Tag Archives: Jenny O’Hara

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 announces 2019-20 season of diverse, funny and meaningful new work

2019 season ft bldg nightThe Fountain Theatre has announced a 2019-20 season of vibrant, thought-provoking, fresh and funny new work by a diverse group of playwrights, each of whom explores important social and cultural issues from a wholly unique perspective.

Over the course of 16 months, the company will offer up a series of Los Angeles, California, Southern California, West Coast and world premieres that tackle questions of politics, racism, gun control, human rights, cultural identity and more.

“Our 2019-20 season is our most ambitious ever,” says Fountain co-artistic director Stephen Sachs. “It perfectly reflects who and what we are as a theater organization. It’s a season of diversity, a rich mixture of new plays representing a wide variety of communities. Our goal is for Los Angeles to see itself on our stage, and this season certainly offers that.”

Details of the Fountain Theatre’s 2019-20 season are as follows: 

Hype Man by Idris Goodwin 

West Coast premiere. In Idris Goodwin’s “break beat play,” a diverse hip-hop trio is on the verge of making it big on national TV when a police shooting of a Black teen shakes the band to its core, forcing them to confront questions of race, gender, privilege and when to use artistic expression as an act of social protest. Winner, 2018 Elliot Norton Award. Directed by Deena Selenow.  Feb. 23 – April 14, 2019 

Daniel’s Husband by Michael McKeever 

Southern California premiere. Michael McKeever’s witty, passionate, funny and, ultimately, heartrending play takes an unflinching look at how we choose to tie the knot — or not. Daniel and Mitchell are the perfect couple. What isn’t so perfect is that Daniel desperately longs to be married, but Mitchell doesn’t believe in it. Then, a life-altering event forces both men to realize that, even in an enlightened society, the denial of fundamental rights leads to devastating results. Starring Bill BrochtrupTim Cummings and Jenny O’Hara; directed by Simon Levy May 4 – June 23, 2019

Hannah and the Dread Gazebo by Jiehae Park

California premiere. Hannah is two weeks away from becoming a board-certified neurologist when she receives a strange package from her grandmother, who may—or may not—have just ended her life in a most flamboyant fashion. The mystery leads Hannah and her family on a surreal, funny, heartbreaking adventure back to their roots in South and North Korea and the forbidden Demilitarized Zone that divides them. Wildly theatrical, Jiehae Park’s startling new comedy twists together creation myths and family histories to explore what it means to walk the edge between cultures. July 13 – Sept 1, 2019

Between Riverside and Crazy by Stephen Adly Guirgis

Los Angeles premiere. You can’t beat City Hall, but you can try. In this darkly comic, 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama by Stephen Adly Guirgis, ex-cop and recent widower Walter ‘Pops’ Washington has made a home for his newly paroled son in his sprawling, rent-controlled Riverside Drive apartment. But now the NYPD is demanding his signature to close an outstanding lawsuit, the landlord wants him out, the liquor store is closed, and the church is on his back — leaving Pops somewhere between Riverside… and crazy. Sept. 21 – Nov. 10, 2019

 Jane Doe by Stephen Sachs

World premiere. In this contemporary retelling of the 1941 Frank Capra classic film Meet John Doe adapted by Fountain Theatre co-artistic director Stephen Sachs (Cyrano, Arrival & Departure, Citizen: An American Lyric), a newspaper writer fabricates a letter to his column from an imaginary homeless woman named “Jane Doe” who announces she will kill herself on the 4th of July because of greedy corporations, corrupt politicians and how hostile and heartless the world has become. When the writer hires a woman to stand-in as the fictitious “Jane”, a national movement is ignited by citizens aching for a savior. Jan. 18 – March 8, 2020 

If I Forget by Steven Levenson

Los Angeles premiere. Simon Levy directs this powerful tale of a Jewish family and a culture at odds with itself by Steven Levenson (book-writer of the hit musical Dear Evan Hansen). Michael is a liberal Jewish studies professor reuniting with his two sisters to celebrate their father’s 75th birthday. A political and deeply personal play about history, responsibility, and what we’re willing to sacrifice for a new beginning, told with vicious humor and unflinching honesty. If I Forget was a New York Times “Critic’s Pick,” while DC Metro calls it “one of the greatest Jewish plays of this century.” March 28 – May 17, 2020

In addition, the Fountain will continue to offer its acclaimed Forever Flamenco dance series every month.

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 hundreds of 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 inclusion of the Fountain’s Citizen: An American Lyric in Center Theatre Group’s Block Party at the Kirk Douglas Theatre and again, last year, as the centerpiece of Our L.A. Voices at Grand Park; and an all-star reading of All The President’s Men at Los Angeles City Hall. The Fountain’s 2018 productions of The Chosen and Arrival & Departure each enjoyed months-long sold out runs and were named Los Angeles Times “Critic’s Choices.” The company’s most recent production, the West Coast premiere of Martyna Majok’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Cost of Living, was named to the Los Angeles Times’ “Best of 2018” list by theater critic Charles McNulty, who called the Fountain “on par with the Mark Taper Forum and Geffen Playhouse at their best. The Fountain Theatre’s production of Majok’s ‘Cost of Living’ confirmed just how indispensable 99-seat theaters still are to a healthy theater ecology.” 

For more information about the Fountain Theatre’s 2019-20 season, call (323) 663-1525 or go to www.FountainTheatre.com. 

PHOTOS: ‘Bakersfield Mist’ ends another triumphant run at the Fountain Theatre

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When the new play Bakersfield Mist premiered at the Fountain Theatre in 2011 starring Jenny O’Hara and Nick Ullett, it earned rave reviews and ran for seven sold-out months. The current revival with the original cast has been equally successful, enjoying a four-month run and delighting full houses of enthusiastic audiences. The hit production concluded its run yesterday at Sunday’s matinee, followed by a lively reception in our upstairs cafe. 

Playwright and director Stephen Sachs shared his thoughts and gratitude — and some history — on the play’s final performance at the Fountain.

Today at 2pm is the final performance of the current remount of Bakersfield Mist at the Fountain Theatre starring my original cast, Jenny O’Hara and Nick Ullett. That means, barring some unforeseen opportunity in the future, today will be last time the three of us will inhabit Maude’s trailer together.

It will probably also be the last time I watch a performance of the play. I’ve seen several productions through the years, all over the world. It’s not likely I’ll see more. It warms my heart deeply that my final viewing will be performed by the two glorious actors who first gave it life, for whom I wrote the play in the first place. We end today as we began. Together.

Bakersfield Mist has been an extraordinary, joyous ride for us. I wrote the play in 2010 with the voices of Jenny and Nick in my head. I called them to my house one night, where they read the first draft at my dining room table. They shepherded the play with me through new drafts and rewrites. We knew we liked the play ourselves, but we had no idea what we had until the first public reading in front of a live audience at Play Fest at Orlando Shakespeare Theatre in Florida. The audience roared with laughter, intensely listened, and applauded wildly at the end. And it’s been that way, everywhere, ever since.

The play opened at the Fountain Theatre in 2011, starring Jenny and Nick, and ran for seven sold-out months, raising the two actors to a full Equity contract. The play enjoyed a 3-month run on London’s West End and is now being performed in regional theatres across the country, has been translated into foreign languages and is being produced around the world.

I’m proud that Bakersfield Mist at the Fountain Theatre became a model example of the 99-Seat Plan working exactly as it should, as it was designed. This little play, created, developed and produced at an intimate theatre in Los Angeles under the 99-Seat Plan, has now generated dozens of Equity contracts across the country and created hundreds of jobs for theatre professionals around the world.

Most of all, the play is my gift, my valentine, to Nick and Jenny. These two remarkable people. Husband and wife, partners in art. Supremely skilled, true professionals, and a hell of a lot of fun. We gave birth to this play together. They gave their time, their talent, their expertise and enthusiasm, their decades of professional craft and wisdom to this play, all with a spirit of passion, great humor and deep caring. I love and respect them both dearly, and will be forever grateful.

 

‘Bakersfield Mist’ holiday party donates toys for homeless children

bm-holiday-party-3Holiday theatre-goers enjoyed a special treat last night at our smash hit production of Bakersfield Mist. After leaping to their feet in a standing ovation for the funny and thought-provoking performance, the crowd gathered upstairs in our festively-decorated cafe for a holiday party with the cast and company. Patrons brought unwrapped toys and gifts to be donated by Fountain staff to homeless children at the Union Rescue Mission in downtown Los Angeles.

Party revelers enjoyed tasty holiday foods and yummy drinks. Guests included Fountain patrons, Fountain staff, the company of Bakersfield Mist, and members of the LA theatre community. 

Bakersfield Mist continues its extended run through January 30th. The hit comedy/drama starring Jenny O’Hara and Nick Ullett has earned rave reviews everywhere and is highlighted as Critic’s Choice in the Los Angeles Times, hailed as a “delightful and provocative comedy.” 

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Wishing you a safe and joyous holiday season, from our Fountain Family to yours.

Bakersfield Mist extended to Jan 30th 

Share a laugh and a personal message from actors Jenny O’Hara and Nick Ullett

jenny-and-nick-1st-previewVeteran actors Jenny O’Hara (Transparent and The Mindy Project) and Nick Ullett (As the World Turns, The Big Bang Theory) are the kind of real-life married couple with whom you just love being with and hang around.  They are smart, funny and finish each other’s sentences and punch lines like a longtime comedy team. They are also passionate and dedicated artists, committed to creating work that is important and excellent. Which is why the Fountain Theatre is their theater home in Los Angeles.

Nick and Jenny are currently on stage at the Fountain starring in our revival of the smash hit comedy/drama Bakersfield Mist. The acclaimed production is Critic’s Choice in the LA Times and has been extended by popular demand to January 30th.

Take a look at this personal message to you from Jenny and Nick. You’ll see why we love them like we do, and you’ll understand why supporting the Fountain Theatre matters.

Our home is your home.

Donate Now    

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