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We came to the Kirk Douglas Theatre on Monday night to express our gratitude to Center Theatre Group, we came to congratulate three local companies and their productions, we came to celebrate intimate theatre in Los Angeles. And, most of all, we came to PARTY!
Approximately 300 theatre folk from all over the LA area gathered for a night of camaraderie, cocktails, live music and tacos as CTG launched its Kick Off soiree for Block Party, its pilot program remounting three intimate theatre productions selected from 2015. The Fountain production of Citizen: An American Lyric joins Coeurage Theatre Company’s production of Failure: A Love Story and Echo Theater Company’s production of Dry Land in this first-ever festival running April 14 – May 21, at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City.
CTG Artistic Director Michael Ritchie welcomed the crowd of party-goers on Monday night in the lobby, stressing the importance and value of intimate theatre in Los Angeles and the need to support the high quality of work it creates. After his brief remarks, Ritchie declared, “Time to party!” The happy crowd then moved into the theatre.
Inside the Kirk Douglas Theatre, each seat was labeled with the name of an intimate theatre company in Los Angeles. It was a meaningful demonstration of the size and variety of the community.
Live music soared from a local high school jazz band. A DJ then kept the party pounding with dance tunes. Free tacos were served to hungry guests. An open bar offered specialty cocktails named for each Block Party company. Our cocktail was named “Fountain Passion,” a tangy mixture of vodka and fruit juices over ice.
More than anything else, Monday night’s party was an evening for local theatre folk to get together, network, and simply have a good time. It also marked a turning point in the relationship between the city’s largest and most influential theatre organization and the network of smaller companies that populate Southern California.
Center Theatre Group’s goal with Block Party is to acknowledge the high quality of work being created in the intimate theatre community, and to welcome these artists and new audiences in a partnership that celebrates the vibrancy and diversity of Los Angeles.
Let’s get this party started.
The Fountain Theatre has stood at the center of the battle against Actors’ Equity Association’s attempt to dismantle and fragment the intimate theatre community of L.A. with its Promulgated Plans that favor some of our theatres and disfavor others. We have hosted countless Pro99 and Review Committee meetings at our theatre. We offered our name in pledges of support. Our Producing Director served as a volunteer on the Review Committee, dedicated incalculable hours over nearly two years of meetings, conference calls and intense negotiations with Equity representatives, and even took the bold step of including his own name as a plaintiff in the lawsuit against the union on behalf of the L.A. intimate theatre community.
Our position has been that the Fountain Theatre would continue to operate under the 99-Seat Plan, as we always have, even in defiance of the December 14th deadline, until the court made a ruling, which it did on December 8th. Sadly, the decision was not in our favor. We are angry and heartbroken because we believe that everyone will suffer: the intimate theater community, the members of Actors’ Equity who will lose opportunities, and the citizens of Los Angeles who will be deprived of the benefits that the 99-Seat Plan has provided. Now we, as an organization, need to move forward.
Since the Court’s ruling, we have struggled with the challenge of extending our current production, produced under the 99-Seat Plan, with Equity actors who now are threatened with reprisals by their union. We have told Equity that we will not sign the new seasonal agreement going forward, and have negotiated terms only for the extension of our current production. We do so under protest and duress. Our position that Equity’s tactics are harmful and destructive to our theatre community has not changed. But the Fountain Theatre will not become a non-union theatre. We are committed to delivering to our audiences the highest level of work possible. That necessitates, in addition to talented non-union actors, access to the echelon of professional, trained and experienced Equity talent pool.
We firmly believe that all actors in Los Angeles — including members of Equity — have the right, if they so choose, to exercise their craft in intimate theatres, whether as volunteers, independent contractors or employees. Therefore, The Fountain Theatre will do its best to assure that Equity actors are not excluded from working on our stage. This is a hardship we are forced to undertake to guarantee that The Fountain is accessible to ALL actors in Los Angeles. It is our position that actors and stage managers who are members of Equity should not be denied the right to work at our theatre by an Equity “blacklist” because of the misguided leadership of their own union. For 27 years, the Fountain Theatre has created productions with casts comprised mostly of Equity actors. The contribution of their artistry has helped make the Fountain the success it has become. We will not turn our back on them now.
We do not take this position lightly. It is a difficult and challenging road to take. We are assuming this burden for the integrity of our work, for the sake of all L.A. actors and to continue our role as a leader in presenting the best possible theatre in Los Angeles. Inclusion sits at the heart of our artistic mission. The Fountain will fight to remain a safe haven for all actors to exercise their art. We blacklist no one. Our doors — and our stage — are open to the finest artists we can find.
All of us in the intimate theatre community find ourselves in difficult, unchartered territory. Issues remain unresolved. More challenges lie ahead. Further action may be taken. Our common goal, together, must be to ensure that Los Angeles continues to be a city where meaningful, high-quality theatre is created and to maintain the spirit, artistry and integrity of our intimate theatre community.
The Fountain Theatre Board of Directors and Staff
The year is almost over . One thing 2016 made clear is the diversity of our country. Different cultures, communities, points of view. And a great need to understand, respect and connect with each other.
We believe theatre serves a critical role in creating empathy and deepening understanding between people. We believe that by telling personal, human stories that dramatize lives from different communities, we stop seeing those cultures as “the other”. There is no “other”. There is only ourselves. Together.
Troy Kotsur and Deanne Bray are two fabulous actors and members of our Fountain family. You’ve seen them both on TV, in film, and on our stage. You were dazzled by Troy’s lead performance in our Sign Language/English world premiere of Cyrano. And before achieving the ground-breaking lead role in her own TV series, Deanne earned her first professional stage acting job at the Fountain Theatre twenty-five years ago. They now have an eager message to share with you. Take a look and enjoy!
Sometimes, on some nights, the value of what we do — and why we do it — manifests itself in a clear and affirming way. Last night, happening simultaneously in two sections of town, was one of those evenings.
Last night at the Los Angeles Theatre Center in downtown LA, hundreds of members of the LA theatre community held a town hall meeting to discuss the damaging (and, according to lawsuits filed, potentially illegal) plan by Actors Equity Association to eliminate the 99-Seat Plan, a blow that would cripple dozens of intimate theatres in Los Angeles and could cause several to close.
Meanwhile, at the very same moment on Fountain Avenue, a full house of theatre-goers were enjoying a performance of our acclaimed west coast premiere of Tennessee Williams’ Baby Doll. And, like every Monday night at the Fountain Theatre, the public ticket price was Pay What You Can.
Our ongoing Pay What You Can performances on Monday nights have blossomed into a popular LA theatre institution. Every Monday night at the Fountain, patrons choose to pay whatever they can afford. And because it is typically the night off for theatre folk, Monday nights at the Fountain provide many actors in LA with the opportunity to see a performance they wouldn’t normally be available to attend — and see it at whatever price they choose.
“It’s all about being of service,” says Fountain Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs. “We instituted Monday night performances as Pay What You Can shows months ago and it’s really caught on. Not only does it keep theatre affordable and accessible for all, it creates community.”
“It’s insane when you think about it,” he continued.”Creating non-profit theatre in an intimate venue with only 78 seats is a money-losing venture anyway. There’s a reason why it’s called ‘not-for-profit’ theatre. And to be offering valuable tickets every week on Monday nights on a Pay What You Can basis? It makes no sense. Can you imagine walking into Best Buy every Monday night and buying a new laptop by paying whatever you can? Or a new dishwasher at Sears and pay only what you can afford?”
“Look, there’s nothing wrong with being financially sound and responsible,”says Sachs. “But as a charitable non-profit organization, the core reason for our existence, the very heart of our purpose, is not about making money. We are here to create art and to be of service to the community and enhance the lives of the people of Los Angeles.”
Last night in two sections of town, the fundamental philosophical difference between what Actors Equity wants to take away versus the public service LA intimate theatre provides to audiences and artists was on display. One was being debated. The other was actually happening.
The Fountain Theatre will forge ahead with its mission to create theatre of the highest quality possible, to engage diverse artists and audiences in the meaningful and life-enhancing shared experience of intimate theatre, and make it accessible and affordable to as many as we can.
It’s what we do. And why.
by Victoria Montecillo
This past weekend was the biggest event of the summer for the Fountain: Forever Flamenco at the Ford. Since I’ve been working here at the Fountain, this event was something we were all working towards, and I found myself growing more curious and excited to see what all of the fuss was about. As a newcomer, Forever Flamenco sounded like an amazing opportunity to showcase a beautiful and unique art form to the communities of Los Angeles. In the weeks leading up to the big night, everyone in the office kept telling me about the fervor and passion of the flamenco community, and that I had to just wait to see it for myself. No amount of preparation, however, could have prepared me for the experience.
On the day of the show, I came to the venue early with the rest of the Fountain family in order to put out the VIP gift bags (I had spent the weeks leading up to the show working very hard to make sure the bags were all ready and had what they needed, so I was very proud of them), and set up a merchandise table up front. By the time it got to be about two hours before curtain, I started to notice a sizable crowd gathered outside, ready and waiting with picnic baskets. Once the gates opened, people came streaming in, chatting excitedly and eyeing our merchandise and flamenco fans as they passed our merchandise table. And once the gates had opened, the people just kept streaming in. There were people laughing and eating together, and greeting others in what felt like a true community.
Many of the people who approached our table were loyal, longtime flamenco fans who loved and appreciated the Fountain’s commitment to producing flamenco. Others were drawn to our beautiful fans, where they shared that this was their first flamenco show. It was amazing to see and be able to meet all of the different people that were in attendance at this big event, and to get to feel the pure excitement in the air.
The show itself was truly something to see. With the extent of my knowledge about flamenco being pretty much the dancing lady emoji and the sounds of fervent stomping and complex guitar riffs coming from the rehearsal room of the Fountain that week, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I certainly could not have anticipated the raw passion and artistic skill that I saw in each of those performers. What I found to be most striking about watching these flamenco musicians and dancers was that each one of them seemed so happy to be there. They were all doing what they loved most, with a group of artists that understood that passion.
On top of that, I could feel the excitement and joy in the crowd around me throughout the show. During each number, the audience would interject with enthusiastic applause, clapping, and excited cheers. Families around me grabbed each other’s shoulders and clasped each other’s hands as they shouted encouragements to the musicians and the dancers as they did what they do best, and I truly felt like I was experiencing a new community full of joy, passion, and celebration. It was a truly unique and amazing experience.
I am so grateful to everyone at the Fountain, as well as the fantastic team of flamenco artists, for introducing me to the beautiful community of flamenco. I certainly hope I’m able to witness something like this again in my life.
Victoria Montecillo is the Fountain Theatre’s 2016 Summer Arts Intern. We thank the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Los Angeles County Arts Commission for their support.