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- Emily Mann explores passion and race in ‘Baby Doll’ adaptation at Fountain Theatre
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- NEW VIDEO: Actress Karen Kondazian compares ‘Baby Doll’ to other plays by Tennessee Williams
- The magic glows to life at ‘Baby Doll’ tech rehearsal
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With lead actress Lindsay LaVanchy currently in New Orleans shooting an episode of Scream: The TV Series for MTV, the Fountain Theatre has announced a revised running schedule for the West Coast premiere of Baby Doll, adapted by Pierre Laville and Emily Mann from the 1956 Academy Award-nominated film by Tennessee Williams. The new opening date will be July 29, and performances will continue through Sept. 25.
Darkly comic and crackling with sexual tension, this enthralling tale of prejudice, sexual politics and passion is the first-ever Williams Estate-approved stage adaptation of the Williams screenplay. Nineteen-year-old married virgin “Baby Doll” Meighan (LaVanchy) must consummate her marriage in two days, on her 20th birthday — as long as her middle-aged husband, Archie Lee, upholds his end of the bargain to provide her with a comfortable life. When Archie Lee burns down his neighbor’s cotton gin to save his failing business, his rival, Sicilian immigrant Silva Vacarro, arrives to seek revenge. What ensues is a complex mix of desire and desperation, with Baby Doll as both player and pawn.
In addition to LaVanchy, Baby Doll stars Daniel Bess, Karen Kondazian, John Prosky and George Roland. It is directed by Simon Levy.
Fountain actress Karen Kondazian has not only had the artistically rewarding experience of starring in several plays by Tennessee Williams over the years, she had the honor of knowing the great playwright personally. And she holds more than unforgettable memories of the legendary writer. She also treasures one of his personal belongings.
Kondazian appears in our upcoming West Coast Premiere of Tennessee Williams’ Baby Doll, directed by Simon Levy. At the first rehearsal last week, Karen shared a small black box with the company that held a remarkable momento: Tennessee Williams’ eye glasses.
Here is Karen sharing the story with you:
Baby Doll July 16 – August 28 (323) 663-1525 MORE INFO/GET TICKETS
The Fountain Theatre is now casting the West Coast Premiere of a new stage adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ Baby Doll, adapted by Pierre LaVille and Emily Mann from Williams’ screenplay. Not yet seen in Los Angeles, Baby Doll premiered at McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ, 2015. The upcoming Fountain production will open July 16, directed by Simon Levy.
Producers – Stephen Sachs and Deborah Lawlor
Director – Simon Levy
Stage Adaptation – Pierre LaVille and Emily Mann, based on Tennessee Williams’ screenplay
Casting – James Bennett
Runs: Friday-Monday thru 8/28
Casting Director: James Bennett
Interview Dates: April 18-20, 2016
Callback Dates: April 23, 2016
Start Date: May 30, 2016
Pay Rate: AEA 99-Seat Code, $200 rehearsal stipend, plus $25.00/performance
STORY: 1950s, Mississippi. Dilapidated plantation mansion. Comedy/Drama. 19-year-old married virgin, “Baby Doll” Meighan, must consummate her marriage the next day on her 20th birthday, as long as her middle-aged husband, Archie Lee Meighan, upholds his end of the bargain: to provide her with a comfortable life. But Archie Lee is having a lot of problems, with his finances, his wife, and his cotton gin business. After Archie Lee spitefully burns down his neighbor’s gin to save his failing business, his rival, Silva Vacarro, arrives to seek revenge. There he meets Baby Doll, who becomes instrumental in his erotic form of Sicilian revenge. What ensues is a complex mix of desire and desperation, with Baby Doll as both player and pawn. Williams’ unconventional depiction of gender roles, adultery, and female sexuality is as steamy today as it was in the 1950s.
[“BABY DOLL” MEIGHAN]– LEAD – female,open ethnicity, able to play 19; Southern; wife of Archie Lee; she’s a fascinating contradiction: childlike; still sleeps in a crib; innately sexy and seductive, but still a virgin; charismatic; turns heads wherever she goes; naïve but also coy; uneducated but smarter than she seems.
[ARCHIE LEE MEIGHAN]– LEAD – male, ethnicity, 40s-50s; Southern; owner of failing cotton gin; unshaven, dirty; often comically baffled by Baby Doll and life in general; easily overwhelmed; a closet alcoholic, which can make him abusive; a product of deep-seated Southern prejudices; desperate to be a success and impress Baby Doll and consummate the marriage.
[SILVA VACARRO] – LEAD – male, ethnicity, 30s; Sicilian immigrant who’s lived in the South for a while; successful owner of rival cotton gin; dark, the “foreigner”; attractive, sexy; enjoys toying with Baby Doll and Archie Lee; he doesn’t like to lose.
Or email headshot & resume to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The actress has been called ‘superb’ in her role in Tarell Alvin McCraney’s ‘In the Red and Brown Water,’ a play that exists in two conceptual dimensions.
by Reed Johnson
Before Diarra Kilpatrick was cast in August Wilson’s “The Piano Lesson,” at age 12, she already knew what she wanted to do with her life: anything but acting.
So when her hometown Detroit newspaper interviewed her about the production at a suburban theater, Kilpatrick told the reporter she wanted to be a lawyer or maybe the president of a public relations firm. But definitely not “a struggling actor,” she said.
Recounting that anecdote recently at the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood, where she’s playing the lead role in Tarell Alvin McCraney’s mytho-poetic drama “In the Red and Brown Water,” Kilpatrick laughed at the memory of her precocious pre-adolescent self.
Because by the time the article went to press, Kilpatrick knew what she absolutely had to do with her life: Be an actor.
“It was the quality of the actors that I got a chance to work with and see them up close,” she said, explaining her overnight career conversion during “The Piano Lesson.” “And the production, the material — it was August Wilson.”
Startling transformations are the stuff of theatrical magic, and they’re central to McCraney’s play, which opened at the Fountain in October and has been extended through Feb. 24. “In the Red and Brown Water” is the first of McCraney’s trilogy “The Brother/Sister Plays,” produced off-Broadway at the Public Theater in 2009.
Set during the “distant present” at a mythical housing project in a make-believe Louisiana bayou town, “In the Red and Brown Water” exists simultaneously in two conceptual dimensions.
There’s the 21st century world of Oya (Kilpatrick), a high school track star torn between her college ambitions and the need to care for her ailing Mama Mojo (Peggy A. Blow) and between her affection for the stammering, sweetly devoted Ogun (Dorian Christian Baucum) and the dangerous erotic heat she feels whenever Shango (Gilbert Glenn Brown) comes around her door.
But in another dimension — parallel, yet inseparable — the play is a spiritual struggle that draws on the stories, cosmologies and archetypal gods of the Yoruba people of West Africa, whose legends were transported by slaves to the New World. Virtually all of the play’s 10 characters are named for traditional Yoruba orishas, or spirits: Elegba, the shape-shifting trickster; Shango, god of fire and lightning; Ogun, the deity of iron-working and war.
And Oya, goddess of the Niger River, wind, storms and, as Kilpatrick puts it, “revolutionary transformation.”
“It’s not like ‘Let’s redecorate the house,’ it’s like ‘Let’s tear this [stuff] down! Let’s knock the walls out!'” Kilpatrick explained. “So when Oya comes into your life, people fear her because it means your life is about to change.”
For Kilpatrick, the task was to simultaneously, plausibly portray Oya as a contemporary young woman as well as a force of nature. “This is a girl who listens to Nicki Minaj and Rihanna,” Kilpatrick said. “This is the texture of right now. But yeah, we also carry in our DNA these stories from hundreds and hundreds of years ago.”
Growing up in Detroit, Kilpatrick was taken regularly by her mother to plays, art exhibitions and other cultural events. “Let me just say, if there was a play that was done in Detroit I probably saw it, particularly if it was a black play, and let’s say 95% of them are black plays in Detroit.”
Between ages 12 and 16, Kilpatrick took part in Detroit’s Mosaic Youth Theatre, one of the country’s most accomplished youth theater programs. She also acted at her private college prep school, Detroit Country Day, before moving to the theater program at New York University, where she performed in plays like Suzan-Lori Parks’ “In the Blood” and Stephen Adly Guirgis,’ “Our Lady of 121st Street.”
“I was one of the only black girls who had made it that far who could cuss and make it sound real,” Kilpatrick said, laughing. NYU instructors strongly encouraged her to lose the vestigial Southern accent she’d picked up from her South Carolina-migrant forebears.
Given the realities of casting for African American actors, Kilpatrick said, it’s important to be able to switch accents and speech styles depending on the role. “You don’t want the private school to eat up all the richness of … your flavor. Because no matter what that flavor is, that’s going to be your calling card at the end of the day.”
Kilpatrick came to Los Angeles in 2007. She has appeared in the Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble’s version of “Three Sisters,” set in Trinidad, and a half-black, half-Mexican transgender male in the Bootleg Theater’s production of Gary Lennon’s “The Interlopers” last year, among other roles.
But getting to play a role like Oya “is a blessing,” especially with this cast and “Shirley Jo at the helm,” she said.
“There aren’t parts like this for black women very often. It’s like Hamlet, it’s like King Lear, it’s Medea. It’s an opportunity to really go in there.”
In the Red and Brown Water Extended to Feb 24 (323) 663-1525 More
Tell us about yourself. Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Detroit, MI. My mom was always really dedicated to nurturing the artist in me as I was growing up. She put me in every arts or literature program she could find and I thrived in them, so there was no way I was gonna grow up and become an accountant. And thank God for that. And my dad has the best sense of humor of anyone in the whole world. So if my mom gave me the gift of art, my dad gave me the gift of laughter.
How would you describe Oya, the character you play in In the Red and Brown Water?
At this point in the process its a little hard to delineate where she ends and I begin honestly. She’s a track star, so she’s alot faster than I am, that’s for sure. My track and cross country coach from high school would probably chuckle if she saw this play because aside from the horizontally challenged members of the team, I was the worst one. And I had the longest legs. But I went to this painfully conservative college prep school and the rule was everyone had to play a sport. And if you were on scholarship you had to play TWO sports. I thought that was completely racist because nearly all the scholarship kids were black. So I think the angry little militant in me didn’t want to excel in sports cause as a black girl on scholarship was expected to. I was like whatever, somebody point me towards the stage please. But I regret it now. I’ve grown up and found that I actually do like to run. I probably could have been better if I had applied myself. So I’m getting a chance to feel what that might have been like through Oya.
What themes in the play resonate for you?
The play for me is about Oya’s growth. She has a hell of a time getting over the hump, from one version of herself to the next. She’s special and she knows she’s special so there’s quite a bit of frustration that comes in when she has such a difficult time asserting herself in the world.
The language of the play
Yes the language of the piece is poetic. Black folks speak in poems to me anyway. McCraney definitely highlights the lyricism in the black vernacular. It informs me as an actress. I know exactly who these people are by the way they speak. There’s no vagueness in there. I know who they are.
How does mythology weave its way through the story?
My favorite thing about the piece is the presence of the mythology throughout. These characters are black and poor and living in the projects. Seems like the makings of a sad sack 90s movie that we’ve all seen before. But by reminding us that at the very center, at the core of these characters, is the spirit of a god or goddess, it somehow more fully reveals their humanity. The playwright is showing these characters so much respect in that way. It somehow manages to both elevate the piece and pull us closer to it.
This is your first project at the Fountain. Are you having a good time?
I’m really enjoying working with Shirley Jo and the whole cast. There’s a closeness that happened pretty organically. I’m excited to get to rehearsal everyday. This is the only ensemble I’ve been in where people balk about taking a day off. Everyone is very excited by the work. And everyone is bringing so much of themselves to their performances.
In the Red and Brown Water Oct 20 – Dec 16 (323) 663-1525 More
by Jessica Broutt
Now a few weeks into interning at The Fountain, I have been able to do some very diverse tasks. This happens every few days when someone, usually Stephen, announces that they have a “project” for me. I have learned that project can mean a lot of things. Sometimes it is prefaced with, “this project is a really horrible boring job” and can be as mundane as organizing check stubs. Other times, like last week, it can mean something really exciting like working in our casting department. This was one project I was dying to be a part of. I would be scheduling times for actresses to audition for a role in our upcoming play, the US Premiere of Athol Fugard’s The Blue Iris.
When thinking about working in the entertainment industry, obviously casting is a big part of it, but it is also a facet of running a theatre in which I have had no experience. I soon learned that it really is a world unto itself, populated with agents, assistants, and actresses, complete with its own language with which I was all together unfamiliar. Despite some brief coaching from Stephen, I felt a little unsure about how I could survive in this world . But, armed with my new-found knowledge of “sides” and “breakdowns” I put on my most confident voice and called agencies and actresses alike.
Sometimes it was easy. I got to speak to the actress herself, we picked a time, she said she would be there and it was done. Other actresses were not so easy to track down or I found myself talking to the second assistant of their agent. It was quite nerve-wracking to remember who was represented by Lisa from Momentum or who would be out of the country through the week. It definitely gave me a new-found respect for anyone who has ever worked in casting.
Still, one thing that really amazed me was how nice everyone was when I called. Every agent and assistant seemed more than happy to speak with me, e-mailed me back right away, and much to my amazement, seemed to believe I knew what I was doing. And the same was true with the actresses, each one was more polite than the next. I was surprised at how easy it all seemed. It was then I realized that I had a little bit of power. These actresses were grateful for my call. They wanted this role. And by being nice to me, their chances of obtaining it remained intact. I was so worried about them calling my bluff as a casting director, that I failed to realize that they wanted this audition even more than I wanted to not embarrass myself scheduling it.
If I thought calling everyone to arrange the auditions was exciting, it was nothing compared to having all the actresses come in the day of the audition. My job sounded fairly simple: have the actresses sign in, take a copy of their resume and headshot, and escort them into the audition room. But then there are the things that no one tells you. Like how some actresses will come a mere moment before they are expected while others will come one hour before and size up the competition. I also had no idea that Calvin Klein jeans were the unspoken uniform for auditions. Or how different every actress’s method of preparation is. Some remained very calm as if waiting for a doctor’s appointment and sat patiently in the waiting area until they were called. And then there were others, like the actress Julanne Chidi Hill, who would rather not sit just outside the audition room and feel the tension. Instead, she went elsewhere and practiced. And not just outside the theatre but a block away, to truly distance herself from the competition. So far away in fact, that I was afraid she had left all together. Yet, her unorthodox method obviously paid off, because she walked away as the newest addition to our Fountain Family, and with the role of Reita.
When auditions were over and the role had been cast I thought my job was done. I commended myself on everything going without a hitch, and considered my venture into the world of casting over. But I forgot something very crucial: I had to call all the other actresses and inform them that they did not get the part. The thought of making those calls seemed awful but in practice, it wasn’t really that bad. The few actresses who I spoke to were painfully nice about it, and thanked me for the call. The agents seemed to take the news as nothing out of the ordinary. And I was blessed with speaking to many voicemail boxes, who all seemed to take the news extremely well.
After the last “the role has been filled” phone call, I was actually done with this project. Instead of breathing a sigh of relief, as I did when I filed away the last check stub, I felt a little sad. While it might have been a bit scary to arrange auditions, it was also very exciting. Now when I get to see The Blue Iris next month in August, I will know that I helped to make it happen in some way.
Just as my many other projects have taught me, there are so many different jobs in running a theatre and countless people who work behind the scenes to make it run smoothly.
This was definitely one of my favorite projects thus far. I look forward to my next!
Jessica Broutt is our summer intern from UC San Diego.