Tag Archives: Lauren Gunderson

VIDEO: Take a look at these 16 actresses from 4 LA theatre companies set to read ‘Natural Shocks’

Natural Shocks is a darkly hilarious tour-de-force written by Lauren Gunderson, the most-produced playwright in America. A woman is forced into her basement when she finds herself in the path of a tornado. Trapped there, she spills over into confession, regret, long-held secrets, and giddy new love. But as the storm approaches, she becomes less and less sure where safety lies — and how best to defy the danger that awaits.

The Fountain Theatre is proud to partner with the Echo Theatre Company, Rogue Machine Theatre, and Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble to bring their unique artistic visions, backgrounds, and skills to this event of theatre activism against gun violence. FEMEST is the Fountain Theatre’s play reading series of new plays by/about women.

Jan 12 – Feb 3, 2019 (323) 663-1525 http://www.fountaintheatre.com

New Video: Behind the scenes of exhilarating reading of new play on gun violence

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Cast announced for special reading of Lauren Gunderson’s ‘Natural Shocks’ at Fountain Theatre

Actresses Amy Pietz, Victoria Platt, Suanne Spoke, and Sabina Zuniga Varela will combine their versatile talents to play the same lead character in a special reading of Natural Shocks, Lauren Gunderson’s funny and powerful new play on gun violence and gun control, at the Fountain Theatre on Friday, April 20th at 11:19am. Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs directs.

The timing is intentional: April 20 is the 19th anniversary of Columbine and the day of the National School Walkout, organized by the student activists in Parkland, Florida. The reading at the Fountain Theatre starts on April 20th at 11:19am, the date and exact time of the Columbine shooting.

“The Fountain Theatre has a long history of social and political activism,” explains Sachs. “Our celebrity reading of All the President’s Men at LA City Hall and our world premiere of Robert Schenkkan’s Building the Wall are recent examples. With Lauren’s play, I believe we need to add our voice,  as theatre artists and citizens, to the national outcry of young people across the country against gun violence and advocate for gun control in this country.”

Amy PietzAmy Pietz has appeared in over 300 episodes of television, most recently starring opposite Jason Alexander on Hit The Road.  She was a series regular on No Tomorrow, The Nine Lives of Chloe King, Aliens in America, Rodney, The Weber Show, Muscle and Caroline in the City (SAG Award Nomination for Best Actress in a Comedy).  She has had recurring or guest starring roles on: You’re The Worst, The Magicians, The Office, Trust Me, Maron, How To Get Away With Murder, Dexter, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and many others.  Film roles include those in The Year of Spectacular Men, Halfway, Prom, The Pact II, Autumn Leaves, Rudy, Jingle All the Way, Dysenchanted, Jell-Oh Lady, The Whole Ten Yards, and others. Her favorite theatre credits include: Stupid Fucking Bird at the Theatre @ Boston Court (Ovation Award, LA Drama Critics Circle Award), The Boswell Sisters at The Old Globe Theatre, Christmas In Naples at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, Lobby Hero at the Odyssey Theatre (Ovation nominated), Fiorello and Company (Ovation Award nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Musical).  Currently producing a film on gun control called Bodyman, Amy is passionate about getting guns off of our streets.

Victoria PlattVictoria Platt is currently in Antaeus Theatre Company’s production of Native Son. THEATRE: Jelly’s Last Jam (BROADWAY), Building the Wall and Roxy in Cyrano (Fountain Theatre), Venice (Public Theater & Kirk Douglas Theatre – Ovation Award Nom), Sammy (Old Globe), Pippin (Mark Taper Forum, Asphalt (Red Cat), Atlanta (Geffen).  Select TV/FILM: Major Crimes, Bones, The Mentalist, Castle, Criminal Minds and contract roles on both All My Children & Guiding LightH4 (adaptation of Henry IV which she co-produced with Harry Lennix & Terrell Tilford) and as Josephine Baker in HBO’s Winchell. Upcoming film:  #Truth (Charles Murray dir.), The Gleaner (opp. Angus MacFadyen, Harry Lennix dir.), InterferenceFramed and CW’s Lucifer.

Suanne SpokeSuanne Spoke has an extensive career in theatre, television & film, appearing in the critically acclaimed film Whiplash and starring in the feature film Wild Prairie Rose,  winning multiple awards on the festival circuit. On television Suanne recurred on Switched at Birth, Famous in Love and has guest-starred on many others. She can currently be seen recurring on General Hospital. She has performed at numerous theatres and has won every major acting & producing award in Los Angeles including three-time recipient of the Ovation Award/Lead Performance by an Actress. She was most recently seen in the West Coast premiere of Athol Fugard’s Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek  at the Fountain Theatre. Suanne serves on the faculty at the California Institute of the Arts, teaching acting in the Graduate Film Directing program.

Sabina Zuniga VeraleSabina Zuniga Varela, a native New Mexican based in Los Angeles, is an artist, educator and organizer committed to the path of social justice, authentic representation and storytelling.  She is an award winning theatre actor with an MFA from the University of Southern. California. She also holds an MA in Special Education with a focus on twice-exceptional/gifted learning. She is currently a producing director for the LA based theatre company: By The Souls of Our Feet. Most recently she was seen on stage at The Oregon Shakespeare Festival & Portland Center Stage in the title role of Luis Alfaro’s Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles and was seen in Season 3, Episode 3 of ABC’s American Crime.

Based on Hamlet’s “To be or not to be,” Natural Shocks is a classic Gunderson play: a 60-minute tour-de-force that bursts to life when we meet a woman waiting out an imminent tornado in her basement. She overflows with quirks, stories, and a final secret that puts the reality of domestic violence and guns in America in your very lap. The play is part confessional, part stand up, and part reckoning.

“The play is written as a solo play for one actress,” explains Sachs. “I have Lauren’s permission to have four actresses read the role, as one voice. Together, they are one woman — and all women. I think having the play read by four women adds diversity, theatricality and a stylized musicality that is worth exploring.”

“I wrote the story to continue to push the narrative away from the perpetrators of gun violence and toward the people whose lives are lost, shattered, and shadowed because of it. So many of these people are women. And there is such a tight connection between violence against women and gun violence,” insisted Gunderson.

Gunderson is right: the connection between domestic violence and gun violence is well documented. More than half of the mass shootings from 2009-2016 involved a partner or family member. Nearly half of American women who are murdered are killed by their intimate partners. American women are 16 times more likely to be killed by a gun than women in other developed nations. The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that the woman will be killed. In short, domestic violence and grievances against women are the “canary in the coalmine” for gun violence. Any effort to end gun violence must address domestic violence as well.

Lauren GundersonLauren M. Gunderson is the most produced playwright in America of 2017, the winner of the Lanford Wilson Award, the Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award and the Otis Guernsey New Voices Award, she is also a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and John Gassner Award for Playwriting, a recipient of the Mellon Foundation’s 3-Year Residency with Marin Theatre Company, and a commissioned playwright by Audible. She studied Southern Literature and Drama at Emory University, and Dramatic Writing at NYU’s Tisch School where she was a Reynolds Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship. Her work has been commissioned, produced and developed at companies across the US including South Cost Rep (Emilie, Silent Sky), The Kennedy Center (The Amazing Adventures of Dr. Wonderful And Her Dog!), Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The O’Neill, The Denver Center, San Francisco Playhouse, Marin Theatre, Synchronicity, Berkeley Rep, Shotgun Players, TheatreWorks, Crowded Fire and more. She co-authored Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley with Margot Melcon, which was one of the most produced plays in America in 2017. Her work is published at Playscripts (I and You, Exit Pursued By A Bear, The Taming, and Toil And Trouble), Dramatists (The Revolutionists, The Book of Will, Silent Sky, Bauer, Miss Bennet) and Samuel French (Emilie). Her picture book Dr Wonderful: Blast Off to the Moon was released from Two Lions / Amazon in May 2017.

Reserve Seats to Natural Shocks at Fountain Theatre. National website

Playwright Lauren Gunderson offers theatre as an antidote to social media

I AND YOU star faces

Lauren Gunderson’s “I and You”, Fountain Theatre, 2015.

By Lauren Gunderson

Think of this pitch to a room of venture capitalists: “What we’re proposing is a scalable, repeatable product that makes vital intellectual and emotional wisdom portable, communicable, and adaptable and memorable. Everyone will use it and keep using it for millennia. We call it: storytelling.”

But unlike most social media technologies, live storytelling actually is social. And perhaps that’s why it’s still around, never having been truly eclipsed by radio, TV or the Internet. In defiance of each generation’s claim that theater is dying, both “Hamlet” and “Hamilton” would beg to differ. Yes, online social media offers us on-demand communication, information and all manner of opinion articulated and shared to the world. But is there congregation?

I use that word deliberately because, though I grew up going to church in Georgia, I find most of my philosophical and humanitarian meaning coming from theater. Theater is my church. And what it offers in the way of congregation, catharsis and wisdom is not just entertainment or art, but might also be an antidote to stress related to social media.

That stress can be the fatigue that comes with nonstop screens that can disrupt sleep patterns, change our breathing (“email apnea” as coined by Linda Stone), hamstring live interpersonal communication with all ages, and lead some to become addicted to the dopamine of pings and alerts. The stress for some might feel like the constant search for information or connection, but isn’t it really the search for meaning that comes up short?

Theater offers resolution. While social media is often a nearly endless scroll of information and opinion, it often doesn’t lead to any ending, any answer to the question “so what?” But theater answers that question by taking the audience all the way through a hero’s odyssey of struggle and revelation. Being witness to a complete story, instead of the bits and bytes we find online, offers a more satisfying and thoughtful resolution. Meaning is made not from pieces of information but from journeys and fellow journeyers.

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Lauren Gunderson

Theater is right here, right now. Theater is not on demand. Rather it asks you to show up on time and focus in order to experience the intimate intensity of its medium. Screens cannot replicate the feeling of being in a shared space and time with other humans. Theater is one of the most intense artistic experiences because the fiction is happening to real people who are right in front of you. You can hear it, smell it, see their passion and pain only feet away from your seat. This viscerality is unlike what you can experience through a posted video on your smartphone or even a TV show at home. The emotionally and physically distinct power of being present for art is hard to document or measure, but it’s apparent to everyone who has witnessed live performance’s arias, embraces and thunderous ovations.

The Bay Area is not only a hub of innovation but for art, too. Silicon Valley lives right next to the “city by the play,” with an abundance of theaters that rivals even Chicago. Bay Area theater companies have transferred shows to Broadway, incubated prize-winning plays and playwrights, and drawn world-famous actors to our stages. The wisest of us (and thankfully not just the wealthiest with a new push for affordable tickets for all) should take advantage of the digital relief, inspiration and empathetic reboot theater has to offer.

For a hotbed of tech that we are, it might be a good time to go old school and let live performance open your mind in a way social media can’t. Who knows what pattern-breaking ideas might occur to you once you leave your bubble (and your phone), focus on someone else’s story with a group of strangers, and see what wisdom alights on you at the theater.

Lauren Gunderson is the author of I and You (Fountain Theatre, 2015). She is a nationlly acclaimed award-winning playwright and the resident playwright of Marin Theatre Company. This essay originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle. . 

Fountain Theatre earns 4 NAACP Theatre Award nominations

I AND YOU star faces

Matthew Hancock and Jennifer Finch in “I and You”.

The Fountain Theatre’s acclaimed 2015 productions of Lauren Gunderson’s I and You and Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine have earned four NAACP Theatre Award nominations for productions presented between January – December, 2015.

The NAACP Theatre Awards is presented by the Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP Branch in partnership with the City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles City Council President/Councilmember District 10 Herb Wesson, Jr. and co-chaired by Byron K. Reed, Senior Vice President of Wells Fargo-West Region Community Relations, and Jeffrey Rush of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management.

“We’re always pleased to be acknowledged by the NAACP theatre committee,” says Fountain Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs. “We have a long and successful history of supporting and presenting the work of a rich variety of artists on our stage. Diversity and inclusion is at the core of our artistic mission.”

CITIZEN Fountain Theatre in Memory 2

‘Citizen: An American Lyric’ at the Fountain Theatre

The mission of the NAACP Theatre Awards is to entertain, educate, and inspire the community and create diversity in the arts and entertainment industry. To honor LA theatre artists and celebrate live theatre in Los Angeles.

This year, the Fountain Theatre has received the following nominations:

  • Best Lead Male – Matthew Hancock, I and You
  • Best Choreography – Anastasia Coon, Citizen: An American Lyric
  • Best Lighting – Jeremy Pivnick, I and You
  • Best Set Design – Tom Buderwitz, I and You

The awards show will be held on Monday, November 21, 2016, at 6:00 p.m. at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills. More info.

Isa’s Intern Journal: The beauty of being close to another human being in ‘I And You’

Matthew Hancock and Jennifer Finch in 'I And You'.

Matthew Hancock and Jennifer Finch in ‘I And You’.

by Isabel Espy

One Friday night about a month ago, still in the process of interviewing for this internship, I came to the Fountain Theatre with two of my best friends to see my first show here: I and You. As soon as we entered the space I had the unsettling feeling that I had accidentally broken into a seventeen ­year-old’s bedroom. I was in complete awe at the level of detail and specificity of Tom Buderwitz’s set.

Before the actors had even appeared on stage, I already felt like I was getting to know a character – the room. The Fountain’s 78-seat theatre really allows the audience to feel as if they themselves are part of the play. The lighting and set design had already brought me thoroughly into the world of the play even before the house lights were completely dimmed.

Then the actors stepped on stage. All my attention shifted from admiring the posters on the walls and the string of fairy lights behind the bed, because suddenly I was in the story. As I sat through the performance I could hear my friends laugh and gasp as they followed the action. At one point, all three of us gasped in perfect unison. 

I And You is 100% contemporary, referencing Instagram and Facebook right and left, making jokes anyone with any online presence can relate to. Yet, while social media plays a deep role in the piece, the issues that it brings up are universal to all, digitally savvy or otherwise. It is a play that deals with the fragility of true human connection. We have all been there. We have all had those moments of difficulty, felt the pain of isolation, the embarrassment of being vulnerable to another person, and the beauty of being close to another human.

Jennifer Finch and Matthew Hancock

Jennifer Finch and Matthew Hancock

I won’t give anything away, but I can tell you that as we left the theatre both of my friends’ faces had the telltale wetness of cathartic tears. On our drive back to Westwood (with a quick stop at Chipotle for a post-show treat) we couldn’t stop talking about the play. I and You ends its run this weekend, and if you still have a chance, I would definitely recommend getting your butt over to the Fountain Theatre!

Final 2 performances: Saturday, June 20th @ 8pm; Sunday, June 21st @ 2pm.

Get Tickets/Info

Isabel Espy is the Fountain Theatre’s Summer Arts Intern from UCLA. 

Fountain Theatre Extends Acclaimed ‘I And You’ for Two Added Performances June 20 & 21

Matthew Hancock and Jennifer Finch

Matthew Hancock and Jennifer Finch

The Fountain Theatre’s critically acclaimed Los Angeles premiere of I And You will extend for two added performances on SaturdayJune 20 at 8pm and Sunday, June 21 at 2pm.
On the night before a class assignment is due, Caroline and Anthony plumb the mysteries of a Whitman poem…unaware that a deeper mystery has brought them together. Written by Lauren Gunderson and directed by Robin Larsen, our Los Angeles Premiere stars Jennifer Finch and Matthew Hancock and has earned outstanding critical praise, including highlighted as Critic’s Choice in the Los Angeles Times.
Jennifer Finch and Matthew Hancock

Jennifer Finch and Matthew Hancock

CRITIC’S CHOICE… a stunning exploration of cosmic interconnectedness …  a testimonial to the power of intimate theater.” — Los Angeles Times

“WOW! At once funny, captivating, and profoundly moving, a powerful piece of theater … Two of the finest young actors you’ll see all year!” – StageSceneLA

DAZZLING…those performances are extraordinary… moving, unearthly, and completely satisfying” — Los Angeles Post

DYNAMIC… one of those plays you’ll want to see more than once…a great story beautifully told” — Discover Hollywood

UPLIFTINGSUPERB… compelling performances … the Fountain has a gift for presenting extraordinary plays which are at once entertaining and thought-provoking, and ‘I and You’ is no exception.” — Examiner

BEAUTIFUL… packs a real punch … a very lovely play” — ArtsBeatLA

Jennifer Finch and Matthew Hancock

Jennifer Finch and Matthew Hancock

With these two added performances, only 10 performances remain. The run now ends Sunday, June 21, 2pm. Get Tickets/More Info