Tag Archives: Love Letters

She strolled into the theatre lobby that night and my heart jumped

canon theatre LL 2 - Copy (1)

The Canon Theatre, Beverly Hills

by Stephen Sachs

She called to take me up on my offer. I struggled to place who she was. A young woman from my Playwrighting Group in Hollywood willing to volunteer to usher at my theatre in Beverly Hills for the perk of seeing our long running hit play for free. I pretended to recognize her name but my mind raced. Who was she? A fellow writer? An actress?

“Sure, you can usher,” I muttered distractedly to the mysterious voice on the other line. “Be here at the theater tonight. Wear a black skirt or slacks. A white blouse. I’ll show you what to do.”

Part of my job as the theater manager at the Canon Theatre in Beverly Hills was to recruit volunteers to usher. The theatre was enjoying a celebrated 16-month run of A.R. Gurney’s play about friendship and romance, Love Letters, starring a rotating parade of famous actors, including Ben Gazarra, Gena Rowlands, Christopher Reeve, Whoopi Goldberg, Charlton Heston, Robert Wagner, Richard Thomas, Matthew Broderick, Helen Hunt, and many more. Because the celebrity roster changed every week, recruiting volunteer ushers eager to see the play wasn’t difficult. It often meant mobilizing a house staff of enlisted actors, wannabe screenwriters, middle-aged theatre junkies, and westside seniors looking for something to do. Then came the phone call from the enigmatic young woman.

She arrived that night precisely on time. I was standing in the theatre lobby, busily counting programs for that evening’s performance. I turned and glanced at the front entrance. Gliding in through the glass doors, the sun setting behind her and highlighting her slim form, strode a beautiful blonde in a black skirt, a white blouse, flashing a warm, inviting smile. My body jolted, even in my pressed suit. I stopped breathing. This is Los Angeles. Attractive women are everywhere. Something about her was different.

My hands shook as I demonstrated to her how to properly tear a theater ticket stub. Did she spot I was trembling? She leaned forward. Her warmth smelled delicious. Inside the theater before opening the doors, I stumbled down the carpeted aisle of empty seats with her, doing my best to outline our audience seating protocols, all the while my thoughts catapulting into a pathetic frenzied mantra, Ask her out, you idiot! Ask her out! Don’t let her get away. When the night’s performance ended, as we picked up littered programs from the floor and flipped up the seats, I asked her to join me for a bite to eat. She said yes.

We strolled south down Beverly Drive to an Italian restaurant still open and had pizza. Over wine, I explained that I was coming out of a long-term relationship and just wanted to stay casual. She confessed that she was ready to give up on dating and didn’t know how to be casual. We talked, we laughed, and we closed the place down.

Soon, we were catching new plays at The Music Center, having a ball at a jazz club in Encino, savoring intimate dinners on Melrose. We’d step out of my small apartment in Beachwood Canyon for late night strolls through the Hollywood Hills, talking non-stop, plotting our careers and confiding aspirations. The production of Love Letters at my theater provided the perfect background for our blossoming relationship. The play chronicles the bond that develops between a man and a woman as they share their hopes and ambitions, their dreams and disappointments, their triumphs and heartbreak.

Because Love Letters starred a new pair of celebrity actors each week, our theater was bombarded with flowers delivered to the stage door by fans. I would collect the dozens of bouquets and vases and display them around our lobby, filling the entranceway with bright color and sweet fragrance. Never imagining that one bouquet would help change the course of my life.

Late one night, following another sold out performance, I was locking up the Canon Theatre for the evening. The audience had gone home, the theatre was dark and empty. She was waiting patiently for me outside as I closed. We were on our way to a party in Brentwood. It was a warm August evening and she wore a lovely white linen dress. She beamed, fresh and radiant. I grabbed a large bouquet of flowers from the lobby and presented them to her with a flourish under the front marquee outside. She blushed and kissed me. We then turned and walked down Canon Drive to the car.

What happened next is difficult to describe.

As we strolled down the narrow sidewalk, she suddenly took my arm. We marched forward, arm in arm. I then glanced at her. At the two of us, together, arms interlocked. My suit. Her white dress. Flowers clutched in her hand. In that instant, I saw us. In a flash, time stopped, collapsed, and rushed forward. It was like peering into a looking glass, a crystal ball and a rear-view mirror, all at the same time. I saw our past, present and future together, as best friends, as life partners, as husband and wife, compressed into one perfect vision. I saw it.

“It’s you, isn’t it?” I whispered.

A recognition of the other.

It’s you.

We were married, exactly one year from the night we first met. One year to the day from that first afternoon when she stepped through those glass doors and into the lobby, and my life, forever.

Stephen Sachs is the Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director of the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood. Stephen and his wife, Jacqueline, have been married twenty-seven years and have two sons. 


Los Angeles shines as a theatre town


The Fountain Theatre in Hollywood

by Stephen Sachs

Hollywood is heralded around the globe as the mesmerizing “movie capital of the world,” yet more plays are produced each year in Los Angeles than major motion pictures. In fact, Los Angeles has more live theaters and creates more theatre productions per year than any other city in the world. More than New York, Chicago or London. That’s right. Los Angeles. Surprised?

Los Angeles is on the rise. You can feel it. LA is ascending to rightfully take its place as a world city. It is already ranked as one of the world’s most economically powerful cities—a center of business, international trade, entertainment, culture, media, and technology. There are 841 museums and art galleries in the area, over 1,000 performance venues. Hollywood is flourishing, undergoing a multi-billion-dollar renaissance of new commercial, residential and cultural development that is transforming the fabled district. 

Theatre in Los Angeles has never been better. It is diverse, vibrant, first-rate—and everywhere. Stretched across an immense terrain of diverse neighborhoods over 469 square miles, you can experience theatre in Los Angeles in every possible setting. From tiny converted store fronts to festive outdoor stages in city parks to Off-Broadway-style intimate houses on trendy boulevards to grand and glittering show palaces—Los Angeles has it all. 

I’ve been a theatre maker in Los Angeles for more than 30 years. Like so many, I was first an actor, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. I transitioned to directing plays in 1987, leaving acting behind and never looking back. While building a career as a stage director, I became intrigued by how theatre companies operated. The business side of making art fascinated me. One day, I volunteered to work temporarily in the office at Ensemble Studio Theatre on Oxford Street in Hollywood. Soon I took over as Theatre Manager. In 1990, I worked with Joan Stein and Suzie Dietz at the Canon Theatre in Beverly Hills, where we launched a 16-month run of A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters starring a parade of famous actors, including Ben Gazarra, Gena Rowlands, Christopher Reeve, Whoopi Goldberg, Charlton Heston, Robert Wagner, Matthew Broderick, Helen Hunt, and many more. That same year, I opened the Fountain Theatre with my colleague Deborah Lawlor and embarked on the most meaningful and rewarding journey of my artistic life.

The Fountain Theatre is a charming two-story Spanish-style building on Fountain Avenue in East Hollywood. Originally The Evergreen Stage, it had been a live theatre for more than 60 years. When Deborah and I first walked in and stood on its empty stage, we knew we had found our artistic home. There was something about the place, the cozy atmosphere, how the intimate seating warmly embraced the stage. It felt inviting and electric. We knew magic could happen there. 

The Fountain is now one of a bright constellation of intimate theatres shimmering throughout Los Angeles. This galaxy of small theatres, each singular in their programming, audience and artistic mission, is a construct utterly unique to Los Angeles. There is nothing like it anywhere in the country. LA’s Center Theatre Group, with its Mark Taper Forum and Ahmanson Theatre, form a theatrical nucleus, yet the more than one hundred intimate theatres across the region swirl around it like spirited electrons, each carrying an electric charge that is fundamental for the survival of LA’s overall cultural organism. In Hollywood, Nederlander’s Pantages Theatre prove nightly that there is a vast audience for live performance. 


Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles

I’ve seen the intimate theatre community in Los Angeles grow from a cluster of what was then called 99-seat “Equity Waiver” theaters in the 1980s to the vast network of hundreds of intimate theaters today. These theatres weave a rich artistic tapestry that is astounding in its range and variety, matching the cultural, racial and social diversity of this city. Los Angeles is now home to intimate theatres that serve audiences that are Black, Latino, Gay, Straight, Asian, Middle Eastern, LGBT, Deaf, Native American, and everything in between. The content on LA stages is equally wide-ranging. American classics, world premieres of new plays, Shakespeare, Chekhov, musicals, farce, adaptations, the avant garde, immersive pieces, plays staged in the round or in a black box, site specific works performed in empty warehouses, in cars or hotel rooms—an endless menu for every taste. 

hollywood-theatre-row-signLA’s intimate theatres have grown not only in number, they have increased in stature. Top-drawer actors from Broadway, TV and film are routinely seen on LA stages. And while Los Angeles remains an essential destination for acclaimed plays and musicals from New York, London and around the world, LA is now its own vibrant theatre center that creates and develops exciting new work. Much of the most satisfying and challenging new plays are being done in the intimate theaters. Actors long to act in these plays for the same reason we ache to produce them: for the sake of the art. LA’s network of smaller theatres provides a safe, fertile landscape where highly-skilled actors, directors and playwrights can bring new plays to life for audiences that are ever-growing, sophisticated and adventurous. More than 120 plays have transferred from LA’s intimate venues to regional theaters across the United Sates. Such world-class playwrights as Athol Fugard, Tarell McCraney and Robert Schenkkan have launched new plays at our modest home on Fountain Avenue that are now being enjoyed throughout the nation and around the world. 

Even with the staggering amount of high-quality activity on its numerous stages, Tinsel Town fights for the right to be called a “theatre town.” The Hollywood spotlight is blinding. The relationship between the film and television industry and the LA Theatre community is precarious. A forced marriage between two partners who share similar desires yet go about achieving them in vastly different ways and for very different reasons. LA Theatre still struggles to step out from under the shadow of The Industry and stand in its own rightful light. But its blaze is being seen and felt, locally and nationwide, more and more. 

As an artist and a citizen, it has never been a better time to live in Los Angeles. As a haven with invigorating potential and endless possibilities, LA is now peering forward and seeing its future. That vision, as a world city, looks bright. As Los Angeles shines, so does its theatre. And the radiance from our light will illuminate the nation and the world. 

This post originally appeared in Discover Hollywood magazine