Tag Archives: director

PHOTOS: Cast and guests enjoy opening night party for ‘The Chosen’

CHOSEN Op Night 12

The company of ‘The Chosen’

A beautiful and heartfelt performance was followed by a lively party as cast and audience members celebrated the opening of The Chosen at the Fountain Theatre on Saturday night, January 20th.   The sold-out house leapt to their feet in a standing ovation, then gathered upstairs in our indoor/outdoor cafe for food, drink and festivities with the company.

Actors Jonathan Arkin, Alan Blumenfeld, Dor Gvirtsman and Sam Mandel were feted by Fountain VIP donors, invited guests and members of our Board of Directors.

Looks like the Fountain has another hit on its hands. performances for The Chosen are already selling out in advance. Get Tickets/More Info 

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Director Simon Levy offers an antidote of tolerance with ‘The Chosen’ at Fountain Theatre

SL March 2014

Director Simon Levy

Born in Surrey, England, Simon Levy grew up in San Francisco. After a youthful foray as a jazz and rock-n-roll musician, he settled into the love of his life, theater. His professional debut as a stage director in 1980 preceded his move to Los Angeles in 1990, where he joined the staff of the Fountain Theatre in 1993. Even though the Fountain proved to be a very comfortable home for his multiple talents, he branched out into teaching playwriting in Chapman University and the renowned UCLA Writer’s Extension program. He has also been site evaluator for the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council, as well as a member of numerous theater and humanitarian organizations. Somehow, squeezed between his many activities, he found time to adapt F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Tender is the Night, and The Last Tycoon to the stage, adapted the anti-Iraq War play What I Heard About Iraq, wrote several original works, and directed many Fountain Theatre award-winning productions.

Simon Levy directs Chaim Potok’s iconic play, THE CHOSEN, opening January 20 at the Fountain Theatre. He discusses his multi-faceted career and his latest Fountain Theatre production.

HOW DID IT HAPPEN THAT YOU BEGAN YOUR ADULT LIFE AS A MUSICIAN AND ENDED UP CHANGING TO THEATER IN COLLEGE?

LEVY: I had a rock band and even played street music as a young man. When I entered college at the age of 21, I decided to study music to become a conductor. After a year of study, I found that I was ahead of most of the other students because of my experience playing on the street; and I started getting bored. To get to my music classes, I would take a short cut through the lobby of the theater, and I started to watch people on stage doing acting exercises. I was intrigued; and, at the urging of my mother, I decided to take an acting class. I found that I had a facility for it; and I loved the sense of community there was among the students in the program, where I was embraced and accepted even though I was a novice. For a while, I double tracked, even venturing into anthropology; but eventually I chose theater.

AS A WRITER, WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR PROUDEST MOMENTS?

What I Heard About Iraq

What I Heard About Iraq

LEVY: I think I would have to say my adaptation of Eliot Weinberger’s prose-poem about the war in Iraq. It premiered at the Fountain Theatre in 2005/2006 and has gone on to win international awards. It was a cry of the heart for me, a way to make a statement about the idiocy of war. And, of course, my adaptation of Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby. I had always loved Fitzgerald and what his novel has to say about the American dream. I pursued the rights for years, getting permission along the way to adapt Tender is the Night and The Last Tycoon before the Fitzgerald estate finally gave me the rights to Gatsby. It’s an honor I cherish.

AS A DIRECTOR, WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE PROJECTS?

LEVY: That question always stumps me. Directing a play is like having a love affair or having a whole bunch of children. It’s hard to choose a favorite. With each project, I become obsessed with and immersed in the world of the play and what the playwright has to say through the life of the characters. I’m lucky being part of the Fountain Theatre. I get to pick and choose the plays I want to do. And I only choose projects that I’m in love with or feel I need to give life to. Although it’s hard to choose a favorite, some projects stand out for me, like Master Class and Summer and Smoke and, of course, What I Heard About Iraq. But even as I say that, I feel I’m betraying my other lovers! Every play is a marker along the path of my own life. In a way, each play is somewhat autobiographical, a need to say something specific at that particular time.

THE CHOSEN 3

Jonathan Arkin and Sam Mandel rehearse ‘The Chosen’

WHY DID YOU BECOME INVOLVED WITH “THE CHOSEN?”

LEVY: I always search for something that reflects on how I’m feeling at the moment. At this particular point in American history, I needed something that had themes of redemption and tolerance and accepting the other as an antidote to all the toxicity we’re consuming each day. I had always loved THE CHOSEN as a novel and knew about Posner’s adaptation of My Name is Asher Lev a few years ago. After reading this adaptation, I knew I’d found the project that could give voice to a lot of the things I’m feeling right now. Also, Posner has done a re-write of the earlier adaptation he did with Chaim Potok, changing the play from five characters to four. We’re honored to be doing the West Coast premiere of it.

THE CHOSEN resonates with me because I see it as a hopeful commentary. The play begins with the Hebrew for “These and these are the words of the Living God.” It’s a phrase that is deeply ingrained in Jewish thought: that two opposing ideas can be true at the same time. Today, it feels like we have lost the ability to respect someone with an opposing view without being hateful or disrespectful towards them. Potok’s story is an illustration of how we can and should be tolerant if we’re to retain our humanity. And he does it with love and humor and an exploration of fundamentally deep ideas. It may be Jewish in its context, but it focuses on bridging universal chasms between opposing worlds – between the modern and the traditional, the secular and the sacred, Zionism and Hasidism, fathers and sons, the head and the heart, and being true to yourself while embracing and respecting the other. We could use a lot more of that in today’s America.

WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PLANS?

LEVY: There are always writing and directing projects I’m toying with or trying to get the rights to, but right now I’m searching for something else that really speaks to me and how I’m feeling. I haven’t found the right one yet. But later this year I will be directing The Immigrant, another Jewish-themed play about acceptance and tolerance, at the Sierra Madre Playhouse. So I guess that’s really on my mind right now.

This post originally appeared in Splash Magazine

More Info/Get Tickets for The Chosen 

Fountain Theatre presents inspiring solo play to benefit L.A. theater director Dan Bonnell

Dan Bonnell

Dan Bonnell

The Fountain Theatre will present the funny and powerful solo play A Piece of My Mind, written and performed by Eric Barr, on Saturday, Dec. 16th at 8 p.m. as a fundraiser for L.A. theater director Dan Bonnell and his family. Bonnell suffered a massive brain aneurysm in April while in a meeting at Sacred Fools Theatre in Hollywood. He remains in rehabilitative care.

With A Piece of My Mind, Barr shares his inspiring true story of how he survived a series of devastating strokes, robbing him of speech, movement and all his future plans. But it didn’t rob him of hope, or his sense of humor and optimism. His solo play takes audiences on his journey from near-death to recovery and reinvention. It is a celebration of life, love and the human spirit.

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Eric Barr in “A Piece of My Mind” (photo by Joshua Montez)

“I have known Dan Bonnell for over 25 years as both a director and a friend,” says Barr. “When I was chairman of the UC Riverside Theatre Department, Dan directed a number of shows for us and he always raised the level of our students’ work and of our productions. Our students loved Dan.”

Fountain Theatre co-artistic director Stephen Sachs is also a longtime friend of Bonnell. “Dan is a warm-hearted human being and a respected member of our L.A. theater community,” Sachs states. “I offer the Fountain as a way to use theater as an instrument for healing and raising awareness. This night will bring L.A. theater artists and friends of Dan together to show Dan and his family that they are supported.”

A stroke impacts more than the patient. It affects the entire family. Proceeds from the one-night performance will benefit Bonnell and his family as they face mounting medical expenses. A silent auction is also planned to raise additional assistance.

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Eric Barr, “A Piece of My Mind” 

As a stroke survivor, Barr knows the struggle Dan is experiencing. Visiting his friend was a sobering reminder. “When we arrived at the nursing facility, Dan was barely conscious,” remembers Barr. “Sitting next to him, I was suddenly flooded with distant memories of my own experience. I knew what it felt like to be trapped in bed, trapped in an unresponsive body. I could feel it all over again.”

After his stroke, Barr feared his life was over. Instead, his one-man show demonstrates he has a new future. Barr now performs his solo play to enthusiastic audiences around the country.

“On stage, I feel completely healthy. I feel more like myself than anywhere else.”

Eric Barr taught acting and directing at University of California, Riverside from 1975 until 2013 and is now a UCR Professor Emeritus of theater. He has directed over 100 productions and was the founding director of the UCR Palm Desert MFA program in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts.

Dan Bonnell is an award-winning director whose work has been seen in Los Angeles at the Falcon Theatre, Colony Theatre, Pacific Resident Theatre, Matrix Theatre, Open Fist, Theatre of NOTE, The MET, Boston Court, Cornerstone, [Inside] the Ford, ASK Theater Projects, Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA, Highways, Moving Arts, Nexus Theatre Company, Odyssey Theatre Ensemble and HBO Workspace. Dan is the recipient of directing awards from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, LA Weekly and the NAACP as well as the GLAAD Media Award, and has been nominated for Theater Communications Group “Alan Schneider Award”

A Piece of My Mind will be performed on Saturday, Dec. 16 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $50. All proceeds will benefit Dan Bonnell and family.  More Info/Get Tickets

 

Fountain director Shirley Jo Finney awarded SDC Denham Fellowship for ‘Runaway Home’

ShirleyJoFinney

Shirley Jo Finney

The Fountain Theatre is proud to announce that the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation (SDCF), the not-for-profit foundation of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC), has selected Director Shirley Jo Finney as SDCF’s 2017 Denham Fellow for her production of Runaway Home by Jeremy J. Kamps. Runaway Home made its world premiere at The Fountain Theatre and runs to November 5th. 

The Denham Fellowship was established by Mary Orr Denham in 2006 with a bequest to SDCF in honor of her late husband, Reginald H. F. Denham. It is an annual cash award given to women directors to further develop their directing skills, and supports a particular proposed project. Past recipients include May Adrales, Tea Alagic, Rachel Alderman, Kathleen Amshoff, Jessi D. Hill, Joanie Schultz, Bridget Leak, Hannah Ryan, and Diane Rodriguez.

“I love this place because it does important work, ” Finney stated about the Fountain Theatre and Runaway Home. “I love when a piece of work is being presented and the audience can’t get out of their seats. Because they have not experienced a play. They have experienced a life.”

Denham Fellow Shirley Jo Finney is an award-winning international director and actress. She has worn her director’s hat in some of the most respected regional theater houses across the country including: The McCarter Theater, The Pasadena Playhouse, The Goodman Theater, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Cleveland Playhouse, Fountain Theater, LA Theater Works, Crossroads Theater Company, Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Humana Festival, Sundance Theater Workshop, Mark Taper Forum, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and the State Theater in Pretoria, South Africa. Ms. Finney has received many prestigious awards over the years for her special talent and eye for storytelling and for creating exciting ensembles. Her awards include the L.A. Stage Alliance Ovation Award, The Los Angeles Drama Critics Award, LA Weekly Award, The NAACP Award, and the Santa Barbara Independent Award for her directing work. Finney helmed the acclaimed international all South African Opera entitled Winnie, based on the life of political icon Winnie Mandela. Most recently, Ms. Finney directed and developed the critically acclaimed world premiere of Citizen: An American Lyric by the award-winning PENN poet, Claudia Rankin. Other recent works include Facing Our Truth, The Trayvon Martin Project at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles, the Lark Play Development Center’s rolling world premiere of the road weeps, the well runs dry by Marcus Gardley at the Los Angeles Theater Center, and Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Brother/Sister Plays.

“Shirley Jo has been a cherished member of our Fountain Family for many years,” says Stephen Sachs, Co-Artistic Director. “We are thrilled and proud that the SDC Foundation has honored her excellence.”

Runaway Home now playing to Nov 5th.

PHOTOS: ‘Citizen: An American Lyric’ prepares to join the party at Kirk Douglas Theatre

castWeek one of rehearsal started Tuesday for our upcoming remount of Citizen: An American Lyric, the centerpiece of Center Theatre Group’s Block Party at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. Originally created and produced in 2015 at the Fountain Theatre, last week was a happy reunion for original cast members, designers , production crew and director Shirley Jo Finney.  

Citizen: An American Lyric is a searing and poetic riff on race in America written by Claudia Rankine, adapted for the stage by Stephen Sachs. The cast features Bernard K. Addison, Leith Burke, Tony Maggio, Monnae Michael, Simone Missick, and Lisa Pescia. 

The company met in the rehearsal room at the Kirk Douglas Theatre and immediately got to work. Day one began with a table reading of the script. As the week progressed, the actors were soon up on their feet pacing through the blocking. Citizen opens at the Kirk Douglas Theatre for a limited run April 30 – May 7.   

More Info/Get Tickets

Fountain Theatre honored with 21 StageSceneLA Awards

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Philip Solomon, Thomas Silcott “The Painted Rocks at revolver Creek”

The Fountain Theatre has been honored with 23 awards of excellence from StageSceneLA for productions in its 2015-16 season. Fountain productions awarded were the west coast premiere of Athol Fugard’s The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek, the world premiere of Dream Catcher by Stephen Sachs, the Los Angeles premiere of My Mañana Comes by Elizabeth Irwin, and the west coast premiere of Tennessee Williams’ Baby Doll.   

Since 2007, Steven Stanley’s StageSceneLA.com has spotlighted the best in Southern California theater via reviews, interviews, and its annual StageSceneLA Awards. 

The Fountain has been honored with the following awards this 2015-16 season:

YEAR’S BEST INTIMATE THEATERS
The Fountain Theatre

OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION, DRAMA (INTIMATE THEATER)
The Painted Rocks At Revolver Creek 

OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION, COMEDY-DRAMA (INTIMATE THEATER)
My Mañana Comes 

OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION, COMEDY (INTIMATE THEATER)
Baby Doll 

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Daniel Bess, Lindsay LaVanchy, John Prosky in “Baby Doll”

STAR-MAKING PERFORMANCE (Play)
Lindsay LaVanchy in Baby Doll

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE—DRAMA (INTIMATE THEATER)
Gilbert Glenn Brown, The Painted Rocks At Revolver Creek
Thomas Silcott, The Painted Rocks At Revolver Creek

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE—DRAMA (INTIMATE THEATER)
Suanne Spoke, The Painted Rocks At Revolver Creek

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE—COMEDY (INTIMATE THEATER)
John Prosky, Baby Doll

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE IN A TWO-HANDER (INTIMATE THEATER)
Elizabeth Frances and Brian Tichnell, Dream Catcher

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Elizabeth Frances and Brian Tichnell in “Dream Catcher”

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A CHILD ACTOR
Philip Solomon, The Painted Rocks At Revolver Creek

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A FEATURED ROLE—COMEDY (INTIMATE THEATER)
Daniel Bess, Baby Doll

OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE—COMEDY (INTIMATE THEATER)
Karen Kondazian, Baby Doll

OUTSTANDING ENSEMBLE CAST PERFORMANCE—COMEDY-DRAMA (INTIMATE THEATER)
Richard Azurdia, Pablo Castelblanco, Peter Pasco, and Lawrence Stallings, My Mañana Comes

MY MAÑANA COMES

Lawrence Stallings, Pablo Castelblanco,  Richard Azurdia, Peter Pasco, “My Manana Comes”

OUTSTANDING DIRECTION (MULTIPLE PRODUCTIONS)
Simon Levy—Baby Doll, The Painted Rocks At Revolver Creek

OUTSTANDING DIRECTION, COMEDY-DRAMA (INTIMATE THEATER)
Armando Molina—My Mañana Comes

OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION DESIGN (INTIMATE THEATER)
Baby Doll , My Mañana Comes, The Painted Rocks At Revolver Creek 

OUTSTANDING FIGHT CHOREOGRAPHY
Mike Mahaffey,  Baby Doll

OUTSTANDING LIGHTING DESIGNER
Luke Moyer

COMPOSER OF THE YEAR                                                                                                                    Peter Bayne, Dream Catcher 

SCENIC DESIGNER OF THE YEAR
Jeff McLaughlin

SOUND DESIGNER OF THE YEAR
Peter Bayne

Congratulations to all the winners. Full list here

Fountain Theatre presents West Coast Coast Premiere of Tennessee Williams’ ‘Baby Doll’

BABY DOLL image final

Lindsay LaVanchy is Baby Doll at Fountain Theatre

This summer, L.A. audiences get to see a brand new play by Tennessee Williams. Simon Levy directs the West Coast premiere of Baby Doll, adapted by Pierre Laville and Emily Mann from the 1956 Academy Award-nominated film of the same name – the first-ever Williams Estate-approved adaptation of this Williams screenplay. Baby Doll opens at the Fountain Theatre on July 16, starring Daniel Bess, Karen Kondazian, Lindsay LaVanchy, John Prosky and George Roland.

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John Prosky

Darkly comic and crackling with sexual tension, Baby Doll is the story of 19-year-old married virgin “Baby Doll” Meighan (LaVanchy), who must consummate her marriage in two days, on her 20th birthday — as long as her middle-aged husband, Archie Lee (Prosky), 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 (Bess), arrives to seek revenge. What ensues is a complex mix of desire and desperation, with Baby Doll as both player and pawn.

“The miracle of Tennessee Williams is that he can write these wonderful, wacky, wildly rich and complex characters and situations, yet underneath it all are timeless social and political themes,” says Levy. “It’s almost as if this play is a look at today’s America. It’s astonishing.”

 

Karen Kondazian

Karen Kondazian

The Fountain Theatre, Levy and Kondazian, who plays the role of dotty Aunt Rose Comfort, have a long combined history with Williams. Levy has previously directed five of his plays for the Fountain, including Orpheus Descending (1996); Summer and Smoke (1999); The Night of the Iguana (2001); The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Any More (2007); and A House Not Meant to Stand (2011), and the Fountain additionally produced Four X Tenn in 1996. By the time she appeared in Orpheus, Iguana and Milk Train for the Fountain, Kondazian had already starred in numerous Williams productions, including a 1979 production of The Rose Tattoo for which she received the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award – and which led to a steadfast friendship with Williams until his death in 1983. 

 

Daniel Bess

Daniel Bess

Adapted for the screen by Williams from his one-act play 27 Wagons Full of Cotton,Baby Doll was directed by Elia Kazan and starred Karl Malden, Carroll Baker and newcomer Eli Wallach. It immediately caused a sensation, due in large part to the poster image depicting Baker in a crib sucking her thumb. It was labeled variously “notorious,” “salacious,” “revolting,” “steamy,” “lewd,” “suggestive,” “provocative” and “morally repellent,” and Cardinal Francis Spellman, the Archbishop of New York, personally denounced the film before it was even released, declaring that Catholics would be committing a sin if they saw it. Baby Doll premiered as a stage play at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ in 2015; the Fountain production is only its second.
 
“Adapting the screenplay of Baby Doll to the stage has been an exciting process,” Mann said. “Every word is Tennessee’s; my co-adaptor, Pierre Laville, and I simply freed the play within the screenplay to allow the four main characters to live on stage.”

Set design for Baby Doll is by Jeffrey McLaughlin; lighting design is by Ken Booth; sound design is by Peter Bayne; costume design is by Terri A. Lewis; props and set dressing are by Terri Roberts; fight director is Mike Mahaffey; dialect coach isTyler Seiple; production stage manager is Emily Lehrer; assistant stage manager isMiranda Stewart; associate producer is James Bennett; and Stephen Sachs andDeborah Lawlor produce for the Fountain Theatre.

 

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Tennessee Williams, 1956.

Tennessee Williams (1911-1983), born Thomas Lanier Williams III, explored passion with daring honesty and forged a poetic theater of raw psychological insight that shattered conventional proprieties and transformed the American stage. The autobiographical The Glass Menagerie (1945) brought what Mr. Williams called “the catastrophe of success.” He went on to win two Pulitzer Prizes, for A Streetcar Named Desire in 1948 and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1955. Among his many other masterpieces are Vieux Carre, Sweet Bird of Youth, The Rose Tattoo, Orpheus Descending, The Night of the Iguana and Camino Real.

The Fountain Theatre is one of the most successful intimate theaters in Los Angeles, providing a creative home for multi-ethnic theater and dance artists. The Fountain has won over 225 awards, and Fountain projects have been seen across the U.S. and internationally. Recent highlights include being honored for its acclaimed 25th Anniversary Season in 2015 by Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Los Angeles City Council; the 2014 Ovation Award for Best Season and the 2014 BEST Award for overall excellence from the Biller Foundation; the recent production of the Fountain’s Citizen: An American Lyric in Charleston, S.C. to commemorate the tragic shooting at Mother Emanuel Church; and the naming of seven Fountain productions in a row as “Critic’s Choice” in the Los Angeles Times.

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