Isa’s Intern Journal: Morning Coffee, Rupert & Rasberry Birthday Cake

blue coffe cup

by Isa Espy

For the last two weeks I have been arriving at around 10 a.m. each morning, and unlocking the Fountain’s second floor side door. Sometimes I am greeted by Maria, the Fountain’s lovely housekeeper. Other times, the first thing to hit me as I walk though the door is the whiff of brewing coffee (one of the world’s best smells, in my opinion). Occasionally, though, I am the first one to arrive, and the Fountain’s sunny cafe welcomes me with a sleepy quiet that is quickly dispelled as people begin to trickle in.

Last Thursday, however, was not such a day. The Fountain regularly rents out its space to other theatre artists within the community, and last week we were hosting a haunting immersive theatre project called Alone which describes itself as “an ongoing, site-specific, fully-immersive and existential experience that explores the range of human emotions.”  Alone had transformed our space, covering all the windows with foil, and draping our walls with black fabric. I was the first person to arrive Thursday morning, and I opened the side door into pitch blackness. I fumbled around for the light switch, all the while hearing the eerie rustle of tinfoil. 

Audiences enter Alone: An Existential Haunting

It was a little unsettling sitting alone in the dark when it was actually morning. Making photocopies suddenly became an adventure as I had to navigate myself through cloth tunnels to get to the printer.

About an hour later The Fountain was abuzz with activity. James Bennett was holding rehearsals for his Rapid Dev show — Leland Frankel’s new play Better Part of Forever. The Alone team was putting the last touches on their show before it opened that night, and Citizen: An American Lyric was rehearsing in the theatre. A full and busy house!

Happy Birthday, Deborah!

Happy Birthday, Deborah!

Rupert

Rupert

While everyone was lovely, one new face in particular stole my heart. That face happened to be covered in fur. Deborah’s dog, Rupert, made a guest appearance at our staff meeting, and I fell in love. Our meeting was extra special because we were also celebrating Deborah Lawlor’s birthday. Book keeper Licia Jaccard made a delicious flowerless chocolate cake with raspberries in celebration. And, while our staff meeting to­ do list was ever-­growing, chocolate cake made it so much better.

Isa Espy is our summer intern from UCLA. Our thanks to the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and the support of its Arts Internship Program.  

Award-Winning Poet Claudia Rankine explores everyday racism in America with ‘Citizen: An American Lyric’

Claudia Rankine

Claudia Rankine

Fountain Theatre stage adaptation Opens Aug 1st

by Ernest Hardy

During the Q&A following her recent reading at MOCA, someone asked poet Claudia Rankine about the politically and morally complex act of sharing images and video clips of dead black bodies, bodies murdered by policemen, across social media. It’s unquestionably a form of pornography, but can there be something of substantive and socially transformative value in the posting of these modern day lynchings? Ms. Rankine answered, in part, with a multi-tiered question:

“What does it mean to have black male bodies out holding the space of evidence, and also allowing whiteness its sentimentality around black pain, and also having the body be an orphan body as if there’s no family behind it?”

After breaking down in detail the obscenity of Michael Brown’s slain body laying in the street uncovered for four hours (“No way that would have happened to a white body,”) with even his mother not allowed to touch him – and then his mother being denied her son’s body for two weeks – Ms. Rankine reminded the packed room that 12-year-old Tamir Rice’s mother had to wait six months to get his body from the city after he was killed by cops. “They [the authorities] need [all that] time to explain away what we are seeing,” she said bluntly.

“Yes, this is pornography,” she added during the post-reading book signing, “but we need these images out in the world to make real and undeniable for others what we know – what we have always known – and what has always happened.”

book coverHer 2014 book Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf Press), which has won the National Book Critics Award for Poetry, the PEN Open Book Award, an NAACP Award for Outstanding Literary Work/Poetry, and is up for the Forward Prize for poetry in the UK, is an exquisitely written brutal read. A collection of lyrical prose poems, cultural criticism, brief screenplays, and images from across the spectrum of the visual arts, the effect of the book (experimental/accessible/intoxicating) is at times akin to having a razor slide across your skin.

She read at MOCA Grand as part of their William Pope L exhibit Trinket, and kicked the evening off reading from his monograph The Friendliest Black Artist in America (MIT Press), whose text she says turned her into a Pope fan-girl, and is one of the core influences behindCitizen. She said Pope’s work is one of the things that egged her on to explore, “The lack that becomes the hole that cannot be filled.”

From there, she read poems about police brutality, Hurricane Katrina, the failure of white people to call out racism in their daily lives (with nods to those who actually do,) the soft-but-not-really racism in academia, the racism Venus and Serena Williams have faced throughout their careers – and still face, and the quotidian erasure of and hostility toward blackness. In between pieces, she explained her process; for example she and her husband recorded CNN coverage of Hurricane Katrina in the days leading to its touchdown on land, and its aftermath. Going through the hours of footage after the fact, she came across post-hurricane statements by Barbara Bush (“And so many of the people in the area here, you know, were underprivileged anyway so this is working very well for them,”) and Wolf Blitzer (“… so many of these people, almost all of them that we see, are so poor and they are so black,”) that she wove into her piece, and have lost none of their power to stun.

Claudia-Rankine-KCRWOne of the biggest overall surprises was just how funny she was – dry, droll, sardonic. But it also makes sense. That humor is a very necessary protective device when swimming in and documenting the grim realities of anti-blackness. And it was a relief to be in the presence of a poet with a sense of musicality and melody in their delivery that was utterly absent the god-awful slam-poet / coffeehouse / spoken word flow whose embedded hackneyed rhythms and overblown self-importance can sabotage even the best written poems.

In the Q&A that followed, a question about identity politics of the ‘90s and the psychoanalytic aspects of her work led her to observe that the flaw of identity politics was/is the notion that, “If you could see me and properly name me, then you’d change the way you think about me.” To which she added, “That’s bullshit.”

But one of the highlights of the evening came when she introduced her final poem. “It’s always interesting, the choosing of the last piece,” she said with a chuckle. “Because I could leave you in a place of great happiness…” She paused. “But noooooo, we would have to start all over.” She laughed wickedly.

This post originally appeared on craveonline.

The Fountain Theatre will present the world premiere stage adaptation of Citizen: An American Lyric in August. More Info/Get Tickets 

Isa’s Intern Journal: The beauty of being close to another human being in ‘I And You’

Matthew Hancock and Jennifer Finch in 'I And You'.

Matthew Hancock and Jennifer Finch in ‘I And You’.

by Isabel Espy

One Friday night about a month ago, still in the process of interviewing for this internship, I came to the Fountain Theatre with two of my best friends to see my first show here: I and You. As soon as we entered the space I had the unsettling feeling that I had accidentally broken into a seventeen ­year-old’s bedroom. I was in complete awe at the level of detail and specificity of Tom Buderwitz’s set.

Before the actors had even appeared on stage, I already felt like I was getting to know a character – the room. The Fountain’s 78-seat theatre really allows the audience to feel as if they themselves are part of the play. The lighting and set design had already brought me thoroughly into the world of the play even before the house lights were completely dimmed.

Then the actors stepped on stage. All my attention shifted from admiring the posters on the walls and the string of fairy lights behind the bed, because suddenly I was in the story. As I sat through the performance I could hear my friends laugh and gasp as they followed the action. At one point, all three of us gasped in perfect unison. 

I And You is 100% contemporary, referencing Instagram and Facebook right and left, making jokes anyone with any online presence can relate to. Yet, while social media plays a deep role in the piece, the issues that it brings up are universal to all, digitally savvy or otherwise. It is a play that deals with the fragility of true human connection. We have all been there. We have all had those moments of difficulty, felt the pain of isolation, the embarrassment of being vulnerable to another person, and the beauty of being close to another human.

Jennifer Finch and Matthew Hancock

Jennifer Finch and Matthew Hancock

I won’t give anything away, but I can tell you that as we left the theatre both of my friends’ faces had the telltale wetness of cathartic tears. On our drive back to Westwood (with a quick stop at Chipotle for a post-show treat) we couldn’t stop talking about the play. I and You ends its run this weekend, and if you still have a chance, I would definitely recommend getting your butt over to the Fountain Theatre!

Final 2 performances: Saturday, June 20th @ 8pm; Sunday, June 21st @ 2pm.

Get Tickets/Info

Isabel Espy is the Fountain Theatre’s Summer Arts Intern from UCLA. 

‘Citizen’ Rehearsals Trigger Thought-Provoking Talk Between Actors at Fountain Theatre

Cast of 'Citizen" have table talk.

Cast of ‘Citizen’ have table talk.

Rehearsals are now underway for our exciting world premiere stage adaptation of Claudia Rankine‘s acclaimed book about race in America, Citizen: An American Lyric. Only a few days into rehearsal , the new play has already inspired an honest, open and insightful dialogue between the actors, sharing thoughts and feelings about race, identity, human connection, self-awareness and what it means to be a citizen in this country. 

Adapted for the stage by Stephen Sachs and directed by Shirley Jo Finney, the free-flowing and fast-moving theatre piece opens August 1st. 

The talented ensemble cast includes Bernard K. Addison, Leith Burke, Tina Lifford, Tony Maggio, Simone Missick, and Lisa Pescia.  

Before the cast was permitted to turn to page one of the script and begin the painstaking process of exploring and analyzing the text, it was essential to Director Finney that the actors have a frank conversation with each other about their own life experiences concerning race, social/cultural interaction and human relationships. To get to the heart of the issues exposed in this play, Finney insisted, it must be personal. The result was a spirited dialogue at the rehearsal table that was raw, insightful, painful, funny and enlightening.    

Actor Tony Maggio.

Actor Tony Maggio and company discuss the play.

This powerful  and thought-provoking stage adaptation fuses theatre, music, sound, movement,  and video imagery. Snapshots, vignettes, a meditation on the acts of everyday racism. Remarks, glances, seeming slips of the tongue. Those did-that-really-just-happen-did-they-really-just say-that slurs that happen every day. And the larger incidents that become national firestorms. As Rankine writes, “This is how you are a citizen.”

Rankine’s acclaimed book is the Winner of the 2015 National Book Award, the 2015 Los Angeles Book Award, and the PEN Award.

At Monday night’s first rehearsal, producer Simon Levy guided the company through production business, scheduling and paperwork. Costume designer Naila Aladdin Sanders took measurements of the actors. Director Shirley Jo Finney spoke about her vision for the play. The script was then read aloud by the cast.  Also present were Co-Artistic Director Deborah Lawlor, Director of Devlopment Barbara Goodhill, designers Yee Eun Nam, and Dillon Nelson, movement director Anastasia Coon, publicist Lucy Pollak, and intern Isabel Espy.  

The meditation on race and truthful questioning of social interaction dramatized in this new work is timely for our city and our country.  Our world premiere stage adaptation of Citizen: An American Lyric promises to be the theatrical event of the summer and will certainly generate much-needed conversation. We urge all citizens to join us for this illuminating and important ride! Opens August 1st. 

Photo Slideshow: Table Talk

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Get Tickets/More Info 

Isa’s Intern Journal: Hi There, Fountain Family!

Isabel Espy

by Isabel Espy

My name is Isa and I am so excited to be joining the Fountain Family for the next ten weeks as an intern in development. I am a rising senior acting major at UCLA’s School of Theatre Film and Television, with a minor in society and genetics. I grew up in Chile, where I spent a lot of my time riding horses and dancing ballet on rickety wooden stages. While my home is more than five thousand miles away, the California summer sun reminds me of that of Chile, and spending my summer immersed within the world of performance reestablishes my conviction that art is universal.

Isabel Feb 2015Most of my experience with theatre has been in performance, but I am finding that what goes on behind the scenes at a theatre can be almost as exciting as being on stage! Within my first day here at The Fountain, Stephen and Barbara have introduced me to a throng of new and ongoing projects which promise to be both exciting and challenging. There is so much going on, and I hope to get my bearings quickly so that I can delve right in! I was able to sit in on one of the initial table-reads of The Fountain’s newest project: Citizen: An American Lyric — by Claudia Rankine and adapted for the stage by Stephen Sachs. I had just finished reading the script the night before, and hearing the words brought to life by the voices of an amazing group of actors was really exhilarating. I am happy I will have a chance to watch the piece flourish over the next couple of weeks, and am looking forward to being a small part of the Fountain team.

Our thanks to the LA County Board of Supervisors and the Los Angeles County Arts Commission for the support of their Arts Internship Program.

‘Citizen’ Comes Alive in Reading of Stage Adaptation of Award-Winning Book at Fountain Theatre

The company of CITIZEN with author Claudia Rankine (standing, 3rd from left) on Fountain stage.

The company of CITIZEN with author Claudia Rankine (standing with scarf, 3rd from left) on Fountain stage after last night’s reading.

A thrilling new project came to life last night on stage at the Fountain with the first-ever reading of the new stage adaptation of Citizen: American Lyric by Claudia Rankine. The book about race in America has earned international acclaim, winning the National Book Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Award,  and is a finalist for the PEN Award. 

Adapted for the stage by Stephen Sachs and directed by Shirley Jo Finney, the cast for last night’s reading included Bernard Addison, Chris Butler, Tina Lifford,  Simone Missick, Linda Park, Amy Pietz, and Larry Poindexter. A new work in development, it was the first public reading of the script. The response from the audience was very enthusiastic, the excited buzz after the reading filled the Fountain with electricity.  

Citizen: An American Lyric is a provocative meditation on race fusing prose, poetry, and the visual image. A lyric poem, snapshots, vignettes, on the acts of everyday racism. Remarks, glances, implied judgments. Some of these encounters are slights, seeming slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, at the supermarket, at home, on the tennis court with Serena Williams and the soccer field with Zinedine Zidane, online, on TV — everywhere, all the time. Those did-that-really-just-happen-did-they-really-just say-that slurs that happen every day and enrage in the moment and later steep poisonously in the mind. And, of course, those larger incidents that become national or international firestorms. As Rankine writes, “This is how you are a citizen.”

The world premiere stage adaption is scheduled to open this summer at the Fountain Theatre.  More Info

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Fountain Theatre Extends Acclaimed ‘I And You’ for Two Added Performances June 20 & 21

Matthew Hancock and Jennifer Finch

Matthew Hancock and Jennifer Finch

The Fountain Theatre’s critically acclaimed Los Angeles premiere of I And You will extend for two added performances on SaturdayJune 20 at 8pm and Sunday, June 21 at 2pm.
On the night before a class assignment is due, Caroline and Anthony plumb the mysteries of a Whitman poem…unaware that a deeper mystery has brought them together. Written by Lauren Gunderson and directed by Robin Larsen, our Los Angeles Premiere stars Jennifer Finch and Matthew Hancock and has earned outstanding critical praise, including highlighted as Critic’s Choice in the Los Angeles Times.
Jennifer Finch and Matthew Hancock

Jennifer Finch and Matthew Hancock

CRITIC’S CHOICE… a stunning exploration of cosmic interconnectedness …  a testimonial to the power of intimate theater.” — Los Angeles Times

“WOW! At once funny, captivating, and profoundly moving, a powerful piece of theater … Two of the finest young actors you’ll see all year!” – StageSceneLA

DAZZLING…those performances are extraordinary… moving, unearthly, and completely satisfying” — Los Angeles Post

DYNAMIC… one of those plays you’ll want to see more than once…a great story beautifully told” — Discover Hollywood

UPLIFTINGSUPERB… compelling performances … the Fountain has a gift for presenting extraordinary plays which are at once entertaining and thought-provoking, and ‘I and You’ is no exception.” — Examiner

BEAUTIFUL… packs a real punch … a very lovely play” — ArtsBeatLA

Jennifer Finch and Matthew Hancock

Jennifer Finch and Matthew Hancock

With these two added performances, only 10 performances remain. The run now ends Sunday, June 21, 2pm. Get Tickets/More Info