Tag Archives: Arrival & Departure

3,500 technical cues in the play? No problem for this mighty pair of stage managers

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Stage Managers Deena Tovar and Emily Lehrer, “Arrival & Departure,” Fountain Theatre

You may know that the Fountain Theatre’s smash hit world premiere, Arrival & Departure, is highlighted as Critic’s Choice in the Los Angeles Times, has earned rave reviews everywhere, and has been delighting audiences in sold-out houses since it opened in July. What you don’t know is that the magical mixture of lights, video, sound, music and open captioning is operated by only two stage managers in the booth — executing the play’s 3,500 technical cues in a fast-paced running time of 90 minutes. How do they do it?

Production Stage Manager Emily Lehrer and Assistant Stage Manager Deena Tovar make an excellent team.  They share years of professional experience between them but Arrival & Departure marks the first time they have worked together. It’s also the first time they’ve managed a cast of Deaf and hearing actors. 

There was a learning curve on the American Sign Language front, for sure,” admits Emily. “That being said, everyone has been so helpful and supportive as I fumbled my way through.”   

Deena echoes the same enthusiasm. “This has been an amazing experience. Everyone involved with the show are truly remarkable and supportive. Even with my signing skills — or rather the lack thereof — everyone made sure I was learning.”

“I really want to start studying ASL more seriously,” adds Emily. “It’s a gorgeous language, and as a Stage Manager, communication is at the heart of everything I do. So having that asset in my communication toolbox would be amazing.”

Emily Lehrer is from Los Angeles and has worked as Production Stage Manager on several plays at the Fountain Theatre. She has also stage managed for The Latino Theatre CompanyThe Garry Marshall TheatreThe Odyssey TheatreSacred Fools, and at Universal Studios Hollywood.  Deena grew up in Eagle Rock. She has worked as a Stage Manager all over Los Angeles at such companies as Circle X, Open Fist, Casa0101, Shakespeare Center of LA and many more.

“The Fountain is a great place to work,” Deena beams. “It really is like a family. Anything I need is almost always available. Everyone is here to support the art and you can really feel that when you walk in every day.”

They clearly enjoy working together and make a kick-ass team in the booth and in the rehearsal room. What makes them such a dynamic duo?

“Complimentary skill sets, ” says Emily. “Honestly, a lot of it comes from Deena also being a great PSM, and because she knows how to think like a PSM, she is able to anticipate needs and fill in the gaps beautifully. It also doesn’t hurt that we enjoy each other’s company as people. Having team members you genuinely enjoy working with is a gift, and it makes every aspect of the process go more smoothly and easily.” 

Deena agrees. “We both absolutely love our jobs as Stage Managers. We don’t come to work wishing we were doing something else, we walk in knowing we are working in our dream profession. It also helps that we both have very similar styles of stage managing and from that we are able to predict exactly what is needed before it’s said out loud.”

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When Deena first read Stephen Sachs‘ script for Arrival & Departure, and its blend of both Deaf and hearing actors in a production that mixes lights, sound, music, video and open captioning, she was unsure how it would all come together.

“I originally felt it would be difficult for the audience to keep up with everything going on,” she admits. “But during the rehearsal process my concerns were very quickly extinguished. I saw exactly how each word and each scene had to be portrayed to make sure no one was missing out on any moment.”  Emily agrees. “I am so thrilled with the way it turned out.”  

Both have been blown away by the audience reaction. 

“It has been such a balm to see how audiences have responded to the show, ” says Emily. “Especially our Deaf audiences, as they realized with utter joy that this is a production created with them in mind.”

“The audiences have loved it, ” exclaims Deena. “They really enjoy the way the show captures both the Deaf and hearing experiences. I love looking at the audience during intense moments and seeing their reactions. My personal favorite was the reaction of these two women sitting in the front row. Just as the characters Sam and Emily are about to kiss, the two women grabbed each other and shook their heads like they wanted to yell out, “don’t do it!”

Both Emily and Deena feel the play — how it was conceived and the way it is performed — serves a valuable purpose.  

“This production is truly important because it incorporates elements of sign language, captioning and spoken English, ” Deena explains. “This show isn’t only for one audience. It is open for everyone. Everyone can watch and relate. That kind of inclusion is sadly lacking in the entertainment industry.”

“We live in weird, difficult, and downright terrifying times,” states Emily. “Times where hatred, bigotry, and closed mindedness are becoming the new normal. In times like these, creating art is an act of resistance. Creating art that is, by design, inclusive, a celebration of a woman coming into her own, a love story —  is nothing short of revolutionary. “

And now that the celebrated run is soon reaching its final performance? 

“I got to meet some of the funniest, most energetic, and kind-hearted  people, ” Deena confesses. “It really has been an excellent experience.”

“It has been such a beautiful, hopeful reminder of what we can be when we open our arms and our hearts to those who may on the surface appear different than us,” states Emily. “I will cherish it.” 

Emily in booth

Arrival & Departure ends September 30. 

Free screening of classic romantic film ‘Brief Encounter’ at Fountain Theatre on Sept 22

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Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard in “Brief Encounter”

The Fountain is presenting a free screening of the 1945 classic romantic film, Brief Encounter on Saturday, September 22 at 4:30pm. The screening is in conjunction with the Fountain’s current hit production, Arrival & Departure, which was inspired by the Noel Coward screenplay of the movie. Playwright/Director Stephen Sachs will introduce the film.

The screening will be fully captioned, accessible to all audiences.

When Time Out London recently polled 101 motion picture experts to select the 100 Best Romantic Films of all time, the panel voted Brief Encounter as #1, declaring it “the most romantic film ever made.” They’re not the only ones who think so. The Film Society of Lincoln Center named it “one of the most achingly romantic films ever made.”

Directed by David Lean and starring Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard, Brief Encounter is a passionate film about a chance meeting, forbidden love, and finding one’s soul mate.

Brief Encounter is set during WWII in and around a London railway station. A married woman, with children, Laura (Celia Johnson), meets a stranger, a doctor (Trevor Howard) named Alec in the train station’s tea room, who kindly removes a piece of grit from her eye then leaves to catch his train. During her subsequent shopping trips every Thursday, Laura bumps into Alec and a friendship develops. Soon, the weekly meetings become an arranged rendezvous. Finally, they confess that they are deeply, overwhelmingly in love.

With its evocatively fog-enshrouded setting, swooning Rachmaninoff score, and pair of remarkable performances (Johnson was nominated for an Oscar), the film explores the thrill, pain, and tenderness of an illicit romance, and has influenced many a cinematic brief encounter since its release.

“I was looking for a love story to inspire my new play,” explains Sachs, describing the origin of Arrival & Departure. “When I thought of Brief Encounter, with its journey of two strangers travelling from friendship into love, I knew I had found what I was looking for.”

Running time: 90 mins. Limited seating. Reservations necessary.  (323) 663-1525

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Saif Saigol looks forward to opening eyes to the magic of theatre

Saif Saigol

by Saif Saigol

It’s the end of August – the time of year that’s defined by back-to-school sales, the switch from iced coffee to hot coffee, and that one last outing with white pants before Labor Day comes and goes. For me, this week signifies the end of my internship with The Fountain and my first experience living in LA. It occurred to me today that this time next year – for the first time ever – I won’t be preparing to go back to school, and I am reminiscent of my summer at The Fountain and all I have learned.

For the past 10 weeks, I have worked under Barbara Goodhill, The Fountain’s Director of Development, on a variety of projects related to The Fountain’s growth and community impact. As an avid lover of theater, and all other performance arts, this was my first experience working behind-the-scenes (or upstairs, in The Fountain’s case) at one of the desks that keep arts organizations like The Fountain running. I learned the ins and outs of fundraising and grant culture, and the realities of producing art in a country that loves creativity, but hesitates to support it. While it is somewhat disheartening to see all the hoops artists must jump through before being able to express themselves, there is redemption in knowing that organizations like The Fountain, and the foundations that support it, are committed to the arts and the roles arts play in connecting communities. I was able to experience this first-hand this summer, with The Fountain’s production of Arrival & Departure.

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Deanne Bray and Troy Kotsur, Arrival & Departure.

Arrival & Departure is Stephen Sachs’ latest Deaf/Hearing play, inspired by the timeless romance film Brief Encounter. It was truly incredible to witness the level of finesse and intimacy the company was able to achieve in the short time between the beginning of the summer, when rehearsals began, and opening night 6 weeks later. Arrival & Departure is a masterpiece of intimate theatre, from the way it is written to present three distinct story-lines that harmoniously blend into one, to the actors’ ability to engage each other, engage the audience, and fill the room with their presence. Beyond the triumph of Arrival & Departure as a piece of theater, it was particularly meaningful for me to be able to interact with the Deaf community, who graciously opened their arms to us hearing folk and put in the labor to educate and accommodate us. It can only be described as powerful to sit in that theatre for 90 minutes, without one interpreter in sight, and watch Deaf and hearing actors alike (while sitting next to Deaf and hearing audience members alike) reveal their deepest emotions and vulnerabilities, whether through Spoken English, ASL, or movement. It is art in its rawest form, and really makes one wonder why all theater doesn’t strive for this level of accessibility and nuance. If you haven’t yet seen Arrival & Departure, get your tickets ASAP!! It’s a must-see.

One of my projects this summer was working with The Fountain’s Outreach Coordinator, Dionna Daniel, on various efforts to open our doors to the community. It was especially rewarding to give back to the community by way of arts education for LA’s youth. It was because of efforts like these several years ago that my eyes were opened to the magic of theater as a young student, and I’m honored to play a part in providing that experience for others.

Too often, I think, theatre and the arts are viewed as hobbies or simply a source of entertainment. This narrative fails to address that the arts play a unique role in fostering our ability as humans to feel empathy and be creative. In our increasingly polarized and divisive world, these qualities could not be more important. I’ve learned first-hand that is is essential for students to be exposed to the arts at a young age. The Fountain contributes to a movement that brings theatre to underserved groups and students, bridging the gap between communities and giving kids the tools to think outside the box. It was inspiring to be a part of this, and interact directly with some of the students served by The Fountain.

My time at The Fountain has taught me many things, from knowing how to dissect a 501(c)(3)’s 990-Form, to helping coordinate special events, to interacting with Hollywood managers and agents. The looming future of my career in the arts is now slightly less tinged with panic, and driven instead by excitement and confidence. I cannot thank The Fountain enough for welcoming me into their family, teaching me the ways of intimate theatre in Los Angeles, and giving me the tools to take command of my own career.

VIDEO: A behind-the-scenes look at acclaimed new play ‘Arrival & Departure’

The Fountain Theatre believes young people need access to the arts. Teens need to not only see art, they benefit from actively creating art themselves. That’s why the Fountain Theatre partnered with The Bresee Foundation to welcome three young women into the backstage rehearsal process for our acclaimed world premiere, Arrival & Departure. The result is this short film chronicling how the innovative hearing/Deaf production was created, told by the artists who created it.

The Bresee Foundation was founded in 1982, and has been providing quality after-school programs and family services to the public ever since. It battles poverty by empowering youth and families in Los Angeles with the skills, resources, and relationships necessary to thrive.  In Bresee’s Best Buy Teen Tech Center, students experiment, innovate, and create in their own time, on their own terms.

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Film makers Ariejoyee Carianga, Xeyla Huinac, and Ashley Polanco

This short film on Arrival & Departure was created by Ariejoyee Carianga, Xeyla Huinac, and Ashley Polanco. We enjoyed having these wonderful young women with us and are very proud of their short film. Enjoy!

VIDEO: Marlee Matlin hails ‘Arrival & Departure’ at Fountain Theatre as “magic” and “brilliant”

Academy Award winning actress Marlee Matlin enjoyed seeing the Fountain Theatre’s world premiere of Arrival & Departure, hailing the innovative romantic drama as “magic” and “brilliant.”  After the performance, Matlin congratulated the cast and company and sat down with Abby Guerra of Fountain Films to share her excitement about the new play.

Written and directed by Stephen Sachs, Arrival & Departure stars Deanne Bray and Troy Kotsur. Highlighted as Critic’s Choice in the Los Angeles Times, the acclaimed production runs to September 30th.

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Video and Photos: Opening night party for romantic world premiere ‘Arrival & Departure’

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Playwright/Director Stephen Sachs celebrates with the crowd on Opening Night. 

Love was in the air on Saturday night for the opening of our world premiere of Arrival & Departure, the funny and poignant new play inspired by the classic romantic movie, Brief Encounter. Written and directed by Stephen Sachs, Arrival & Departure  focuses on a Deaf man and a hard-of-hearing woman, married to different people, who meet accidentally in a New York City subway station. Their casual friendship soon develops into deeper feelings they never expected.

Saturday’s Opening Night performance compelled a sold-out audience to leap to its feet in a standing ovation. Afterward, a catered reception was held in our cafe. The warm summer weather was perfect for our invited guests to enjoy the cafe’s cozy outdoor balcony. 

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The cast includes Jessica Jade Andres, Deanne Bray, Adam Burch, Brian Robert Burns, Shon Fuller, Kyra Kotsur, Troy Kotsur, Aurelia Myers, and Stasha Surdyke. They were celebrated at the party by Fountain staff, members of the press, members of the Fountain Theatre Board of Directors, and family and friends. The guests were impressed by the dazzling performance, many commenting on its power and poignancy.

Arrival & Departure is performed by Hearing and Deaf actors in a fully integrated, unique blend of Open Captioning, American Sign Language and Spoken English. In this short video clip, Deaf actors Troy Kotsur and Deanne Bray address the party guests.

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‘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.