Tag Archives: drama

Students share their feelings on the power and intimacy of ‘Baby Doll’

alan-goodson-students-baby-doll-2Reaching out to students and making theatre available to young people is vitally important to the Fountain Theatre. And we love it when students reach back. Such was the case on October 24th when the Fountain hosted teacher Alan Goodson and his students from Fashion Institute for Design and Merchandising to a performance of our sizzling West Coast Premiere of Tennessee Williams’ Baby Doll.

Alan Goodson

Alan Goodson

Goodson, also an actor who has appeared on our Fountain stage, led his college students in a post-show discussion with the professional actors following the Baby Doll performance. The students asked questions of cast members, discussed the issues raised in the play and shared thoughts and feelings about the theatre-going experience itself. For some, it was their first time seeing a live professional production of a play.  

The students then returned to the classroom and wrote papers outlining their insights and describing how the play and production impacted them emotionally, intellectually and artistically.

The Fountain recently received a sampling of their comments:   

“Arguably the most powerful moment of the play comes at the very end. Baby Doll and Aunt Comfort sit outside the house after Archie Lee and Silva have been arrested. Silva has said he will come back for Baby Doll, but her future is uncertain at best….Although it is at the very end of the play, this moment, so beautifully directed by Levy, is when the message of the Fountain Theatre’s performance of Baby Doll comes through loud and clear: sexism in 1950’s America was rampant, and the patriarchal mindset of the culture and characters ultimately led to their crippling stagnancy. The Fountain Theatre’s production of Baby Doll is like a fine wine – it gets better with time. You leave the theatre with the assurance that you have just seen an incredible play put on by a talented group; however, the true meaning of the play seeps through more and more the longer you stew on it.”

This student was drawn into the play by the intimacy of the theatre:  

“The play environment was intriguing. I have never been to a production that was so intimate. The theatre itself was very small, the seats were close together, and the stage was right in front of your eyes. I felt the audience was in this play experience together. The actors were so close I could see every detail in their faces. They made eye contact with us and were able to engage us in the storyline. I was intrigued by the fact that I could examine every small detail about the costumes and the set. Being so close to the actors and the set is very different from going to a big theatre where you can barely see their facial expressions or the set theme.”

For this student, overcoming doubts about seeing the play led to a meaningful experience in the theatre: 

“Before seeing Baby Doll at the Fountain Theatre, I was a bit skeptical if I would enjoy the play after reading the synopsis. But I was pleasantly surprised. The actors portrayed their roles remarkably, showing every emotion and movement as if they were really living in the play….the way the cast fed off of one another made it that much more enjoyable….While there was much controversy surrounding the movie when it first came out, I think Tennessee Williams created a phenomenal and important script. The women empowerment and sexuality themes not only made the play witty and comical, but also made the audience think about how life was once like for women of that time. Baby Doll may have started out in the cinema, but it was meant for the theatre. It is a superb play that is brought to life by extremely talented actors.”

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In the post-show Q&A with the cast, perhaps the most important question was asked by a blushing young female student when our handsome, beefy leading man, Daniel Bess, met the group: 

Question: “How many times a week do you work out?”

Answer: “Three.”

See? A life in the theatre can be enhancing in so many ways …

Young people today are the theatre audiences — and theatre makers — of tomorrow. The Fountain maintains its ongoing dedication to staying connected to young audiences and broadening its reach to high school and college students regionwide. With school budgets being cut for arts education everywhere, the Fountain offers an important role in arts learning.  

This event was made possible by Theatre as a Learning Tool, the Fountain Theatre’s educational outreach program making the life-enhancing experience of live theatre accessible to young people and students throughout Southern California.  

More Info on Theatre as a Learning Tool 

Photos: Delighted audience and donors enjoy opening night party for ‘Bakersfield Mist’

img_20161119_214019A fabulous performance, an exuberant standing ovation, and a lively party afterward highlighted the opening night of our remounting of the hit comedy/drama, Bakersfield Mist. The relaunch Saturday night was enjoyed by a full house of happy patrons, Fountain Friends and Family, and exclusively invited VIP Donors. 

Written and directed by Stephen Sachs and performed by the splendid original cast of Jenny O’Hara and Nick Ullett, Bakersfield Mist tells the story of trailer trash dumpster diver Maude Gutman, who is convinced the painting she bought at a thrift for $3 is actually a long-lost masterpiece by Jackson Pollock worth millions. The hit play was created and developed at the Fountain Theatre in 2011, earning rave reviews and a 7-month sold-out run. The play is now performed across the United States and around the world.

At Saturday’s re-opening night, delighted audience members joined the company upstairs in our cafe for a catered reception with the actors and Fountain production and creative team. Fountain VIP Donors in attendance included Carol Ardura, Rabbi Anne Brener, Anita Lorber, Edike and Victoria Ndefo, Harold Shabo, Abner and Roz Goldstine, Fran and Arnie Stengel, Patty Paul, Carol Kline, Karen Kondazian, Ester Lee Alpern, Hugh and Marleen Scheffy.

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Bakersfield Mist Now Playing! (323) 663-1525 More Info/Get Tickets 

New Video: Funny and thought-provoking ‘Bakersfield Mist’ is back at the Fountain

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Finding actor John Prosky was worth the search for ‘Baby Doll’ at Fountain Theatre

 

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John Prosky and Lindsay LaVanchy in ‘Baby Doll’ 

When director Simon Levy was casting our west coast premiere of Tennessee Williams’ Baby Doll back in April, finding the right actor to play Archie Lee Meighan was a challenge. Levy sifted through hundreds of submissions and auditioned dozens of actors yet he struggled to spot what he was looking for. He needed an actor who could authentically evoke the crude, raw good ol’ boy Southern brutality of the cotton gin owner yet also reveal the character’s fear and vulnerability. Finding that actor seemed impossible. 

Then, one afternoon, actor Daniel Bess, already cast in the play, made a suggestion. Did Simon know John Prosky? Daniel’s friend and fellow-member at Antaeus Theatre Company? A meeting was scheduled. And from the first moment that Prosky began his audition it was clear to Levy and everyone present that the hunt for Archie Lee Meighan was over.

BABY DOll Archie Lee

John Prosky

“I’m strangely drawn to Archie’s desperation,” Prosky now says. “It’s not always easy or fun to play but I get that part of Archie Lee on a visceral level.  I’m certainly no racist, or a cuckold nor am I married to a 20 year old  — although my wife does look so much younger than me that it is sometimes assumed.  But Archie’s place on “the edge” is something I commune with at this point in my life.  Not completely sure why but I sometimes feel like I’m going to loose everything.  Maybe it’s just because I have so much to lose.”

Prosky indeed has many blessings. He is married and a father. His son just started 8th grade.  In addition to a busy acting career, he teaches. Like Archie Lee in Baby Doll, he sometimes worries that what he values most might all be taken from him. “I sometimes have this fear that I will fuck it all up or it will all somehow slide into oblivion,” he admits. “The good actor’s first job is to bring himself to the work and that part of Archie Lee I get.”

Not every aspect of Archie Lee came easy. 

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“His physical abuse of Baby Doll I find a stretch for me” he concedes. “And the shotgun. I hate guns.  I am always using a gun in something I’m acting in but this is my first shotgun.  And a shotgun in the hands of a white male in Mississippi in the 1950s should look as comfortable as an iphone in the hands of a hipster today. So that took some work.”

The Fountain Theatre production — and Prosky’s performance — has earned widespread critical acclaim. But it’s the audience response that pleases him most.

“It’s the reason theater is my first love,” he says. “That immediate communication of actor as storyteller is the whole point of theater and so much more rewarding than anything I’ve ever done on film or TV. “

And his first-time experience working at the Fountain Theatre? 

“The Fountain and this production have made me feel respected, welcomed, supported, challenged and fulfilled.  Very few theaters can do all that.”

Baby Doll has been extended to October 30.  More Info/Get Tickets   

The magic glows to life at ‘Baby Doll’ tech rehearsal

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Baby Doll tech rehearsal 

It happens so often at tech rehearsal. And yet, each time it happens, it feels like the first. That magic moment when the colored lights are turned on the first time, the sound is turned up, the costumes are put on, the props are placed in hand. Suddenly the weeks of hard work in the empty rehearsal room blossom to life as the design elements add their wonder. This happened, this week, in tech rehearsals for our upcoming West Coast Premiere of Tennessee Williams’ Baby Doll. It opens July 29.

The cast worked through their cues under the watchful eyes of lighting designer Ken Booth, set designer Jeff McLaughlin, sound designer/composer Peter Bayne, costume designer Terri A. Lewis and props designer Terri Roberts, all under the guidance of production stage manager Emily Lehrer and director Simon Levy.

The meticulous process of technical rehearsals — when light & sound cues are painstakingly timed and drilled — can be tedious. But the end result can be marvelous. As was the case this week with Baby Doll. It’s going to be a beautiful production.  

Enjoy these snapshots from tech rehearsal. You’ll be dazzled when you see the finished production.  

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New dates for West Coast Premiere of ‘Baby Doll’ at Fountain Theatre

BABY DOLL image finalWith 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.

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‘Citizen: An American Lyric’ wins Stage Raw Theatre Award for Best Adaptation

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Lucy Pollak, Stephen Sachs, Deborah Lawlor, Simon Levy, Karen Kondazian, William Sachs

Stephen Sachs’ stage adaption of Citizen: An American Lyric won the Stage Raw Theatre Award for Best Adaptation at last night’s ceremony at the Los Angeles Theatre Center. Created, developed and produced by the Fountain Theatre, Citizen earned rave reviews in an extended run in 2015.

Stage Raw Theatre Awards 2015 - Los Angeles Theatre Center - Apr

The Stage Raw Awards at the Los Angeles Theatre Center

Launched in March 2014, by Los Angeles theater critic and playwright Steven Leigh Morris, Stage Raw is a digital journal dedicated to discovering, discussing and honoring L.A.-based arts and culture. The 2016 Stage Raw Theatre Awards recognize the artistic accomplishments of intimate theatres in Los Angeles for the 2015 calendar year.

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Stephen Sachs

Adapted from the internationally acclaimed and  award-winning book of poetry by Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric is a lyrical and provocative dramatization of everyday racism in this country. Stage Raw declared it “a transcendent theatrical experienceand the Los Angeles Times hailed it as “powerful”, highlighting it as Critic’s Choice.

 

Stephen Sachs is the Co-Artistic Director of the Fountain Theatre and the author of thirteen plays.  His plays are produced in regional theatres across the country, have been made into a CBS TV movie, and are translated into other languages and produced worldwide.  

Sachs’ adaptation of Citizen: An American Lyric will open June 3rd at the Pure Theatre in Charleston, SC, just four blocks from Mother Emanuel Church, as the city and the nation marks the one-year commemoration of the tragic shootings there. Future productions of the play are planned nationwide.