Tag Archives: Los Angeles

After “The Chosen”, to be worthy of rest

Final bow

The cast of ‘The Chosen’ take final bows on closing weekend. 

by Stephen Sachs

Our six-month sold-out run of The Chosen came to an end on Sunday. In the opening moment of Aaron Posner’s stage adaptation of Chaim Potok’s classic novel, Reuven Malter faces the audience and asks, can two conflicting ideas or realities be true at the same time even if they directly contradict each other? From the cross-current of feelings still swirling within me after Sunday’s final performance at the Fountain Theatre, the answer is clearly yes. As with any closure, even those we know are coming, I felt sadness and the ache of letting go. Yet, in direct opposition, my heart soared with joy. Two conflicting perceptions. Both true.

I glowed with fulfillment at the closing of The Chosen not because our production earned rave reviews, including being highlighted as the LA Times Critic’s Choice. Not because it ran for six months and every performance was sold-out. Not because it joined the echelon of other top box-office champions at the Fountain Theatre.  

It was because of the people. The talented artists and dedicated production team members who brought our production of the play to life, for the sole purpose of emotionally moving and spiritually inspiring other human beings, our audiences. It’s the interchange between people, from our stage to our patrons, that gives me the deepest satisfaction.  Fountain folk connected with this play and this production like kindred at a family gathering. For the two-hour length of each performance, we laughed together, wept together, were reminded of our fathers, our sons and ourselves, together.

Why do we do theatre? Why do people come? This is why.

One of my favorite passages in the novel is when Reuven’s father, David Malter, tells his young son:    

“Human beings do not live forever, Reuven. We live less than the time it takes to blink an eye, if we measure our lives against eternity. So, it may be asked what value is there to a human life. There is so much pain in the world. What does it mean to have to suffer so much if our lives are nothing more than the blink of an eye? 

I learned a long time ago, Reuven, that a blink of an eye in itself is nothing. A span of life is nothing. But the man who lives that span, he is something. He can fill that tiny span with meaning Do you understand what I am saying? A man must fill his life with meaning, meaning is not automatically given to life. 

It is hard work to fill one’s life with meaning. A life filled with meaning is worthy of rest. I want to be worthy of rest when I am no longer here.”   

This is my purpose for the Fountain Theatre and the guiding principle behind dedicating my life to starting and running a non-profit arts organization. To create art that is meaningful. A life filled with meaning is well lived.

The title of Potok’s novel and play, “The Chosen”, obviously refers to the belief in Judaism that the Jews are the chosen people, chosen to be in a covenant with God. The word “chosen” is an adjective. To “choose”, however, is a verb, an action word. At the Fountain Theatre, we take action to choose to create, to develop and produce work that is meaningful. We choose plays that hold the promise to touch hearts and open eyes and challenge minds. To make the world a better place. As David Malter warns his son, it is hard work to fill one’s life with meaning.  But no matter the struggle, this is the mission we choose at the Fountain.  When we produce a play that is specific to the Jewish faith yet can uplift the soul and spark the minds of audiences of all faiths, we fulfill our agreement with that which is sacred and holy.  And that is a good thing.

So, when the run is over, we are worthy of rest.

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VIDEO: Deaf and hearing actors meet at ‘Arrival & Departure’ first rehearsal

Excitement was high and fingers were flying as the company of Deaf and hearing theatre artists gathered at the Fountain Theatre for the first rehearsal of Arrival & Departure, a new play combining spoken English and American Sign Language. The world premiere opens July 14. 

The world premiere of a re-imagined modern-day stage adaptation of the classic 1945 film, Brief Encounter. A Deaf man and a hard-of-hearing woman, married to different people, meet accidentally in a New York City subway station. Their casual friendship soon develops into deeper feelings they never expected, forcing both to confront how their simmering relationship will change their lives and damage the lives of those they love forever. An unforgettable love story inspired by one of the most beloved romantic movies of all time.

Written and directed by Stephen Sachs, Arrival & Departure stars Deaf actors Deanne Bray and Troy Kotsur, with Jessica Jade Andres, Adam Burch, Brian Robert Burns, Shon Fuller, Kyra Kotsur, Aurelia Myers, and Stasha Surdyke.

The play is performed simultaneously in American Sign Language, Spoken English, and open captioning so that all audiences can enjoy the production.

 

Get Tickets/More Info

Cast announced for world premiere of romantic ‘Arrival & Departure’ at Fountain Theatre

ARRIVAL & DEPARTURE 2

Deanne Bray and Troy Kotsur

Love is in the air this summer with the world premiere of Stephen Sachs’ new play, Arrival & Departure, inspired by the screenplay for Noel Coward’s Brief Encounter. Sachs directs his new romantic comedy/drama, opening July 14.

In this re-imagined modern-day stage adaptation of Coward’s classic 1945 film, a Deaf man and a hard-of-hearing woman, married to different people, meet accidentally in a New York City subway station. Their casual friendship soon develops into deeper feelings they never expected, forcing both to confront how their simmering relationship will change their lives the lives of those they love forever. An unforgettable love story inspired by one of the most beloved romantic movies of all time.

The play is performed simultaneously in American Sign Language, Spoken English, and open captioning so that all audiences can enjoy the production.

Joining the previously announced Deanne Bray (“Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye”, “Heroes”) and Troy Kotsur (“Cyrano”) are Jessica Jade Andres, Adam Burch, Brian Robert Burns, Shon Fuller, Kyra Kotsur, Aurelia Myers, and Stasha Surdyke.

This innovative production is supported, in part, by the David Lee Foundation and the Los Angeles County Arts Commission.   

Arrival & Departure runs July 14 – September 30 at the Fountain Theatre. More Info/Get Tickets

Dr. Ejike Ndefo, retired aerospace engineer and Fountain board member, passes away at 79

Ejike & Victoria Ndefo

Victoria Ndefo and Dr. Ejike Ndefo, opening night of ‘The Chosen’.

With great sadness, the Fountain Theatre mourns the loss of our dear friend and board member Dr. Ejike Ndefo, who passed away Tuesday, May 29th at USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center in Los Angeles. He was 79 years old.

Married to his beloved wife Victoria for 26 years, the couple shared five children, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.  Ejike and Victoria have been part of The Fountain Family for more than fifteen years.

“Ejike was a dear and gentle man who radiated sweetness,” reflects Fountain  Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs. “He was one of those lovely beings who glowed with an aura of warmth and graciousness. We will miss him dearly.”  

Ejike Ndefo was born in Nigeria in 1939. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a Ph.D in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.  While he was at the University of California, Berkeley, Ejike played a major role in the travelling theatre group raising money in support of the humanitarian effort in the Nigerian-Biafran war.  He worked in several Aerospace companies including Northrop Corporation, TRW, and The Aerospace Corporation on such programs as Space Defense Initiative, Space Shuttle, and design of large rockets for launch of spacecraft and satellites.  He retired as the Director of Fluid Mechanics Department from The Aerospace Corporation in August 2015 after forty one years.  For the past three years, Ejike has served as a member of the Board of Trustees of Normandie Church of Christ, Los Angeles. He joined the Fountain Theatre Board of Directors in 2017.

Always glowing with a positive outlook, Ejike recently shared this reminder: “Life is meant to be lived to its fullest. You can’t allow things to take over your ability to rejoice with the life God has given you to live.”

In honor of his memory, a plaque will placed on an audience seat in the Fountain Theatre, front row center, where Ejike sat next to Victoria for so many years. 

Shubert Foundation awards Fountain Theatre $20,000 to support growth and artistic achievement

THE CHOSEN out front FTThe Fountain Theatre has been awarded a 2018 grant in the amount of $20,000 from The Shubert Foundation to support the general operating of the organization.  The Shubert Foundation provides grants only to organizations that have an established artistic and administrative track record, as well as a history of fiscal responsibility.

The award marks the third year that the Fountain Theatre has received support from the Shubert Fountain. Each year the award amount has increased.

“We sincerely thank the Shubert Foundation for its ongoing support,” said Fountain Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs. “The Shubert name is synonymous with excellence in the American Theatre.  It’s an honor for us to be recognized by one of the most highly respected foundations and organizations in our field. “

The Shubert Foundation, Inc. is dedicated to sustaining and advancing the live performing arts in the United States, with a particular emphasis on theatre. The Foundation’s Board of Directors believes that the most effective way to encourage the artistic process is by providing the general operating support that reinforces the structure that nurtures its development. Accordingly, The Foundation does not earmark its awards; all allocations are unrestricted.Theatres are evaluated individually and with appropriate allowance for size and resources. The standard for awarding these grants is based on an assessment of each organization’s operation and its contribution to the field. Artistic achievement, administrative strength and fiscal stability are factored into each evaluation, as is the company’s development of new work and other significant contributions to the field of professional theatre in the US.

New Video! Behind the scenes of ‘Citizen’ at Grand Park’s new LA Arts Festival

Would you go to the theatre on “Nude Night”?

naked audience

The Palais de Tokyo’s “Visite Naturiste”. 

by Stephen Sachs

Every Monday night at the Fountain Theatre is Pay What You Want Night. One night each week, ticket payment is optional. We launched it last year as an offering to our community to make theatre accessible for everyone. We believe theatre should be affordable for all. We didn’t want the ticket price to keep anyone from experiencing live theatre at the Fountain. Our Pay What You Want Night has become popular and extremely successful. But what would be the public reaction if, for one night, the price of admission wasn’t the only thing optional? What if clothing was also not required?

I was jarred into contemplating this unexpected question because of an article in today’s New York Times.  A contemporary art museum in Paris conducted its first-ever tour of its galleries given only for nudists. For one night in the museum, the art wasn’t the only handiwork on exhibit. The French nudist group, Paris Naturist Association, received interest in the museum tour from 30,000 people on Facebook. “I was imagining about 100 or 200 people might want to come, not 30,000,” said the group president. The event was limited to 160 people.

The tour was enjoyed by all. According to the article, it seemed the only challenge for the flock of nudists wasn’t the contest of keeping their eyes focused only on the artwork. It was keeping their bare bodies warm in the chilly museum halls. Even so, the nudist group president is now organizing future tours at other museums.  

Ah, yes. Vive la France. Those artsy, wine-and-cheese-loving, free-living French. Would such an event ever happen in America? In a museum or a theatre? Or is America’s view of the human body too repressed, too puritanical? Would a nation outraged by seeing a First Lady’s bare arms tolerate the sight of The Mark Taper Forum filled with bare bodies? We celebrate when a play is eye-opening, not the audience. 

naked tour

Nudity is still viewed as silly at best or sinful at worst by large segments of the American public. Europe, by comparison, is much more lenient about public display of unclothed bodies.

So, will “Nude Night” one day become a popular American night out at the theatre? American audiences may no longer be astonished to see nudity on stage. But what about seeing it on the patron sitting next to you?  Think about the actors. In an intimate theatre like the Fountain, would any costume-wearing actor be able to concentrate on their own performance while playing to a full house of naked people? It’s the classic “actor’s nightmare” coming true, in reverse.  I mean, look at the poor man in this photo (above). This dedicated and fully clothed museum tour guide, elucidating on an art piece’s influence, history and visual application techniques, must be having an out-of-body experience.

Comfortable or not, I may need to start preparing our ushers at the Fountain. Social nudism is on the rise in the United States. It is one of the fastest growing recreational activities in the country. There are now thousands of nudist groups, resorts and organizations across the United States. Why?

For those who practice it, nudism represents an aspect of life that has been lost, a way to get away from the technology that permeates every aspect of modern life, to feel free in one’s natural state, more alive. When shedding clothing, some of the barriers blocking honest human interaction fall away.  Social distinctions disappear. Stereotypes can dissolve.  Self-empowerment and awareness arrives. Nudism challenges the conventional beliefs we have about each other,  ourselves and our society. It can also just be fun and help us feel good.

“It’s a sense of freedom, a sense of being one with whatever it is,” one nudist describes.

If true, then a theatre, where the soul of man is stripped and laid bare, may be the perfect home after all. 

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