Category Archives: Board of Directors

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

Miles Benickes

Miles Benickes

The 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

Statement by The Fountain Theatre: Moving forward in this new landscape

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The Fountain Theatre has stood at the center of the battle against Actors’ Equity Association’s attempt to dismantle and fragment the intimate theatre community of L.A. with its Promulgated Plans that favor some of our theatres and disfavor others. We have hosted countless Pro99 and Review Committee meetings at our theatre. We offered our name in pledges of support. Our Producing Director served as a volunteer on the Review Committee, dedicated incalculable hours over nearly two years of meetings, conference calls and intense negotiations with Equity representatives, and even took the bold step of including his own name as a plaintiff in the lawsuit against the union on behalf of the L.A. intimate theatre community.

Our position has been that the Fountain Theatre would continue to operate under the 99-Seat Plan, as we always have, even in defiance of the December 14th deadline, until the court made a ruling, which it did on December 8th. Sadly, the decision was not in our favor. We are angry and heartbroken because we believe that everyone will suffer: the intimate theater community, the members of Actors’ Equity who will lose opportunities, and the citizens of Los Angeles who will be deprived of the benefits that the 99-Seat Plan has provided. Now we, as an organization, need to move forward.

Since the Court’s ruling, we have struggled with the challenge of extending our current production, produced under the 99-Seat Plan, with Equity actors who now are threatened with reprisals by their union. We have told Equity that we will not sign the new seasonal agreement going forward, and have negotiated terms only for the extension of our current production. We do so under protest and duress. Our position that Equity’s tactics are harmful and destructive to our theatre community has not changed. But the Fountain Theatre will not become a non-union theatre. We are committed to delivering to our audiences the highest level of work possible. That necessitates, in addition to talented non-union actors, access to the echelon of professional, trained and experienced Equity talent pool.

We firmly believe that all actors in Los Angeles — including members of Equity — have the right, if they so choose, to exercise their craft in intimate theatres, whether as volunteers, independent contractors or employees. Therefore, The Fountain Theatre will do its best to assure that Equity actors are not excluded from working on our stage. This is a hardship we are forced to undertake to guarantee that The Fountain is accessible to ALL actors in Los Angeles. It is our position that actors and stage managers who are members of Equity should not be denied the right to work at our theatre by an Equity “blacklist” because of the misguided leadership of their own union. For 27 years, the Fountain Theatre has created productions with casts comprised mostly of Equity actors. The contribution of their artistry has helped make the Fountain the success it has become. We will not turn our back on them now.

We do not take this position lightly. It is a difficult and challenging road to take. We are assuming this burden for the integrity of our work, for the sake of all L.A. actors and to continue our role as a leader in presenting the best possible theatre in Los Angeles. Inclusion sits at the heart of our artistic mission. The Fountain will fight to remain a safe haven for all actors to exercise their art. We blacklist no one. Our doors — and our stage — are open to the finest artists we can find.

All of us in the intimate theatre community find ourselves in difficult, unchartered territory. Issues remain unresolved. More challenges lie ahead. Further action may be taken. Our common goal, together, must be to ensure that Los Angeles continues to be a city where meaningful, high-quality theatre is created and to maintain the spirit, artistry and integrity of our intimate theatre community.    

The Fountain Theatre Board of Directors and Staff

Invited guests enjoy exclusive VIP performance of “Baby Doll” at the Fountain Theatre

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Dick Motika, Caron Gonzales, Jerrie Whitfield, Edward Gonzales

Sometimes, when you have something special, you just want to share it. That was the feeling last night, when Fountain Board members Dick Motika, Jerrie Whitfield, Dorothy Wolpert and her husband, Stanley Wolpert, invited their friends and colleagues to a special-added private performance of Baby Doll at the Fountain. The VIP guests enjoyed their own exclusive performance and then chatted with the company in a catered reception upstairs in our charming cafe.

It was a relaxed evening of nice food, good wine, stimulating conversation and a riveting production of a steamy, powerful play. The invited guests relished meeting the actors after the performance. Many gathered outside on the balcony to savor the Hollywood night air.

In attendance were Adam Mortanian, Ashley Bowman, Audrey Stein, Bonnie and Arthur Nijst, Brian Getnick, Cala Bowdra, Dale and Don Franzen, Dan Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser, Ed and Caron Gonzales, Gary and Rebecca Drucker, James Benge, Jane and Howard Matz, Jessica and Demetrius Martinez, Kathy and Jack Smith, Krista and Ron Sanders, Lisa Nevins and Kent Caldwell-Meek, Mark and Leah Drooks, Natalie Bergeson, Paul Moskowitz, Ruth and Bonnie and Stuart Wolpert, Ryan and Margaret Cutrona, Sheri Leiwand, Shoshana Bannett, Steve Thomas, Thelma and Elliot Samulon. 

Our heartfelt thanks to Dick, Jerrie, Dorothy and Stanley for hosting this very special evening.

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Baby Doll is now extended to Oct 30th. MORE INFO/GET TICKETS    

Special guests applaud the Fountain Theatre at the home of actor Alan Mandell

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Stephen Sachs speaks to the invited guests.

Fountain friends, longtime and new, enjoyed an unforgettable afternoon Saturday at the magnificent Westwood home of actor Alan Mandell. English tea, sandwiches and pastries were served to thirty invited special guests who marvelled at Alan’s extraordinary art collection and chatted about the achievements and future of the Fountain Theatre.

The afternoon salon was organized so distinguished friends and supporters of the Fountain could stay connected with the theatre and each other. And new colleagues and associates from the Los Angeles business and arts communities were introduced to the Fountain’s inner circle.

Fountain Co-Artistic Directors Deborah Lawlor and Stephen Sachs were joined by Producing Director Simon Levy, Associate Producer James Bennett and Director of Development Barbara Goodhill.

Fountain Board members Dorothy Wolpert, Karen Kondazian, Dick Motika, Jerrie Witfield, Don Zachary, and Oscar Arslanian welcomed guests Nyla Arslanian, Lorraine Evanoff, Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser, Shari Leinwand, Alan Mandell, Victoria Meyers, Dr. Charles and Laura Nagurka, Richard and Gloria Pink, Joan Quinn, Jacqueline Schultz, Marty Shelton, Mark Stankevich, Magda Waingrow, and Stanley Wolpert.

The crowd savored the English Tea delicacies provided by Anyone For Tea. Guests toured Alan’s stunning home populated with museum-quality sculptures, paintings, prints, and other vibrant art works.

Stephen Sachs spoke to the group, reviewing the many accomplishments of the Fountain Theatre over its 26-year history and outlining its goals and needs to come. He expressed the artistic heart and soul of the company and its dedication to serving a wide variety of communities throughout Los Angeles. He listed the many Fountain new plays that are now being produced in theatres across the country and around the world. And he articulated the challenges and objectives moving forward, describing the Fountain as an essential treasure on the cultural landscape of Los Angeles. 

“We use two words to describe the Fountain Theatre,” Sachs remarked. “These two words are our brand.They appear on our letterhead, our website, our business cards. The two words are: Intimate. Excellent. That’s who we are. What we offer. What we’ve been for 26 years.”

“I truly believe, in my heart, that what we do matters, ” he continued. “Now, more than ever, in this electronic age of the internet and streaming videos and a gazillion cable channels, there may be no higher calling than to get people away from their screens and have a shared human experience, live, in the moment, together, that is intimate and excellent.”

“I hope you agree, ” he concluded. “Let’s make it happen. Together.”

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PHOTOS: Parties and standing ovations for ‘Dream Catcher’ opening weekend

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Packed house in the round for Opening Night of ‘Dream Catcher’

Our world premiere production of Dream Catcher by Stephen Sachs opened this weekend to a flurry of parties, standing ovations and enthusiastic response. A packed sold-out audience on Saturday night was thrilled with director Cameron Watson’s in-the-round staging and riveted by the kinetic performances of Elizabeth Frances and Brian Tichnell. Dream Catcher runs to March 21.

A select group of Fountain donors and board members enjoyed an early look at Dream Catcher Friday night at the final Donor Preview. They included actor Alan Mandell, Lois Fishman, Ejike and Victoria Ndefo, Nick Ullett, Ruth Tavlin, Patty Paul, Bill Butler, Susan Stockel, Dick Motika and Jerrie Whitfield, and Oscar and Nyla Arslanian. They were joined by Director of Development Barbara Goodhill, Co-Artistic Director Deborah Lawlor, producing Director Simon Levy, and members of the Fountain team. After the performance, all celebrated upstairs in the cafe for a catered party with the actors and company.

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After seeing Dream Catcher, actor Alan Mandell beamed, “A terrific performance. Very intense. Exciting theater directed by that master director Cameron Watson. A wonderful script from Stephen Sachs. Don’t miss it.”

A packed sold-out audience filled the theatre on Saturday’s Opening Night. The provocative in-the-round setting — dubbed “Fountain 360” — created heightened excitement and electricity. At the post-show reception, playwright Stephen Sachs was surprised by a special guest in attendance: Louis Sahagun, the LA Times reporter who wrote the original article in 2012 that inspired Sachs to write the play.

LA Times Louis Sahagun Opening Night

LA Times writer Louis Sahagun congratulates Sachs (right) on Opening Night.

Early reviews for Dream Catcher are starting to come in. The Examiner hails it as “Extraordinary! A must see!” LA Splash raves the “Stunning performances.”

Feel it. Full circle. In the round. Experience Fountain 360 for yourself.

More Info/Get Tickets

Fountain Theatre Welcomes Dick Motika and Jerrie Whitfield to its Board of Directors

Dick & Jerrie Motika

Dick Motika & Jerrie Whitfield

The Fountain Theatre is thrilled to introduce two new members of its Board of Directors: Dick Motika and his wife, Jerrie Whitfield.

Dick and Jerrie are avid arts supporters and share a love for theatre, especially The Fountain Theatre and Center Theatre Group.  Fountain subscribers for many years, Dick and Jerrie are eager to dedicate themselves to furthering the growth of The Fountain Theatre in 2016.

Dick received his BA from the University of Colorado and an MBA from the University of Chicago. With over 30 years of banking experience, Dick is a Senior Private Banker for the Beverly Hills region of Wells Fargo Bank.  Jerrie, also with Wells Fargo Bank, is a second generation Angeleno who received her BS from St Mary’s University.

In addition to their shared passion for the arts, Dick and Jerrie are active volunteers at their church, All Saints Episcopal in Beverly Hills, through which they also began their support of The Episcopal School of Los Angeles, for which Dick serves as trustee.  Hobbies for the busy duo include jazz piano for Jerrie; cooking and gardening for Dick.

Welcome, Dick and Jerrie! We’re honored and delighted to have you on our Board.