Tag Archives: film

Smoldering romance in classic noir film ‘Brief Encounter’ and new play ‘Arrival & Departure’

Brief Encounter 2

Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard

by James Bennett

Sometimes the most important things in our lives aren’t singular, momentous events of shattering spontaneity, but instead, slow burns that steadily coalesce into an unstoppable force; such is the case in the smoldering romance depicted in Noël Coward and David Lean’s masterpiece Brief Encounter.  The film deposits us into a beautifully shot noir-esque chiaroscuro world where the contrasts painted on the silver screen mirror the push of the social norms expected of our upstanding subjects and the pull of their desperate, hopelessly contained passion.

As with Brief Encounter, our couples in the world premiere of Stephen Sachs’ new play Arrival & Departure meet in a train station, (theirs the kind that churns coal and grinds steel, ours the kind that surges below the earth.) Brief Encounter’s couple’s first rendezvous transpires in a tidy and charming tea shop, ours in a gritty Dunkin’ Donuts. Over the course of the production, fans of the classic may notice some deviations, updates, and modifications – but none of them alter the thrust of this timeless piece. The heart of yesterday beats with the same rhythm as the heart of today.

Brief Encounter, based on Coward’s one-act play Still Life, is just one of Lean and Coward’s many collaborations, and remains a beacon that has gone on to inform the genre and influence many cinematic brief encounters since. Coward, never married and secretly gay, adapted his one-act with such skill as to retain all the desire and simmering torment he felt in his heart, and that drove his protagonists toward their scintillating, but ultimately doomed affair.

Today, our world is fraught with global geopolitical distress, corruption, panic, and cruelty emanating from the highest offices in our land. Speed of light communication allows us the privilege of experiencing first hand the acute crises of people the world over. Everything is immediate, huge, and of dire importance – this is not the case with Brief Encounter. Lean, who later would become known for his epics (Lawrence of Arabia, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Doctor Zhivago) instead delivers to us a simple, clean, purely shot film that takes us deep into the hearts of humankind, and shows us that something close, something intimate, something that slyly unfurls in our psyche can become powerful enough to overcome a lifetime of repression. Perhaps it was only someone who could see things so large, could so beautifully show us something so small.

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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.   

Fountain Theatre Awarded $10,000 NEA Grant

Freddy Herko

Freddie Herko

The Fountain Theatre is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in the amount of $10,000 to support the creation, development and presentation of Freddiean original new play utilizing a collaborative fusion of music, video, dance and drama. The world premiere project created by Fountain Co-Artistic Director Deborah Lawlor will be a thrilling hybrid of performance and video art forms to tell the unforgettable true story of Frederick Herko, the young avant garde dancer who galvanized audiences and those who knew him in New York’s East Village during the turbulent 1960’s.

Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol

A dazzling storm of charisma, beauty and artistic passion, Herko was a brilliant 28 year-old dancer of extraordinary talent haunted by dark self-destructive demons. A fiery denizen of Andy Warhol’s Factory and the experimental scene in Greenwich Village, Herko became more eccentric, unpredictable and self-destructive. In 1964, while dancing in his apartment to Mozart’s Coronation Mass, Herko leapt out the window and fell to his death five stories down. Created by Deborah Lawlor, who was a close friend of Herko in the final year of his life, the project chronicles the blazing comet of the Icarus-like Freddie and the explosive creative energy of the 1960’s. By fusing theatre, music, dance and video collage, the project will capture the explosive spirit of a passionate artist and a turbulent era.

Freddy Herko

Freddie Herko

Deborah Lawlor

Deborah Lawlor

The biography of Freddie Herko is currently being researched and written by Gerard Forde, a friend of Deborah Lawlor. Forde is now hosting a screening at the Museum of Modern Art in New York of Andy Warhol films featuring Herko.

The world premiere of Deborah Lawlor’s exciting Freddie project will be presented at the Fountain in 2015. 

Keeping the Fire of Flamenco Burning in Los Angeles: Katina Dunn and Jose Tanaka

Katina Dunn and Jose Tanaka

Katina Dunn and Jose Tanaka

By Mikey Hirano Culross

A new documentary, exploring the reach of flamenco music and dance into Los Angeles, screens Friday at the Fountain Theatre.

Conventional wisdom would have us assume that anyone directing a documentary has at least scant knowledge of the subject being explored.

Asked how much she knew about flamenco music before beginning her film project, Katina Dunn was pretty forthcomng about it.

“Nothing. Not a thing,” she said.

A journalist by trade, the Chicago native happened into a small club in Hollywood in 2010, and was instantly enchanted by a group of flamenco musicians and dancer Mizuho Sato.

“After I saw these guys playing, I went home and searched for them on Google, and there was nothing,” Dunn recalled at the Rafu Shimpo offices last week. “I knew I had to do something on them, because their performance was so moving. I knew what they were creating was incredible.”

Dunn’s directorial debut is the film “Kumpanía: Flamenco Los Angeles,” which will have a screening this Friday, at the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood. Showing as part of the Downtown Film Festival Los Angeles, the film will be followed by a live concert by flamenco guitar virtuoso Jose Tanaka, who is among the artists profiled in “Kumpanía”.

Dunn’s film explores the reach of flamenco into cultures outside of its birthplace in the Andalusia region of southern Spain. The folk music – whose name translates roughly to “the folklore of the flame” – has enjoyed great popularity in Japan, where it is said there are more flamenco schools than in Spain.

Mizuho Sato

Mizuho Sato

Tanaka, 44, said his parents were part of the generation that first embraced flamenco, and his given name is a direct result of their enthusiasm. He endured endless lessons, and when he was 18, his mother suggested he go study guitar in Spain.

Young Jose had other ideas.

“I said, ‘Screw that, I’m going to Hollywood!’ I wanted to be a rock star,” he explained.

Tanaka was working as a guitar instructor at a small music school shortly after arriving in L.A. in 1987. He said he soon became disillusioned with the monotony of his job.

“At the time, hard rock bands like Metallica and Pearl Jam were very popular, and I was teaching these kids that kind of stuff,” he said. “I found that they picked it up so quickly and I felt like I wasn’t much better than those kids. I didn’t feel like I was special, and all this time I was avoiding flamenco.”

All the while, his mother back in his hometown of Kyoto continued to send news of up-and-coming flamenco artists. But it wasn’t until the renowned Spanish guitarist Paco de Lucía came to L.A. for a concert that the flamenco fire was rekindled in Tanaka’s heart.

“All the memories started to come back. There were a lot of mixed feelings, but I realized how much I missed flamenco. I was really brought to tears,” he said.

“Kumpanía” also features Sato, a native of Iwate Prefecture who teaches dance and has been performing with Tanaka’s group since 2004.

Jose Tanaka will perform a live solo concert immediately following the screening of ‘Kumpania’ on Friday night, July 19 at 8pm at the Fountain Theatre. 

Mikey Hirano Culross is Arts & Entertainment Editor for Rafu Shimpo

Kumpania & Jose Tanaka Friday, July 19 (323) 663-1525  MORE

Spotlight: Actress Maya Lynne Robinson Moves from NY to LA and Lands ‘In The Red and Brown Water’

Maya Lynne Robinson

Maya Lynne Robinson

Actress Maya Lynne Robinson moved from New York City to Los Angeles in May, 2012. Two months later, she booked her first play in LA. And what a play and production it turned out to be! To her (and our) good fortune, Maya was cast in the ensemble as the gossipy Nia in our Los Angeles Premiere of In the Red and Brown Water. The production has drawn critical acclaim, been named “Best in Theater 2012” by the Los Angeles Times, and has been extended to Feb 24th.

Why did you move from New York to Los Angeles?

I wanted a change.  I was living in NYC, but working regionally and I wanted to move somewhere where I could live and work.  I also came to focus more on film and television.  I have an extensive theatre background and wanted to broaden my options.   

Any preconceptions about LA being a “theater town”? The Hollywood Industry?

I didn’t know that LA was a theater town!  I thought my focus immediately would be on film and television and “networking.”  That’s the Hollywood Industry perception I was told about.  LA has been much more than networking for me.  It’s helped me create a little family, a sense of community and belonging that I hadn’t felt in a long time, professionally and personally.  I moved here knowing only three people.  

I knew the acting talent pool would be fierce, but I didn’t have any thoughts, one way or the other, on if the actors would be great.  All I thought about was becoming a part of that acting pool.

Maya Lynne Robinson (right) as Nia, Simone Missick (left) as Shun, in "In the Red and Brown Water" at the Fountain Theatre

Maya Lynne Robinson (right) as Nia, Simone Missick (left) as Shun, in “In the Red and Brown Water” at the Fountain Theatre.

‘In the Red and Brown Water’ is your first play in LA.

Yes, it’s  is my first play here.  I moved here in the middle of May and by August 2nd was cast in this fabulous production.  I feel really blessed.  Thank you Shirley Jo Finney and Erinn Anova for believing in my talent, with no one knowing anything about me.  I was fresh off the boat!  And thank you to Stephen Sachs, Simon Levy and Deborah Lawlor for allowing me to be a part of the Fountain family.

What has the ‘Red/Brown’ experience been like for you?

This experience has been very interesting for me.  Extremely emotional; taking me out of a comfort zone that I didn’t know I had.  I expected it to be professional.  I never expected the personal bonds to be so strong with the rest of the cast and crew.  We’ve become a family.  I’ve also grown up a bit and learned a lot about who I am.  I felt very “East Coast” when I moved here. Now I just feel like me. It’s hard to put into words, you know?  I’m still transitioning. 

The Fountain Theatre

The Fountain Theatre

How has your experience been working at the Fountain?

The Fountain has been fabulous.  I love the fact it looks like a home. Theatre should feel like coming home.  It’s been a great experience.  I didn’t have expectations of what LA theatre companies would be.  I just dove in.

How do you like living in Los Angeles?

It’s winter time!  70 degrees!  How do YOU think I like LA?!  I love the snow, I’m originally from Cleveland, but a snow less winter hasn’t been that bad.  The traffic though… I can do without the traffic. 

Is it different being an actor in New York versus being an actor in LA?

I’m not sure I’ve processed the differences yet.  I’ve just been blessed to meet people and work immediately.  I spent one week performing ‘Red/Brown’ at night and shuttling to San Diego to be on set during the day.  It  was a very different experience for me; exhausting and fulfilling. 

What are your plans after ‘Red/Brown’ closes?  

To keep acting, finish my one woman show, introduce LA to me. I’m also looking for representation.  I booked this show on my own, but some help, would be fantastic.  Oh, and go on vacation!

In the Red and Brown Water Now – Feb 24  (323) 663-1525  More

Video: Classic Movie Scene from Classic Play “Cyrano de Bergerac” (1950)

As we prepare our upcoming new signed/spoken version of Cyrano, enjoy this scene from the 1950 movie version of the original classic, “Cyrano de Bergerac“, starring Jose Ferrer.

In our funny, romantic and imaginative new adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac, Cyrano is a brilliant deaf poet hopelessly in love with Roxy, a beautiful hearing woman. But she doesn’t understand sign language and instead loves Chris, his hearing brother. Can Cyrano express his love to Roxy with his hands? Or must he teach Chris to woo her, to “speak his words” for him? A new Sign Language spin on a classic love story.

Cyrano April 28 -June 10 (323) 663-1525  More Info   Buy Tickets