Tag Archives: Music Center

Yes, Los Angeles is a football town. It is also a theatre town.

goff-ramsjpg-2223fa817a1b7294

Rams quarterback Jared Goff.

by Stephen Sachs

I’m used to it by now. I expect it. I wait for it. Whenever I travel anywhere in the country, to any state in our union, whether on a personal vacation with my wife or attending  a professional theatre conference in a faraway region,  once I share where I’m from and what I do for a living I am asked the same question: is Los Angeles a theatre town?

My guard quickly goes up. I shift into protective mode. Defending my city and my art form. My talking points ready. Did you know that more theatre is produced in Los Angeles, more productions of plays and musicals, than in any other city in the world — more than New York, Chicago or London? Did you know that Los Angeles is home to more working artists than any other major metropolis in the United States, including New York? According to a 2010 report commissioned by the Center for Cultural Innovation (CCI), Los Angeles hosts the largest pool of artists of any city in the nation.  Los Angeles supports more than five times as many performing artists (actors, directors, producers), outpacing New York substantially.  These facts always trigger startled looks of surprise.

Now Los Angeles is facing the same skepticism about football. With Super Bowl Sunday approaching this weekend, the nation wants to know: Is Los Angeles a football town? The answer is yes. In fact, Los Angeles is one of only two cities in the nation that has two NFL teams, the Rams and the Chargers. The other metropolis with more than one team? You guessed it. Our theatre rival, New York.  Always bent on outshining us, New York  has three teams.

While theatre has been performed consistently in Los Angeles since the city was founded in 1781,  the Rams’ history with LA has been bumpy and uneven. The franchise began in 1936 as the Cleveland Rams in Ohio.  The team moved to Los Angeles in 1946. After the 1994 season, the Rams left LA and moved to St. Louis. They returned to Los Angeles in 2016, suffering through a disappointing season. Then, like a true Hollywood story, magic happened.

In 2017, Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay became the new Rams head coach at the age of 30, making him the youngest in modern NFL history. McVay is a rock star. He is what slick and glamorous basketball coach Pat Riley was to the Lakers in the 1980’s era of Showtime.  McVay is young, movie star handsome, charismatic. And a winner.  In their first year under McVay, the Rams won their first NFC West title since 2003. This season, the team’s 13–3 record tied for the second-most wins in a single season in franchise history and were the most ever for any NFL team in Los Angeles. On Sunday, they perform on the league’s biggest stage. The Broadway of football. A Los Angeles team hasn’t reached the Super Bowl since 1980.

Is LA a football town? Ask Rams star defensive tackle Aaron Donald. “It’s a football town now.” The team’s average home attendance in the regular season was more than 72,000 fans per game at the Rams’ temporary home at the LA Coliseum.

rams-stadium-1

Artist rendering of the new Rams Stadium in Inglewood.

Inglewood is now building the team a new state-of-the-art 70,240-seat stadium, scheduled to open in 2020. At a cost of more than $5 billion, it will be the world’s most expensive sports complex.  More than three times the size of Disneyland and twice as big as Vatican City. The last time Los Angeles built an arts complex even close to that size was the Music Center downtown in 1964.  Although one of the largest performing arts centers in the United States, the 11-acre Music Center is 1/27th the size of the future 298-acre LA Stadium campus.  And you thought tickets to Hamilton were expensive? The best seat at Los Angeles’ newest stadium will come with a licensing bill of $100,000 for Rams season-ticket holders, not including the price of each ticket per game.

I hold no illusion that theatre will ever be as popular in Los Angeles as football. More human beings worldwide will watch our LA Rams in this Sunday’s Super Bowl than have seen every performance of every play and musical ever produced in Los Angeles in two hundred years. That’s okay. Something exciting is happening in this town. I can feel it. LA is undergoing a renaissance, blossoming into the city of the future. Money is pouring in, new urban development is underway everywhere, our progressive city laws and lifestyle embrace diversity and inclusion and the hope of opportunity.

For many artists across the country, LA is still the land of dreams. The region’s record in home-growing, attracting and retaining artists is unmatched. Los Angeles is still the nation’s premier place to pursue and maintain an artistic career. Its theatre community is vast, richly varied and thriving.

And the Rams are playing in the Super Bowl. Whatever the outcome this Sunday, Los Angeles comes out a winner.

Stephen Sachs is the Co-Artistic Director of the Fountain Theatre and a longtime Rams fan.

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

New LA Arts Festival downtown at Grand Park asks: “What does it mean to be a citizen?”

band of uncles subway

The cast of ‘Citizen: An American Lyric”

by Sean P. Thomas

The stage is set for a collection of Los Angeles’ creative minds to get a moment in the spotlight. Even better, those moments will take place in Downtown, and the performances will be free.

On Friday-Sunday, April 27-29, the inaugural Our L.A. Voices: Spring Arts Festival will fill Grand Park. The happening will bring more than 30 artists and groups to the 12-acre space, where there will be live theater, dance, music and more. There will be performances as well as opportunities to buy art.

Julia Diamond, Grand Park’s interim director, said that the festival was created through a joint venture with the Music Center. The goal is to showcase a wide spectrum of the L.A. art scene, with everything from sculptors to digital artists in a family-friendly environment.

“We’re really trying to tell a big story about L.A. as a center of massive amounts of creative energy,” Diamond said.

Grand Park opened in 2012 and has played host to numerous community events, everything from the annual New Year’s Eve celebration to a book festival. Frequently local artists have been involved, but were not the focus.

This weekend, Diamond said, the artists will be thrust front and center. Festivities run from 6-10 p.m. on Friday, 1-10 p.m. on Saturday and 1-6 p.m. on Sunday.

“We’re trying to tell the biggest story that we can,” Diamond said. “It’s about making a big splash for an important part of L.A.’s identity and giving the audience a chance to come see art in one place.”

in memory of CROPPED

‘Citizen: An American Lyric’

Festival organizers have partnered with a number of artists and groups, among them the Fountain Theatre in East Hollywood. The theme of the festival is, “What does it mean to be a citizen?”

Aptly, the Fountain Theatre will perform Citizen: An American Lyric, an adaption of poet Claudia Rankine’s book of the same name that explores race relations and questions of citizenship in the United States. The novel was adapted by Stephen Sachs, artistic director of the Fountain, after coming across a book review in the New York Times. In the wake of the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., Sachs said that he wanted the theater to make a statement on race relations in America, and that Rankine’s words provided the proper avenue.

He described the book and the ensuing play as less of a sledgehammer and more of a scalpel, precisely dissecting racial narratives in American society to get to the core of what a citizen’s experience is like in the country. Citizen will be mounted on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.; each hour-long performance will be followed by a community discussion about the play and the festival.

Diamond said the play, which was previously on stage at the Fountain and the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City, resonates with audiences and fits the theme of what she is trying to do with the Spring Arts Festival.

“It really became the core question of this year’s festival,” Diamond said. “Who belongs? Who is on the inside? Who is on the outside?”

Sachs said it is gratifying to have the work appear at the festival. However, he said he is disheartened that the issues that prompted the play are still relevant almost four years after Brown’s death.

“It’s very meaningful to me to have this work shared with as many people as possible,” Sachs said. “I love the idea of doing it in Grand Park in front of City Hall. I can’t think of anything more appropriate.”

Grand Park stage chairs

The stage at Grand Park, downtown Los Angeles.

“We encourage people to come out in full force and to bring the whole family,” Diamond said. “Art is meant to bring us together and get us thinking, and there is no better way to do that than across generations.”

The Our L.A. Voices: Spring Arts Festival runs Friday-Sunday, April 27-29, at Grand Park, 200 N. Grand Ave. or grandparkla.org/event/ourlavoices2018.

This post originally appeared in Downtown News

VIDEO: Actress Monnae Michaell invites you to ‘Citizen’ at Our L.A. Voices at Grand Park

Monna Michaell

Monnae Michaell

The Fountain Theatre’s critically acclaimed, award-winning stage adaptation of Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric has been chosen as the centerpiece of Our L.A. Voices, a new festival celebrating the diversity and excellence of the arts in Los Angeles that will launch April 27-29 at Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles. A compelling play about racism in America, Citizen will represent excellence in Los Angeles theater at the multi-arts festival, with performances set for Friday, April 27 and Saturday, April 28. All performances are free to the public. 

Citizen: An American Lyric was adapted for the stage by acclaimed playwright and Fountain co-artistic director Stephen Sachs from Rankine’s National Book Critics Circle award-winning book of poetry. In this intensely provocative and unapologetic rumination on racial aggression directed by Shirley Jo Finney, seemingly everyday acts of racism are scrutinized as part of an uncompromising testimony of “living while Black” in America — from the shooting of Trayvon Martin, to the tennis career of Serena Williams to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Actress Monnae Michael invites you to join her and fellow cast members — Bernard K. Addison, Leith Burke, Tony Maggio, Adenrele Ojo and Lisa Pescia — to enjoy what Stage Raw critic Myron Meisel called “a transcendent theatrical experience.” 

 

More Info

Fountain Theatre’s ‘Citizen: An American Lyric’ to highlight new LA arts festival at Grand Park

group faces

‘Citizen: An American Lyric’ at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, 2017.

The Fountain Theatre’s critically acclaimed and award-winning stage adaptation of Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric has been chosen as the centerpiece of a new festival celebrating the diversity and excellence of the arts in Los Angeles. The festival, called Our L.A. Voices, will be launched April 27 – 29, 2018, in downtown Los Angeles at Grand Park. 

Envisioned as an annual “best of L.A. arts festival,” this free, three-day performing and visual arts showcase will bring dance, music and theatre performances as well as visual artwork by L.A. artists to Grand Park every spring. Grand Park’s Our L.A. Voices will serve as a home for L.A. artists, underlining Grand Park’s commitment to L.A.’s creative communities.

The Fountain Theatre’s production of Citizen: An American Lyric has been chosen to represent excellence in Los Angeles theatre.  The compelling play about racism in America will be the culmination of both evenings on Friday April 27th and Saturday April 28th, both performances at 8pm, serving as the centerpiece for the multi-arts festival.

Stephen Sachs’ stage adaptation of Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine won the 2016 Stage Raw Theatre Award for Best Adaptation, declaring it “a transcendent theatrical experience.The Los Angeles Times hailed it as “powerful”, highlighting it as Critic’s Choice. The production was chosen by Center Theatre Group for its first Block Party celebration of intimate theatre in Los Angeles at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in 2017.

Director Shirley Jo Finney returns to direct the Grand Park outdoor production. Original cast members Bernard K. Addision, Leith Burke, Tony Maggio, Monnae Michaell, Lisa Pescia will be joined by Adenrele Ojo. The original design team — Yee Eun Nam (set and video), Pablo Santiago (lighting), Peter Bayne (sound), Naila Aladdin-Sanders (costumes) — also return with production stage manager Shawna Voragen. 

“In the sprawling Los Angeles metropolis, Grand Park provides both a place and a reason for Angelenos to come together to experience the arts and each other in ways they never have before,” said Rachel Moore, president and CEO of The Music Center.   

Grand Park is a 12-acre urban oasis nestled between The Music Center and City Hall. Operated by The Music Center, the park features fountains, outdoor dining, recreation, sprawling lawns and an outdoor stage. That stage will be the center platform for the Our L.A. Voices Arts Festival, highlighting the variety and high quality of L.A.-based artists and companies.  The weekend-long event will feature music, dance, theatre, spoken word poetry and fine art. Food trucks will offer savory menus of LA cuisine. 

Grand Park

Grand Park, Los Angeles.

“It’s an honor for the Fountain Theatre to be representing Los Angeles theatre at this exciting new arts festival,” beams Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs. “We’re proud to be partnering with the Music Center and Grand Park to celebrate the diversity and artistic excellence of our city.” 

More Info   

Fountain Theatre welcomes financial adviser Miles Benickes to its Board of Directors

Miles BenickesThe Fountain Theatre is pleased to announce that esteemed financial adviser Miles Benickes has joined its Board of Directors. Miles Benickes is Managing Director for Municipal Trading and Executive Vice President for Hilltop Securities Inc.

“Going to the theatre has always been a part of my life since growing up in New York in the 1950’s,” says Benickes. “Thanks to my parents, I have a collection of Playbills that go even further back, to the Yiddish Theatre in New York in the 1920’s.  Becoming a member of The Fountain Theatre Board of Directors is an exciting new step in my lifelong theatrical journey.  I look forward to helping to ensure that The Fountain continues to entertain, educate, enlighten and engage the diverse audience of Los Angeles for many years into the future. ”

Miles is a leader in the financial services industry. He began his career as a municipal bond sales representative with Stern, Brenner & Co., the predecessor firm of M.L. Stern & Co., in July 1975. With the establishment of M.L. Stern & Co. in September 1980, Miles became one of the firm’s municipal bond traders. In December 1991, he was designated as Director of Fixed Income Trading and Marketing with responsibility for all taxable and tax exempt bond activities. With the purchase of M.L. Stern & Co. by Southwest Securities, Inc. in March 2008, Miles assumed responsibility for managing the California municipal bond trading activities of the Dallas based NYSE firm. He was a founding member of the Board of Directors of the Bond Dealers Association of America and is a member of the Los Angeles Municipal Bond Club. Miles was the President of Arcola Pictures Corporation and currently manages the activities of the successor DBA of Arcola Pictures which has proprietary interests in such motion pictures as Mutiny on the Bounty, Move Over Darling, Tony Rome, Lady in Cement and The Detective as well as the Daniel Boone television series. He is a member of the Writers Guild of America, West.

Miles is a member of the Music Center Leadership Council.  He has been an active member of Center Theatre Group’s Inner Circle since 1994 and has served as an Inner Circle Ambassador since 2007.  He and his wife, Joni, are the founders and co-chairs of CTG’s Artists and Educators Forum, a support group dedicated to encouraging new works and engaging new audiences.  He is an avid supporter of numerous arts organizations throughout Southern California including CTG’s Block Party, Los Angeles Master Chorale, UCLA School of Film and Television, Writers Guild Foundation, The Drama League, Ojai Playwrights Conference and The Old Globe Theatre.

Miles was born and raised in New York and remembers his first Broadway show was New Faces of 1952, which included Eartha Kitt, Paul Lynde, Carol Lawrence and Mel Brooks. He graduated with a BFA from the UCLA Film School in 1968. He and his wife, Joni, have four children, Erika, Allyn, Torrie and Jason — all avid theatergoers. They have three granddaughters, Hailey, Greer and Zoey. He enjoys tennis (he met his wife while giving her tennis lessons), biking, travelling and spending time with his family.

“We are thrilled and honored to have Miles join our Board,” beams Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs. “He not only brings an abundance of financial expertise, organizational wisdom and a depth of Board experience — he’s a lifelong theatre lover. The Fountain is fortunate to have him on the Board and in our family.”