Tag Archives: Shirley Jo Finney

Fountain director Shirley Jo Finney awarded SDC Denham Fellowship for ‘Runaway Home’

ShirleyJoFinney

Shirley Jo Finney

The Fountain Theatre is proud to announce that the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation (SDCF), the not-for-profit foundation of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC), has selected Director Shirley Jo Finney as SDCF’s 2017 Denham Fellow for her production of Runaway Home by Jeremy J. Kamps. Runaway Home made its world premiere at The Fountain Theatre and runs to November 5th. 

The Denham Fellowship was established by Mary Orr Denham in 2006 with a bequest to SDCF in honor of her late husband, Reginald H. F. Denham. It is an annual cash award given to women directors to further develop their directing skills, and supports a particular proposed project. Past recipients include May Adrales, Tea Alagic, Rachel Alderman, Kathleen Amshoff, Jessi D. Hill, Joanie Schultz, Bridget Leak, Hannah Ryan, and Diane Rodriguez.

“I love this place because it does important work, ” Finney stated about the Fountain Theatre and Runaway Home. “I love when a piece of work is being presented and the audience can’t get out of their seats. Because they have not experienced a play. They have experienced a life.”

Denham Fellow Shirley Jo Finney is an award-winning international director and actress. She has worn her director’s hat in some of the most respected regional theater houses across the country including: The McCarter Theater, The Pasadena Playhouse, The Goodman Theater, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Cleveland Playhouse, Fountain Theater, LA Theater Works, Crossroads Theater Company, Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Humana Festival, Sundance Theater Workshop, Mark Taper Forum, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and the State Theater in Pretoria, South Africa. Ms. Finney has received many prestigious awards over the years for her special talent and eye for storytelling and for creating exciting ensembles. Her awards include the L.A. Stage Alliance Ovation Award, The Los Angeles Drama Critics Award, LA Weekly Award, The NAACP Award, and the Santa Barbara Independent Award for her directing work. Finney helmed the acclaimed international all South African Opera entitled Winnie, based on the life of political icon Winnie Mandela. Most recently, Ms. Finney directed and developed the critically acclaimed world premiere of Citizen: An American Lyric by the award-winning PENN poet, Claudia Rankin. Other recent works include Facing Our Truth, The Trayvon Martin Project at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles, the Lark Play Development Center’s rolling world premiere of the road weeps, the well runs dry by Marcus Gardley at the Los Angeles Theater Center, and Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Brother/Sister Plays.

“Shirley Jo has been a cherished member of our Fountain Family for many years,” says Stephen Sachs, Co-Artistic Director. “We are thrilled and proud that the SDC Foundation has honored her excellence.”

Runaway Home now playing to Nov 5th.

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Photos: Opening Night celebration for world premiere of ‘Runaway Home’

7Launching the world premiere of a meaningful new play is always a cause for celebration at the Fountain Theatre. Saturday night, September 16th, was a thrilling night of jubilation as we opened the beautiful, funny and powerful new play Runaway Home by Jeremy J. Kamps. This timely new work about the community of New Orleans surviving together after Hurricane Katrina runs to November 5th.

After the soaring opening night performance, the enthralled audience gathered upstairs in our cafe for a catered reception with the cast and creative team. Food from New Orleans was served, with wine and beer flowing. A truly magical evening highlighting an unforgettable theatrical experience.

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New Video: Timely new play ‘Runaway Home’ is lyrical and powerful

Previews start this Wednesday, September 13. Opens Saturday, September 16th.

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New Video: Meet the artists in our powerful and timely ‘Runaway Home’ opening Sept 16

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VIDEO: Cast in rehearsal for powerful world premiere of ‘Runaway Home’

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Next at the Fountain: Powerful world premiere ‘Runaway Home’ is a poetic mother-daughter tale set in New Orleans

RUNAWAY HOME title image

Sometimes what you’re searching for is right where you started. The Fountain Theatre presents a powerful, funny and deeply moving mother-daughter story by Jeremy J. Kamps. Multiple award-winning Shirley Jo Finney returns to the Fountain to direct the world premiere of Runaway Home for a Sept. 16 opening.

Three years after Hurricane Katrina, the unhealed wounds of New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward continue to fester. Camille Spirlin (ABC’s American Koko, Fox TV’s Rosewood, Nickelodeon’s Marvin Marvin) stars as 14-year-old runaway Kali. Rhyming, stealing and scamming her way through the still-destroyed neighborhood, she embarks on a journey to pick through the wreckage of what used to be her life. While the rest of the country’s attention drifts, the neighborhood’s residents are left to repair the damage from the inside out. As their attempts at renewal leave a path of destruction in their wake, Kali bears witness to what the floodwaters left behind. Also in the cast are Leith Burke (Citizen: An American Lyric at the Fountain,Neighbors at the Matrix), Jeris Lee Poindexter (The Darker Face of the Earth, Central Avenue, Gem of the Ocean at the Fountain),Armando Rey (Men on the Verge of a His-panic Breakdown at Macha Theatre), Maya Lynne Robinson (In the Red and Brown Water at the Fountain – LADCC Award, Best Ensemble), Brian Tichnell (Dream Catcher at the Fountain, HBOs Silicon Valley, L.A. Theatre Works’ national tour of The Graduate) and Karen Malina White (Citizen: An American Lyric and The Ballad of Emmett Till – Best Ensemble LADCC and Ovation Awards – at the Fountain, currently in As You Like It at Antaeus).

“This play couldn’t be more timely,” says Fountain co-artistic director Stephen Sachs. “Hurricane Katrina may have ceased in 2005, but the storm of racism, poverty and class inequality rages on in our country to this day. We need look no further than Flint, Michigan, to see systemic government prejudice against citizens of color and the poor. But as Jeremy’s play so beautifully demonstrates, the bonds of family and community will weather any storm.”

When Kamps traveled to New Orleans two years after Katrina to volunteer “gutting and mucking” (stripping homes to the studs to remove mold), he had been teaching middle school in Connecticut. He already had an idea in his head about a runaway girl who collects other people’s garbage, finding meaning in the meaningless.

“Kali’s world paralleled the displacement, hope for renewal, fracture and resilience I was seeing in the social-political reality of the Lower 9th Ward,” he explains. “Whenever a character’s inner life and experience are so congruent with an important social issue, that’s the story I want to write.”

While in New Orleans, Kamps met Antoine, a man in his ‘70s who had just returned to what had been his family’s home for generations. Antoine was going from house to house trying to trace relatives, friends, acquaintances and neighbors, to find out what had happened to them in the years since the storm. “His friendship helped me honor the stories of this community in a truthful way — to see the past, present and future of the Lower 9th through their eyes,” says the playwright.

According to Finney, “Because the media painted them as poor and impoverished, most people don’t realize that the residents of the Lower 9th were working class homeowners. Those homes had been in families for generations. Members of the community were expecting government funds so they could rebuild, but because of red tape and bureaucracy, the money never came, or it took so long that people had to end up using it for rent or just to eat.”

“The mother-daughter relationship becomes the pivotal heart space in this story about this community,” she continues. “The play is very funny because Kali is so spirited, but the rage, helplessness and loss that Kali and her mother share are the core of the play. That is the challenge they both struggle with to find their way back to each other and home. What happens to people when they aren’t seen, when they don’t feel safe? How do you begin to rebuild your life when nobody cares?”

Jeremy Kamps’s plays have received awards and recognition including the William Saroyan Human Rights Award Finalist (2016); Page 73 Semi-Finalist (2017); Ruby Lloyd Apsey Award (Gutting); The Goldberg Prize; Woodward International Playwriting (What It Means To Disappear Here); Hudson Valley Writers Center and the NYU Festival of New Works (Water Hyacinth). His play Breitwisch Farm will be produced by Esperance Theater Company in NYC later this year. Recent productions include Gutting, presented by the National Black Theatre of Harlem and What It Means To Disappear Here (Ugly Rhino, NYC). His work has been produced/developed with Esperance Theater Company, Company Cypher at the National Black Theatre of Harlem, Ugly Rhino, Dixon Place, Hudson Valley Shakespeare, The Amoralists and New York Theatre Workshop. His fiction has been published in The Madison Review and The Little Patuxent; has been honored with the H.E. Francis Award, the Howard/John Reid Fiction Prize and was a Lamar York Prize finalist; and has been recognized in Glimmertrain, Inkwell, The Caribbean Writer and New Millenium. He is a member of the Emerging Writers Group at the Public Theater. Also an educator and activist, Jeremy has lived and worked for lengthy periods of time in Latin America, India and East Africa, where he focused on support and empowerment for former child soldiers, displaced peoples and child rights. He recently received the Theatre Communications Group “On the Road” grant to return to Kenya where he conducted drama workshops as part of his research for a new play on flower farms. He has facilitated drama and writing workshops around the world and for all ages. He has an MFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU Tisch School of the Arts.

Shirley Jo Finney has previously directed acclaimed Fountain productions of Citizen: An American Lyric (selected for CTG’s first annual Block Party at the Kirk Douglas Theatre) The Brothers Size, In the Red and Brown Water (for which she earned her second Ovation award), Heart Song, The Ballad of Emmett TillYellowman, Central Avenue and From the Mississippi Delta.  Her work has been seen at the McCarter Theater, Pasadena Playhouse, Goodman Theater, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Cleveland Playhouse, L.A. Theatre Works, Crossroads Theater Company, Actors Theater of Louisville Humana Festival, Mark Taper Forum, American College Theatre Festival, Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and at the State Theater in Pretoria, South Africa, where she helmed a critically acclaimed production of the South African opera, Winnie, based on the life of political icon Winnie Mandela. For television, she directed several episodes of Moesha, and she garnered the International Black Filmmakers ‘Best Director’ Award for her short film, Remember Me.She is the recipient of the African American Film Marketplace Award of Achievement for Outstanding Performance and Achievement and leader in Entertainment.

The creative team for Runaway Home includes scenic designer Stephanie Kerley Schwartz, lighting designer Jennifer Edwards, composer/sound designer Peter Bayne, costume designer Naila Aladdin Sanders, props designer DeAnne Millais, choreographer TylerJanet Roston and dialect coach Tyler Seiple. The production stage manager is Jessaica Shields; associate producer is James Bennett; and Stephen SachsSimon Levy 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 2014 Ovation Award for Best Season and the 2014 BEST Award for overall excellence from the Biller Foundation; the inclusion of the Fountain’s Citizen: An American Lyric in Center Theatre Group’s upcoming Block Party at the Kirk Douglas Theatre; and the naming of seven Fountain productions in a row as “Critic’s Choice” in the Los Angeles Times. 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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New Casting Update: Seeking black actress for world premiere of ‘Runaway Home’ at Fountain Theatre

RUNAWAY HOME title imageUPDATE: The Fountain Theatre is casting for its upcoming world premiere production of Runaway Home by Jeremy J. Kamps, directed by Shirley Finney. Much of the cast is in place. The Fountain is still seeking the following supporting roles:

[SHANA] 35-45, Black, female. The unofficial “mayor” of the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans. Moral courage, brash exterior, soft interior, lives by high standards of truth, courage and morality and expects the same from others, loyal and on the flip side, holds grudges, can be stubborn and judgmental, but 100% reliable to be the foundation, indefatigable, righteous in a way that sometimes bleeds into not being realistic. 

STORYLINE: Set in New Orleans, Lower 9th Ward, three years after Hurricane Katrina. In this funny and deeply moving story, 14 year-old Kali embarks on a journey. Rhyming, stealing, and scamming her way through her still-destroyed neighborhood, engaging the lively folk who remain and running from her worried mother, Kali picks through the wreckage of what used to be her life and is forced to confront the cost of moving forward and embrace the loving power of family.

In addition still casting:

[ARMANDO] 35 to 45 years old, Mexican male. Owns and runs the small local store in the Lower 9th Ward, New Orleans. Has two daughters in Mexico. Guarded, vulnerable, empathetic, longing, wistful, independent, self-sufficient, courageous, inner-turmoil, soft but with a temper. He offers Kali a job in his store, trying to help the young runaway girl, which leads to a harrowing but hopeful end.

Rehearsals start August 7th. The production opens September 16th and runs to November 5th.  The Fountain Theatre operates under the new AEA 99 Seat Agreement. Auditions will be held next week.  

Email submissions to casting@fountaintheatre.com