Category Archives: stage

‘Arrival & Departure’ was unlike anything I have experienced before

by Saif Saigol

As a theatre lover, I have often struggled to qualify the artistic value of a show. What, for example, separates a great, large-scale Broadway musical from a great, smaller, experimental work? When it comes to art, does more money equal more success? I received my answer last Saturday, at the designer run-through rehearsal of the Fountain’s Arrival & Departure: a successful play is one that leaves its audience thinking.

Art has the power to leave a lasting impact and change the way we think. That is exactly what I experienced after watching Arrival & Departure.

The play, at its core, follows the classic, impossible love-story of two star-crossed soul mates who have the universe standing between them. The 90-minute play is filled with heart-wrenchingly beautiful acting on the part of the ensemble and a fantastic script by Stephen Sachs. The artists invite us into their most intimate and vulnerable thoughts, thoughts that were born in a reality that they created out of nothing. It seemed impossible that such genuineness had been bred in only a few weeks of rehearsal – it is beyond inspiring to see what the Fountain team is capable of.

Personally, it was especially moving to experience the power and beauty of Deaf theatre for the first time. The show’s interwoven and unique mélange of ASL and Spoken English creates a dynamic and multi-dimensional artistic medium in which authenticity prevails. Deanne Bray and Troy Kotsur conveyed a degree of beauty, truth, and honesty in their signing that cannot be expressed in other forms of communication – it was almost like watching a dance. Especially moving was Bray’s ability to convey her character’s struggles with identity as a hard-of-hearing woman, switching back and forth between ASL and Spoken English.

The play struck me as a type of ‘deconstructed theatre’. The various forms of art involved – from ASL, to Spoken English, to movement, to staging – are separated but harmoniously married, each holding its own and conveying breath-taking emotion, but also supporting one another to create one beautiful piece. I left the rehearsal pondering the very nature of art, and the ways in which society often creates pigeon-holes for artists. Arrival & Departure was unlike anything I have experienced before – it is novel and unique, and conveys emotion in ways that don’t conform to exclusive norms. This, I believe, is the point of theatre, and I cannot wait for others to experience the magic of Arrival & Departure.

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Saif Saigol is the Development Intern at the Fountain Theatre.  

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A White House without art

Gloomy-White-House-678x381By Dave Eggers

This White House has been, and is likely to remain, home to the first presidency in American history that is almost completely devoid of culture. In the 17 months that Donald Trump has been in office, he has hosted only a few artists of any kind. One was the gun fetishist Ted Nugent. Another was Kid Rock. They went together (and with Sarah Palin). Neither performed.

Since his inauguration in January 2017, there have been no official concerts at the White House (the Reagans had one every few weeks). No poetry readings (the Obamas regularly celebrated young poets). The Carters began a televised series, “In Performance at the White House,” which last aired in 2016, where artists as varied as Mikhail Baryshnikov and Patricia McBride performed in the East Room. The Clintons continued the series with Aretha Franklin and B. B. King, Alison Krauss and Linda Ronstadt.

But aside from occasional performances by “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band, the White House is now virtually free of music. Never have we had a president not just indifferent to the arts, but actively oppositional to artists. Mr. Trump disparaged the play “Hamilton” and a few weeks later attacked Meryl Streep. He has said he does not have time to read books (“I read passages, I read areas, I read chapters”). Outside of recommending books by his acolytes, Mr. Trump has tweeted about only one work of literature since the beginning of his presidency: Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury.” It was not an endorsement.

Every great civilization has fostered great art, while authoritarian regimes customarily see artists as either nuisances, enemies of the state or tools for the creation of propaganda. The Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev asserted that “the highest duty of the Soviet writer, artist and composer, of every creative worker” is to “fight for the triumph of the ideas of Marxism-Leninism.”

When John Kennedy took office, his policies reacted against both the Soviet Union’s approach to the arts and that of Joseph McCarthy, who had worked hard to create in the United States an atmosphere where artists were required to be allegiant and where dissent was called treason. Pivoting hard, Kennedy’s White House made support of the avant-garde a priority. The artists Franz Kline and Mark Rothko came to the inauguration, and at a state dinner for France’s minister of cultural affairs, André Malraux, the guests included Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Robert Lowell, Geraldine Page and George Balanchine. Kennedy gave the Spanish cellist Pablo Casals, who had exiled himself to France and then Puerto Rico to protest Franco’s fascism, a forum in the East Room. Casals had performed in the White House once before, at the young age of 27. Now 84, and a man without a country, he played a mournful version of “The Song of the Birds.”

Casals-at-the-White-House

Pablo Casals at the Kennedy White House.

It’s crucial to note that the White House’s support of the arts has never been partisan. No matter their political differences, presidents and artists have been able to find common ground in the celebration of American art and in the artists’ respect for the office of the presidency. This mutual respect, even if measured, made for the occasional odd photo-op. George H. W. Bush met Michael Jackson, who wore faux-military garb, including two medals he seemed to have given himself. Richard Nixon heartily shook the hand of Elvis Presley, whose jacket hung over his shoulders like a cape.

George W. Bush widened the partisan rift, but culturally, Mr. Bush — the future figurative painter — was open-minded and active. He met Bono in the Oval Office. He hosted a wide range of musicians, from Itzhak Perlman to Destiny’s Child. He was an avid reader — he maintained a long-running contest with Karl Rove to see who could read more books in a year. Laura Bush has long been a crucial figure in the book world, having co-founded the Texas Book Festival and the National Book Festival in Washington, now one of the country’s largest literary gatherings.

But perhaps no Republican could match the presidency of Ronald Reagan, whose guest list was a relentless celebration of the diversity of American culture. He and Nancy Reagan hosted Lionel Hampton. Then the Statler Brothers. Then Ella Fitzgerald. Then Benny Goodman. Then a night with Beverly Sills, Rudolf Serkin and Ida Levin. That was all in the fall of 1981. The Reagans did much to highlight uniquely American forms, especially jazz. One night in 1982, the White House hosted Dizzy Gillespie, Chick Corea and Stan Getz. When Reagan visited Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow in 1988, he brought along the Dave Brubeck Quartet.

But that kind of thing is inconceivable now. Admittedly, at a time when Mr. Trump’s policies have forcibly separated children from their asylum-seeking parents — taking the most vulnerable children from the most vulnerable adults — the White House’s attitude toward the arts seems relatively unimportant. But with art comes empathy. It allows us to look through someone else’s eyes and know their strivings and struggles. It expands the moral imagination and makes it impossible to accept the dehumanization of others. When we are without art, we are a diminished people — myopic, unlearned and cruel.

This post originally appeared in the NY Times. Dave Eggers is the author, most recently, of “The Monk of Mokha” and co-founder of The International Congress of Youth Voices

VIDEO: A behind-the-scenes peek in the rehearsal room of ‘Arrival & Departure’

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Fountain intern Saif Saigol is passionate about theatre and social activism

saif

Saif Saigol

Hello Fountain community! My name is Saif Saigol and I am the new Development Intern at The Fountain Theatre this summer.

A little bit about me: I am an Indian-Pakistani-Canadian raised in Montreal, Quebec. I came to the US in 2012 to pursue my high school studies at a boarding school in Connecticut. Currently, I’m an undergrad student with a Music Major and Gender & Sexuality Studies Sequence, and I’ll be graduating from Claremont McKenna College next Spring, in 2019. Music, theater, and all performing arts are my passion and source of comfort in life. As a performer, I’ve trained classically as a vocalist for 6 years, and specialize in the Lied and operatic traditions. I’m also a proud member of the Claremont Shades, a co-ed a cappella group of the Claremont Colleges.

My love for the theatre began at a young age, but truly blossomed in high school, where I gained significant experience both on and off the stage. While I continue to be enamored by the subtleties and complexities of performance itself, I am equally excited about the variety of resources and behind-the-scenes processes that go into producing and staging a professional production.

I could not be more excited to join the Fountain Theatre team this summer! This position has given me the chance to join a community that shares not only my love for the theatre, but also my other passion: social activism. The Fountain’s commitment to telling the stories of marginalized and under-represented identities is both unique and sorely needed in this industry. Everyone deserves the chance to see themselves represented on stage, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or any other identity factor. The Fountain is doing powerful work and breaking cultural barriers and norms by using art as a tool for larger change – I am honored to be a part of their narrative.

I’m looking forward to a summer filled with community, activism, learning, and simply put: good theatre. In my time so far, I have seen that I have much to learn about the industry and I am excited to become better-versed in the goings on of the LA Arts scene. I am also eager to learn more about the Deaf Community and ASL as we move forward with Arrival & Departure. As an arts student, the future is unpredictable and the realities of employment often daunting. I am hoping my time here will help me gain knowledge and experience in the LA arts industry, and ultimately help solidify my future in the arts.

The Fountain Theatre thanks the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors and the LA County Arts Commission for their support through the Summer Arts Internship program. 

 

VIDEO: Watch Deaf actress and hearing actress become one character in ‘Arrival & Departure’

Our upcoming world premiere of Arrival & Departure is performed by a company of Deaf and hearing actors with an innovative blend of Spoken English, American Sign Language and open captioning. All audiences will fully understand and enjoy this funny and romantic love story set in modern-day New York City.

American Sign Language is not a mimed approximation of English. It is its own language unto itself. Complicated and nuanced, ASL has its own syntax and sentence structure and modes of expression. In Arrival & Departure, as Deaf actors sign their lines, the written dialogue is simultaneously spoken aloud by a hearing actor on stage. Two languages become one. 

Take a look at Deanne Bray and Stasha Surdyke as they work through their lines in the play, combining both their talents to become the lead character of Emily.     

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Cast announced for world premiere of romantic ‘Arrival & Departure’ at Fountain Theatre

ARRIVAL & DEPARTURE 2

Deanne Bray and Troy Kotsur

Love is in the air this summer with the world premiere of Stephen Sachs’ new play, Arrival & Departure, inspired by the screenplay for Noel Coward’s Brief Encounter. Sachs directs his new romantic comedy/drama, opening July 14.

In this re-imagined modern-day stage adaptation of Coward’s classic 1945 film, a Deaf man and a hard-of-hearing woman, married to different people, meet accidentally in a New York City subway station. Their casual friendship soon develops into deeper feelings they never expected, forcing both to confront how their simmering relationship will change their lives the lives of those they love forever. An unforgettable love story inspired by one of the most beloved romantic movies of all time.

The play is performed simultaneously in American Sign Language, Spoken English, and open captioning so that all audiences can enjoy the production.

Joining the previously announced Deanne Bray (“Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye”, “Heroes”) and Troy Kotsur (“Cyrano”) are Jessica Jade Andres, Adam Burch, Brian Robert Burns, Shon Fuller, Kyra Kotsur, Aurelia Myers, and Stasha Surdyke.

This innovative production is supported, in part, by the David Lee Foundation and the Los Angeles County Arts Commission.   

Arrival & Departure runs July 14 – September 30 at the Fountain Theatre. More Info/Get Tickets

Dr. Ejike Ndefo, retired aerospace engineer and Fountain board member, passes away at 79

Ejike & Victoria Ndefo

Victoria Ndefo and Dr. Ejike Ndefo, opening night of ‘The Chosen’.

With great sadness, the Fountain Theatre mourns the loss of our dear friend and board member Dr. Ejike Ndefo, who passed away Tuesday, May 29th at USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center in Los Angeles. He was 79 years old.

Married to his beloved wife Victoria for 26 years, the couple shared five children, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.  Ejike and Victoria have been part of The Fountain Family for more than fifteen years.

“Ejike was a dear and gentle man who radiated sweetness,” reflects Fountain  Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs. “He was one of those lovely beings who glowed with an aura of warmth and graciousness. We will miss him dearly.”  

Ejike Ndefo was born in Nigeria in 1939. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a Ph.D 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 three years, Ejike has served as a member of the Board of Trustees of Normandie Church of Christ, Los Angeles. He joined the Fountain Theatre Board of Directors in 2017.

Always glowing with a positive outlook, Ejike recently shared this reminder: “Life is meant to be lived to its fullest. You can’t allow things to take over your ability to rejoice with the life God has given you to live.”

In honor of his memory, a plaque will placed on an audience seat in the Fountain Theatre, front row center, where Ejike sat next to Victoria for so many years.