Tag Archives: playwright

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

Building the Wall (323) 663-1525 More Info/Get Tickets

What’s it like to walk the red carpet?

oscars-red-carpetHe has strolled down many red carpets in his celebrated career. At the Writers Guild Awards, the Tony Awards, the Emmy Awards, the Venice Film Festival, and the Oscars. He wrote the screenplay for Hacksaw Ridge, nominated Best Picture for this year’s Academy Awards.

The world will be watching the Oscar ceremony this Sunday, and gawk at the parade of celebrities as they strut the red carpet beforehand. What’s it like to march down that crimson pathway with all eyes and cameras tracking your every step? For playwright Robert Schenkkan, author of our upcoming world premiere Building the Wall, the carpet is not always magic. Particularly if you’re a writer.

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Robert Schenkkan at the Venice Film Festival

“The clusterfuck of a red carpet is always where the writer is reminded of his or her place in the food chain, ” admits Schenkkan. “You are absolutely the most important person in the universe, until anybody else steps on the red carpet — then you’re just chopped liver. You can see the heads snap and the cameras snap, and whoever you’re talking to, their eyes are immediately doing the Hollywood over-your-shoulder shuffle. This is something one is used to, but it’s a humbling experience, always.”

Another other-worldly aspect of Award nights are the gifting lounges, where vendors shower talent with free offerings that vary from high-end beauty products to fine wines to elegant clothing to free travel packages at exotic resort islands. For Schenkkan, the touring of gift salons is a strange ritual unto itself.

“You have to make an appointment, and then you’re assigned a guide who walks you through this bizarre bazaar of products and services, ” he explains. “These things are really kind of entertaining in their own way. There’s a whole formality to it. But again, there’s the reminder of where you are in the food chain, particularly as a writer.”

Robert remembers one incident in particular. “Many years ago when I did this, there was a resort island package. I’m a scuba diver, so I’m always interested in that. They have to artfully, discreetly explain that while they would love to gift you with this, actually they have to reserve it for somebody more important than you. It’s a little weird.”

The ups and downs of a Hollywood screenwriter. Thankfully, unlike the film industry, playwrights in the American theatre are held in much higher esteem. And few are held higher than Robert Schenkkan. Which is one of the many reasons why we are so honored to be premiering his newest play at the Fountain Theatre.

Now, Robert, on Opening Night of Building the Wall at the Fountain, don’t expect any fancy gift lounges offering you a scuba diving vacation package on an exotic island resort. But we’re happy to offer you a free snorkel.

Unless, of course, someone more important wants it.

Building the Wall opens March 18 at the Fountain Theatre.

Quotes in this post originally appeared in Written By, the magazine of the Writers Guild of America, West.  

 

 

 

 

 

The Artist’s Life: How to keep going when the answer is “no”

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by Brent Eickhoff

Rejection is a part of life, just as much as it is a part of theatre. In a world where so many of us must market ourselves and are personally invested in our work, rejection can sting even more. Geraldine Downey, PhD, whose research centers on rejection, explains in an article for the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that rejection is synonymous with the feelings of not being wanted or valued. Especially in a community-driven medium such as theatre, these feelings of ostracization and denial can be detrimental to an artist’s outlook on the work. Despite theatre’s vast subjectivity, and the myriad reasons anyone may miss out on an opportunity, the person we blame the most in the face of rejection is our self. Guy Winch, PhD, a frequent blogger for Huffington Post, contends that in many cases, “we start with this high volume of negative self-talk and criticism that takes the rejection to another level.” Unfortunately, competition, criticism, and casting decisions will always be an element of making theatre.

In his book Emotional First Aid, Winch offers up several ways of understanding rejection. He claims that, as an emotion, rejection quickly clouds all reason and will even supersede logic in the most dire of circumstances. Winch details an experiment in which participants were randomly excluded from a computerized program and were unable to ease their pain, even when the scientists provided a host of reasons why each test subject had been excluded. The scientists explained that nobody had legitimately excluded participants, and the results were, in fact, rigged, but subjects were still upset and emotional for being rejected. Even when the scientists told a group that the group responsible for excluding them was comprised of members of the Ku Klux Klan, individuals were still hurt. Winch concludes “reason, logic, and common sense are usually ineffective when it comes to mitigating the pain we feel.” Clearly, rejection is a powerful emotion. These findings explain why even armed with the knowledge that a casting decision was completely subjective, an actor may still struggle to come to terms with the loss of a role.

Another element of rejection is the concept of “rejection sensitivity.” In a nutshell, this idea addresses an individual’s inclination to expect or overreact to rejection. While this principle primarily applies to social rejection, theatre is, in its essence, a social art form. From being “accepted” into the cast or production team, to finding your artistic home in a new city, or gaining favorable reviews from an audience or critics, theatre is arguably more communal than more individualized artistic practices. Rejection sensitivity can be particularly detrimental to actors expecting the worst from auditions. As Shurtleff explains in a later chapter in Audition, persistence and discipline may be the key factor in an actor’s success. He even goes so far as to explicitly state that an actor can fail because “they are victimized by their limitations and prejudices” or are “ruled by their negative side.” Both of these traits are inherent in someone with high rejection sensitivity and no positive outlet for tackling their mindset.

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Understanding Rejection: The Artists’ View

One of the first places many of us confront rejection is in middle and high school. From cliques, to school dances, relationships, and spring play cast lists, the potential for rejection is at an all time high. When she discussed it with me, high school theatre teacher Carrie Reiberg said that rejection comes with the territory when casting a play. “I see rejection happen a lot when casting…it wouldn’t be realistic or honest of me to cast every actor every time they audition,” she says. She discusses that fairness is at the heart of her classroom, since if she doesn’t cast the best actor for the role at the time, “you are setting actors up to fail in the ‘real world’ when they try to make a living as working actors.” If the same actors get the leading roles throughout the formative years of their acting career, they may develop unhealthy expectations for what will happen post-graduation.  Continue reading

Fountain Theatre honored for supporting female playwrights

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Playwright Elizabeth Irwin with the company of My Manana Comes 

The Fountain Theatre is pleased to announce that it has been honored by the Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative for significantly supporting women playwrights during the 2016 Hollywood Fringe Festival. The acknowledgement was announced last night at the Hollywood Fringe Festival Awards held at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre. Our LA Premiere of My Mañana Comes by Elizabeth Irwin was one of the Fountain’s official entries in this year’s Fringe Festival.

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Playwright Elizabeth Irwin

The Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative is an LA-based organization working to ensure that women playwrights are fairly represented on local stages and beyond. Its Most Wanted List gives accolades to Hollywood Fringe Festival venues that consistently produce new plays by women playwrights.

“This was our first year participating in the Hollywood Fringe Festival,” said Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs. “It’s an honor for the Fountain to be recognized by LAFPI as a company that supports female playwrights. This acknowledgement is deeply meaningful to us.”

PHOTO SLIDESHOW: Playwright Elizabeth Irwin enjoys ‘My Mañana Comes’ and audience Q&A

BG 5Playwright in the house! The Fountain Theatre was pleased to host Elizabeth Irwin at Saturday night’s performance of our acclaimed LA premiere of her play, My Mañana Comes. Irwin enjoyed watching her play and joined director Armando Molina, movement director Sylvia Bluish  and the cast in a Q&A  Talkback with the audience immediately after the performance.

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Elizabeth Irwin

“Watching the Fountain Theatre’s production of my show was being able to see the most beautiful connection of movement, emotion, design and direction one could hope for as a writer,” says Irwin. “It was an honor to have my work staged at the Fountain and a deep pleasure to be able to connect with their very thoughtful and whip-smart audience.” 

Moderated by Fountain producing Director Simon Levy, the post-show discussion included questions to the playwright and actors about the issues of immigration, undocumented workers and fair pay that are dramatized in the play. There was also conversation about the creative process. The chat was lively, insightful, and often lifted with humor.

When the Q&A concluded, Irwin and company gathered in our upstairs cafe for drinks, chat and more laughter. Another wonderful evening at the Fountain.

My Mañana Comes dramatizes four busboys in a fancy New York restaurant as they juggle plates, immigration and their friendship. The Fountain LA premiere has earned rave reviews and runs to June 26th. 

It was a pleasure having New York-based playwright Elizabeth Irwin with us and we look forward to having her back. Perhaps with another new play?

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Playwright Elizabeth Irwin to attend ‘My Mañana Comes’ Sat May 14th with Q&A Talkback to follow

 

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Elizabeth Irwin

New York based playwright Elizabeth Irwin will be attending our hit LA Premiere of her play My  Mañana Comes on Saturday May 14th at 8pm. Immediately following the performance, Irwin will be joined by the cast and director for a Q&A Talkback discussion with the audience.

My  Mañana Comes is set in the frenzied kitchen of a fancy New York restaurant toiled by four busboys — three Mexican, one African American. The funny and fast-moving new play dramatizes such timely issues as immigration, undocumented workers, fair pay for labor, and chasing the American Dream.

MY MAÑANA COMES Pepe Peter Whalid running plates

Pablo Castelblanco, Lawrence Stallings and Peter Pasco

Elizabeth Irwin was born in Worcester, raised by Brooklyn and Mexico City. She was a 2013-14 Playwrights Realm Writing Fellow and is a member of the Public Theater’s 2015 Emerging Writer’s Group. Her play My Mañana Comes received its off-Broadway debut in September 2014 at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater as Playwright Realm’s Page One Production. She continues her work with Playwrights Realm as their 2014-15 Page One Resident Playwright. She was a member of the 2012-13 Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab. Elizabeth is a graduate of Amherst and Harvard and works in the New York City public schools. She is also a pretty great procrasti-baker.

Our Los Angeles Premiere of My Mañana Comes has earned rave reviews everywhere. The Los Angeles Times hails it as “engaging”, Broadway World calls it “wonderful” and Discover Hollywood demands “don’t miss this one!” The production has also been highlighted as Ovation Recommended.  

On Saturday May 14th at 8pm, Elizabeth Irwin will be joined by actors Richard Azurdia, Pablo Castelblanco, Peter Posco, Lawrence Stallings and director Armando Molina for a lively post-show discussion. A wonderful evening of great theatre and good conversation with the artists. Join us! MORE INFO/Get Tickets

 

Playwright Elizabeth Irwin: putting a human face on timely issues with ‘My Mañana Comes’

 

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Elizabeth Irwin

The funny and powerful new play, My Mañana Comes brings to colorful life the friendship and competition between 4 busboys working in the kitchen of an upscale New York restaurant. The play was hailed “Terrific” by the NY Daily News. The Los Angeles Premiere opens at the Fountain Theatre on April 16.   

Playwright Elizabeth Irwin worked for years alongside these overworked and under-appreciated foundations of the service industry. Here in her own words, Elizabeth Irwin shares why she decided to tell their story, and her inspirations and aspirations for My Mañana Comes and the rest of her writing.

What was the initial inspiration behind My Mañana Comes?

I was inspired to write this play to put the question of what a political issue like undocumented immigration actually means to people who are directly affected it, both those who are undocumented and those who work alongside and have relationships with them. I worked in the restaurant industry for a long time and am fortunate to be able to chronicle this story.

What makes this story important? What makes these characters so interesting to you, even though their backgrounds are so different from your own?

Instead of looking at the interests of someone like a politician around the issue of immigration, this story looks at the people it actually affects and explores the complications and nuances of their lives. These characters and this story are interesting to me because they’re human – none of them are perfect and none of the conflicts exist in a clearly black and white way.

You’ve been a teacher in both New York City and Mexico. What attracted you to teaching?

It’s not so much an attraction as a propulsion. I believe deeply in the power of education and the relationships between teachers and students to expand the choices of students and to remove limitations. Education as a tool to erase inequality is something the keeps me up at night. (Though I’m currently working on a play about this which fortunately is giving me a healthy outlet so I can sleep more!)

The play is set in New York, but it feels very relevant to California. Is the story of undocumented immigrants in America different in different parts of the country? What does your play say about the American Dream?

I think there is a common thread which is that when one is willing to make a change as drastic as leaving behind one’s country, one’s family, everything one knows, the stakes of success are much higher. That being said, “success” can mean different things to different people and this play looks at those differences because there is no one immigrant story. I hope this play sheds light on just how challenging it is to simply survive in the U.S. We can talk about the American Dream as something that you can achieve through hard work but we must also acknowledge the enormous amount of luck it involves and that the circumstances that one is born into has an enormous effect on whether it can be realistically achieved.

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The cast of ‘My Manana Comes’ at Fountain Theatre

Who did you write this play for and why?

Like everything I write, this was something I couldn’t stop thinking about or talking about and eventually you get tired of just having conversations about something and you sit down and try to make some art that can reach an audience and get people to think about things beyond their own everyday experience. This play is for everyone who cares about their fellow human and wants to understand them better. I hope this play inspires conversation, compassion, action, and/or acknowledgement of one’s privilege, depending on how it relates to an audience member.

The Los Angeles Premiere of My Mañana Comes runs April 16 – June 16.  MORE/Get Tickets 

This post originally appeared: Marin Theatre Company