Tag Archives: Fountain Theatre

Stephen Hawking and the observer effect on live theatre

Stephen Hawking NGeo

Stephen Hawking

by Stephen Sachs

In quantum mechanics, the observer effect is the theory that observing a particle  changes the particle being observed. Werner Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle determined that the act of our looking at a quantum element impacts the behavior of the thing we are watching. I believe the same can be applied to live theatre.

What first comes to your mind when Stephen Hawking is mentioned? An Einsteinian genius who theorized the mind-bending truths of the cosmos? His mechanized voice decoded by his wheelchair synthesizer? His best-selling book, A Brief History of Time? His cartoon appearance on The Simpsons?  The indelible impressions left by Hawking are as infinite as string theory. I find myself this morning reflecting on Hawking, Nick Payne’s mesmerizing two-character drama, Constellations, and the parallel universes of science and theatre.


Aria Alpert and Daniel Billet in “Photograph 51”, Fountain Theatre

Several modern plays weave science and math into their storytelling. Heisenberg by Simon Stephens, Tom Stoppard’s ArcadiaCopenhagen by Michael Frayn, and Caryl Churchill’s A Number come to mind. In 2009, we produced the West Coast Premiere of Anna Ziegler’s Photograph 51 at the Fountain Theatre, the story of British biophysicist Rosalind Franklin’s discovery of the DNA double-helix. I’ve directed Completeness by Itamar Moses, a love story between a computer scientist and a molecularar biologist.  These playwrights have turned to science as a source of metaphors and forms, using the language of particle physics, evolution or mathematics as ways of speaking about human experience.

In Constellations, science and romance collide. Marianne is a theoretical physicist. She meets Roland at a party.  They go for a drink. Or maybe they don’t. They fall in love, break up, get back together. Maybe they get married, or maybe death proves their time together is finite. Constellations explores the various possible outcomes of eight different situations. Through an astonishing series of vignettes, we watch as Marianne and Roland’s relationship unfold across time and space, with each variation sending their relationship on an entirely new trajectory. The play speculates roads not taken and where they might have led.  All of us who remember, re-remember and reimagine our own lives – as most of us do – see ourselves through a multi-dimensional lens.

Says Marianne: “In the quantum multiverse, every choice, every decision you’ve ever made and never made exists in an unimaginably vast ensemble of parallel universes.”

To which Roland replies: “This is genuinely turning me on.”

I know how he feels. Science in theatre turns me on, too.

‘Constellations’ by Nick Payne, TheaterWorks 

Constellations draws on the Many Worlds Interpretation, in which an infinite amount of divergent universes exist side-by-side. The theory postulates that alternate pasts and futures are not only real but unfold simultaneously. Likewise, the play presents us with a series of variations on the encounters between two lovers like a fugue of coexisting possibilities. 

Using quantum physics as a language for theatre and a dramatic structure for plays flies in the face of the linear Aristotelian principle, in which effect should follow cause. But unpredictability and causation are both true in life. The decisions we do and don’t make determine which future we actually end up experiencing.  Yet if any choice is endlessly possible, and each produces a different outcome, where do we find meaning in anything and any sign whatsoever of any evidence of free will?

I don’t know if Nick Payne thought of  essayist Walter Benjamin when naming his play. Walter Benjamin famously proposed in The Origin of German Tragic Drama (1928), that ideas are to objects as constellations are to stars. Ideas are no more present in the world than constellations actually exist in the heavens.  The stars in the night sky are where they are regardless of how we look at them. It’s we, ourselves, who impose ideas and concepts on what we see. We call it a “constellation” and, thereby, give it meaning.

Rather than a linear plot, Payne presents us with a kaleidoscope of infinite possibility. As its title suggests, Constellations creates a space for the spectator’s view, inviting us to group his fragments together and to find new meanings in the constellations they produce and the transformations they effect upon each other.

Any actor will tell you how the presence of an audience impacts the performance of the players. An audience changes everything and affects the outcome of the evening. The very act of an audience watching impacts the observed reality of the play. Actors, like electrons, change their behavior when viewed. And no performance is ever the same twice. Each live experience is utterly unique and not repeatable.

The passing of Stephen Hawking encourages me to examine how his science and my art are related. Theatre is a laboratory for producing possible worlds. In physics and performance there can be a collapsing of time. A revelation of possible pasts, present and futures. Each play is understood differently by each observer, each moment connected to past and future moments to which we choose to relate it. Theatre and science explore the truth hidden in the possible. A great play, like an iconic scientific formula, seeks to reveal the mystery of  human experience. Both activate the viewer’s gaze toward meaningful configurations for the purpose of seeing the infinite.

As Hawking encouraged, “Look up at the stars and not down at your feet.”

Stephen Sachs is the Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director of the Fountain Theatre.



Do you really think a life in the theatre means making a living? Think again.

Tony Kushner

Tony Kushner

by Stephen Sachs

Eight words. A statement declared in eight simple words jumped out at me in a feature story on playwright Tony Kushner in today’s New York Times. The eight words were stated by playwright and Kushner friend Larry Kramer, author of The Normal Heart, which we produced at the Fountain Theatre in 2015.  Commenting on Kushner’s shift from playwriting to screenwriting, Kramer says, “I wish he’d go back to writing plays.”

So, why doesn’t he?

Kushner answered that question himself in 2011 when he shocked many in the arts community by revealing in an interview in Time Out New York that not even the author of Angeles in America can make a living as a playwright.

“I make my living now as a screenwriter. Which I’m surprised and horrified to find myself saying, but I don’t think I can support myself as a playwright at this point. I don’t think anybody does.”

Kushner is right. American playwrights — not even one of his stature — do not earn the bulk of their living writing plays. Many teach. An ever-growing number write for film or cable television.  The tsunami of playwrights today surging into television is so large that it now has become a writer’s career model:  A playwright earns notoriety and success writing plays — or even one successful play, he/she “takes meetings” with Industry producers then quickly jumps to movies and/or television to make real money. The well-meaning intent being that a big-bucks TV salary will financially support the writer, allowing him/her to keep writing plays. What often happens? They write fewer plays.  Some never return to the stage.

“I don’t particularly want to do it,” Kushner said in 2011. “I think that it’s a mistake to do it. So, yes, I’m very worried about it. ” The last play by Kushner premiered in 2009.

The classic tale of playwrights writing for Hollywood is as old as celluloid itself. An avalanche is now underway. Playwrights are flocking to cable TV and streaming networks in record numbers. TV showrunners are aggressively recruiting writers from regional theaters like crazed baseball team owners scouting for hot rookie talent.  One major talent agency in Hollywood has opened a department specifically targeting playwrights for film and televsion. The roster of playwrights now writing for film and TV today is too long to list.  Is that such a bad thing?

Many playwrights I know, and have produced at the Fountain Theatre, also write for film and television. My pal Robert Schenkkan (Building the Wall) is writing a new project for Amazon. Tanya Saracho (El Nogalar) is now creator and showrunner of the Starz drama “Vida” and just signed a three-year deal with the network. Tarell Alvin McCraney (In the Red and Brown Water/Brothers Size) has signed to create, write, and executive produce a new hour-long television drama for the Oprah Winfrey Network. I’m confidant that all three will continue writing plays.


Stephen Sachs, Shirley Jo Finney, Tarell Alvin McCraney, Fountain Theatre (2014)

I had my own Hollywood crossover by writing the teleplay for Sweet Nothing in my Ear for CBS, based on my play that premiered at the Fountain.  The sale of that one TV script paid me more than I would make running an 80-seat theatre for years.  I am currently writing a screenplay based on my comedy/drama Bakersfield Mist. Does this make me a traitor to my art form? I don’t think so. It makes me a man with a family and a mortgage.

Let’s be honest. There’s a reason why it’s called non-profit theatre. One enters the non-profit arts sector like one enters the priesthood — to serve a higher power. Even so, it would be nice to make a good living doing what you feel is important. To be frank, non-profit theatre-making is an inherently shitty business model. The economics of the art form stack the odds against those who actually make the art happen. So, why do we do it? Here, we cue the piano and launch into “What I Did for Love

Of course, it’s not only playwrights who give their hearts to the theatre at the expense of their wallets. Actors, directors and designers often work for love, and little money. The average member of Actors Equity Association, the professional stage union for actors and stage managers, made an annual salary in 2016 of only $7,700 per year. Like corporate America, it’s the folks at the top in this country’s major regional theaters who are earning large salaries. A few of the larger LORT companies have added playwrights to their theatre’s staff, but they are rare. The model of a permanent repertory company, where artists are paid a yearly salary, is a dying concept, a fossilized relic from an earlier age.

Today, the odds of making a living as a playwright are as remote and precarious as making a living as a poet. Our finest example of excelling at both is, of course, the greatest playwright/poet of them all. Shakespeare wrote multiple plays a year, dozens of sonnets, was a partner in the company, and a co-owner of the theatre building. He was also a ruthless businessman and wealthy grain merchant and property owner.  Unlike the character he created in King Lear, Shakespeare was no fool.

I have dedicated my career to the intimate Fountain Theatre and the non-profit arts community in Los Angeles. I knew twenty-eight years ago when I co-founded this theatre that I would never make a lot of money. I’m okay with that. Most days. I’d be lying if I claimed I haven’t envied men and women my age or younger in the entertainment industry making a huge amount of money more than me.

This is the life I have chosen. Two things keep me going. The impact our work has on others, and the example I am setting for my two sons. Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with making money. I just want my two boys to know that their father dedicated his life working at something that he loved and knew was important, that he was committed to making the world a better place in the one way he knew how, by exploring and illuminating the human condition, not striving to make himself wealthy. Can one do both? Of course. I just haven’t yet figured out how to do that.

An artist’s life offers riches not found in a bank ledger. In that, I am the wealthiest man in the world.

Stephen Sachs is the Co-Artistic Director of the Fountain Theatre.

‘The Chosen’ actor Sam Mandel shares advice on hustling between acting jobs


By Linnea Sage

Name: Sam Mandel

Side hustle: Chief operating officer of the Ketamine Clinics of Los Angeles

Years acting: 13

Favorite acting credits/opportunities: I had a blast working with Chris Rock as recurring guest star Fisher on “Everybody Hates Chris.” My favorite would have to be the role I’m performing right now, making my stage debut as the lead in the west coast premiere of a newly revised version of The Chosen at the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood. We opened Jan. 20 and it’s been a life-changing experience for me; by far my most challenging and fulfilling role to date.

What do you do when an audition or shoot comes up? 
I let my team at the clinic know that I’m going to be out and to plan accordingly. I have a staff of seven; they’re great! They work hard and are very supportive of my acting career. I move meetings and conference calls with outside companies to different days. I catch up on work from home. It’s not always easy, but I give people as much advanced notice as possible and put in the work before and after filming to meet my responsibilities at the office, even if that means catching up on emails at 2 a.m.

Have you ever felt like your side hustle was in jeopardy because of acting? How long did it take you to feel like you had security at this side hustle, even if you took time off for an acting project? 
I don’t think I ever felt like my side hustle was in jeopardy, but I have felt that my acting hustle was suffering. Managing both has been very intense and stressful at times. I am fully committed to both. Acting is my life, my career, my passion, and it means more to me than anything.

On the other hand, I started a business that now has many people counting on me. Not only is it how I eat and pay my bills, but I’ve invested substantial time and money into it. Our patients come to us deeply depressed, some even suicidal. The treatment we offer is the last hope for many of them. It’s literally life and death. That’s a big responsibility and one I don’t take lightly.

I felt I couldn’t fully pursue acting like I wanted to for the first three years of starting my company. I still auditioned and booked work occasionally—a commercial here, co-star spot there—but wasn’t hustling like I wanted for my acting because I was grinding for the clinic. In the last 12 months, I’ve finally started to turn up the heat on the acting and it feels great. That’s largely a result of dedication, patience, and persistence to establish a strong foundation for the company. It took time, but I now have a wonderful team in place. They say, “good help is hard to find” and no aphorism could be truer! No matter how hard you work you need teamwork to create exceptional outcomes. I’m very grateful to my team at the clinic and my team who represent me for my acting.

What skills or talents did you need for this side hustle? How long did it take you to qualify or complete training for your side hustle? 
My role is very expansive. I create policies and procedures, I’m HR and do hiring and training of staff, marketing, advertising, social media, press, website design, establish and maintain relationships with vendors, budgeting and profit and loss, patient satisfaction, and more. If I had to narrow it all down, I’d say the top three skills needed are to be very detail oriented, creative, and relentless.

As far as qualifying for this job or completing training, I’ve used skills and knowledge from every job I’ve ever had since I was a little kid walking my neighbor’s dogs. I draw a lot from the service industries I’ve worked in and my restaurant experience, which I have a lot of. Naturally, as an actor, I’ve held every position in the restaurant at over a dozen places. I focus heavily on the patient experience from our website to the moment they arrive at the clinic, to continuing care from afar long after they’ve completed their treatment. I grow every day in my ability to do my job more efficiently and successfully and lead others to do the same.

How does this side hustle fulfill you? Do you feel like you’re helping people/society/humanity in a tangible way? 
I truly love my side hustle. It’s very fulfilling. I get to help people who are suffering and be part of a team that provides them measurable relief. I get to offer an innovative solution, something new and different. Applying a wide variety of skills and knowledge in my job helps keep it interesting. New challenges and opportunities come up all the time. I love my team. They’re great people with a strong work ethic and they inspire me to keep reaching higher. The creative control and flexible schedule are nice perks too!

Has your side hustle made you better at acting or achieving your acting goals? 
Absolutely. I’ve grown as a person in so many ways through the experience of starting a company. Much of what I have learned I’ve applied to my acting career and the business side of “the industry”. I don’t overthink my acting choices and preparation for roles as much as I used to. I get to it, give it my all, and move on. Less dwelling on “shoulda, coulda, woulda…” after auditions and performances. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still there, but there simply isn’t time; I gotta get back to the other work!

Why did you choose to do this side hustle instead of more stereotypical acting side hustles like serving? 
I got tired of serving. I’ve done every job in the restaurant industry more than once. I also worked in retail, drove for Uber, was a Task Rabbit, dog walker, babysitter, sold stuff on Craigslist, and all the other stereotypical gigs artists do to get by. I’ve done em’ all. I also worked at less stereotypical jobs for an actor like at a bank, other financial companies, real estate, and more. I wanted to make decent money and not stress about the rent while also enjoying some freedom and flexibility. Acting classes and good headshots aren’t cheap! I got a unique opportunity to be part of something great and I jumped on it. I threw every ounce of my being into it, and I couldn’t be happier with the results.

If you produce your own work, do you feel like this current side hustle allows you the freedom/resources to do that? 
Yes and no. My sketch comedy channel on YouTube, Gamer Guy and the Guardians (soon to be renamed The Jungle), is very flexible. My partners Michael Tomasetti, DB Wilson, and I usually shoot on the weekends. We can shoot a whole sketch in eight hours, sometimes two sketches if they’re short or improvised. Bigger projects like a music video I wrote, produced and directed have been tougher. It took significant planning in pre-production, filming, and post-production. That project had some unique challenges and it was my first go at it. I’ve learned a lot from that experience and my clinic is in a totally different place then it was then, so I think taking on a bigger self-produced project would be different today. I plan on creating a short film to direct and act in this year and it will be interesting to see how that goes. I have flexibility within my schedule and financial cushion, but the pressure of keeping things going at the clinic, which is rapidly growing, while also giving all my creative energy to a film is no small task.

Do you have any advice for actors that aren’t sure what path to take while they are waiting for acting to pay all the bills? 
Never give up and work your ass off. Work hard and work smart. Be creative about how to make ends meet until you “make it.” I don’t say this as someone who has “made it” yet, but I feel I am well on my way. I have a long road ahead; one I’m enjoying traveling on. While staying open-minded, I urge actors to explore all work opportunities outside of the clichés with caution. A lot of less-than-savory characters prey on actors for our outgoing personalities and big hearts. If you end up sticking to a restaurant, that’s okay too! There are many advantages to restaurant work, that’s why so many of us do it.

Most importantly, never let go of your identity as an actor and your vision of where you want to go. Whether one week or five years go by without an audition or acting gig, if you are truly an actor in heart and mind, and you stay training and honing your skills, you can come back to it with passion and purpose and create a new rendition even better than where you left off.

This post originally appeared in Backstage. More Info/Get Tickets for The Chosen.

Fountain Theatre welcomes attorney Lois R. Fishman to its Board of Directors

Lois R. Fishman 1

Lois R. Fishman

The Fountain Theatre is delighted to welcome attorney Lois R. Fishman to its Board of Directors. Lois brings her sharp intelligence, wealth of experience, and passion for theatre to our growing Fountain Board.

“The energy at the Fountain is contagious,” says Lois. “The intimate setting involves the audience in a way impossible in a large space. I was drawn to the evident humanity of the directors and cast. How did a small theater in Hollywood become a favorite home for Athol Fugard? This was worth looking into! And then I was seduced by the intelligent mix of programming, speaking to audiences about our times through the voices of established and new playwrights. From Tennessee Williams Night of the Iguana, to Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Brother/Sister plays, I love how the Fountain reflects the rich and complex composition of LA and invites us to share our stories and experiences. And then to meet the casts afterward in a cozy café setting is always such a thrill. On top of it all, I have been a fan of flamenco dance since my high school days and love that the Fountain has created a home for this art form.”

Lois is a lifelong theater goer with a collection of playbills dating back to the 1970s. A child of suburban New York, she grew up attending Broadway musicals, plays at Lincoln Center and downtown, and opera at City Center. While a college student at Yale, she studied drama history with Richard Gilman, ushered at the Yale Dramatic Association and shared subscriptions to  Yale Rep and Long Wharf Theater. Favorite Yale theater experiences: the August Wilson plays directed by Lloyd Richards, the early plays of Wendy Wasserstein, anything by Athol Fugard. 

Lois began her career in Washington D.C. at the National Endowment for the Arts and later worked as a writer and consultant to many arts and humanities organizations in the capital, before plunging into independent film and radio production, contributing free-lance pieces to NPR and working on the 13-part dramatic series “Faces Mirrors Masks.” She was the Executive Director of Americas Film Festival, the first DC-area festival of films from Latin America and served on the program committee for Women Make Movies and the DC Film Fest. 

After moving to Los Angeles to start a new career as a lawyer in 1993, Lois completed the training program of the Arts Leadership Initiative and joined the Board of Odyssey Theater, her first introduction to the exciting small theater scene in LA. Highlights of that period include productions of The Caucasian Chalk Circle and The Rose Tattoo, among others.  To lend support to an old friend, she also served for a few years on the Board of Santa Barbara Theatre where she first met Stephen Sachs.

Lois Fishman and Barbara Goodhill

Lois R. Fishman with Barbara Goodhill at ‘The Chosen’, Fountain Theatre

After marrying her husband Henry Fetter and moving from west LA to Hollywood in 2001, Lois eagerly sought out the small theatre scene in her new neighborhood and found Fountain Theatre through friends, including Diana Gibson who formerly ran the box office. 

Lois is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Yale University (B.A., magna cum laude, honors with exceptional distinction in psychology) and holds a J.D. degree from Georgetown University Law Center and a Master of City Planning degree from the University of California, Berkeley where she was a Regents Fellow.  Lois retired from The Walt Disney Company as Assistant General Counsel where she advised on distribution of films and TV programs via new media platforms. Lois currently has a solo law practice in mid-Wilshire area serving clients in the creative sector and non-profit organizations. She also teaches as adjunct professor at the Fowler School of Law, Chapman University, Orange, CA and has experience as a guest instructor at Loyola Law School, San Andreas University of Buenos Aires, Argentina and Mykolas Romeris University in Vilnius, Lithuania, among other institutions. 

For six years she was a member of the Board of Trustees of Inner City Law Center, a legal services organization in Los Angeles, and was previously President of the Los Angeles Copyright Society, on whose board she served for eight years. Lois is active with the Yale Alumni Schools Committee, interviewing applicants for admission to Yale College, with Los Angeles Giving Circle, and with MOSTe, a mentoring and college access organization working with middle and high school girls from various LA public schools.

“Lois is not only expertly qualified to help guide the Fountain as a board member,” says Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs. “She is also a wonderful person. We are fortunate to have her expertise and goodwill.”   

Smash hit play ‘The Chosen’ extends to May 7th at Fountain Theatre

TC_A0482In the wake of nearly two-dozen rave reviews and six weeks of sold-out houses, the Fountain Theatre has extended its run of The Chosen and increased performances from three to four per week. Adapted by Aaron Posner and Chaim Potok from Potok’s bestselling novel of the same name, The Chosen will now continue through May 7.

A moving coming-of-age story set in Williamsburg, Brooklyn against the backdrop of World War II, the revelation of the Holocaust and the desperate struggle of Zionism, The Chosen is the story of two observant Jewish boys who live only five blocks, yet seemingly worlds, apart. Danny (Dor Gvirtsman) is the son of the charismatic but forbidding Reb Saunders (Steven B. Green, stepping in for the extension), an ultra Orthodox  tzaddik who has raised his son in strict silence. Reuven (Sam Mandel) is the son of the more traditionally Orthodox scholar and fervent Zionist David Malter (Jonathan Arkin). When Danny injures Reuven during a baseball game between their rival yeshivas, their two universes collide and a unique friendship is born.

In its “Critic’s Choice” review, the Los Angeles Times calls the play “deeply emotional,” noting that the Fountain production “reminds us to reach across divides.” L.A. Splash writes that The Chosen is “a universal story of relationships in their multitude of forms, mak[ing] this play something for everyone – Jewish or not.” Stage Scene LA says, “’The Chosen’ is a must-see for audiences of any age, ethnicity, or religious affiliation.” BroadwayWorld hailsThe Chosen as “a moving coming-of-age story… funny, poignant, timely and timeless,” and Stage and Cinema declares it to be “vital, alive, and important.”

“We are thrilled that this production is resonating with so many people, and that we are touching so many hearts,” says director Simon Levy.

More Info/Get Tickets


Theater producer and consultant Diana Buckhantz joins Fountain Theatre Board of Directors

Diana Buckhantz cropped

The Fountain Theatre is pleased to welcome veteran theater producer and public relations consultant Diana Buckhantz to its Board of Directors.

Diana Buckhantz recently produced the critically acclaimed new musical Songbird in New York City which is about to have a second production at Two Rivers Theatre this June before an eventual return to New York. She was part of the producing team that brought the Tony-nominated musical Leap of Faith from the Ahmanson Theatre to Broadway. Her producing credits also include Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays at the Minetta Lane Theatre in New York and The Last Goodbye at the Old Globe.

“I have been seeing shows at the Fountain for many years and have always been so impressed by the quality of the work,” says Buckhantz. “Excellent writing, beautifully staged productions and wonderful acting – all wrapped around and illuminating the important social and moral issues of the day. I believe that theatre should entertain but also that it should stimulate audiences to challenge their values and belief systems.  The Fountain does this in engaging and thoughtful ways. I am excited to join the board to help support this important work and help the theatre to grow and expand its reach. “

Diana began her professional career producing award-winning documentaries including “Dying with Dignity,” “Hunger in the Promised Land, and “Not A Question of Courage,” all for KTLA. Her documentaries have also received two National EMMY awards, two local EMMY Awards, the Scripps Howard Award for Broadcast Journalism, the State Bar of California Public Service Award, the NAPTE National Iris Award, the National Education Award, three Angel Awards, and the Kenny Rogers World Hunger Media Award.

While a producer at ITC Productions, she received an Associate Producer credit for the feature film “Without A Clue,” starring Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley.

Currently, she also runs her family foundation which focuses on issues around runaway and homeless youth, arts education in the schools, aging, reproductive rights, and combating genocides and mass atrocities in Africa.

She proudly serves on the boards of Center Theatre Group, Los Angeles Youth Network, Jewish World Watch and Capital and Main.

Her greatest production, however, is her son Sam.

“Diana has been a fan of the Fountain for some time, ” says Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs. “Her professional experience as a theater producer and her dedicated service on notable non-profit boards makes her a very strong asset to our Fountain Family. We are thrilled to have her on our Board of Directors. “

She strolled into the theatre lobby that night and my heart jumped

canon theatre LL 2 - Copy (1)

The Canon Theatre, Beverly Hills

by Stephen Sachs

She called to take me up on my offer. I struggled to place who she was. A young woman from my Playwrighting Group in Hollywood willing to volunteer to usher at my theatre in Beverly Hills for the perk of seeing our long running hit play for free. I pretended to recognize her name but my mind raced. Who was she? A fellow writer? An actress?

“Sure, you can usher,” I muttered distractedly to the mysterious voice on the other line. “Be here at the theater tonight. Wear a black skirt or slacks. A white blouse. I’ll show you what to do.”

Part of my job as the theater manager at the Canon Theatre in Beverly Hills was to recruit volunteers to usher. The theatre was enjoying a celebrated 16-month run of A.R. Gurney’s play about friendship and romance, Love Letters, starring a rotating parade of famous actors, including Ben Gazarra, Gena Rowlands, Christopher Reeve, Whoopi Goldberg, Charlton Heston, Robert Wagner, Richard Thomas, Matthew Broderick, Helen Hunt, and many more. Because the celebrity roster changed every week, recruiting volunteer ushers eager to see the play wasn’t difficult. It often meant mobilizing a house staff of enlisted actors, wannabe screenwriters, middle-aged theatre junkies, and westside seniors looking for something to do. Then came the phone call from the enigmatic young woman.

She arrived that night precisely on time. I was standing in the theatre lobby, busily counting programs for that evening’s performance. I turned and glanced at the front entrance. Gliding in through the glass doors, the sun setting behind her and highlighting her slim form, strode a beautiful blonde in a black skirt, a white blouse, flashing a warm, inviting smile. My body jolted, even in my pressed suit. I stopped breathing. This is Los Angeles. Attractive women are everywhere. Something about her was different.

My hands shook as I demonstrated to her how to properly tear a theater ticket stub. Did she spot I was trembling? She leaned forward. Her warmth smelled delicious. Inside the theater before opening the doors, I stumbled down the carpeted aisle of empty seats with her, doing my best to outline our audience seating protocols, all the while my thoughts catapulting into a pathetic frenzied mantra, Ask her out, you idiot! Ask her out! Don’t let her get away. When the night’s performance ended, as we picked up littered programs from the floor and flipped up the seats, I asked her to join me for a bite to eat. She said yes.

We strolled south down Beverly Drive to an Italian restaurant still open and had pizza. Over wine, I explained that I was coming out of a long-term relationship and just wanted to stay casual. She confessed that she was ready to give up on dating and didn’t know how to be casual. We talked, we laughed, and we closed the place down.

Soon, we were catching new plays at The Music Center, having a ball at a jazz club in Encino, savoring intimate dinners on Melrose. We’d step out of my small apartment in Beachwood Canyon for late night strolls through the Hollywood Hills, talking non-stop, plotting our careers and confiding aspirations. The production of Love Letters at my theater provided the perfect background for our blossoming relationship. The play chronicles the bond that develops between a man and a woman as they share their hopes and ambitions, their dreams and disappointments, their triumphs and heartbreak.

Because Love Letters starred a new pair of celebrity actors each week, our theater was bombarded with flowers delivered to the stage door by fans. I would collect the dozens of bouquets and vases and display them around our lobby, filling the entranceway with bright color and sweet fragrance. Never imagining that one bouquet would help change the course of my life.

Late one night, following another sold out performance, I was locking up the Canon Theatre for the evening. The audience had gone home, the theatre was dark and empty. She was waiting patiently for me outside as I closed. We were on our way to a party in Brentwood. It was a warm August evening and she wore a lovely white linen dress. She beamed, fresh and radiant. I grabbed a large bouquet of flowers from the lobby and presented them to her with a flourish under the front marquee outside. She blushed and kissed me. We then turned and walked down Canon Drive to the car.

What happened next is difficult to describe.

As we strolled down the narrow sidewalk, she suddenly took my arm. We marched forward, arm in arm. I then glanced at her. At the two of us, together, arms interlocked. My suit. Her white dress. Flowers clutched in her hand. In that instant, I saw us. In a flash, time stopped, collapsed, and rushed forward. It was like peering into a looking glass, a crystal ball and a rear-view mirror, all at the same time. I saw our past, present and future together, as best friends, as life partners, as husband and wife, compressed into one perfect vision. I saw it.

“It’s you, isn’t it?” I whispered.

A recognition of the other.

It’s you.

We were married, exactly one year from the night we first met. One year to the day from that first afternoon when she stepped through those glass doors and into the lobby, and my life, forever.

Stephen Sachs is the Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director of the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood. Stephen and his wife, Jacqueline, have been married twenty-seven years and have two sons.