Tag Archives: National New Play Network

PHOTOS: Dazzling opening night of ‘Building the Wall’ at Fountain Theatre

WALL Opening Night 6

An electrifying thrill filled the air Saturday night, March 18, as the Fountain Theatre opened the highly-anticipated world premiere of Building the Wall by Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Robert Schenkkan.  Even before opening, our bold National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere has earned national attention in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other outlets across the country.

The sold-out house Saturday night at the Fountain was packed with patrons, donors, board members, Fountain family and the press. Following the powerful performance, the crowd gathered upstairs in our indoor/outdoor cafe to enjoy a catered reception prepared by our new chef, Baltazar.  Playwright Robert Schenkkan and the cast were surrounded by well-wishers, congratulating them on an unforgettable evening in the theatre. By all accounts, it looks like the Fountain has another hit on its hands.  

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Take a look at what audiences are saying about ‘Building the Wall’ at the Fountain Theatre

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New Video: How Robert Schenkkan’s ‘Building the Wall’ came to the Fountain Theatre and why

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Sneak Peek: First rehearsal for ‘Building the Wall’ at Fountain Theatre

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Judith Moreland and James Macdonald

First rehearsals are often delicate events. Actors meet for the first time. Designers share their conceptual approaches for the production. The director articulates his or her vision for the journey ahead. Like on a first date, artists eye each other nervously, hoping this night’s first encounter will lead to a meaningful relationship so magic can be created together.

The tone of Monday night’s first rehearsal for the powerful new play Building the Wall by Robert Schenkkan was one of purpose, more than jittery vulnerability. Everyone in the room felt exhilarated by the social and political conviction of the project and aware of the publicity the new play has already generated nationwide. Schenkkan is a Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, and screenwriter of the Academy Award nominated Hacksaw Ridge

In Building the Wall, the Trump administration has carried out his campaign promise to round up and detain millions of immigrants. As a writer interviews the former supervisor of a private prison, it becomes clear how federal policy has escalated into something previously unimaginable.   

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Even before opening, the Fountain premiere of the new play has already been featured in the New York Times and the Washington Post. Our production is part of a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere, with other openings set to take place at the Curious Theater in Denver, Forum Theater in Silver Spring, Md., Borderlands Theater in Tucson and City Theatre in Miami. 

The world premiere at the Fountain Theatre is directed by Michael Michetti, and features Judith Moreland and James Macdonald.  At Monday night’s first rehearsal, Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs welcomed the team and gave a short history of how the play came to the Fountain. Producer Simon Levy reviewed production protocol. Michetti spoke about the play.  Then, the actors opened their scripts and read the play together for the first time. The two actors were riveting, and the play will take audiences on a roller-coaster ride to its shattering ending. 

Now the work begins. Rehearsals are underway. Our world premiere of Building the Wall opens March 18 and runs to May 21.

Advance tickets for Building the Wall are selling quickly. We urge you to make your reservations early for this urgent and important new play by a major voice in the American Theatre.

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Big news day for Fountain Theatre and Robert Schenkkan’s ‘Building the Wall’

wall-title-imageMondays at the Fountain Theatre are usually slow and quiet. The traditional day off for folks in the theatre, Mondays at the Fountain are usually spent catching up on office paperwork and reconciling reports from a weekend of performances. But yesterday was anything but quiet when a series of national news stories on our upcoming world premiere of Robert Schenkkan’s new play, Building the Wall, posted on line and in newspapers across the country, triggering an avalanche of activity. 

The New York Times featured a story by Michael Paulson profiling playwright Robert Schenkkan and his “white-hot fury” to write the first draft of the play in just one week after the election.   The Times outlined that four theatres across the country are producing the new play — lead by the Fountain’s world premiere on March 18 — as part of an National New Play Network (NNPN) Rolling World Premiere. Each theatre had to move fast.

“We no longer live in a world that is business as usual — Trump has made that very clear — and if theater is going to remain relevant, we must become faster to respond,” Mr. Schenkkan said.  

In the Times article, Fountain Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs adds:

“We had our season in place, with another production planned, but as soon as I read this script I knew we had to move fast,” said Stephen Sachs, an artistic director of the Fountain Theatre. “It’s a raw, passionate warning cry, and I knew we had to be bold and make this statement.”  

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Playwright Robert Schenkkan (photo by Chad Batka, New York Times)

The Washington Post, in a story by , examined how theatres have changed their season programming in response to the Trump administration. The article highlights Building the Wall.

The same day, Playbill posted a story by Robert Viagas with the headline, ‘Four Theatres Sign on for Trump Play by Pulitzer Prize Winner’. The article summarizes how the Fountain Theatre in Los Angeles, Curious Theatre in Denver, Borderlands Theater in Arizona, and Forum Theatre in Maryland have partnered in the NNPN Rolling World Premiere.

This flurry of national press activity — all on the same day — generated a blizzard of phone calls and emails to the Fountain. Social media lit up, with our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts buzzing with posts, re-posts, likes, and comments. The office at the National New Play Network in Washington DC also reported a flood of emails and calls yesterday. Interest in the play is expected to increase as we move closer to opening.

The National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere of Building the Wall opens at the Fountain Theatre on March 18, directed by Michael Michetti. Set in the very near future, the Trump administration has carried out his campaign promise to round up and detain millions of immigrants. Now, a writer interviews the supervisor of a private prison as he awaits sentencing for carrying out the federal policy that has escalated into the unimaginable. This riveting, harrowing and illuminating drama delivers a powerful warning and puts a human face on the inhuman, revealing how when personal accountability is denied, what seems inconceivable becomes inevitable.

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Meet ‘I And You’ Playwright Lauren Gunderson

Lauren Gunderson

Lauren Gunderson

At The Fountain, we’re always pleased and excited to introduce important playwrights to Los Angeles audiences.  As we gear-up to start performances of our funny and powerful Los Angeles Premiere of I  And You,  we’re eager for you to meet award-winning playwright Lauren Gunderson. Audiences have been enjoying her plays in regional theatres around the country. Now Lauren makes her Los Angeles debut with us here at the Fountain. We couldn’t be more thrilled. 

Lauren Gunderson is the 2014 winner of the Steinberg/ATCA New Play award and was a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for I and You.  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!), The O’Neill, Denver Center, Berkeley Rep, Shotgun Players, TheatreWorks, Crowded Fire, San Francisco Playhouse, Marin Theatre, Synchronicity, Olney Theatre, Geva and more.  Her work is published at Playscripts (I and You, Exit, Pursued By A Bear, and Toil And Trouble) and Samuel French (Emilie). She is a Playwright in Residence at The Playwrights Foundation, and a proud Dramatists Guild member. She is from Atlanta, GA and lives in San Francisco.

In her play  I And You,  two high-school teenagers who meet under extraordinary circumstances.  Caroline is sick and hasn’t been to school in months. Anthony suddenly arrives at her door bearing a beat-up copy of Walt Whitman’s ‘Leaves of Grass’ and an urgent assignment from their high school lit teacher. As these two let down their guards and share their secrets, the poetry assignment unlocks a much deeper mystery that has brought them together.

A Quick Chat with Lauren Gunderson

What is ‘I And You’ about?

This play is really about connection and the surprises we find when we really get to know people. In many ways it’s a Hero’s Journey but in miniature, so the heroes that we wouldn’t expect are two teenagers doing a project on Walt Whitman, but through a kind of, what might seem like a kind of vanilla assignment, blossoms this understanding and healing and a kind of transcendent communion that happens between these two unlikely heroes. So through that we found out about how we’re all connected to each other and life and death and meaning.

Jennifer Finch and Matthew Hancock in "I And You"

Jennifer Finch and Matthew Hancock in “I And You”

 What does this play mean to you?

This is a very special play for me because it reminds us that we’re all heroes and we’re all the main characters of our own stories even though we may seem not that in the privacy of our own homes, in this case, in Caroline’s teenage girl room. But from these really beautiful, profound, and private moments can come great stories, universal tales, about connection and meaning. That’s really where it stems from. I think that teenagers can teach us a lot, as much as we can teach them, so I hope that this is a play that finds some of its power in that teenagers can bring their parents and parents can bring their teens and everyone can come around this play and feel like it’s speaking to them and about them.

What was your inspiration behind all this?

Jennifer Finch and Matthew Hancock

Jennifer Finch and Matthew Hancock

Well I’ve always loved Walt Whitman— who doesn’t?—so it starts there. And I was really fascinated about how people find each other and how we impact each other in ways we don’t even know when we first meet. So that, spinning it all together with a bunch of surprises, a bunch of profound, funny moments, and really meaningful, deeper stuff, all weaving up into a play that’s about what we mean to each other. So in that way it’s a play I’ve been wanting to write for a long time, and through writing it, I’ve kind of changed how I know playwriting, how I tell a story, what a story is really about and what we want a story. so it’s changed me a lot through writing it, as much as I hope it’s changed people through seeing it.

Are there any similarities between you and these characters?

Jennifer Finch and Matthew Hancock

Jennifer Finch and Matthew Hancock

That’s a good question. I think there’s probably more similarity between Caroline and me than I would 11 like. But that’s what’s fun about writing, when you think about trying to write about really real characters, is you steal from yourself, you steal from your family and friends, you steal little details about life, and I think it’s those details that make it actually feel more universal. So Caroline likes cats a lot, she likes Jerry Lee Lewis, she likes Elvis, she has a very snarky attitude about things, but she’s very plugged in to herself. But in many ways I’m very like the other character, Anthony, too. I love jazz, he loves jazz. He kind of has a nerdy relationship to things that he’s passionate about, which I might relate to. But it’s really about really curious, smart, funny kids, and I think all of us hope that that part of ourselves is still alive and well no matter how old we get.

What do you hope audiences will get from this play?

I would love this community to get a sense that we’re all in one story together. Even though we might not think a 16- year-old has much to tell as 60-year old or a 50-year-old or a 40-year-old, of course they do, because we’re all human beings and we’re all looking for meaning, and we’re all looking to live a life that matters, a life of love and compassion and being understood. And those things don’t ever change, whether you’re six or 60. So I think that’s the biggest gift. It’s also an interesting thing to resuscitate Walt Whitman, not that he has any press problems, but when you look at a poem that’s over 150 years old and you find that it’s still relevant, I think it’s a metaphor for theatre as a whole. It’s an art form that’s so old and so basic, in a real fundamental way, still matters to us now, and can pull it together in one room and have on great cathartic experience together. I think that’s theatre at its best, and I hopefully this play is part of that tradition.

Previews start April 2nd. It opens April 11th. Get Tickets/More Info 

The Surprise and Wonder of Human Connection in LA Premiere of ‘I And You’ at Fountain Theatre

Jennifer Finch and Matthew Hancock

Jennifer Finch and Matthew Hancock

“I and This Mystery, here we stand”
 Walt Whitman’s ‘Song of Myself

On the night before a class assignment is due, Caroline and Anthony plumb the mysteries of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass — unaware that a much deeper mystery has brought them together. The Los Angeles premiere  of I and You by Lauren Gunderson, winner of the 2014 Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award, opens onApril 11 at the Fountain Theatre, directed by Robin Larsen.

Only in high school would two completely unconnected people — feisty, chronically ill Caroline and levelheaded basketball star Anthony — be paired to collaborate on a project to deconstruct a poem about the interconnectivity of everything. Jennifer Finch (7 Redneck Cheerleaders and Hellcab with Elephant Theatre Company) and Matthew Hancock (Oshoosi in The Brothers Size at the Fountain) star as two smart and funny teens who share an unknown and profound bond.

“Whitman says that we are all one because we are all equal, even though it might not look like it at times. There is a universal oneness,” said Gunderson in an interview.

“These two precocious teenagers and Walt Whitman’s epic poem of humanity have something to teach us all,” says Larsen. “That we are supremely connected, to each other, to the earth, to the stars, and that recognizing this connection, becoming conscious of it, is perhaps the point of our existence.”

Jennifer Finch and Matthew Hancock

Jennifer Finch and Matthew Hancock

I and You was commissioned by South Coast Repertory (which also commissioned Gunderson’s Emilie: La Marquise Du Chaltelet Defends Her Life Tonight in 2009 and Silent Sky in 2011). The play received readings at SCR’s Pacific Playwrights Festival in April 2012 and as part of Magic Theatre’s new play development Magic @ the Costume Shop program. It premiered at the Marin Theatre Company in the fall of 2013, the first production in a series of “rolling world premieres” made possible by the National New Play Network’s Continued Life of New Plays Fund; subsequent NNPN productions took place at the Olney Theatre Center in Olney, Maryland and the Phoenix Theatre in Indianapolis, Indiana. I and You went on to win the 2014 Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award and was a finalist for the 2014 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. American Theatre magazine put it on the cover of its July/August 2014 issue and featured the script in its entirety.

Playwright Lauren Gunderson

Playwright Lauren Gunderson

Lauren Gunderson 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 U.S. including South Coast Rep (Emilie, Silent Sky), the Kennedy Center (The Amazing Adventures of Dr. Wonderful And Her Dog!), the O’Neill, Denver Center, Berkeley Rep, Shotgun Players, TheatreWorks, Crowded Fire, San Francisco Playhouse, Marin Theatre, Synchronicity, Olney Theatre, Geva and more. Her work is published at Playscripts (I and You, Exit, Pursued By A Bear andToil And Trouble) and Samuel French (Emilie). She is a playwright-in-residence at the Playwrights Foundation and a member of the Dramatists Guild. Originally from Atlanta, GA, Gunderson lives in San Francisco.

Robin Larsen

Robin Larsen

Robin Larsen has been chosen to receive the 2015 Milton Katselas Award for Career Achievement in Direction by the Los Angeles Drama Critic’s Circle, to be presented at the LADCC awards ceremony on March 16, and the production of A Delicate Balance that she directed for Odyssey Theatre Ensemble is a current nominee for the circle’s McCulloh Award for Revival. Other directing credits include Mrs. Warren’s Profession at Antaeus; the L.A. premiere of David Harrower’s Blackbird for Rogue Machine (LADCC nomination, Best Production; five “Best of 2011” lists including the Los Angeles Times and LA Weekly); the world premiere of Pursued By Happiness by Keith Huff at the Road Theatre Company (Los Angeles Times “Critic’s Choice”); and the West Coast premiere of The Fall To Earth by Joel Drake Johnson, starring JoBeth Williams, at the Odyssey (LADCC Nomination, Huffington Post “2012 Top Los Angeles Theater Productions”). Robin’s West Coast premiere of Four Places, also by Joel Johnson, at Rogue Machine was one of the most lauded plays of the 2010 L.A. theater season, winning Ovation, LADCC and Backstage Garland awards for Best Production. For the Black Dahlia Theatre, Robin directed the West Coast premiere of Tryst (five Ovation Award nominations including Best Production and Best Director, three LA Weekly Awards including Best Play, and two Backstage Garland Awards including Best Director) and the L.A. premiere of David Schulner’s An Infinite Ache (Los Angeles Times “Critic’s Choice”). Robin is an Academy Award-winning filmmaker whose work has screened at festivals around the world. Her web series Sex & Marriage, created with playwright John Pollono, can be seen on Justin Lin’s YouTube network YOMYOMF.

Set design for I and You is by Tom Buderwitz; lighting design is by Jeremy Pivnick; sound design is by John Zalewski; costume design is by Jocelyn Hublau Parker; production stage manager is Josephine Austin; associate producer is James Bennett; and Stephen Sachs, Deborah Lawlor and Simon Levy produce for the Fountain Theatre.

Currently celebrating its 25th anniversary, The Fountain Theatre is one of the most successful intimate theaters in Los Angeles, providing a creative home for multi-ethnic theater and dance artists. The Fountain has won over 225 awards, and Fountain projects have been seen across the U.S. and internationally. Recent highlights include being honored with the 2014 Ovation Award for Best Season and the 2014 BEST Award for overall excellence from the Biller Foundation; the Fountain play Bakersfield Mist in London’s West End starring Kathleen Turner and Ian McDiarmid; the sold-out Forever Flamenco gala concert at the 1200-seat John Anson Ford Amphitheatre; and the last four Fountain productions consecutively highlighted as Critic’s Choice in the Los Angeles Times. The Fountain has been honored with six Awards of Excellence from the Los Angeles City Council for “enhancing the cultural life of Los Angeles.”

production photos by Ed Krieger

I And You April 2 – June 14 (323) 663-1525  MORE/Get Tickets