Tag Archives: outreach

Your stories matter: When encountering ‘the other’ becomes “just people being people”

diversity collageBy Dionna Michelle Daniel

Last week’s blog post,  I asked our Fountain friends and community to send in their own stories about how confronting “The Other” led to a deeper understanding and compassion. Below are a few responses we received. On the day we mark the 50th anniversary of the loss of Dr. Martin Luther King, we hope these stories on empathy and compassion inspire you.

Marrock Sedgwick, LGBTQ Activist & Filmmaker

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“I had some people come up to me after seeing my film that had some kind of spiritual reckoning within themselves making them tell me they will do better by LGBT people. That felt pretty damn good.Most of the time when I confront the other I just get told to ‘F’  off.” – Marrok Sedgwick

Manon Manavit, Director & Theatre Artist

Manon Manavit

Manon Manavit

“A man selling hotdogs in New York gave me a hot dog for free because he was ‘promoting peace between muslims and Jews’ it was so beautiful I cried..he was Palestinian” – Manon Manavit

Saurav Jammalamadugu, Actor

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“There was a moment where my family and I were on a train to Portland from San Jose and on the train, we were riding first class which meant we had access to a pretty fancy parlor car. Anyway, the lady who was serving us breakfast had to note and constantly point out “how strange it was” that my parents didn’t eat meat for religious purposes. So to calm the tension, I explained to her that we were Hindu, and that some people in our religion think that it’s harmful to eat something that’s killed but, I’d like a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich. To which she again remarked how odd it was but after she walked away with our order seemed to realize that it was just people being people.” – Saurav Jammalamadugu

Thank you to all who responded, if you would like to share your story please email me at dionna@fountaintheatre.com! Your stories matter.

Dionna Michelle Daniel is the Outreach Coordinator at the Fountain Theatre.

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Tell me your story on how confronting “the other” led to deeper understanding

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An embrace at a rally in Gainesville, Florida

by Dionna Michelle Daniel

Several summers ago, I had one of the strangest morning commute experiences of my life.

I was working as a spoken word mentor to youth at Authoring Action Organization in Winston-Salem, NC. Every morning I’d ride my bike to the closest bus stop which was near the super Wal-Mart, wait around for the 7:40 bus, and travel across town to work. North Carolina summer mornings are particularly beautiful with the sun rising over a completely green landscape, the thickness of the humid air and the dew still sprinkled among the grass. Those bike rides became my daily ritual.

swatiska tatoo 2One morning I arrived at the bus stop to be met by a man completely covered head to toe in tattoos. The subject matter of his tattoos were of the white supremacist variety. He was completely bald and on the back of his head sat a large swastika. His arms and chest were also decorated in the Confederate flag. Not only did I feel uncomfortable as a black young woman who I had to be alone with this man, waiting for a late bus, but then it got even stranger when he decided to engage in small talk with me. He went on to talk about his past, how everyone he grew up with was a racist, how he became a skinhead, how he went to jail and how he realized his beliefs were awful after truly meeting and empathizing with people of color. He went on to say that he kept the tattoos as a reminder of his transformation and that people can change.

The bus eventually came and as I struggled to put my bike on the rack, he helped me out and then we parted ways. Why this man felt the need to tell me these things so early on hot humid morning, I have no idea. What I do know is that if this same man tried to have this conversation with me today, I’m not sure I would have engaged or listened.

After Trump was elected, I unapologetically deleted a slew of old Facebook friends. A lot of the ones deleted where old middle & high school classmates that I knew growing up in rural North Carolina. Now my Facebook feed is completely curated to a more liberal, anti-Trump demographic with the occasional far-right article that somehow finds it way onto my news feed. At that time, it was great to delete all of those people from my life. However, I’m sure they still say problematic things and are complicit to hate speech. The only thing that changed after deleting them was that I don’t have to view their rhetoric.

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“Gunshot Medley” by Dionna Michelle Daniel

As an artist and activist, I am interested in humanity’s capacity to change. I’m interested in transforming hearts & minds in a way that has lasting impact like the former skinhead I met at the bus stop. That’s why I believe that for real change to begin the divide has to be bridged and discourse must happen. I’m not saying that we should re-add every problematic person we deleted from Facebook after the 2016 elections. Neither should we try to humanize every racist, misogynist, xenophobe or any other person who doesn’t believe in a more diverse future. What I do believe is that if we keep ignoring one another, we will definitely keep the divide polarized. Beginning some sort of dialogue is the best way to bridge the gap. And the best way I know how to contribute to this conversation is through theatre.

At the Fountain, our current season is dedicated to inclusion and awareness of people who are generally marked as “other”. Our current show, The Chosen, focuses on two boys forming an unlikely friendship that all started because of their love of baseball. This summer, we will open an original work by Stephen Sachs called Arrival & Departure, which beautifully recognizes and brings attention to the Deaf community. That will be followed by the west coast premiere of Cost of Living, Martyna Majok’s poignant play dramatizing two characters with physical disabilities.

Our mission is to share diverse stories, break down barriers and bridge the divide. Now it’s your turn to tell me your story. I want to know about an experience when you bridged the gap and shared a moment/bonded with a person who was different from you.  Please email your story to me at dionna@fountaintheatre.com and perhaps we can share it here on the Fountain Blog.

Dionna Michelle Daniel is the Outreach Coordinator at the Fountain Theatre. 

 

Ralph M. Parsons Foundation awards grant to Fountain Theatre for outreach programs

A Place Called Home

Outreach Coordinator Dionna Daniel with women from A Place Called Home.

The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation has awarded the Fountain Theatre a grant for $14,000.00 to support the theatre’s educational outreach programs.  The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation improves the well-being of the residents of Los Angeles County through grantmaking that enriches cultural experiences and active civic engagement.

The grant award is for general support of the Fountain Theatre organization, including the producing of new plays and educational outreach programs. The Fountain will be allocating funds to support Theatre as a Learning Tool and hiring a new Outreach Coordinator.

Central to the Fountain’s mission is providing youth throughout our diverse region with an equal access experience in the arts; one that encourages understanding and mutual respect. Theatre as a Learning Tool brings underserved students from across Southern California — many of whom have never been to an intimate theatre — to The Fountain Theatre to experience live theater at one of Los Angeles’ premiere venues. Known for producing work that is both artistically excellent and dedicated to strengthening attitudes of tolerance and social justice, The Fountain provides young people with a uniquely intimate educational experience. By watching a play, studying the script and accompanying study guide, and engaging in a post-show discussion with the artists, students can share their thoughts and feelings with one another, their teachers and professional theatre artists in meaningful dialogue about issues that matter.

“Serving the artistic needs of young people is at the heart of who we are and what we do,” says Fountain Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs. “We thank the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation for its partnership. This grant will help support the hiring of our new Outreach Coordinator, Dionna Daniel, and will broaden our reach through Theatre as a Learning Tool.  A great way to start the new year.”

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.”

Post-show conversations: “I have a passion to inspire change through theatre”

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Q&A discussion with playwright Robert Schenkkan

Nora King is a California girl who doesn’t surf. She danced in school productions of The Nutcracker but admits she was  “an unbalanced and quite chatty ballerina.” She earned a BFA in Acting from California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) then created a non-profit theatre troupe called Acting for Others,  to raise support and awareness for charities through performance.  These days, she now finds herself at the Fountain Theatre as Production Outreach Coordinator for Building the Wall, overseeing the ongoing post-show conversation series Breaking It Down.  

The program Breaking It Down, she says, embodies her dual commitment to theatre and social action. “I have always had a passion to inspire change through theater.”   

Fountain Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs agrees. “When the Fountain Theatre made the bold move to reschedule our 2017 season so we could quickly produce the world premiere of this controversial new play Building the Wall, we were sure of one thing. Patrons seeing it will want to talk about it.”

The post-show conversation series Breaking It Down was created to offer an ongoing platform for the dialogue to continue with audiences on a wide variety of topics. The first discussion featured playwright Robert Schenkkan.

As Production Outreach Coordinator, it was Nora’s job to reach out to a varied list of organizations and schedule dynamic leaders willing to participate in conversations with audience members following performances of Building the Wall. Topics range from immigration to prison systems to women’s rights to stand-up comedy.  

To learn more about the discussion series and the young woman who oversees it, we subjected Nora to her own Q&A.

 How did you get this job at the Fountain?

Funny story. I saw an opening for a position in The Fountain’s cafe. I sent in my resume. And a couple days later I got a call from Stephen Sachs about another position that may be a better fit. And it is a much better fit. My cooking skills are nonexistent. 

What is Breaking It Down? How would you describe it? 

Breaking it Down is a conversation series following performances of Building the Wall. These will be discussions with community leaders, non-profit organizers, socially active performers, etc.

 

Nora King

Nora King

What do you hope to achieve with these post-show conversations?

The goal of Breaking it Down is to activate and inspire the audience. A big theme in Building the Wall is the power and responsibility of the individual. At this point in our country’s history, complacency is extremely dangerous. I want to empower the audience, leaving the theatre ready to influence change.

Has it been hard getting experts to agree to participate in the discussions? Or easier that you thought?

A lot easier than I thought. I was surprised with the eagerness in which people wanted to be involved. Which is very exciting! This also reassures me that there are influential people activated and ready to combat the inhumane policies our government keeps churning out.

Which conversations are you most looking forward to?

After researching each individual and their backgrounds, I am honestly very excited for each conversation. I think they will offer so many different perspectives as well as ways to help. So, all of them!

What role can theatre play in triggering social action?

Theatre has always been a reflection of society. Shakespeare’s histories are basically the People magazine of the time. To say theatre is merely for entertainment, is an ignorant concept. And to say the arts is unnecessary for a nation, is stupid. Sorry to be so blunt. However, the reason I dedicate my life to this art form is because of its influence on society. Theater supplies ethos. We are humans. We need to connect. We need to feel. I believe theatre can supply an up close look at stories you wouldn’t experience otherwise even though, in reality, they might be happening right next to you.

What has your experience been like at the Fountain?

Amazing! Something that drew me to the Fountain Theatre is its commitment to socially provocative work. There is certainly a sense of working towards a shared goal. Everyone is passionate and excited to be there, which is necessary for a theatre to succeed. I feel very honored to be joining The Fountain Family. Thank you Robert and Stephen for bringing this play to life so quickly. I think it is essential for people to see this immediately.   

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Watch 5th graders fling paint like Jackson Pollock at Fountain Theatre

youtube-coverIs she crazy or a hero? In our hit production of Bakersfield Mist now playing at the Fountain, Maude Gutman owns a spattered painting that she bought at a thrift store which she now believes is a masterpiece by Jackson Pollock worth millions. Is it real or a forgery? Last Friday, thirty-two 5th grade students from Ramona Elementary School around the corner visited the Fountain Theatre to try their hands at creating their own abstract expressionist paintings in the style of Jackson Pollock. Says teacher Eric Arboleda, the experience was “priceless”.  

The students gathered in the theatre for a lesson on modern art from Sarah Boulton, educator and coordinator of the day’s event for the Fountain. The group then moved upstairs, where a long table waited with paper, paints and brushes. The students were instructed to freely paint what the feel, to think of images that express their inner selves, not literal pictures. The students  leapt into action. Grabbing brushes, the kids spattered and swirled their paints in a wild flurry of colors. Paint landed not only on paper. It ended up on the floor, on the walls, and peppered the kids themselves with bright colored freckles.  Everyone had a blast. 

After the paint session, the kids moved into the cafe for donuts and drinks. They relaxed on our outdoor balcony and enjoyed the beautiful afternoon sun. All agreed it was an extraordinary day.

Friday’s event was the third visit by Ramona Elementary School students in two years, part of an ongoing educational partnership between the school and the Fountain Theatre to offer an enhanced art experience for young people in our community.  The event was made possible through Theatre as a Learning Tool, the Fountain’s educational outreach program making art available to underserved students. 

‘Bakersfield Mist’ holiday party donates toys for homeless children

bm-holiday-party-3Holiday theatre-goers enjoyed a special treat last night at our smash hit production of Bakersfield Mist. After leaping to their feet in a standing ovation for the funny and thought-provoking performance, the crowd gathered upstairs in our festively-decorated cafe for a holiday party with the cast and company. Patrons brought unwrapped toys and gifts to be donated by Fountain staff to homeless children at the Union Rescue Mission in downtown Los Angeles.

Party revelers enjoyed tasty holiday foods and yummy drinks. Guests included Fountain patrons, Fountain staff, the company of Bakersfield Mist, and members of the LA theatre community. 

Bakersfield Mist continues its extended run through January 30th. The hit comedy/drama starring Jenny O’Hara and Nick Ullett has earned rave reviews everywhere and is highlighted as Critic’s Choice in the Los Angeles Times, hailed as a “delightful and provocative comedy.” 

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Wishing you a safe and joyous holiday season, from our Fountain Family to yours.

Bakersfield Mist extended to Jan 30th