peabody and SAG award-winning actor Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad) stars as playwright Corey Madden in an audio theater production of Madden’s moving memoir. Veteran actor Tony Amendola (Antaeus Theatre Company, Showtime’s Dexter, ABC’s Once Upon a Time) stars alongside Gunn as Bruno. Jeanne Sakataand Jack Stehlin take on multiple roles. Madden directs, and Jeff Gardener is audio producer, sound designer and Foley artist. Prominently featured throughout is Louchouarn’s glorious music.

“This is not just a play about living with cancer — it’s a play about joie de vivre, artistry, and how to get through the unimaginable. Art created healing for us, and that was nothing short of a miracle.”

Following her husband’s diagnosis, Madden began writing short, free-verse poems as a way to give voice to her anguish.

“I started writing on my iPhone as a way to cope with the stress and uncertainty, but what I discovered was that focusing only on Bruno’s illness and treatment was robbing us both of the very thing I wanted most to preserve — his life,” she explains. “The practice of writing about exactly what was happening in the moment helped me see the grace within daily life. It helped me re-focus on the joy of being alive today. Instead of living in fear, we were both able to experience joy through making art. This is not just a play about living with cancer — it’s a play about joie de vivre, artistry, and how to get through the unimaginable. Art created healing for us, and that was nothing short of a miracle.”

Corey Madden at Cafe Figero, where she and Bruno first met

In addition to writing and directing Numbered Days, Madden’s original works include Rain After Ash and Sol Path, commissioned and produced at Pasadena’s AxS Festival; Day for Night, presented by Santa Monica’s GLOW and featured in Poland’s Transatlantyk Film and Music Festival; Surf Orpheus, produced by UC San Diego and at the Getty Villa, and Rock, Paper, Scissors which was co-written with Laural Meade, premiered at Childsplay and was subsequently produced at Speeltheatre in Holland. Madden is also the director of And So We Walked: An Artist Journey Along the Trail of Tears created and performed by Delanna Studi, which has been produced by Triad Stage and Portland Stage and represented the United States at the Carthage International Theatre Festival in Tunisia in 2019, and will be released by Audible in Spring 2022.  Madden has directed plays, opera and music events, and multi-disciplinary works at the Mark Taper Forum, Public Theatre, Getty Museum, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston Court Performing Arts, Trinity Repertory and Actors Theatre of Louisville, among many others. Madden trained at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. She received her undergraduate degree in dramatic arts from UNC Chapel Hill and her graduate degrees in creative and cinematic writing from USC’s Professional Writing Program and USC Film. Madden is currently the executive director of the Monterey Museum of Art and was associate artistic director of Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum, where she developed and produced more than 300 new plays during her 22-year tenure.

Bruno Louchouarn (1959-2018) composed more than 600 original works including orchestral and chamber music, opera, dance, film, television and theater scores, as well as sound and media installations. His remarkable body of work reflects his wide-ranging interests in music, media and sound, informed by his academic research in cognitive science, artificial intelligence and ethnomusicology. Louchouarn’s musical catalogue reflects the spirit and rhythms of Paris, Mexico City, Los Angeles and Piedmont North Carolina, the places he called home over his six decades of life. During his lifetime, Louchouarn collaborated extensively with dance, theater and visual artists including Suzanne Lacy, Jacques Heim, Herbert Siguenza, Michael John Garces, Juan Felipe Herrera, and his wife, Corey Madden, to create performances in which his moving and layered scores play a leading role. Louchouarn’s collaborations with Susan Jaffe on Metallurgy and Carmina Terra were among his most rewarding creative experiences. Louchouarn’s compositions have been performed at leading arts institutions such as the Kennedy Center, Royce Hall at UCLA, Cal Arts’ REDCAT, the Getty Museum, Juilliard School of Music, University of Southern California, University of Akron, UNC School of the Arts, Chapman School of Music, Occidental College, San Diego Rep, Boston Court, Pasadena Playhouse, Cornerstone Theatre Company and at festivals including Santa Monica’s GLOW, Pasadena’s AxS Festival and Poland’s Transatlantyk Film and Music Festival.

Audio producer, sound designer and Foley artist Jeff Gardener has designed sound and performed as an actor across the country. His credits include the Geffen Playhouse, Kirk Douglas Theatre, Wallis Annenberg Center, A Noise Within, Antaeus Theatre Company, Boston Court Pasadena, Circle X Theatre Company, Echo Theater Company, Rogue Machine, Matrix Theatre, Skylight Theatre, IAMA Theatre Company, The Shakespeare Theatre (DC), Arena Stage, Kennedy Center, Williamstown Theatre Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland. Jeff can be seen at L.A. Theatre Works, where he regularly performs live sound effects.

All four episodes of Numbered Days are now available for $20 at www.FountainTheatre.com. Listen to it now, wherever you get your podcasts, with someone you love.

Actor Dor Gvirtsman embraces a complicated role in hit play ‘The Chosen’ at Fountain Theatre

Dorian Tayler

Dor Gvirtsman

After taking a brief hiatus for the Passover holidays, our smash hit production of Chaim Potok’s The Chosen restarts its critically acclaimed run this weekend. With every performance sold-out since it opened in January, this second and final extension continues to June 10th. 

We caught up with actor Dor Gvirtsman as he prepared to leap back into the role of Danny Saunders, the brilliant and troubled son of the tzaddik Reb Saunders and destined to follow in his father’s footsteps as the leader of his ultra-Orthodox Hasidic community. 

Where were you born? 

I was born in Tel-Aviv, Israel, and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, primarily in Mountain View. Mountain View is a delightful, quiet suburb whose flashiest and most famous resident is Google.

Where did you train as an actor?

I started acting when I was in fourth grade, but I would say my formal training began at the California State Summer School for the Arts in 2011. It was the first time I was immersed in a conservatory-style program, learning about and actively training in theatre, day in and day out. Being involved with that program the summer after my junior year of high school solidified my decision to pursue a degree in acting.

The majority of my acting training occurred at the University of Southern California. That was where I truly learned the craft of acting: breaking ideas down into techniques that I could polish and practice through exercises, scene work, analysis, and performance. My third year I spent a semester training classically at the British American Drama Academy in London. It was a delightful opportunity to build and polish my technical skills by studying and working on Greek plays, Shakespeare, and Restoration Comedy in one of the greatest theatre cities in the world.

How long have you been in Los Angeles?

Six years. I came down here to study at USC, and then I made friends, fell in love, and started working.

In The Chosen, which aspect of Danny’s character do you identify with most?

Danny and I share a desire to understand people. Danny is raised in an absolute, fundamentalist world. The Biblical texts provide astounding analytical insight into law, sociology, and even general insights into the human condition, but provide fewer answers about detailed interpersonal dynamics. Those who are closest to Danny are a mystery. His father is revered by his friends and neighbors, yet provides Danny with no direct guidance or advice on how he is to fill his large shoes. Freud provides Danny with the tools to start understanding how and why people do what they do, in more absolute, specific terms than the Golden Rule.

One of the reasons I love acting is because it gives me the opportunity to think like, behave as, and understand people different than I am. A character I play may make choices I would never make, but in order to play those choices truthfully on stage or on screen, I must learn to understand why they are being made. What Danny sees in Freud, I see in acting: The opportunity to make sense of the people and the world around me, to embrace the complexity of a world that is far from absolute.

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Dor Gvirtsman and Sam Mandel

The difficult relationship between Danny and his father is key to the The Chosen. What’s it like acting opposite a partner who rarely speaks or looks at you?  

The onstage life between Danny and Reb Saunders is a delicate balancing act. When we do interact, we each need to respond to what the other is doing in as thoughtful, specific, and vulnerable a manner as possible. This is not only for the audience’s benefit, but also for each other. It’s how we can communicate: If I know exactly what Steve means by his action, it is easier to respond, and vice versa. The rest is built on the trust that when we aren’t interacting, we are each forwarding our story in our own way. This is developed through conversations between the actors and with the guidance of our director, Simon. Simon’s eye it vital when we actors can’t see each other.

When we do finally get to look at each other, I find many of the denser ideas in the play give way to the human story: A relationship between a father and a son who love each other. Danny defends his father throughout the play, even through his confusion and fury. When Red Saunders and Danny finally speak at the end of the play (spoilers!), the complexities in their relationship seem to give way to one of the most basic things adolescents hope to hear from their parents: I love you, and I am proud of the adult you have become. Having only recently come into an age where I could share moments like that with my own parents, its tremendously emotional experiencing that on stage. 

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The play served as important trigger in your artistic life. 

The Chosen was the first professional stage play I ever saw. I had seen, and performed in, school plays, but seeing The Chosen was the first time I saw theatre in the real world. They were using the medium not only to entertain, as school shows primarily do, but to ask real questions that pertained to my Jewish life and my prescient adolescence. It helped me regain confidence in my desire to act at a time when I was almost dead-set on giving it up because “that’s not what kids with actual friends do” in the mind of a young teenager. The Chosen was the right play at the right time, and it helped set me on my path to where I am today.

What’s it like being part of such a hit production?

It is a humbling, extraordinary privilege. I am touched and amazed by the fact that audiences continue to want to share their afternoons and evenings with us.

Deep into our run, we still have the pleasure to perform for sold-out houses. The jokes still land, the energy still changes in the room when we arrive at an emotional moment, and the role and the show provide new layers and moments to be uncovered. As we head into our extension, I’m starting to realize it may be a good long while until I have the pleasure of being a part of a show like this again. I’m thankful for every bite I get. It’s a little hard to not get sentimental about it.

What’s the most memorable thing an audience member has said to you after a performance?

I have gotten a few Brooklynites who come up to me after then show and told me they have seen and met some Williamsburg Hasids, and that I could pass for one. That is not only a fun premise for an Ocean’s Eleven style heist, but a profoundly moving comment to hear.

Even as a Reform Jew, the Orthodox world seems distant, and at times even foreign. It is often hard to reconcile the fact that people who are part of the same Jewish community as I am could see the world so differently than I do. Knowing that someone who is more intimately connected to the New York Hassidic community sees truth in Danny Saunders makes me feel like I have learned a little about a world I am not a part of. To me, that’s beautiful.

THE CHOSEN out front FT

What’s it like working at the Fountain Theatre?

Oh, it’s tremendous. To me, working at the Fountain is a gift for a young actor. To get to work on a play of substance with people of substance who care about this art form is special. I recognize that. We had the luxury of a long rehearsal process, so we had time to play with this show and experiment with our characters and relationships. We had the extraordinary privilege to work with our director, Simon Levy. He is an artist as passionate as he is compassionate, a patient and specific director with a beautiful vision. I always felt listened to and cared for, as a person and as a professional. Atmospherically, it was great getting to work at a theater where the staff like each other and enjoy working together. It’s not obvious. Artists don’t always get along, and that warmth goes a long way in making the artistic process feel safe and supported. I absolutely understand how the Fountain has cultivated its excellent reputation.

Dor Gvirtsman is an unusual name for an actor. Why did you revert back to it after first changing professionally it to Dorian Tayler? What led to that decision?

Dor backstage

Backstage at ‘The Chosen’

Dor Gvirtsman is the name on my birth certificate. It’s the original. Unfortunately, it’s not a typical “show business name”. People would ask me: What kind of a name is Dor? Dor, like a door? For years, people told me I would likely need to change my name if I want to be an actor. Gvirtsman has lots of consonants in a row; It wasn’t marketable. And I want to be an actor, so I ran with it.

People meeting me for the first time thought Dor might be short for Dorian. I’m a big Oscar Wilde fan, and I love the name Dorian, so that part was easy. Tayler came about as the result of my working at a summer theater program. The kids took one look at me and decided my name was Taylor. I thought it was odd, but interesting that the pure eyes of children decided this name was right for me. I liked the flow of Dorian Tayler: it sounded akin to the names of the English celebrities that I admired and were popular at the time.

However, in the past few years, the world has begun to change. We seem to be seeking a popular culture that reflects more of the population that consumes it. As a result, being your authentic self is becoming more celebrated. I thought, “If Saoirse Ronan could use her guest segment on Stephen Colbert’s show to explain how to pronounce her name, then there is a future for Dor Gvirtsman”. As more people in my professional acting life found out my real name, and didn’t run away in disgust and terror, I became more comfortable with the idea of using my real name in my acting career. When I was cast in The Chosen, I had the opportunity to join Equity. The application asked me what I wanted my professional name to be – I chose my authentic one.

It seems you guys in the cast get along well. What’s the backstage life like?

We get along fantastically well. It’s quite remarkable. We trust each other and love each other as artists and people. It made rehearsing this play a safe, special artistic experience, and it makes for a wonderful long run. This is a group of people I am excited to come in and work with every week.

On another note, we are a cast comprised of men spanning generations. John and Steve have had more experience in the industry than Sam and I. They will sometimes tell us stories about shows they’ve done and experiences they’ve had over the years, and it is delightful to hear and learn from their experience. We are all quite silly and irreverent for a cast of a show so full of ideas and tenderness. 

Any plans after this long run of The Chosen finally ends?   

I’m traveling back home to Israel to see my family and celebrate with them at my aunt’s wedding! After that, I want to dive right in to a new project. Any takers?

The Chosen is now playing to June 10th. More Info/Get Tickets

Longtime Fountain Theatre Subscriptions Director Diana Gibson Passes Away at 69

Diana Gibson

Diana Gibson in the Fountain Theatre lobby, February 2014

Producer, writer, director, actress and longtime subscriptions director at the Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles, Diana Moore Gibson passed away on Thursday, July 17 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center from multiple complications following pneumonia. She was 69. Born Nov. 11, 1944 in Des Moines, Iowa, Diana moved to Los Angeles to attend USC, where she earned MFAs in both Painting and Drama and was the recipient of the prestigious Cole Porter Award.

She was a member of and performed with the USC-USA Festival Theatre Company, for which she wrote and directed two folk-rock musicals that went on to tour internationally: The Word, based on the Old Testament, was performed at the Jeanetta Cochran Theatre in London and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival; and Words and Pictures, about the history of art, toured to nine American Houses in Germany, the Cambridge Arts Theatre in England and the Edinburgh Fringe. She also wrote the musical Cinderelle, an adaptation of the Cinderella story, which was directed by Jack Bender at USC and at the Los Angeles Performing Arts Festival at Barnsdall Park, and Baby Steps, a collection of one-acts that was directed by Kevin Tighe at Hollywood’s MET Theatre in 1983.

Ms. Gibson joined Ted Schmitt at the Cast Theatre in Hollywood in 1986, where she served as associate artistic director until 1989, then as artistic director from 1989-1999. Highlights of her decade-long tenure include Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award winning world premieres of David Steen’s Avenue A and Melody Jones by Dan Gerrity and Jeremy Lawrence, and ten acclaimed world premieres by playwright Justin Tanner.

In 1999, Diana joined the Fountain Theatre as subscriptions director, a position she claimed to enjoy “more than any of those [previous positions].” She frequently referred to Fountain staff and subscribers as “a magical group of people.” A continual presence in the Fountain lobby, she knew the majority of the Fountain’s 1500 subscribers, “her members,” by name, and remembered the names of their spouses and children as well. Known for her gruff, straight-talking manner and acerbic sense of humor, she often said how much she enjoyed chatting with subscribers, both on the phone and in the Fountain lobby.

She is survived by her sister Julie Gibson Josephson, brother-in-law Steve Josephson and niece Kira Moore Josephson.

The Fountain Theatre has established the Diana Gibson Subscriber Fund, to provide Fountain subscriptions to low-income students and seniors.

A memorial to honor Diana’s life and accomplishments will be held on Saturday, Aug. 2 at 1 p.m. at the Fountain Theatre. For more information and to RSVP, email info@fountaintheatre.com  or call (323) 663-1525.

Meet the Cast of ‘My Name is Asher Lev’ at the Fountain Theatre

3 actorsBased on the best-selling novel by Chaim Potok, the stage adaptation of My Name is Asher Lev by Aaron Posner is a fast-moving theatrical journey in which all the characters in the play are performed by three talented actors.  Playing many roles requires that each actor combine versatility with emotional depth and complexity. And a fearless sense of fun.

Meet our extraordinary cast of our upcoming Los Angeles Premiere of My Name is Asher Lev:   

Jason Karasev

Jason Karasev

Jason Karasev plays the lead role of Asher Lev.  Jason was born and raised in Chicago, where he has performed with the Tony-Award winning Victory Gardens and Steppenwolf Theatres, to name a few. In Los Angeles, Jason produced and starred in Stephen Belber’s Tape, which took Best of Fringe Honors at The Hollywood Fringe Festival. He has also been seen as Phil in A Boys’ Life (Crown City) and as Naz in Philip Ridley’s Mercury Fur (Ovation Nomination). Some of his Chicago Theatre credits include Stanley in Neil Simon’s Broadway Bound (The Drury Lane), Zoran in Tesla’s Letters (Timeline Theatre Co.), Stone Cold Dead Serious (The Athenaeum), The Last Night of Ballyhoo (Merle Reskin) and References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot (Bailiwick Rep.). Jason’s film and TV credits include the hit MTV series Disaster Date, Nickelodeon’s iCarly, Improvised, Shoot The Moon, and Evidence. Jason has trained and performed at the renowned Second City, Chicago with recent SNL cast member Jason Sudeikis and is a Graduate of The Theatre School at DePaul University.

Anna Khaja

Anna Khaja

Anna Khaja plays three roles: Asher’s mother, a rich gallery owner, and a model. Anna most recently appeared in the LA Premiere of Falling at Rogue Machine Theatre. Theatre credits also include: the extended Off-Broadway run of Shaheed: The Dream and Death of Benazir Bhutto, which she also wrote, at the Culture Project in NYC (2013); the LA premiere of Shaheed: The Dream and Death of Benazir Bhutto (Ovation Award – Lead Actress in a Play / Ovation Nomination – Best Production of a Play); David Hare’s Stuff Happens at the Mark Taper Forum (US Premiere/Ovation Nomination); Judith Thompson’s Palace Of The End at NoHo Arts Center (US Premiere/LA Weekly Award/Ovation nomination), The Cosmonaut’s Last Message (LA Weekly Award) as well as several other productions at The Open Fist Theatre; No Word In Guyanese For Me (GLAAD Award). Regional credits include the Cleveland Playhouse and the Marsh Theatre in SF. Film/TV: Yes Man, Post Grad, King of California, Order of Chaos, Reunion, California Solo, The Newsroom, The Closer, NCIS:LA,  Numb3rs, House M.D., Criminal Minds, Private Practice, Bent, Sleeper Cell, Dirt, Weeds and a recurring role as Zaafira on season 5 of HBO’s True Blood.

Joel Polis

Joel Polis

Joel Polis takes on the greatest number of characters: he is Asher’s father, Asher’s Uncle, the Hasidic community’s Rebbe, and a noted artist who becomes Asher’s mentor. Joel is a native of Philadelphia. He attended the USC School of Theater and Yale Drama School before beginning a stage career in New York. He returned to Los Angeles to work in television and films but continued performing in theaters around the country, from off Broadway and Williamstown to San Diego and West LA. Theater credits include Pound of Flesh, Bach at Leipzig, Defiance, The Baby Dance, Julius Caesar, Family Business, Riga, Names, Oleanna, Richard 3, Three Travelers, The Merchant of Venice and After Crystal Night. He has appeared in over 120 episodic television shows, sitcoms, Movies of the Week, and a dozen feature films.  These include The Thing, Castle, It’s My Party, True Believer, Seinfeld, Law and Order, Northern Exposure, Cheers, Home Improvement, Picket Fences and Roseanne

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

PHOTO SLIDESHOW: Actors from ‘The Normal Heart’ Encourage and Enlighten Young People at LGBT Youth Conference

Jeff Witzke, Bill Brochtrup, Verton R. Banks

Jeff Witzke, Bill Brochtrup, Verton R. Banks

Actors from our acclaimed production of The Normal Heart participated in the Models of Pride LGBT Youth Conference today at the University of Southern California (USC).  This one-day conference is presented by the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center’s LifeWorks program and focuses on the concerns and interests of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) youth up to age 24, and their allies. 

The Models of Pride conference offers over 100 workshops, a huge resource fair, exciting entertainment, lunch and dinner, and an evening dance with DJ. The workshops cover many areas of life that are experienced by LGBT youth transitioning to adulthood including but not limited to LGBT issues.

The Normal Heart actors were joined at the conference today by Fountain Co-Artistic Stephen Sachs and Associate Producer/ASM Terri Roberts . The Fountain hosted a table at the outdoor event. The group handed out flyers, interacted with hundreds of young people, and networked with dozens of other organizations. It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon and a very productive day.

Reaching out to young people is a vital goal and ongoing process for the Fountain Theatre and the company of The Normal Heart. The smash hit production has educational, historical, cultural and artistic importance for young audiences who were born after the initial AIDS crisis exploded on the scene in the early 1980’s.  The Fountain was determined to be at today’s LGBT Youth Conference. To keep AIDS and Gay Rights awareness alive in young minds and remind young people that the battle is not over. And to encourage them to see an important play that  brings these issues — and so much more — dramatically and passionately to life.

Enjoy These Snapshots from Today’s Conference 

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The Normal Heart  Extended to Dec 15th (323) 663-1525  MORE