The cat we rescued to star on our stage

Bob Liz Nathaniel

Robert Symonds, Elizabeth Reilly, and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

by Stephen Sachs

In honor of National Cat Day, I celebrate Nathaniel Hawthorne — the fat, furry feline I rescued from a shelter to co-star in our Fountain Theatre production of Park Your Car in Harvard Yard starring Robert Symonds and Elizabeth Reilly in 1995.

The script called for a fat cat to be brought on stage. I searched animal shelters throughout LA. until I discovered Nathaniel stuffed in a cage in Glendale. “That’s him,” I said, and brought him back to the Fountain. Nathaniel hung out with us in the office all day during the run. At curtain time, he would be brought downstairs to the theatre and wait backstage for his cue. At the proper time in the play, Bob Symonds would carry the cat out on stage for his one scene. After the performance, Nathaniel was returned upstairs and slept in the office, enjoying the actor’s life. This routine happened nightly.

Well … the production was a smash hit. We moved the show to the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble on the West Side. Nathaniel could not stay overnight at the Odyssey. Therefore, four times a week, the cat was put in a car at the Fountain, driven across town to the Odyssey, would do his one scene with Bob and Liz, and then be driven back to the Fountain that night. For three months. When the Odyssey run was finally over, Nathaniel lived at the Fountain, yet another out of work actor. He spent the remainder of his life with us as a happy and well-loved theatre cat at the Fountain.

Stephen Sachs is the founding Co-Artistic Director of the Fountain Theatre.

MUSIC VIDEO: Fountain Theatre brings acclaimed ‘The Chosen’ to Palo Alto

CAST on stairs

Steven Green, Dor Gvirtsman, Jonathan Arkin and Sam Mandel.

Enjoy this fun music video created by actor Jonathan Arkin chronicling the Fountain Theatre opening its acclaimed production of Chaim Potok’s The Chosen at the Schultz Cultural Arts Hall in Palo Alto, CA.

Directed by Simon Levy, the production stars Jonathan Arkin, Steven B. Green, Dor Gvirtsman and Sam Mandel.

A beautiful reminder of why I chose this life

Silouette

Tech rehearsal for “The Chosen”, Schultz Cultural Arts Hall, Palo Alto

by Simon Levy

Our acclaimed production of Chaim Potok’s The Chosen, adapted by Aaron Posner and Chaim Potok, was a wonderful success at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center Taube Koret Campus for Life/Schultz Cultural Arts Hall in Palo Alto this past weekend.

We were invited by Ronit Widmann-Levy, Director of Arts and Culture, because several members of her JCC had seen our production earlier this year in L.A., plus she’d heard about the production at a conference of JCCs in New York. She made arrangements with our Artistic Director, Stephen Sachs, to bring the original cast (Jonathan Arkin, Steven B. Green, Dor Gvirtsman, and Sam Mandel), our stage manager (Miranda Stewart), and myself to remount our production in their 300-seat theatre.

On Monday and Tuesday of last week, Miranda and the actors and I got together for brush-up rehearsals over at the Colony Theatre (the Fountain was busy getting ready for the VIP opening of Cost of Living, our current production). It had been four months since we had done the show and I wanted to make sure the actors had time to get ready. They were remarkable! – they knew all their lines and the old camaraderie immediately returned. It was as if they were still doing the show. They were ready and eager to dive back in.

After packing up and shipping most of the furniture, props, and costumes (except for the beautiful bookshelves, arches, and hundreds of books), we boarded a Southwest flight to San Francisco on Thursday, Super Shuttled to the beautiful Sheraton Palo Alto, took a quick tour of where we would be performing, gathered for dinner at the Town and Country Village near the hotel, then settled in for a good night’s rest.

SL SM on plane

Simon Levy and actor Sam Mandell enjoy the plane ride to San Francisco.

Friday was a 12-hour tech day where we re-configured and re-sized our intimate production to the larger stage of the Arts Hall. We re-blocked a few key moments, re-designed the dozens of light cues, laid in dozens more sound cues, and re-configured the special video effect of Hebrew letters that accents a key moment in the play. Even without the bookshelves, archways and library effect, the production sat nicely on their stage, allowing the emphasis to be on the actors.

Center for Jewish Life, Palo Alto, California

Schultz Cultural Arts Hall, Palo Alto

Moving a show from one space to another, especially with only one day of tech, can often be stressful and prone to all sorts of mishaps. But we were blessed! I want to give special thanks to the Center’s tech wizards, Nick and Kyle. They could not have been more professional, helpful, creative, and just downright nice! And the same for Ilanit Gal, the Events Manager, who took good care of us. Ronit Widmann-Levy was gracious and welcoming and warmly introduced us to many of the attendees and made sure we had everything we needed. It was a pleasure to work with them, and they made the transition from our intimate space to their larger one, smooth and stress-free.

On Saturday afternoon we had a tech run of the show, made a few adjustments, then prepared for our opening. Spirits were high; there was much joking among the cast as they donned costumes and makeup, re-checked their props, and waited for the 7:30 curtain. The Saturday night show was so oversold that the Center had to add three extra rows of seats to accommodate the 300+ patrons. And word-of-mouth from that performance quickly sold out the Sunday night show. Two full houses… two standing ovations!

CHOSEN LCC posterAt the Q&A after the Sunday performance nearly the entire audience stayed, applauding us, engaging us with intelligent questions, and afterwards they swarmed the actors with more questions and compliments. They loved the show. Just loved it. And they could not have been more complimentary – not only about the acting and production, but also about how relevant the story is; how much it touched them; how certain moments made them laugh or cry or nod in recognition; how Chaim’s book and Posner’s adaptation give life not only to so many Jewish themes and historical moments, but to the dynamics of family, of children finding their own path, of the need for understanding and forgiveness, and how, with empathy and compassion, we actually can hold two opposing ideas in our mind at the same time, and both can be true.

The other thing I heard over and over, both from the JCC staff and audience members, is how the immediacy and three-dimensionality of theatre brings to emotional life the richness of the novel in a visceral way that’s different from reading the book. They entered into the world we created for them, and they were moved.

We were even featured on the cover of J. The Jewish News of Northern California with a full-length article about the production and the novel. 

On Monday morning, we boarded another Southwest flight and returned home.

Theatre of the heart. To touch the heart of another and to remind them of their humanity is our highest calling as artists. Our road trip to Palo Alto was a beautiful reminder of why I chose this life.

Simon Levy is the Producing Director of the Fountain Theatre. 

Invited guests enjoy gala performance of Pulitzer Prize winning ‘Cost of Living’ at Fountain Theatre

COST OF LIVING Donor Opening Night SS 2

The Fountain parking lot was transformed for the VIP evening.

Much about last Saturday night’s VIP performance of Cost of Living at the Fountain was out of the ordinary. Our exclusively invited guests drove up to the Fountain to discover a team of valet parking attendants waiting to park their cars for them. The performance of Martyna Majok’s funny and poignant play starred two fabulous actors with disabilities in lead roles — a first for our theatre. And the classy post-show reception was vibrantly staged in the outdoor parking lot, not in our upstairs cafe, to allow full access for our guests in wheelchairs. 

What remained consistent that evening was the excellence of the work on stage and the support of our Fountain Family.  The theatre brimmed with many of the generous Fountain donors, underwriters and producers who made our west coast premiere of this Pulitzer Prize winning play possible.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Executive Producers Barbara Herman and Susan Stockel were joined by Producing Underwriters Diana Buckhantz, Lois Tandy, and Miles and Joni Benickes. Other guests included Fountain Board members Karen Kondazian, Dick Motika, Jerrie Whitfield, as well as Marc and Aliza GurenCecile Keshishian,  actor Alan Mandell, Beth Stoffmacher from the National Arts and Disability Center, and Peter L. Thompkins

The delicious food was provided by Alligator Pear Catering. Long strands of newly installed lighting twinkled across the Fountain parking lot. The decorated outdoor setting provided a classy and delightful ambience for our invited guests and the Cost of Living company. Although this was the first time we transformed our parking lot into an outdoor soiree, judging by Saturday night’s success it won’t be the last. 

Get Tickets/More Info on Cost of Living.

Fountain Theatre’s acclaimed ‘The Chosen’ to open in limited run in Palo Alto

TC_A0482

Sam Mandel in “The Chosen” at the Fountain Theatre

After a six-month sold-out run earlier this year, the Fountain Theatre’s acclaimed Los Angeles Premiere of The Chosen by Chaim Potok will open this weekend for a limited run at the Schultz Cultural Arts Hall in Palo Alto.  The original cast and director return for two special performances October 20 and 21.

Adapted for the stage by Aaron Posner and directed by Simon Levy, the production features Jonathan Arkin, Steven B. Green, Dor Gvirtsman, and Sam Mandel. The Schultz Cultural Arts Hall is a 380 seat theatre, giving the cast the opportunity to enjoy a larger audience than the Fountain’s seventy-eight seats allows. It also lifts the production to a full contract under Actors’ Equity Association.

The Schultz Cultural Arts Hall is located at the Palo Alto JCC. Its curatorial efforts are focused on Jewishness, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. Art’s transcendent nature and its ability to spark curiosity about the other, dialogue about freedom, values and compassion.

If you’re in the Bay Area — or have friends who live there — share the good news.  The Chosen at the JCC in Palo Alto on Saturday, Oct 20 at 7:30pm and Sunday, Oct 21 at 7pm.

More Info/Get Tickets

VIDEO: Actor Tobias Forrest urges you to experience the human connection in ‘Cost of Living’

Get Tickets/More Info Cost of Living

NOW HIRING: House Manager and Sidewalk Cafe Manager at Fountain Theatre

Ft theatre 2Want to join our Fountain Family? Now is the perfect time. We are hiring folks for two positions: House Manager and Sidewalk Cafe Manager.  Both jobs start next week, Wednesday October 17, as we begin performances for our exciting West Coast Premiere of Cost of Living by Martyna Majok.  The play won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

House Manager – audience relations, distribute programs, assist patrons in seating. Looking for pleasant person with excellent people skills, articulate, assertive, trouble-shooter and problem-solver.     

Sidewalk Cafe Manager – To manage and operate our new sidewalk cafe cart. This concessions cart in front of our theatre is a new addition to our audience services, allowing patrons who can’t climb the stairs to our indoor/outdoor cafe on the second floor the ability to buy snacks on the front sidewalk. Seeking a charming individual who enjoys engaging with people, well organized, can handle money and credit card sales via Square, some minor paperwork.  

Dates: Oct 17 – Dec 16
Performances: Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 2pm, Mon 8pm
Rate of Pay: $12 per hour.
Each performance runs approx 1 hour 40 mins (no intermission). Arrive 1 hour before curtain, stay 30 mins after.

The Fountain Theatre is a non-profit arts organization with a hiring policy of diversity and inclusion. All positions are open to any applicant, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. 

Submit cover letter and resume to: info@fountaintheatre.com