Tag Archives: deaf

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.

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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 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.  

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

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New play ‘Arrival & Departure’ inspired by “the most romantic film ever made”

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Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson in ‘Brief Encounter.’

Everyone has their most-cherished romantic movie. Even the professionals who make movies. When Time Out London recently polled 101 motion picture experts to select the 100 Best Romantic Films of all time, the panel voted the 1945 classic film 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.”

What makes Brief Encounter so beloved and unforgettable? Have you seen it? No?  

Directed by David Lean with a screenplay by Noël Coward 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.

Now, seventy-three years after the release of the romantic masterpiece, Fountain Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs has been awarded exclusive permission by the Noel Coward Estate to transform the film Brief Encounter into his innovative new play, Arrival & Departure, opening July 14.  

Brief Encounter is a classic romantic drama set in 1945 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.

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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.

The screenplay was adapted and based on playwright Noel Coward’s 1935 short one-act (half-hour) stage play Still Life. It was expanded from five short scenes in a train station to include action in other settings (Laura’s house, the apartment of the married man’s friend, restaurants, parks, train compartments, shops, a car, a boating lake and at the cinema).

The central action of the film, the romance, takes place entirely in flashback, confessed via Laura’s voice-over narration, within Laura’s mind. She simultaneously recounts the story and lives it.

Brief Encounter is unlike other films of this era in its treatment of love and adultery. The honest portrayal of Laura and Alec make them both sympathetic. The two characters, both well-meaning commuters thrown into the rush of wrongful temptation,  remain unpunished for their sins. Although Brief Encounter has been labeled as “the British Casablanca”, the two masterpieces have different views of adultery. Casablanca carefully sides against it, the two lovers acknowledging that in times of war the needs of two people “don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.” Brief Encounter is far more ambiguous, offering both empathy to the characters’ plight and no clear conclusion on the morality of love and passion. They are just two ordinary people who live ordinary lives, but for a brief span of Thursdays, stand on the edge of something extraordinary.

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Deanne Bray and Troy Kotsur in ‘Arrival & Departure.’

In Sachs’ new theatrical spin, Arrival & Departure, a Deaf man and a hard-of-hearing woman, two married strangers, meet accidentally in a New York City subway station. As their casual friendship develops into something deeper, each is forced to confront how their simmering relationship could forever change their lives and the lives of those they love.

The play is performed simultaneously in spoken English and American Sign Language with additional use of open captioning, so that both Deaf and hearing audiences can enjoy the production. Proving that whether it’s a movie transformed into a stage play, a screenplay adapted into a theatre script, or spoken English translated into American Sign Language, in matters of the heart, love is a universal language.

To watch David Lean’s classic romantic film, Brief Encounter, click here. To experience Stephen Sachs’ funny and heart-rending stage adaptation, Arrival & Departure, click here and come to the Fountain Theatre.

For both, bring a box of tissues and someone you love.   

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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