Category Archives: Board of Directors

Photos: Fountain Family brunch gives thanks to VIP donors for supporting ‘Arrival & Departure’

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The backyard of Carrie Chassin & Jochen Haber

On a beautiful Sunday morning at the lovely Encino home of Fountain board member Carrie Chassin and husband Jochen Haber, members of the Fountain Family and supporters of Arrival & Departure gathered for a delicious brunch to salute our upcoming world premiere opening July 14. 

Arrival & Departure is the most innovative and ambitious production in our 28-year history, ” said Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs, in his remarks to the group. “We are deeply grateful to our extraordinary donors who make it possible for the Fountain to keep raising its bar of excellence.” 

Actors Deanne Bray and Troy Kotsur joined Fountain staff members Sachs and his wife Jacqueline Schultz, Deborah Lawlor, Barbara Goodhill and James Bennett at the festive backyard get-together. Hosts Chassin and Haber welcomed board member and donor Karen Kondazian, donors Debbi and Ashley Posner, board president and donors Dorothy Wolpert and husband Stanley Wolpert, and board member and donor Don Zachary. Andrew Leyva provided ASL interpretation. 

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The savory spread included salmon, salad, fruit, roasted vegetables and bagels. It was a glorious afternoon enjoyed in a beautiful outdoor setting, celebrating some of the remarkable donors who have nurtured the creation, development and soon-to-be opening of this highly anticipated new play at the Fountain. 

Enjoy the photos! And get your tickets soon for Arrival & Departure.    

Communications specialist Carrie Chassin joins the Fountain Theatre Board of Directors

Carrie Chassin

Carrie Chassin

The Fountain Theatre continues to expand and broaden its Board of Directors with an elite team of highly-regarded and successful business, arts, legal and financial professionals. The Fountain is honored to welcome Carrie Chassin to the Board.  

“I am thrilled to be joining the dedicated members of the Fountain board in advancing the goals of this sparkling gem of Los Angeles, ” says Ms. Chassin. “The fearless productions have often reminded me of the role of drama in ancient Athens : inspiring, educating , entertaining, stimulating, challenging and uplifting. The clarity and talent on display at the Fountain stage have consistently provided me with the most satisfying theatre experience in our city.”

Carrie has spent her professional life engaged in controversial issues and crisis communications on behalf of Fortune 100 companies, governments, non-governmental organizations, environmental groups, industry associations, and Indian tribes. She developed and executed strategies responding to complex legal, legislative, regulatory, public opinion and media challenges. Many of these assignments involved advising CEOs, establishing and mobilizing grassroots organizations, media training, multiple forms of communication and complex negotiations. Her issues included major project siting, product liability, air quality, utility deregulation, labor disputes, water resources and preservation of wild lands and architecturally significant buildings. 

“Carrie brings a high level of clear organizational thinking to our Board of Directors,” states Co-Artistic Director Stephen. “She has dedicated her career to passionately defending the rights of people and groups fighting for the public good. She has strongly  advocated for issues that make the world a better place.”

Sachs jokes, “Besides, every non-profit theatre organization should have an expert on crisis management on its Board of Directors.” 

Carrie retired 6 years ago from her position as Executive Vice President at Winner & Associates, an international issue management firm and Winner & Mandabach Campaigns, a national, full-service ballot measure campaign firm where she managed all aspects of ballot measure and issue campaigns, including strategic planning, public opinion research, advertising, direct mail, digital/social media, phone banks, earned media, and grassroots/outreach activities.

Her successful campaigns in California included park and water bonds, eminent domain, taxes for rapid transit, and the legalization of Indian gaming. She was honored by 88 California tribes as a Great Warrior Woman during that campaign. She also represented the Choctaw Nation in preserving their water rights and in negotiations with the Smithsonian for what is now the annual Choctaw Days festival at the National Museum of the American Indian. Her theater work involved advising the Nederlander organization on their Greek Theatre contract with the City of Los Angeles.

She spent almost a decade at Exxon directing corporate philanthropy to the arts, education and community programs in the Western region. She served as media spokesperson, lobbyist, strategist and on the negotiating team that obtained federal, state and local permits for a $3 billion onshore and offshore oil and gas project in Santa Barbara County. She was also involved in legislative and regulatory issues related to all areas of Exxon’s interests in exploration, production, shipping, pipelines, refining and marketing.

Prior to working in the private sector, she served as a deputy to Los Angeles City Councilman Marvin Braude. Carrie has served on the board of directors of the Baldwin Hills Conservancy, the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, Hillel and the Los Angeles Child Development Center. She was the first Chief Operating Officer of CALSTART, dedicated to the growth of a clean transportation.

Carrie has been married to Jochen Haber for almost 40 years. She swam into him at the Rec Center pool while a graduate student in urban and regional planning at UCLA. They still swim there together. She has one son and 3 grandchildren living in Amsterdam. She is also sculpts, paints, gardens and travels as much as possible.

Fountain Theatre welcomes attorney Lois R. Fishman to its Board of Directors

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Lois R. Fishman

The Fountain Theatre is delighted to welcome attorney Lois R. Fishman to its Board of Directors. Lois brings her sharp intelligence, wealth of experience, and passion for theatre to our growing Fountain Board.

“The energy at the Fountain is contagious,” says Lois. “The intimate setting involves the audience in a way impossible in a large space. I was drawn to the evident humanity of the directors and cast. How did a small theater in Hollywood become a favorite home for Athol Fugard? This was worth looking into! And then I was seduced by the intelligent mix of programming, speaking to audiences about our times through the voices of established and new playwrights. From Tennessee Williams Night of the Iguana, to Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Brother/Sister plays, I love how the Fountain reflects the rich and complex composition of LA and invites us to share our stories and experiences. And then to meet the casts afterward in a cozy café setting is always such a thrill. On top of it all, I have been a fan of flamenco dance since my high school days and love that the Fountain has created a home for this art form.”

Lois is a lifelong theater goer with a collection of playbills dating back to the 1970s. A child of suburban New York, she grew up attending Broadway musicals, plays at Lincoln Center and downtown, and opera at City Center. While a college student at Yale, she studied drama history with Richard Gilman, ushered at the Yale Dramatic Association and shared subscriptions to  Yale Rep and Long Wharf Theater. Favorite Yale theater experiences: the August Wilson plays directed by Lloyd Richards, the early plays of Wendy Wasserstein, anything by Athol Fugard. 

Lois began her career in Washington D.C. at the National Endowment for the Arts and later worked as a writer and consultant to many arts and humanities organizations in the capital, before plunging into independent film and radio production, contributing free-lance pieces to NPR and working on the 13-part dramatic series “Faces Mirrors Masks.” She was the Executive Director of Americas Film Festival, the first DC-area festival of films from Latin America and served on the program committee for Women Make Movies and the DC Film Fest. 

After moving to Los Angeles to start a new career as a lawyer in 1993, Lois completed the training program of the Arts Leadership Initiative and joined the Board of Odyssey Theater, her first introduction to the exciting small theater scene in LA. Highlights of that period include productions of The Caucasian Chalk Circle and The Rose Tattoo, among others.  To lend support to an old friend, she also served for a few years on the Board of Santa Barbara Theatre where she first met Stephen Sachs.

Lois Fishman and Barbara Goodhill

Lois R. Fishman with Barbara Goodhill at ‘The Chosen’, Fountain Theatre

After marrying her husband Henry Fetter and moving from west LA to Hollywood in 2001, Lois eagerly sought out the small theatre scene in her new neighborhood and found Fountain Theatre through friends, including Diana Gibson who formerly ran the box office. 

Lois is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Yale University (B.A., magna cum laude, honors with exceptional distinction in psychology) and holds a J.D. degree from Georgetown University Law Center and a Master of City Planning degree from the University of California, Berkeley where she was a Regents Fellow.  Lois retired from The Walt Disney Company as Assistant General Counsel where she advised on distribution of films and TV programs via new media platforms. Lois currently has a solo law practice in mid-Wilshire area serving clients in the creative sector and non-profit organizations. She also teaches as adjunct professor at the Fowler School of Law, Chapman University, Orange, CA and has experience as a guest instructor at Loyola Law School, San Andreas University of Buenos Aires, Argentina and Mykolas Romeris University in Vilnius, Lithuania, among other institutions. 

For six years she was a member of the Board of Trustees of Inner City Law Center, a legal services organization in Los Angeles, and was previously President of the Los Angeles Copyright Society, on whose board she served for eight years. Lois is active with the Yale Alumni Schools Committee, interviewing applicants for admission to Yale College, with Los Angeles Giving Circle, and with MOSTe, a mentoring and college access organization working with middle and high school girls from various LA public schools.

“Lois is not only expertly qualified to help guide the Fountain as a board member,” says Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs. “She is also a wonderful person. We are fortunate to have her expertise and goodwill.”   

Theater producer and consultant Diana Buckhantz joins Fountain Theatre Board of Directors

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The Fountain Theatre is pleased to welcome veteran theater producer and public relations consultant Diana Buckhantz to its Board of Directors.

Diana Buckhantz recently produced the critically acclaimed new musical Songbird in New York City which is about to have a second production at Two Rivers Theatre this June before an eventual return to New York. She was part of the producing team that brought the Tony-nominated musical Leap of Faith from the Ahmanson Theatre to Broadway. Her producing credits also include Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays at the Minetta Lane Theatre in New York and The Last Goodbye at the Old Globe.

“I have been seeing shows at the Fountain for many years and have always been so impressed by the quality of the work,” says Buckhantz. “Excellent writing, beautifully staged productions and wonderful acting – all wrapped around and illuminating the important social and moral issues of the day. I believe that theatre should entertain but also that it should stimulate audiences to challenge their values and belief systems.  The Fountain does this in engaging and thoughtful ways. I am excited to join the board to help support this important work and help the theatre to grow and expand its reach. “

Diana began her professional career producing award-winning documentaries including “Dying with Dignity,” “Hunger in the Promised Land, and “Not A Question of Courage,” all for KTLA. Her documentaries have also received two National EMMY awards, two local EMMY Awards, the Scripps Howard Award for Broadcast Journalism, the State Bar of California Public Service Award, the NAPTE National Iris Award, the National Education Award, three Angel Awards, and the Kenny Rogers World Hunger Media Award.

While a producer at ITC Productions, she received an Associate Producer credit for the feature film “Without A Clue,” starring Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley.

Currently, she also runs her family foundation which focuses on issues around runaway and homeless youth, arts education in the schools, aging, reproductive rights, and combating genocides and mass atrocities in Africa.

She proudly serves on the boards of Center Theatre Group, Los Angeles Youth Network, Jewish World Watch and Capital and Main.

Her greatest production, however, is her son Sam.

“Diana has been a fan of the Fountain for some time, ” says Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs. “Her professional experience as a theater producer and her dedicated service on notable non-profit boards makes her a very strong asset to our Fountain Family. We are thrilled to have her on our Board of Directors. “

Aerospace Engineer and theatre lover Ejike Ndefo joins Fountain Board of Directors

Ndefo CITIZEN opening night 2015

Ejike and Victoria Ndefo, Stephen Sachs, Opening Night ‘Citizen: An American Lyric’

The Fountain Theatre is pleased to welcome retired Aerospace Engineer Ejike Ndefo to its Board of Directors. Ejike and his wife, Victoria, are avid theatre lovers, and have been part of The Fountain Family for more than fifteen years.

“Victoria and I have been residents of Los Feliz for more than 30 years,” says Ndefo. “We love theatre and we fell in love with The Fountain Theatre the first time we saw a play there about 15 years ago.”

What was it about the Fountain that caught their eye and captured their hearts?

“We are continually impressed by the originality and quality of the plays at the Fountain, as well as the intimate environment,” he explains. “As such, The Fountain is a great place to see the plays of great writers.  We will be remiss if we do not mention the professionalism and friendliness of The Fountain staff. They have always been gracious.” 

Ejike NdefoEjike graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a doctorate in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.  While he was at the University of California, Berkeley, Ejike played a major role in the travelling theatre group raising money in support of the humanitarian effort in the Nigerian-Biafran war.  He worked in several Aerospace companies including Northrop Corporation, TRW, and The Aerospace Corporation on such programs as Space Defense Initiative, Space Shuttle, and design of large rockets for launch of spacecraft and satellites.  He retired as the Director of Fluid Mechanics Department from The Aerospace Corporation in August 2015 after forty one years.  For the past two years, Ejike has served as a member of the Board of Trustees of Normandie Church of Christ, Los Angeles.

“It’s deeply gratifying when a longtime Fountain supporter like Ejike chooses to assume a role of leadership by joining our Board of Directors,” says Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs. “We share a love of the Fountain and a commitment to creating meaningful theatre for the city of Los Angeles. Ejike joins our Board at a pivotal time as we look forward and seek to broaden and enhance our artistic service to the community. ”  

Fountain Theatre welcomes financial adviser Miles Benickes to its Board of Directors

Miles BenickesThe Fountain Theatre is pleased to announce that esteemed financial adviser Miles Benickes has joined its Board of Directors. Miles Benickes is Managing Director for Municipal Trading and Executive Vice President for Hilltop Securities Inc.

“Going to the theatre has always been a part of my life since growing up in New York in the 1950’s,” says Benickes. “Thanks to my parents, I have a collection of Playbills that go even further back, to the Yiddish Theatre in New York in the 1920’s.  Becoming a member of The Fountain Theatre Board of Directors is an exciting new step in my lifelong theatrical journey.  I look forward to helping to ensure that The Fountain continues to entertain, educate, enlighten and engage the diverse audience of Los Angeles for many years into the future. ”

Miles is a leader in the financial services industry. He began his career as a municipal bond sales representative with Stern, Brenner & Co., the predecessor firm of M.L. Stern & Co., in July 1975. With the establishment of M.L. Stern & Co. in September 1980, Miles became one of the firm’s municipal bond traders. In December 1991, he was designated as Director of Fixed Income Trading and Marketing with responsibility for all taxable and tax exempt bond activities. With the purchase of M.L. Stern & Co. by Southwest Securities, Inc. in March 2008, Miles assumed responsibility for managing the California municipal bond trading activities of the Dallas based NYSE firm. He was a founding member of the Board of Directors of the Bond Dealers Association of America and is a member of the Los Angeles Municipal Bond Club. Miles was the President of Arcola Pictures Corporation and currently manages the activities of the successor DBA of Arcola Pictures which has proprietary interests in such motion pictures as Mutiny on the Bounty, Move Over Darling, Tony Rome, Lady in Cement and The Detective as well as the Daniel Boone television series. He is a member of the Writers Guild of America, West.

Miles is a member of the Music Center Leadership Council.  He has been an active member of Center Theatre Group’s Inner Circle since 1994 and has served as an Inner Circle Ambassador since 2007.  He and his wife, Joni, are the founders and co-chairs of CTG’s Artists and Educators Forum, a support group dedicated to encouraging new works and engaging new audiences.  He is an avid supporter of numerous arts organizations throughout Southern California including CTG’s Block Party, Los Angeles Master Chorale, UCLA School of Film and Television, Writers Guild Foundation, The Drama League, Ojai Playwrights Conference and The Old Globe Theatre.

Miles was born and raised in New York and remembers his first Broadway show was New Faces of 1952, which included Eartha Kitt, Paul Lynde, Carol Lawrence and Mel Brooks. He graduated with a BFA from the UCLA Film School in 1968. He and his wife, Joni, have four children, Erika, Allyn, Torrie and Jason — all avid theatergoers. They have three granddaughters, Hailey, Greer and Zoey. He enjoys tennis (he met his wife while giving her tennis lessons), biking, travelling and spending time with his family.

“We are thrilled and honored to have Miles join our Board,” beams Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs. “He not only brings an abundance of financial expertise, organizational wisdom and a depth of Board experience — he’s a lifelong theatre lover. The Fountain is fortunate to have him on the Board and in our family.”  

The spirit that smiles on CTG’s ‘Block Party’ celebrating intimate theatre in Los Angeles

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On Wednesday, February 8th, Fountain Theatre Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs was asked to speak at the Board of Directors meeting for Center Theatre Group to share his thoughts on the Fountain’s participation in CTG’s new Block Party.  The following are his remarks:

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Stephen Sachs

I’m Stephen Sachs, the Co-Artistic Director of the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood, which I co-founded with my partner Deborah Lawlor in 1990. We are now celebrating our 27th season. Prior to that, I was an actor – a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. In fact, in 1982, one of the biggest thrills of my young career as an actor was standing on stage at the Mark Taper Forum in a small role in the world premiere of Tales from Hollywood by Christopher Hampton, directed by Gordon Davidson. 

I am a playwright, a director, a producer and artistic director. I began running theatre companies in Los Angeles in 1987 – the Ensemble Studio Theatre, The Canon Theatre in Beverly Hills with Suzi Dietz and Joan Stein – and launched the Fountain Theatre in 1990 to create an artistic home where new plays could be developed and produced that reflect the cultural diversity of Los Angeles and dramatize important social and political issues confronting specific communities in our region and our nation. The Fountain Theatre sits in the heart of the most diverse district in the City. Thirty-two languages are spoken at the local high school.

Our brand phrase is: Intimate. Excellent.  We have artistic relationships with such noted playwrights as Athol Fugard, Tarell McCraney, Robert Schenkkan, Emily Mann, Dael Orlandersmith, Anna Ziegler, Lauren Gunderson, Zayd Dorn. We were just featured in the New York Times on Monday for opening the world premiere in March of Robert Schenkkan’s new play Building the Wall. You can guess what that’s about.

Plays launched at the Fountain Theatre are now being produced across the country, in New York, in London, have been translated into other languages and are now being seen around the world.

I’ve been a theatre maker in Los Angeles for 30 years. I’ve seen the intimate theatre community in Los Angeles grow from a cluster of what was then called “Equity Waiver” theaters in the 1980’s to the vast network of literally hundreds of intimate theaters we have today. Although we still fight for the right to call ourselves a “theatre town” because of the film and television industry – more theatre is now produced in Los Angeles every year than in any city in the world. More than New York. More than London. 

The constellation of intimate theatres in Los Angeles is utterly unique nationwide. There is nothing like it anywhere in this country.  Theaters around the country envied our 99-Seat Plan, which – for 30 years – gave Equity actors the right to hone their craft in an intimate theater without a contract — but not without payment and protections – if they so choose.  The 99-Seat Plan was created by Equity actors. It came out of that spirit of revolution, the right to volunteer your services if you so choose, to insist on the artistic freedom to create. Where budgets and bottom lines were not a factor because nobody was making any money anyway. I don’t have to tell you – there’s a reason why it’s called non-profit theatre.

As many of you may know, Actors Equity has just eliminated the 99-Seat Plan. Against the will of its own membership. LA Equity actors voted overwhelmingly against eliminating the Plan. Equity has done it anyway.  Forcing theatres to now use a very hotly-contested New Agreement impacting every intimate theatre in Los Angeles. Several small theatres are now closing.  The entire landscape of the intimate theatre community will be forever changed.

This makes what you are offering with Block Party so extraordinary. And the timing of it so essential.

With Block Party, Center Theatre Group – the flagship theatre organization in Los Angeles  – is reaching out its hand to the intimate theatre community. Not as a hand-out but as a hand in partnership. Recognizing that our work matters.  Block Party affirms that the work created in intimate theatres is alive and vibrant and an essential part of the cultural life of Los Angeles.  I can not over emphasize how important and meaningful this is. Not only to the Fountain Theatre, and Echo Theatre Company and Courage Theatre Company participating this year, but to all intimate theatres everywhere, throughout our community. 

With one program, with Block Party, you have dissolved the barrier between “big” theatre and “small”, between “us” and “them”.  With Block Party, there finally is now “we”. Together.

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CTG Artistic Director Michael Ritchie

Michael Ritchie, Lindsay Allbaugh, Ian-Julian Williams and the entire Block Party staff have been so open, so inviting, so welcoming. The beauty of Block Party is not only the magic of what’s going to happen on stage, it’s the relationship-building already happening off stage.  The setting up of meetings between our intimate theatre companies and CTG departments, to share ideas and swap strategies, is remarkable and generous and will be beneficial to both sides. 

I’m confident that the spirit of goodwill and partnership that Block Party creates will ripple out and continue, not only for the 38 days of the festival, but throughout the entire year.

I was at the memorial celebration for Gordon Davidson at the Ahmanson last month. Just a few days after that ceremony, I attended a production meeting for Block Party. The juxtaposition of those two events was not lost on me.  Gordon is smiling down on Block Party. He would have loved this. It truly carries forward his spirit of adventure, of risk, his dedication to diversity and inclusion. And I applaud and thank Michael Ritchie, and all of you on this Board, for making that spirit a reality.

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Gordon Davidson celebration at the Ahmanson Theatre.

More Info/Get Tickets for Block Party