Category Archives: fundriaser

Celebrity reading of ‘MS. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON’ at LA City Hall is “awe-inspiring”

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“Ms. Smith Goes to Washington” at Los Angeles City Hall

by Christine Deitner

On Thursday, January 24th a lucky group of citizens in Los Angeles was treated to a unique experience–The Fountain Theatre’s reading of a gender-switched adaptation of Sidney Buchman’s screenplay, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.  The Fountain’s Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs adapted the work that was hosted by Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell.  An impressively talented ensemble of tv, film, and theatre veterans gathered in the John Ferraro Council Chamber in Los Angeles City Hall and though the original work is 79 years old the gender switch makes it feel like yesterday’s tweetstorm or this morning’s news.

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Sponsored, in part, by the Feminist Majority Foundation and in association with the League of Women Voters, the event’s cast included Joshua Malina, Jeff PerryBellamy Young, Sam Waterston, Alan Blumenfeld, Gilbert Glenn Brown, Leith Burke, Tim Cummings, Cameron Dye, Spencer Garrett, Chet Grissom, Morlan Higgins, Aurelia Myers, Jenny O’Hara, Felix Solis, Jack Stehlin, Mark Taylor, and Sal Viscuso.

Councilmember O’Farrell introduced Mr. Sachs with a moving speech about the importance of the arts in society. 

“Politics falls short of completely illuminating the complexity of issues,” he stated, “this is where the arts come in.”

In 2017, Mr. O’Farrell hosted the Fountain’s reading of All The Presidents Men and he noted that he hopes this will become an annual event.  Reflecting on the record number of women who now hold public office, O’Farrell also spoke about the role that local artists play as public servants, illuminating issues in unique ways.

In Sachs’ version, an idealistic, newly elected female senator finds herself fighting corruption in male-dominated Washington. Bellamy Young’s take on the movingly patriotic Jennifer Smith [originally Jefferson played by James Stewart] is endearing and as successful as a figure of naive nobility as Mr. Stewart was in the film.  It doesn’t seem like Mr. Sachs had to change very much beyond references to gender [Girl Rangers here instead of Boy Rangers] and one reference to “fake news” that worked very well in context, but boy does Jennifer Smith’s predicament feel familiar.

It’s Governor Hopper’s daughter [it was a son in the film] who encourages her father to choose Jennifer with the line “It’s 1939, not the dark ages, pop.” and a list of women who have held office before.  It shouldn’t have been surprising to hear it but we can thank Mr. Sachs for educating us about these women that included Senators Rebecca Latimer Felton [1922] and Hattie Caraway [1932].  Sam Waterston has the role of one of two villains, Senator Joseph Paine; a man who knew Jennifer’s father yet openly wonders whether they can “control a woman” in Congress.  The other is Jim Taylor, a nefarious businessman/mob figure played by Jeff Perry.

Fans of the film will know that Smith speaks fondly of his father a number of times, recalling that he often said, “Lost causes are the only ones worth fighting for.” As Jennifer learns that a swath of land in her state is going to be turned into a useless dam that is only an avenue for graft, she becomes determined to fight for that land where she was hoping to create a girls camp for young women across the nation.  Joshua Malina is her charmingly cynical assistant Chester Saunders [Jean Arthur in the film] who begrudgingly assists her in writing a bill for that girl’s camp.  As they work together, Jennifer’s enthusiasm for the bill starts to wear down Saunders’ certainty it will fail and when she becomes aware of the relief bill that includes the dam, she decides to filibuster with his help.

Paine and his pro-dam cohorts do all they can to attack Jennifer’s character as they angrily state any blocking of the relief bill will lead to starving the people.  Paine likens her attempt to hold the floor to holding the people hostage.  There was an audible gasp in the audience followed by a few laughs for this reading took place near the end of Trump’s wall-inspired government shutdown.  All of the pain that shutdown was inflicting on government workers was present in the room at that moment.

Jennifer stands firm in her convictions, even when Paine reads telegrams purportedly from her home state asking her to stop. She reads the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence and goes on till her voice is hoarse and even Paine can’t take her suffering anymore.  He breaks down and admits everything – and when Waterston embodied that moment, he tore the roof off the place, it was awe-inspiring.  Jennifer and Saunders have one last moment of celebration before the ends that felt a little rushed but that might have been due to the fact that the TVs behind the cast popped on. 

In lieu of credits, images of every woman who has held a seat in Congress appeared in succession on the screens. Members of the audience stood to applaud them, with more standing when California’s own Nancy Pelosi and Diane Feinstein appeared.  But it wasn’t till the video closed on a split screen image featuring Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren that the whole house got to their feet shouting.  It was a memorable, moving moment that reminded this reviewer of all the things that can be good and honorable and right in this country.  It also seemed like a hell of an idea for a presidential ticket in 2020 but that just shows how easy it was to get swept up in Jennifer Smith’s patriotic fervor.  Ms. Smith may seem naive and inexperienced, but that character’s faith in what is good in the country is honorable and constant – and those are traits we could all stand to develop in our own lives today.

This post originally appeared in The Theatre Times.

 

Fountain Theatre affirms its commitment to diversity at Hollywood gathering

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Deborah Lawlor and Stephen Sachs

Fountain friends, longtime and new, enjoyed an unforgettable afternoon Sunday at the magnificent Hollywood apartment of actress and Fountain board member Karen Kondazian. Delicious middle eastern fare from Adana was served to thirty invited special guests who marveled at Karen’s extraordinary home, the panoramic view of Hollywood,  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. New colleagues and associates from the Los Angeles business and arts communities were introduced to the Fountain’s inner circle. And the Fountain unveiled a new level of sponsorship, the Artistic Directors Circle, for elite donors who underwrite specific plays or programs or an entire season. 

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.

“Diversity sits at the heart of our artistic mission,” said Sachs. “When Deborah and I founded the Fountain back in 1990, it was to offer an artistic home for theatre and dance artists, of all backgrounds, to create and develop new work that reflects the cultural diversity of our city and our nation. The Fountain Theatre sits in the center of District 13, the most ethnically and culturally diverse district in Los Angeles. 32 languages are spoken at the local high school.

“Our programing is community-driven. When we think about putting a season together, we ask ourselves which community needs to be served? Which cultural, religious or ethnic group is struggling with an issue that needs to be dramatized? Who’s voice needs to be heard?”       

The 2017-18 Fountain Theatre season includes the world premiere of Building the Wall by Robert Schenkkan, Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, the world premiere of Runaway Home by Jeremy Kamps, the world premiere of Freddie by Deborah Lawlor, the stage adaption of The Chosen by Chaim Potok, and the world premiere of Arrival and Departure by Stephen Sachs performed in Spoken English and American Sign Language.

 

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Fountain Board members Dorothy Wolpert, Karen Kondazian, Dick Motika, Jerrie Witfield, Don Zachary, and Oscar Arslanian welcomed guests Nyla Arslanian, Miles and Joni Benickes, Lorraine Evanoff, Bennard Gillison, Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser, Lucinda Cowell and Ron Michaelson, Victoria Meyers, Bonnie Nijist and Arthur Zeesman, Jacqueline Schultz, Mark Stankevich, Ron and Elaine Stein, , and Stanley Wolpert.

Stephen Sachs and Deborah Lawlor spoke to the group, reviewing the recent accomplishments of the Fountain Theatre, its fundraising goals, and outlining the upcoming 2017-18 season. They expressed the artistic heart and soul of the company and its dedication to diversity and inclusion by serving a wide variety of communities throughout Los Angeles. And they articulated the challenges and objectives moving forward, describing the Fountain as an essential treasure on the cultural landscape of Los Angeles. And declared that the Fountain’s longtime dedication to diversity was essential in these turbulent times. 

“We are an immigrant nation, ” stated Sachs. “Los Angeles is a world city, rich with the multi-colored fabric of diversity.  At this moment in history, now more than ever, it is crucial that the Fountain Theatre maintain its mission of diversity and inclusion and community focus,  where people from all backgrounds are seen on our stage and in our audiences.”

“The Fountain Theatre may be small in size, ” he concluded. “But we are large in vision, in purpose, and in our commitment to creating and producing meaningful work that has the power to change lives.”

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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Fountain Theatre Celebrates 25 Years of Intimate Excellence

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In celebration of a “silver” theatrical milestone, “The Fountain Theatre’s 25th Anniversary Gala and Auction” will honor co-artistic director and award-winning playwright/director Stephen Sachs on Saturday, October 3rd at Hollywood’s Redbury Hotel. City of Los Angeles Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell serves as honorary chair.

The gala event will include a cocktail reception, silent auction, champagne, dessert and dancing on the hotel’s rooftop overlooking Hollywood. Highlights will include a special presentation by Councilmember O’Farrell and a retrospective montage of the last 25 years of Fountain Theatre history.

The Fountain online auction is now live with enthusiastic bidding already underway. Great deals on over 140 amazing items — inc luding travel, dining, theatre and sports tickets, vacation packages — are now available and just one click away. The online auction ends September 3oth. The silent auction takes place on the night of the event at The Redbury on October 3rd.

The evening is a tribute to Sachs, who, together with co-artistic director Deborah Lawlor and producing directorSimon Levy, has guided the organization since its founding in 1990 and cemented its place in the Los Angeles theater community. Under Sachs’ leadership — as a director, a producer and a playwright — the Fountain Theatre has achieved over 250 awards and international acclaim; in a recent article, Los Angeles Times theater critic Charles McNulty named the Fountain, “one of L.A.’s most vital intimate theaters.”

Stephen Sachs

Stephen Sachs

Sachs has also personally won every major theater award in Los Angeles, including two Ovation Awards for Best Director of a Play. He has twice been nominated for the SDC Zelda Fichandler Award honoring outstanding stage directors in the Western United States. Sachs has authored 12 plays that have been produced across the U.S. and internationally and translated into multiple languages. A two-time finalist for the PEN Literary Award for drama, Sachs wrote the teleplay for Hallmark Hall of Fame’s Sweet Nothing in My Ear based on his award-winning play. The movie aired on CBS and starred Academy Award winner Marlee Matlin and Golden Globe winner Jeff Daniels. His play Bakersfield Mist won the Elliot Norton Award for Best New Play, received its London premiere starring Kathleen Turner and Ian McDiarmid in London’s West End, and is now being produced in theaters across the country and around the world. Sachs’ Citizen: An American Lyric, a stage adaptation of Claudia Rankine’s award-winning book, is currently running at the Fountain, where it has received rave reviews and was named a “Critic’s Choice” by the Los Angeles Times.

For more information on the Gala and details about how to participate in the celebration with a tribute message, email FT25@fountaintheatre.com.

Net proceeds from The Fountain Theatre’s 25th Anniversary Gala and Auction will provide vital funds to support the development and production of new plays and provide educational outreach opportunities for students throughout greater Los Angeles.

Mixing stylish chic hip with the glamour of old Hollywood, the Redbury is a boutique luxury hotel located near the iconic intersection of Hollywood and Vine in the heart of Hollywood.

The Fountain Theatre’s 25th Anniversary Gala and Auction takes place on Saturday, Oct. 3 from 5 p.m.–9 p.m. Tickets are $125. Special discount tickets for theatre artists are $99. The Redbury Hotel is located at 1717 Vine St., Hollywood, CA 90028. For more information to make reservations, call (310) 665-1525 or go to www.fountaintheatre.com.

To enjoy the online auction click here