Tag Archives: Los Angeles

Longtime Fountain Family member, Marcia Mirkin, passes away at 83

by Stephen Sachs

Marcia Mirkin and Mirk

Marcia and Mirk Mirkin

Everyone has them. The favorite relatives who visit at a family gathering.  A cherished pair of grandparents, a blessed aunt and uncle. Family members so fun, so kind-hearted, supportive and filled with good cheer that you actually look forward to seeing them. For all of us at the Fountain Theatre for decades, Marcia and Mirk Mirkin were that treasured duo. We lost Mirk (Irwin) in 2015 at the age of eighty-eight. We now say good-bye to Marcia Mirkin, who passed away last Friday at eighty-three. 

Marcia and Mirk were so connected as a couple, so deeply married, that Mirk passed away on June 20th,  the day of their 60th wedding anniversary. That kind of devoted bond at life’s end was no stranger to me. My mother died on the 52nd anniversary of her wedding to my father.

Mirk and Marcia Mirkin were jolly parents to all of us at the Fountain.  Mirk with his sly grin and playful glint in his eyes. Marcia, arms open wide, the big mamma you wish you had, proudly bestowing you with accolades when you hit a home run and scolding you lovingly when you sometimes struck out.

Marcia Mirkin

Marcia Mirkin

Marcia kept coming to the Fountain after Mirk passed. Nothing would keep her away from the theatre she loved. As her own health declined, she’d still get herself here for every production, even when she now required extra help getting to her seat.

Marcia spoke forcefully from the stage at our memorial service for our beloved staff member, Ben Bradley. And she mourned with us when we lost our subscription sales diva, Diana Gibson. Diana and Marcia were close pals.    

My strongest feeling of Marcia Mirkin is her huge embrace. Marcia wrapping her large arms around me, smiling broadly, bathing me in praise like a son.  I bet each and every one of us at the Fountain felt they were her favorite. She made you feel that way.

Marcia passed away on Friday, December 8th, 2017, by her own choice.  She was in hospice care at home in terminal condition and had been approved for the End of Life program at Kaiser. It breaks my heart to learn of her passing but I admire her decision to conclude her life on her own terms.  

The Fountain Theatre was on her mind days before her final Friday. As one of her last mortal duties, she had her daughter Karen send me a manuscript written by a patient she knew in a prison hospice unit suffering from AIDS and MS, encouraged by his therapist to tell his life story in his own words.  Marcia believed it was a story of “trauma, healing  and redemption.” Telling his life story “could help at-risk youth and prevent them from going into the penal system.” She thought it could make a good play. 

This was on her mind, in her heart, days before she had scheduled her own exit from this world.   

Our hearts ache with the loss of our dear friend, Marcia Mirkin. We salute a remarkable woman who enjoyed a meaningful life. Even gone, she and Mirk will remain with us always.    

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

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Lin-Manuel Miranda tells how Chaim Potok’s ‘The Chosen’ changed his life

Lin Manuel Mirandaby Lin-Manuel Miranda

The trajectory of my life changed in 8th grade, when I got the following note back on the back of an English essay. My teacher’s name was Dr. Rembert Herbert. This is what he wrote:

“Lin-Manuel—This is an excellent, well-crafted essay. It confirms what I have suspected for some time—that you have been ‘hibernating’ in the back of my class, emerging only occasionally—as when you wrote ‘The Chosen’ musical for class earlier this year. It’s a new semester, almost spring—join us!”

The “Chosen” musical he references was a class project I created as a part of a class assignment. The assignment was to teach three chapters of The Chosen by Chaim Potok, as part of a group. I decided it would be easier to write a song based on each chapter and have our group perform it. Actually, I recorded myself singing all the songs and made my group mates lip-synch my voice, as I had no trust in their musical ability and no way of teaching it to them. Why did I do this? Well, I loved the book. And I loved the way Dr. Herbert taught the book, encouraging us to find the connections and themes for ourselves. I had, in fact, spent most of 8th grade scribbling song lyrics and poems in the back of my classes, earning grades just good enough to get by. I never saw any reason to share these with anyone else.

With this note, Dr. Herbert essentially called me out. He told me, “That creative energy you are burning in the back of the class is what we need IN the class. You can USE that here.” He was also the first person outside of my family to say to me, “You’re a good writer.” He encouraged me to audition and submit my writing to Brick Prison, a student-run theater group at my high school. It was there that I found the energy source that would power the rest of my life.

His encouragement extended far beyond that 8th grade English class. When I began making films in high school, Dr. Herbert would sign permission slips allowing me to film in classrooms, or after school. I began writing short, 20-musicals for Brick Prison, buoyed by my “Chosen” experience in his classroom. My senior year, I earned course credit as his intern, helping him with his 8th grade students. I gained a whole new respect for how much he invested in every student, stepping in if he sensed a drop-off in the quality of their writing, or quietly encouraging the shyest class members with leadership roles.

I still have that 8th grade essay, and Dr. Herbert’s attached note. He is still teaching 8th grade English at Hunter. I am so grateful to him for paying such close attention, for seeing something in me, and urging me to share it. That’s what the best teachers can do. I hope I have made him proud.

See The Chosen at the Fountain Theatre

Fountain donors enjoy exclusive sneak peek at Chaim Potok’s ‘The Chosen’

cast group

The cast of “The Chosen”

A select group of Fountain Theatre donors gathered at the lovely Sherman Oaks home of  Director of Development Barbara Goodhill last night to meet the director and cast of our upcoming production of Chaim Potok’s The Chosen. The stage version of the beloved classic of modern Jewish literature opens at the Fountain January 20th.   

The party first noted the Friday evening with Shabbat blessings led by Rabbi Jim Kaufman, followed by a delicious dinner. After welcoming comments by Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs and director Simon Levy, the four-member cast read a selection of short scenes from the script. The actors are Jonathan Arkin, Alan Blumenfeld, Sam Mandel, and Dorian Tayler. 

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The invited group of VIP guests included Mrs. Sue and Rabbi James Kaufman, Jacqueline Schultz, Robert and Carol Haymer, Marianne Weil, Harold Shabo, Marsha and Mark Novak.   

Interested in joining our family of Fountain donors? Contact Barbara Goodhill, Development Director at (323) 663-1525 ext. 307 or barbara@fountaintheatre.com.

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Fountain workshop teaches young people how theatre can be a gateway to empathy

GirlPower and Fountain Theater (Dionna)

Dionna Daniel and the GirlPower group at A Place Called Home.

by Dionna Daniel

I had the pleasure of joining the GirlPower group at A Place Called Home on November 1st, 2017. The Fountain Theatre is always excited to have the students of APCH come see the productions at our theatre. For the first time ever, I was able to lead a short post-show workshop with the youth through our educational outreach program, Theatre as a Learning Tool.  

When I visited the students at their space, we began the afternoon together with a round of theater games.  The laughter echoed in the room as we all introduced ourselves with funny gestures and sounds. Then we began to discuss the Fountain’s production of Runaway Home and how they connected with the show. Many of the students said that they connected with the rocky relationship between the character Kali and her mother. We then began to talk about the historical context of Hurricane Katrina. It was eye opening for me to realize that these students were just babies when one of the most disastrous storms to ever make landfall hit the southern United States. They really didn’t have much context to this show at all.

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The group dives into a writing exercise.

As I showed the students video coverage of the devastation that Katrina caused, our discussion shifted to the themes of displacement in Runaway Home and how it relates to people in Los Angeles. Many Angelenos are being displaced due to the growing housing crisis in LA and the rise of gentrification in LA’s east side. We discussed the erasure of black and brown neighborhoods and communities that is currently taking place in LA. A lot of the gentrification looking very similar to what happen to New Orleans’ black communities. We ended our session together with a quick free-write and said one word that resonated with us in that moment. While some students said such words as “inspired” and “hopeful”, I reflected on how this experience was equally inspiring for me.

As I say often, I believe art must do something. During my time at APCH, I witnessed that theater can be utilized as a gateway to empathy, to not only discuss the historical context of the traumas of people in New Orleans but to also reflect on ourselves and our own communities. Art is vital to understanding the human condition. Theatre matters.

Dionna Daniel is a playwright, performer, and Outreach Coordinator at the Fountain Theatre.

New study proves that our hearts beat together at the theatre

Runaway-Home_6 (1)Neuroscientists have now proven what theatre folk have felt for years. The heart beats of audience members actually synchronize and beat together in unison when watching a live performance of a play or musical. 

The research was conducted by the University College London Division of Psychological and Language Sciences.  The team studied the heart rates and skin responses of  twelve participants as they watched a live performance of Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre on the West End. 

The scientists found that as well as individuals’ emotional responses, the audience members’ hearts were also responding in unison, with their pulses speeding up and slowing down at the same rate,  regardless of if they knew each other or not.

Dr Joe Devlin, who led the study, said: “Usually, a group of individuals will each have their own heart rates and rhythms, with little relationship to each other. But romantic couples or highly effective teammates will actually synchronize their hearts so that they beat in time with each other, which in itself is astounding.”

According to Encore Tickets, 59% of people say they have felt emotionally affected by a live performance, and 46% say they enjoy the theatre experience because of the atmosphere that comes with being in the audience. 

FT audience

Fountain Theatre

Dr Devlin said, “Experiencing the live theatre performance was extraordinary enough to overcome group differences and produce a common physiological experience in the audience members.”

The study went on to find that couples and friends continue to have synchronized heart beats during the intermission.  Dr Devlin explained: “Our hypothesis is that it’s at this point, the intermission, that the audience members are engaged with each other, discussing the show within their social groups. During this social interaction with each other, we can see that their in-group arousal synchronizes with each other but not with the audience members as a whole.”

Past studies have shown that in environments that cause bodies to synchronize in this way, people are more likely to bond and like each other. 

“This clearly demonstrates, ” says Devlin, “that the physiological synchronicity observed during the performance was strong enough to overcome social group differences and engage the audience as a whole.”

In other words, this unified beating of hearts when experiencing live theatre can help break social differences and bring people together. 

Can there be a higher calling? We don’t think so. We believe theater’s fundamental and most sacred purpose is to bring a diverse variety of individuals to a common place where they share a meaningful human experience together, as one. This new study proves it, physiologically. Our hearts actually beat together. 

This beautiful information comes as we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving. It reaffirms, for all of us at the Fountain Theatre and to you, how much we are thankful for. 

Students feel an intimate connection with ‘Runaway Home’ at the Fountain Theatre

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo many college students, class assignments can seem boring and meaningless. But for teacher Alan Goodson and his students at Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, the ongoing visits to the Fountain have become one assignment they eagerly look forward to undertaking. For years, Goodson regularly pulls his students out of the classroom and into the Fountain to benefit from the educational and life-enhancing experience of live theatre.  

The student visits are made possible by Theatre as a Learning Tool, the Fountain Theatre’s educational outreach program that makes live theatre accessible to young people throughout Southern California. 

The FIDM students arrived at the Fountain on November 4th to see our acclaimed world premiere of Runaway Home by Jeremy J. Kamps.  The play is set in New Orleans, three years after Hurricane Katrina. 14 year-old runaway Kali embarks on a journey to pick through the wreckage of what used to be her life. Rhyming, stealing, and scamming her way through the still-destroyed neighborhood, she grapples with the real cost of what she lost and is forced to confront the higher risk of moving forward. A funny, moving, and powerful new play about community and the power of family.

Returning back to their classroom, the students wrote essays expressing their thoughts and feelings on seeing the production. Take a look at these excerpts:  

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“The small black box-style theater that The Fountain offers made for an utterly intimate show, leaving tears swelling in every audience member’s eyes as they watched these characters and their troubles unfold. . . . As someone who had no experience with the post-Katrina trauma, this show was a huge learning experience for me. In a way, it caused awareness for tragedies like Katrina, and how the devastation is anything but short-term. In my mind, three years sounds like a very long time, but seeing how devastated these families and communities still were three years later really put it into perspective. Also, the intimate environment of the venue made me feel even closer with these characters, and I truly felt a connection with each and every one of them throughout the show. Kamps’ writing exposed the ugly truths of a natural disaster, but mainly expressed the importance of acceptance, family, and growing up.”

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“This play was directed in a way that really involved the audience emotionally. When watching the play, there were times when I literally felt as if I was in the scene. Aside from that I was sitting in the first row, I felt as if I was immersed in each scene, embracing every dramatic and/or even comedic moment. The actors in the play all performed extremely well. They really embraced the importance of how the aftermath of the hurricane effected so many people.”

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“My personal opinion of the play is that it was a very emotional, but strong story. The actors played the parts effortlessly, especially the actress that played Kali. . . . Overall, the play was very inspiring. It was told in a different way, with these monologues that were extremely poetic. The experience was very cool being so close to the actors. It felt like I was in the story. The was definitely worth watching.”

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“These close quarters allow for audience members to analyze every detail of the actors on stage, whether that be gestures, dialogue, or facial expressions, we can see it all. With that said, the small proximity of the theatre made the execution of Runaway Home that much more impressive and admirable. For audience members like myself, I could tell that each cast member was fully engaged in the story and connected to the characters they played.”

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“Intimacy and raw emotion are concepts that are commonly taken for granted, but when they are used to enhance a piece of art, they suddenly become indispensable. With a smaller-sized venue located at the Fountain Theater in Hollywood, and a close-knit cast of animated actors, they were able to incorporate intimacy as well as capture raw emotion in one jam-packed performance. . . . This play provided not only insight into an event, but shed light on the darker aspects of our government’s behavior. Both the venue and the personnel chose to play each character worked perfectly in articulating the message that Kamps was trying to convey. The audience can expect to get giggly as well as a bit teary eyed during this performance. The range of emotion and intimacy that is put on display makes for an extraordinary production.”

Fountain Theatre presents inspiring solo play to benefit L.A. theater director Dan Bonnell

Dan Bonnell

Dan Bonnell

The Fountain Theatre will present the funny and powerful solo play A Piece of My Mind, written and performed by Eric Barr, on Saturday, Dec. 16th at 8 p.m. as a fundraiser for L.A. theater director Dan Bonnell and his family. Bonnell suffered a massive brain aneurysm in April while in a meeting at Sacred Fools Theatre in Hollywood. He remains in rehabilitative care.

With A Piece of My Mind, Barr shares his inspiring true story of how he survived a series of devastating strokes, robbing him of speech, movement and all his future plans. But it didn’t rob him of hope, or his sense of humor and optimism. His solo play takes audiences on his journey from near-death to recovery and reinvention. It is a celebration of life, love and the human spirit.

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Eric Barr in “A Piece of My Mind” (photo by Joshua Montez)

“I have known Dan Bonnell for over 25 years as both a director and a friend,” says Barr. “When I was chairman of the UC Riverside Theatre Department, Dan directed a number of shows for us and he always raised the level of our students’ work and of our productions. Our students loved Dan.”

Fountain Theatre co-artistic director Stephen Sachs is also a longtime friend of Bonnell. “Dan is a warm-hearted human being and a respected member of our L.A. theater community,” Sachs states. “I offer the Fountain as a way to use theater as an instrument for healing and raising awareness. This night will bring L.A. theater artists and friends of Dan together to show Dan and his family that they are supported.”

A stroke impacts more than the patient. It affects the entire family. Proceeds from the one-night performance will benefit Bonnell and his family as they face mounting medical expenses. A silent auction is also planned to raise additional assistance.

PIECE OF MY MIND 4

Eric Barr, “A Piece of My Mind” 

As a stroke survivor, Barr knows the struggle Dan is experiencing. Visiting his friend was a sobering reminder. “When we arrived at the nursing facility, Dan was barely conscious,” remembers Barr. “Sitting next to him, I was suddenly flooded with distant memories of my own experience. I knew what it felt like to be trapped in bed, trapped in an unresponsive body. I could feel it all over again.”

After his stroke, Barr feared his life was over. Instead, his one-man show demonstrates he has a new future. Barr now performs his solo play to enthusiastic audiences around the country.

“On stage, I feel completely healthy. I feel more like myself than anywhere else.”

Eric Barr taught acting and directing at University of California, Riverside from 1975 until 2013 and is now a UCR Professor Emeritus of theater. He has directed over 100 productions and was the founding director of the UCR Palm Desert MFA program in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts.

Dan Bonnell is an award-winning director whose work has been seen in Los Angeles at the Falcon Theatre, Colony Theatre, Pacific Resident Theatre, Matrix Theatre, Open Fist, Theatre of NOTE, The MET, Boston Court, Cornerstone, [Inside] the Ford, ASK Theater Projects, Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA, Highways, Moving Arts, Nexus Theatre Company, Odyssey Theatre Ensemble and HBO Workspace. Dan is the recipient of directing awards from the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, LA Weekly and the NAACP as well as the GLAAD Media Award, and has been nominated for Theater Communications Group “Alan Schneider Award”

A Piece of My Mind will be performed on Saturday, Dec. 16 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $50. All proceeds will benefit Dan Bonnell and family.  More Info/Get Tickets