Tag Archives: Gilbert Glenn Brown

Celebrity reading of ‘MS. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON’ at LA City Hall is “awe-inspiring”

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“Ms. Smith Goes to Washington” at Los Angeles City Hall

by Christine Deitner

On Thursday, January 24th a lucky group of citizens in Los Angeles was treated to a unique experience–The Fountain Theatre’s reading of a gender-switched adaptation of Sidney Buchman’s screenplay, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.  The Fountain’s Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs adapted the work that was hosted by Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell.  An impressively talented ensemble of tv, film, and theatre veterans gathered in the John Ferraro Council Chamber in Los Angeles City Hall and though the original work is 79 years old the gender switch makes it feel like yesterday’s tweetstorm or this morning’s news.

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Sponsored, in part, by the Feminist Majority Foundation and in association with the League of Women Voters, the event’s cast included Joshua Malina, Jeff PerryBellamy Young, Sam Waterston, Alan Blumenfeld, Gilbert Glenn Brown, Leith Burke, Tim Cummings, Cameron Dye, Spencer Garrett, Chet Grissom, Morlan Higgins, Aurelia Myers, Jenny O’Hara, Felix Solis, Jack Stehlin, Mark Taylor, and Sal Viscuso.

Councilmember O’Farrell introduced Mr. Sachs with a moving speech about the importance of the arts in society. 

“Politics falls short of completely illuminating the complexity of issues,” he stated, “this is where the arts come in.”

In 2017, Mr. O’Farrell hosted the Fountain’s reading of All The Presidents Men and he noted that he hopes this will become an annual event.  Reflecting on the record number of women who now hold public office, O’Farrell also spoke about the role that local artists play as public servants, illuminating issues in unique ways.

In Sachs’ version, an idealistic, newly elected female senator finds herself fighting corruption in male-dominated Washington. Bellamy Young’s take on the movingly patriotic Jennifer Smith [originally Jefferson played by James Stewart] is endearing and as successful as a figure of naive nobility as Mr. Stewart was in the film.  It doesn’t seem like Mr. Sachs had to change very much beyond references to gender [Girl Rangers here instead of Boy Rangers] and one reference to “fake news” that worked very well in context, but boy does Jennifer Smith’s predicament feel familiar.

It’s Governor Hopper’s daughter [it was a son in the film] who encourages her father to choose Jennifer with the line “It’s 1939, not the dark ages, pop.” and a list of women who have held office before.  It shouldn’t have been surprising to hear it but we can thank Mr. Sachs for educating us about these women that included Senators Rebecca Latimer Felton [1922] and Hattie Caraway [1932].  Sam Waterston has the role of one of two villains, Senator Joseph Paine; a man who knew Jennifer’s father yet openly wonders whether they can “control a woman” in Congress.  The other is Jim Taylor, a nefarious businessman/mob figure played by Jeff Perry.

Fans of the film will know that Smith speaks fondly of his father a number of times, recalling that he often said, “Lost causes are the only ones worth fighting for.” As Jennifer learns that a swath of land in her state is going to be turned into a useless dam that is only an avenue for graft, she becomes determined to fight for that land where she was hoping to create a girls camp for young women across the nation.  Joshua Malina is her charmingly cynical assistant Chester Saunders [Jean Arthur in the film] who begrudgingly assists her in writing a bill for that girl’s camp.  As they work together, Jennifer’s enthusiasm for the bill starts to wear down Saunders’ certainty it will fail and when she becomes aware of the relief bill that includes the dam, she decides to filibuster with his help.

Paine and his pro-dam cohorts do all they can to attack Jennifer’s character as they angrily state any blocking of the relief bill will lead to starving the people.  Paine likens her attempt to hold the floor to holding the people hostage.  There was an audible gasp in the audience followed by a few laughs for this reading took place near the end of Trump’s wall-inspired government shutdown.  All of the pain that shutdown was inflicting on government workers was present in the room at that moment.

Jennifer stands firm in her convictions, even when Paine reads telegrams purportedly from her home state asking her to stop. She reads the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence and goes on till her voice is hoarse and even Paine can’t take her suffering anymore.  He breaks down and admits everything – and when Waterston embodied that moment, he tore the roof off the place, it was awe-inspiring.  Jennifer and Saunders have one last moment of celebration before the ends that felt a little rushed but that might have been due to the fact that the TVs behind the cast popped on. 

In lieu of credits, images of every woman who has held a seat in Congress appeared in succession on the screens. Members of the audience stood to applaud them, with more standing when California’s own Nancy Pelosi and Diane Feinstein appeared.  But it wasn’t till the video closed on a split screen image featuring Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren that the whole house got to their feet shouting.  It was a memorable, moving moment that reminded this reviewer of all the things that can be good and honorable and right in this country.  It also seemed like a hell of an idea for a presidential ticket in 2020 but that just shows how easy it was to get swept up in Jennifer Smith’s patriotic fervor.  Ms. Smith may seem naive and inexperienced, but that character’s faith in what is good in the country is honorable and constant – and those are traits we could all stand to develop in our own lives today.

This post originally appeared in The Theatre Times.

 

Sam Waterston joins cast of Fountain Theatre’s ‘Ms. Smith Goes to Washington’ at L.A. City Hall

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Sam Waterston

Sam Waterston (Law & Order, The Newsroom, Gracie and Frankie) will join Scandal co-stars Joshua MalinaJeff Perry and Bellamy Young for a one-night only, all-star reading of Ms. Smith Goes to Washington at Los Angeles City Hall on Thursday, Jan. 24 at 7:30 p.m.

The gender-switched adaptation of Sidney Buchman’s screenplay for the 1939 Jimmy Stewart classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is adapted and directed by Fountain co-artistic director Stephen Sachs. The free reading is being presented by the Fountain Theatre in partnership with the City of Los Angeles and with exclusive permission from SONY Pictures. It will be hosted by Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell and will take place in the John Ferraro Council Chamber.  A catered reception will follow in the City Hall Rotunda.

In Sachs’ version, an idealistic, newly elected female senator finds herself fighting corruption in male-dominated Washington. Young will star in the title role, and Waterston has been cast in the pivotal role of Senator Paine.

The full cast includes Joshua MalinaJeff PerryBellamy YoungSam Waterston, Alan BlumenfeldGilbert Glenn BrownLeith BurkeTim CummingsCameron DyeSpencer GarrettChet GrissomMorlan HigginsAurelia MyersJenny O’HaraFelix SolisJack StehlinMark Taylor and Sal Viscuso.

The event is a follow-up to the Fountain’s hugely successful 2018 celebrity reading of All the President’s Men. It is sponsored, in part, by the Feminist Majority Foundation and in association with the League of Women Voters.

Ms. Smith Goes to Washington takes place on Thursday, Jan. 24 at 7:30 p.m. in the John Ferraro Council ChamberRoom 340 of Los Angeles City Hall200 N Spring St.,Los Angeles, CA 90012. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Admission is free; however, seating is extremely limited. For more information, and to enter the ticket lottery, go to www.mssmith.org. Due to high security at the venue, no walk-ups will be permitted.

Fountain Theatre Earns 4 Stage Raw Award Nominations for ‘Painted Rocks’ and ‘Citizen’

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Gilbert Glenn Brown and Suanne Spoke in ‘The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek’.

The Fountain Theatre has been honored with 4 Stage Raw Awards for its 2015 productions of The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek and Citizen: An American Lyric.

The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek was the West Coast Premiere of Athol Fugard’s new play about South African artist Nukain Mabuza.  The world premiere of Stephen Sachs’ stage adaptation of Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric dramatized racism in America.

The Fountain nominees are:       

  • Supporting Female Performance – Suanne Spoke, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek
  • Leading Male Performance – Thomas Silcott, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek
  • Adaptation – Stephen Sachs, Citizen: An American Lyric
  • Ensemble – The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek

For the full list of nominees click here

CITIZEN Fountain Theatre in Memory 2

‘Citizen: An American Lyric’ at the Fountain Theatre

Using multimedia and the written word, Stage Raw is a digital journal dedicated to discovering, discussing and honoring L.A.-based arts and culture. The Stage Raw Theater Awards are dedicated to honoring the swath of innovative works of theater in Los Angeles County, in venues of up-to-99-seats.

The STAGE RAW Celebration is Monday, April 25 at Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring Street (VIP reception 6 p.m.; doors Open at 6:30. Awards Program begins at 7:30pm), General Admission Tickets are $25, VIP Tickets $100, available at stageraw.com.

Fountain Theatre earns 4 NAACP Theatre Award nominations for ‘The Brothers Size’

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Gilbert Glenn Brown, Matthew Hancock, Theodore Perkins in ‘The Brothers Size’.

The Fountain Theatre’s acclaimed 2014 production of Tarell McCraney’s The Brothers Size has been nominated for 4 NAACP Theatre Awards. The Awards are presented annually by the Beverly Hills-Hollywood branch of the NAACP and are part of a four-day festival to honor outstanding people of color in theatre. 

“We are always pleased and proud to be recognised by the Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP theatre committee,” stated Fountain Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs. “It’s a continuing affirmation to our decades-long commitment to diversity on our stage.”

For this current Award cycle, the Theatre Viewing Committee considered productions from January to December of 2014.  The Fountain’s 2014 Los Angeles Premiere of The Brothers Size earned the following four nominations:
  • Best Playwright – Tarell Alvin McCraney
  • Best Director – Shirley Jo Finney
  • Best Choreography – Ameenah Kaplan
  • Best Ensemble Cast – Gilbert Glenn Brown, Matthew Hancock, Theodore Perkins 
“I am excited about combining the awards show and the festival because this platform will bring thespians and theatre lovers from across the country to the city of Los Angeles to enjoy the art that is theatre,” said Ron Hasson, president of the Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP. “The NAACP Theatre Awards Show represents an ever-growing theatre community in Los Angeles and we want to elevate this already highly recognized event in Los Angeles and heighten its visibility nationwide.”

Winners of the 25th Annual NAACP Theatre Awards will be announced on Sunday, March 6, 2016, at a press conference and reception at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center. More Info

 

Fountain Theatre highlighted on “Best” Lists for Theatre in 2015

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The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek

As the year draws to an end, the Fountain Theatre is delighted to be highlighted on many of the annual “Best of 2015” lists that are starting to appear.

Los Angeles Times theatre critic Charles McNulty selected our west coast premiere of Athol Fugard’s The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek to his Best Theater of 2015, hailing it as “Another in the Fountain Theatre’s series of expertly acted productions of the great South African playwright.”

The LA Theatre website Bitter Lemons named The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek as its Top Rated Production of 2015.

And critic Travis Michael Holder honored the Fountain Theatre with several of his TicketHolder Awards for 2015:

BEST PRODUCTION OF 2015

The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek

  • RUNNERS-UP: Citizen: An American Lyric

BEST ENSEMBLE CAST IN A PLAY

Gilbert Glenn Brown, Thomas Silcott, Phillip Solomon, Suanne Spoke, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek

  • RUNNERS-UP: Bernard K. Addison, Leith Burke, Tina Lifford, Tony Maggio, Simone Missick, Lisa Pescia, Citizen: An American Lyric
CITIZEN Fountain Theatre feel most colored

Citizen: An American Lyric

NEW DISCOVERY 2015

Phillip Solomon, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek

BEST PLAYWRIGHT

Athol Fugard, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek

BEST ADAPTATION

RUNNERS-UP: Stephen Sachs, Citizen: An American Lyric

BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY

Simon Levy, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek

  • RUNNERS-UP: Shirley Jo Finney, Citizen: An American Lyric

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

RUNNERS-UP: Naila Aladdin-Sanders, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek

BEST SOUND DESIGN

RUNNERS-UP: Peter Bayne, Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek

BEST VIDEO DESIGN

RUNNERS-UP: Yee Eun Nam, Citizen: An American Lyric

SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENTS 

Anastasia Coon, Movement, Citizen: An American Lyric

A marvelous end to a memorable year marking our 25th Anniversary season. More “best” lists will be appearing.  

 

Gilbert Glenn Brown paints a picture in new Athol Fugard play at the Fountain Theatre

Gilbert Glenn Brown and Suanne Spoke in 'The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek'

Gilbert Glenn Brown and Suanne Spoke in ‘The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek’

by Darlene Donloe

The name Gilbert Glenn Brown has become synonymous with “good works” around the L.A. theater world.

A handsome gent with a bright, poetic smile, Brown enjoys a career that has spanned film, television and theater. His theatrical credits are extensive, and the list of directors and actors that he’s shared a stage with reads like a Who’s Who of Los Angeles theater.

On this particular day, as the sun is setting after an extremely warm afternoon, Brown is sitting on the upstairs patio of the Fountain Theater, dapper in a gray cap, blue-and-white rolled up checkered shirt and gray vest. He’s ready to talk about the actor’s life that he’s carved out.

Known for bringing all of himself—and none of himself—to his roles, Brown has delivered a number of stellar performances, playing vivid and memorable characters that have earned him the COLSAC Best Lead Performance Award, two Los Angeles Drama Critics Awards and an LA Weekly Award.

He made women swoon and men suck in their guts delivering an arousing performance as Shango, the neighborhood bad boy in Tarell Alvin McCraney’s original comedy/drama, In The Red and Brown Water, directed by Shirley Jo Finney. He was the intense and absorbing older brother Ogun Size in McCraney’s The Brothers Size, also directed by Finney. Most recently, he was probably the most sensually-charged Polyneices ever to grace a stage in the Ebony Repertory Theatre’s The Gospel At Colonus.

Now the Brooklyn native is set to play Jonathan in the West Coast premiere of Athol Fugard’s latest play, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek, a drama directed by Simon Levy, now playing at the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood.

Gilbert Glenn Brown and Suanne Spoke

Gilbert Glenn Brown and Suanne Spoke

This production marks the Fountain Theatre’s 15-year relationship with the playwright that began in 2000 when Fountain Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs directed Fugard’s The Road to Mecca. It was then that Fugard, an Academy Award winner for Tsotsi (Best Foreign Language Film), recipient of the 2011 Tony for lifetime achievement—and a multiple Obie and Tony Award-winner best known for his plays rooted in the scars of South African apartheid—reportedly began to call the Fountain his “artistic home on the West Coast.”

The Play

Inspired by the work of real-life outsider artist Nukain Mabuza, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek is set in South Africa in the 1980s. It tells the story of elderly Nukain, a farm worker and self-taught artist who has spent years painting the rocks and boulders at Revolver Creek, transforming them into a garden of flowers.

The play, which also stars Thomas Silcott, Philip Solomon and Suanne Spoke, begins when the final, most challenging unpainted stone and a young boy named Bokkie (Nukain’s assistant) “force Nukain to confront his legacy as both an artist and a black man in 1980s South Africa,” where the horrible injustices of apartheid still prevailed at the time—dividing the country into black and white.

The minute he read the script, Brown jumped at the chance to play Jonathan, the grown-up version of Bokkie, who returns to Revolver Creek to restore the faded rocks as a tribute to Nukain, the friend he loved.

“What I like about Jonathan is the need he feels to come back and stand up for someone he loves,” says Brown. “He comes back to stand up for someone who wasn’t able to stand up and say I’m a man, or say that he mattered.”

Although he’s a “huge fan” of the playwright, this is the first time that Brown has tackled an Athol Fugard play. “I am familiar with his activism,” Brown says, “and using theater as a means of activism. I was groomed, in a sense, to look at issues head on. It’s about telling the truth with the material. I read the play and I was blown away by it because of the honesty of the material.”

“What’s wonderful about Gilbert,” says Simon Levy, who is directing the show, “is that he’s this beautiful combination of sensitivity and danger,” says Levy. “He possesses a deep well of emotion that reveals itself in surprising ways so that the character always feels kinetic and honest.”

“I think I understand where Simon wants to go with this piece,” Brown says. “He’s very clear on making sure that the audience can connect with the story and with the living, breathing human beings—not in a superficial way. It’s a wonderfully written piece.”

Brown is working with a dialect coach to get Jonathan’s South African accent right. “I want to honor the person I’m portraying [and] the people who actually speak that language…and be so connected, that I don’t think it’s an accent, it’s just how I speak.”

Now that Brown has had several weeks to ingest the material, he’s gained more insight into the meaning and intent of Fugard’s words. Comments from a documentary on apartheid that Brown watched as research added to his understanding:

“An activist said apartheid not only jails the people that are oppressed,” Brown recalls, “but also the jailers because they are caught in a cycle. You become dehumanized when you think someone is not as much as you are. Until you can say this happened, and acknowledge that it happened, there will be no movement. The people affected are not going to let it go. I realize now that it’s an opportunity to see each other as human beings.

“That is what the play means to me,” Brown says. “I’m always looking for truth.”  Continue reading

PHOTO SLIDESHOW: Artists and Audiences Celebrate at Opening Night Party of ‘The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek’

Maya Lynn Robinson and Gilbert Glenn Brown

Maya Lynn Robinson and Gilbert Glenn Brown

Cast, company and audience members swept into our upstairs cafe Saturday night to celebrate the opening night performance of our west coast premiere of Athol Fugard’s new play, The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek. Food, drink and joyfulness followed a marvelous performance that earned a standing ovation.

Internationally acclaimed playwright Athol Fugard returns to the Fountain Theatre with this beautifully heartfelt new drama. Directed by Simon Levy, it features Gilbert Glenn Brown, Thomas Silcott, Philip Solomon, and Suanne Spoke.

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The production runs to December 14th. Info/Get Tickets