Tag Archives: Scott Tuomey

Fountain opens 2018 season with newly revised stage version of Chaim Potok’s ‘The Chosen’

THE CHOSEN 5

The cast of ‘The Chosen’ in rehearsal.

Friendship, faith and fatherhood. Jonathan ArkinAlan BlumenfeldDor Gvirtsman and Sam Mandel star in The Chosen, the award-winning stage adaptation by Aaron Posner and Chaim Potok of Potok’s beloved novel. Simon Levy directs for a January 20 opening at the Fountain Theatre, where performances continue through March 25. The Fountain celebrates the novel’s 50th anniversary (last April) with the West Coast premiere of Posner’s new, streamlined version.

Set in Williamsburg, Brooklyn against the backdrop of World War II, the revelation of the Holocaust and the desperate struggle of Zionism, The Chosen is a moving coming-of-age story about two observant Jewish boys who live only five blocks, yet seemingly worlds, apart. When Danny, son of an ultra-Orthodox Hasidic tzaddik, injures the more traditionally Orthodox Reuven during a baseball game between their rival yeshivas, their two universes collide and a unique friendship is born.

“This powerful story shows how essential it is to consider the views of those who are different from us,” says Levy. “It’s an antidote to the toxicity of our times. Potok beautifully depicts what it means to bridge chasms — between modernity and tradition, the secular and the sacred, Zionism and Hasidism, adolescence and adulthood, friendship and family, fathers and sons, the head and the heart, and the struggle to choose for ourselves, to fight for what we believe in and who we want to be.”

According to Posner, “Through the story of two remarkable boys and their remarkable fathers, Potok asks us to contemplate a world where we chose to fill our lives with greater meaning… and where complexity, understanding, compassion and reconciliation are among our highest values.”

In 1967, Potok burst upon the literary scene with The Chosen, his first novel, sometimes referred to as a “Jewish Catcher in the Rye.” A best-seller, it was nominated for the National Book Award and through the years has become a must-read both in and out of the classroom. In 1992, in celebration of its 25th anniversary, it was republished as a young reader’s classic. A film starring Rod Steiger was released in 1981, and a short-lived off-Broadway musical debuted in 1988. Before his death in 2002, Potok collaborated with Posner on the stage version, which debuted in 1999 at the Arden Theater in Philadelphia, where Posner was a co-founder and resident director. Now, nearly 20 years later, Posner has rewritten the script to create a new version, which premiered last month at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, CT.

In an interview with the Connecticut Jewish Ledger, Posner explained that he has made a number of changes to the script. “I think it’s now a more dynamic, more streamlined play,” he said. “I’m really very excited about this new version. I think it’s going to be stronger in every way. I love the old version, too but I’m hoping this is even better.”

The creative team for The Chosen includes scenic and props designer DeAnne Millais, lighting designer Donny Jackson, video designer Yee Eun Nam; composer and sound designer Peter Bayne, costume designer Michele Young, hair and makeup designer Linda Michaels and dialect coach Andrea CabanRabbi Jim  Kaufmanconsults. The production stage manager is Miranda Stewart; technical director is Scott Tuomey; associate producer is James Bennett; and Stephen Sachs and Deborah Lawlor produce for the Fountain Theatre.

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 for its acclaimed 25th Anniversary Season in 2015 by Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Los Angeles City Council; the inclusion of the Fountain’s Citizen: An American Lyric in Center Theatre Group’s Block Party at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. The Fountain’s most recent production, the world premiere of Building the Wall by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan, ran for five months and was named “L.A. hottest ticket” by the Los Angeles Times.

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High school freshman proves she can pound nails with the best of them

Ava Morgan

Ava Morgan

Ava Morgan may be slight of build — with smart eyes and a bright smile — but she’s a powerhouse at building sets. The enthusiastic high-schooler joined our stage carpentry team as part of a two-week summer internship program at the Fountain. 

Ava lives with her family in Los Angeles and is a freshman at Marlborough School in Hancock Park. She got interested in the technical backstage life of theatre — props, lights, set building — in 7th grade. For two years, she performed a variety of backstage jobs in plays at school. Marlborough Technical Director, Doug Lowry, was impressed and eager to encourage her growth and education.

“He asked me if I’d be interested in interning at a professional theater for a few weeks during the summer,” Ava explains. “When we talked about it more, he brought up the Fountain and we decided to give it a shot. It worked out great.”

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Lowry contacted Stephen Sachs at the Fountain Theatre and Ava was immediately put to work as an intern building sets for our upcoming West Coast Premiere of Tennessee Williams’ Baby Doll. As a stage carpenter, she was cutting lumber, building flats and platforms, and putting it all together with the rest of the professional team. Soon, she was also climbing ladders, striking and hanging lights. 

“I absolutely liked working at the Fountain,” she beams. “I am not sure exactly what I expected it to be, especially since this was my first time having a job of sorts outside of school. I liked working in areas that I have basic training in, but have not had the opportunity to focus on them at school. I think it actually was a good thing to do it in an unfamiliar setting with people I haven’t worked with before.”

Foremost was Scott Tuomey, the Fountain Technical Director for 26 years who has overseen every production since the theatre’s founding in 1990. He mentored Ava’s internship, guiding her through the techniques of professional stage craft. 

“I had a lot of one-on-one time with Scott,” says Ava. “Which allowed me to ask more questions than I would in a group setting and learn more about not only what to do and how to do it but why. I had a great time working with him.”

And, says Ava, it was a valuable educational experience. 

“I think one of the most important things I learned was how to communicate with coworkers who were older and more experienced than me, ” she admits. “I also learned much more about how to translate designs into sets and the various skills related to carpentry.”

Her brief internship now over, Ava is enjoying some summer vacation time with her family before returning to school. She is grateful for her time at the Fountain and sends “a huge thanks to everyone who made it happen.”

Will she come back to see her handiwork on Baby Doll when it opens at the Fountain?

“Definitely!” she beams. “I’m excited to see the final product.” 

A new year, a new play, a new seating configuration

FT stage in the round 2

Construction underway for in-the-round seating for ‘Dream Catcher’.

Director Cameron Watson wants Fountain audiences to walk into the theatre and immediately be surprised. To encounter the unexpected. For his mounting of the world premiere of Stephen Sachs’ Dream Catcher, patrons will be startled the moment they step through the lobby door: the seating has been changed to a dynamic in-the-round configuration.

DREAM CATCHER Prod Mtg 2

Cameron Watson

“This play is volatile and exciting,” says Watson. “The muscularity of it got my attention right away.”

Watson doesn’t want audiences to experience the kinetic energy of Dream Catcher in the conventional way. Instead of sitting in the dark and watching the play as an observer, audiences will surround the playing area on all sides and be inside the world of the play with the two characters.

Dream Catcher is set in an empty stretch of the barren Mojave Desert. The construction of a huge solar energy plant in the middle of the desert is threatened to come to a halt when the sudden discovery of long-buried Native American artifacts are found on the site. Changing the theatre seating to an in-the-round configuration opens up the space to help evoke a feeling of wide expanse. It also creates a sacred circle for the audience, a sense of ritual and ancient storytelling that is central to Mojave Native culture. Even the hoop shape of an actual dream catcher is circular, signifying unity.

“I felt like it needed to be a circular, almost tribal, space,” says Watson. “I felt like it is told in a ring. Communal. That we all need to be part of the experience and commune with the story. Inclusive. The circular space echoes the vastness and isolation of the wide open space and also the circular configuration of the solar field in the desert.”

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The new set is being created by award-winning and longtime Fountain designer Jeff McLaughlin. Changing the audience seating required extra effort for Fountain Technical Director Scott Tuomey and his crew.

This is not the first time the Fountain has experimented with altered seating. In 1993, The Seagull starring Salome Jens was performed in-the-round. Athol Fugard’s The Train Driver had a three-quarter setting in 2010, with the audience seated on three sides.

But this current in-the-round seating for Dream Catcher is unique and has an immediate impact on the total feeling of the space. It is kinetic, energetic and alive.

Which is exactly what Cameron Watson is wanting.

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PHOTOS: Production team gathers for world premiere of new play ‘Dream Catcher’

DREAM CATCHER Prod Mtg 1The production and design team for our upcoming world premiere of Dream Catcher met at the Fountain yesterday for its first meeting to discuss launching the exciting new play by Stephen Sachs. Solar power confronts spirit power in this riveting new drama about climate change, cultural change and the moral consequences of personal choice. Inspired by a true incident, Dream Catcher opens in January.

Thursday’s production meeting was led by producer Simon Levy. Playwright Sachs and director Cameron Watson shared their vision for the new play with set designer Jeffrey McLaughlin, lighting designer Luke Moyer, sound designer Peter Bayne, costume designer Terri Lewis, and props designer Terri Roberts. Also present were technical director Scott Tuomey, associate producer James Bennett and stage manager Emily Lehrer.

In Dream Catcher, Roy is the youngest member on a team of high-level engineers brought in to launch the most important project of his young career: the construction of a solar energy plant in the middle of the Mojave desert. But Roy suddenly finds himself thrust into the center of a crisis when the discovery of long-buried Native American artifacts threaten to bring the billion-dollar operation to a halt. The disaster gets deeply personal when the whistle-blower turns out to be Opal, the fiery and unpredictable young Mojave Indian woman with whom Roy has been having an affair.

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Fountain Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs is the author and/or adaptor of thirteen plays, including such Fountain hits as Citizen: An American Lyric, Heart Song, Cyrano, Bakersfield Mist,  Miss Julie: Freedom Summer, Sweet Nothing in my Ear and Central Avenue.

Cameron Watson recently directed acclaimed productions of Picnic and Top Girls at The Antaeus Company, and Cock at Rogue Machine Theatre.

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3rd graders enjoy artistic expression on ‘Painted Rocks Day’ at Fountain Theatre

SAM_0563Students from our neighborhood Ramona Elementary School on Mariposa Street only had to walk around the corner to experience a unforgettable  day of creativity, fun and artistic expression at the Fountain Theatre. The kids joined Fountain staff for ‘Painted Rocks Day’, a community arts event inviting the students to visit the theatre, learn about Outsider Art and rock painting, then choose and paint their own smooth rocks to express their world view and inner selves.

The educational activity was a satellite event of the Fountain Theatre’s west coast premiere of Athol Fugard’s The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek, dramatizing the life and vision of South African artist Nuzain Mabuza who painted hundreds of rocks on a hillside in bright colors and patterns to create his visionary “flower garden” .

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Led by teacher Eric Arboleda, the twenty-four 3rd graders arrived Friday morning and were given tours of the Fountain Theatre by staff members. The group was shown the remarkable ‘Painted Rocks’ set on the main stage, complete with real dirt, plants and a vibrant collection of painted rocks and boulders. 

Fountain intern Lexi Lallatin lead the class in a lesson discussing examples of Outsider Art and how art can be created by ordinary found objects. Lexi shared the story of Nuzain Mabuza and encouraged the students to imagine how they might transform everyday objects in their daily lives into magical art pieces.

The group then moved outside to the Fountain parking lot where a long art table holding rocks, paints and brushes was waiting. The students excitedly dove in and went to work. Each chose their own rock and were told to paint it however they wished, with as many colors and patterns they imagined, to express who they were and their own inner vision.  

The results were extraordinary. Simple gray stones were transformed into vibrant talismen of color and bright patterns.   The students thoroughly enjoyed themselves. They painted, laughed and chatted excitedly as they worked for one hour. Donuts and juice were served.  

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The rocks painted by the students will remain on display in the lobby of the Fountain Theatre throughout the run of The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek to December 14th. At that time, the rocks will then be given to the students to take home.   

We wish to thank American Builders Supply in Pacoima for donating the rocks for the students to paint, and Stan’s Doughnuts for the snacks. A shout-out to Fountain staff members Lexi Lallatin, James Bennett, Scott Tuomey, and Barbara Goodhill for helping to make the event a joyous success.   

‘Painted Rocks Day’ with Ramona Elementary School was created through Theatre As a Learning Tool, the Fountain Theatre’s educational outreach program dedicated to making art accessible to students and young people in Los Angeles.      

The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek is now playing and runs to December 14th. More Info/Get Tickets 

Fountain Theatre Celebrates 25 Years of Intimate Excellence

Co-Founders and Co-Artistic Directors Stephen Sachs and Deborah Lawlor

Co-Founders and Co-Artistic Directors Stephen Sachs and Deborah Lawlor

Fountain Theatre staff gathered yesterday at Hollywood’s Off Vine restaurant to celebrate the 25th birthday of the organization. The Fountain Theatre was founded on April 1st, 1990, when Stephen Sachs and Deborah Lawlor joined forces to assume ownership of a charming Spanish-style theatre building on Fountain Avenue in East Hollywood that had been a rental house for more than forty years. Sachs and Lawlor had other plans.

“Deborah and I wanted to create an artistic home where theatre and dance artists could develop new work in a safe, supportive and nurturing environment,” says Sachs. “We were looking for the right venue. It had to be special, warm, magical. And feel like home.”

“When I first walked into the Fountain and stood on the stage, I knew,” adds Lawlor.  “The relationship of the  audience to the stage, the gentle curve of the seating on three sides. The way the audience seating embraced the stage.  It felt so intimate and inviting.”  

They acquired the building. The upstairs office rooms were empty. No furniture. No desks. No chairs. No phones. Laughs Lawlor, “We sat on the floor in the empty office and looked at each other and said, ‘Now what?'”       

They opened the doors to the new Fountain Theatre on April Fool’s Day, “the perfect day to launch a new theatre company.”

Happy Birthday, Fountain Theatre!

Happy Birthday, Fountain Theatre!

Over the next quarter of a century that followed, the Fountain Theatre has risen to become one of the most highly respected and well-honored theaters in Los Angeles. The Fountain has engaged thousands of artists and served hundreds of thousands of audience members. It has created new plays that have been performed in regional theaters across the nation, Off-Broadway, London’s West End, the Edinburgh Festival, translated into other languages and produced around the world, and made into a movie for television. It has produced the premieres of new plays by nationally acclaimed playwrights and was instrumental in launching and hosting the creation of Deaf West Theatre. Over 25 years, the Fountain has also blossomed into becoming the foremost presenter of flamenco in Los Angeles, producing over 650 concerts in its intimate venue and eight summer seasons at the 1200-seat outdoor Ford Theatre . And it holds the distinction of being honored with more nominations and winning more Ovation awards than any other intimate theatre in Los Angeles, winning the preeminent Best Season Award twice in six years.

The Fountain staff celebrates 25 years.

The Fountain staff celebrates 25 years.

Celebrating at the Fountain’s birthday lunch on the outdoor patio at Off Vine were Co-Founders/Co-Artistic Directors Stephen Sachs and Deborah Lawlor, Producing Director Simon Levy, Technical Director Scott Tuomey, Associate Producer James Bennett, Director of Development Barbara Goodhill, book keeper Licia Jaccard, Board member Dorothy Wolpert and actress Jacqueline Schultz.

For Sachs and Lawlor, acknowledging the long list of achievements over the Fountain’s 25-year history is deeply gratifying.

“Most important, we are a creative home. We are the artistic home to a large and ever-growing family of artists and audience members who care deeply about the sacred and transcendent experience of sharing live theatre in an intimate relationship with each other. Human beings gathering together in a space, bringing stories to life that illuminate what it means to be a human being. This is what we do. It has been our honor and privilege to serve Los Angeles these past 25 years.”

Onward and Upward for 25 more! 

Happy Holidays from the Fountain Theatre

(back row) Simon Levy, Stephen Sachs, Scott Tuomey (front row) Deborah Lawlor, james Bennett, Barbara Goodhill.

(back row) Simon Levy, Stephen Sachs, Scott Tuomey, (front row) Deborah Lawlor, James Bennett, Barbara Goodhill.

                                  Peace, Love and Happy Holidays                                      From our Fountain Family to Yours.

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