Tag Archives: Stephen Sachs

Celebrity reading of ‘MS. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON’ at LA City Hall is “awe-inspiring”

MS SMITH 7

“Ms. Smith Goes to Washington” at Los Angeles City Hall

by Christine Deitner

On Thursday, January 24th a lucky group of citizens in Los Angeles was treated to a unique experience–The Fountain Theatre’s reading of a gender-switched adaptation of Sidney Buchman’s screenplay, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington.  The Fountain’s Co-Artistic Director Stephen Sachs adapted the work that was hosted by Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell.  An impressively talented ensemble of tv, film, and theatre veterans gathered in the John Ferraro Council Chamber in Los Angeles City Hall and though the original work is 79 years old the gender switch makes it feel like yesterday’s tweetstorm or this morning’s news.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sponsored, in part, by the Feminist Majority Foundation and in association with the League of Women Voters, the event’s cast included Joshua Malina, Jeff PerryBellamy Young, Sam Waterston, Alan Blumenfeld, Gilbert Glenn Brown, Leith Burke, Tim Cummings, Cameron Dye, Spencer Garrett, Chet Grissom, Morlan Higgins, Aurelia Myers, Jenny O’Hara, Felix Solis, Jack Stehlin, Mark Taylor, and Sal Viscuso.

Councilmember O’Farrell introduced Mr. Sachs with a moving speech about the importance of the arts in society. 

“Politics falls short of completely illuminating the complexity of issues,” he stated, “this is where the arts come in.”

In 2017, Mr. O’Farrell hosted the Fountain’s reading of All The Presidents Men and he noted that he hopes this will become an annual event.  Reflecting on the record number of women who now hold public office, O’Farrell also spoke about the role that local artists play as public servants, illuminating issues in unique ways.

In Sachs’ version, an idealistic, newly elected female senator finds herself fighting corruption in male-dominated Washington. Bellamy Young’s take on the movingly patriotic Jennifer Smith [originally Jefferson played by James Stewart] is endearing and as successful as a figure of naive nobility as Mr. Stewart was in the film.  It doesn’t seem like Mr. Sachs had to change very much beyond references to gender [Girl Rangers here instead of Boy Rangers] and one reference to “fake news” that worked very well in context, but boy does Jennifer Smith’s predicament feel familiar.

It’s Governor Hopper’s daughter [it was a son in the film] who encourages her father to choose Jennifer with the line “It’s 1939, not the dark ages, pop.” and a list of women who have held office before.  It shouldn’t have been surprising to hear it but we can thank Mr. Sachs for educating us about these women that included Senators Rebecca Latimer Felton [1922] and Hattie Caraway [1932].  Sam Waterston has the role of one of two villains, Senator Joseph Paine; a man who knew Jennifer’s father yet openly wonders whether they can “control a woman” in Congress.  The other is Jim Taylor, a nefarious businessman/mob figure played by Jeff Perry.

Fans of the film will know that Smith speaks fondly of his father a number of times, recalling that he often said, “Lost causes are the only ones worth fighting for.” As Jennifer learns that a swath of land in her state is going to be turned into a useless dam that is only an avenue for graft, she becomes determined to fight for that land where she was hoping to create a girls camp for young women across the nation.  Joshua Malina is her charmingly cynical assistant Chester Saunders [Jean Arthur in the film] who begrudgingly assists her in writing a bill for that girl’s camp.  As they work together, Jennifer’s enthusiasm for the bill starts to wear down Saunders’ certainty it will fail and when she becomes aware of the relief bill that includes the dam, she decides to filibuster with his help.

Paine and his pro-dam cohorts do all they can to attack Jennifer’s character as they angrily state any blocking of the relief bill will lead to starving the people.  Paine likens her attempt to hold the floor to holding the people hostage.  There was an audible gasp in the audience followed by a few laughs for this reading took place near the end of Trump’s wall-inspired government shutdown.  All of the pain that shutdown was inflicting on government workers was present in the room at that moment.

Jennifer stands firm in her convictions, even when Paine reads telegrams purportedly from her home state asking her to stop. She reads the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence and goes on till her voice is hoarse and even Paine can’t take her suffering anymore.  He breaks down and admits everything – and when Waterston embodied that moment, he tore the roof off the place, it was awe-inspiring.  Jennifer and Saunders have one last moment of celebration before the ends that felt a little rushed but that might have been due to the fact that the TVs behind the cast popped on. 

In lieu of credits, images of every woman who has held a seat in Congress appeared in succession on the screens. Members of the audience stood to applaud them, with more standing when California’s own Nancy Pelosi and Diane Feinstein appeared.  But it wasn’t till the video closed on a split screen image featuring Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren that the whole house got to their feet shouting.  It was a memorable, moving moment that reminded this reviewer of all the things that can be good and honorable and right in this country.  It also seemed like a hell of an idea for a presidential ticket in 2020 but that just shows how easy it was to get swept up in Jennifer Smith’s patriotic fervor.  Ms. Smith may seem naive and inexperienced, but that character’s faith in what is good in the country is honorable and constant – and those are traits we could all stand to develop in our own lives today.

This post originally appeared in The Theatre Times.

 

Sam Waterston joins cast of Fountain Theatre’s ‘Ms. Smith Goes to Washington’ at L.A. City Hall

sam waterston

Sam Waterston

Sam Waterston (Law & Order, The Newsroom, Gracie and Frankie) will join Scandal co-stars Joshua MalinaJeff Perry and Bellamy Young for a one-night only, all-star reading of Ms. Smith Goes to Washington at Los Angeles City Hall on Thursday, Jan. 24 at 7:30 p.m.

The gender-switched adaptation of Sidney Buchman’s screenplay for the 1939 Jimmy Stewart classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is adapted and directed by Fountain co-artistic director Stephen Sachs. The free reading is being presented by the Fountain Theatre in partnership with the City of Los Angeles and with exclusive permission from SONY Pictures. It will be hosted by Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell and will take place in the John Ferraro Council Chamber.  A catered reception will follow in the City Hall Rotunda.

In Sachs’ version, an idealistic, newly elected female senator finds herself fighting corruption in male-dominated Washington. Young will star in the title role, and Waterston has been cast in the pivotal role of Senator Paine.

The full cast includes Joshua MalinaJeff PerryBellamy YoungSam Waterston, Alan BlumenfeldGilbert Glenn BrownLeith BurkeTim CummingsCameron DyeSpencer GarrettChet GrissomMorlan HigginsAurelia MyersJenny O’HaraFelix SolisJack StehlinMark Taylor and Sal Viscuso.

The event is a follow-up to the Fountain’s hugely successful 2018 celebrity reading of All the President’s Men. It is sponsored, in part, by the Feminist Majority Foundation and in association with the League of Women Voters.

Ms. Smith Goes to Washington takes place on Thursday, Jan. 24 at 7:30 p.m. in the John Ferraro Council ChamberRoom 340 of Los Angeles City Hall200 N Spring St.,Los Angeles, CA 90012. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Admission is free; however, seating is extremely limited. For more information, and to enter the ticket lottery, go to www.mssmith.org. Due to high security at the venue, no walk-ups will be permitted.

‘Scandal’ cast reunites for ‘Ms. Smith Goes to Washington’ at Fountain Theatre’s City Hall event

smith celeb cast trioThe Fountain Theatre follows its hugely successful 2018 celebrity reading of All the President’s Men with a one-night only, all-star reading of Ms. Smith Goes to Washington, starring Bellamy Young (ABC’s Scandal) in the title role, along with her Scandal co-stars Joshua Malina and Jeff Perry, with more to be announced. 

Adapted and directed by Fountain co-artistic director Stephen Sachs, presented by the award-winning Fountain Theatre in partnership with the City of Los Angeles and with exclusive permission from SONY Pictures, this free event will be hosted by Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell and will take place in the John Ferraro Council Chamber of Los Angeles City Hall on Thursday, January 24 at 7:30 p.m. A catered reception will follow in the City Hall Rotunda.

In this gender-switched adaptation of Sidney Buchman’s screenplay for the 1939 Jimmy Stewart classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washingtonan idealistic, newly elected female senator finds herself fighting corruption in male-dominated Washington.

“With more than one hundred women newly elected to Congress, this classic movie reimagined with Smith as a woman could not be more timely and urgent,” says Sachs. “I’m excited for the opportunity to build on the overwhelming success of last year’s event at City Hall. Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell is a longtime friend of the Fountain Theatre and an advocate for the arts in Los Angeles. What other major city in the country would hand over City Hall to its artists for one night? When local artists and city government officials work together, all citizens of Los Angeles benefit.”

According to Councilmember O’Farrell, “With change in the air in Washington after an unprecedented number of diverse women were just sworn into Congress to counter the corrupt, divisive, and destructive agenda of the Trump administration, I am thrilled to announce a staged reading of a beloved Hollywood classic film at Los Angeles City Hall, but with a modern twist that will no doubt prove more illuminating and poignant than it would have otherwise: Ms. Smith Goes to Washington! I am proud to continue what is now an annual artistic tradition at City Hall. The City of Los Angeles must exhibit a commitment to inspire and uplift communities — and sometimes the best way to make that point is through the arts. I want to thank The Fountain Theatre and the artists for volunteering their time and resources to this project.”

The event is sponsored, in part, by the Feminist Majority Foundation, and in association with the League of Women Voters. The FMF is a cutting-edge organization dedicated to women’s equality, reproductive health and non-violence. In all spheres, FMF utilizes research and action to empower women economically, socially and politically. FMF also publishes Ms. magazine, the oldest national feminist publication in the world, and will be distributing copies of their special Inauguration issue — featuring profiles of the new feminists elected to political offices across the country — to all attendees. The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

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 hundreds of awards, and Fountain projects have been seen across the U.S. and internationally. Recent highlights include the inclusion of the Fountain’s Citizen: An American Lyric in the Music Center’s Our L.A. Voices festival at Grand Park, and an all-star reading of All the President’s Men at Los Angeles City Hall. The Fountain’s 2018 productions of The Chosen and Arrival & Departure each enjoyed months-long sold out runs and was named a Los Angeles Times “Critic’s Choice.” The company’s most recent production, the West Coast premiere of Martyna Majok’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Cost of Living, was named to the Los Angeles Times’ “Best of 2018” list.

Ms. Smith Goes to Washington takes place on Thursday, Jan. 24 at 7:30 p.m. in the John Ferraro Council ChamberRoom 340 of Los Angeles City Hall200 N Spring St.Los Angeles, CA 90012. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Admission is free; however, seating is extremely limited. For more information, and to enter the ticket lottery, go to www.mssmith.org. Due to high security at the venue, no walk-ups will be permitted.

‘Arrival & Departure’ wins 4 Broadway World Los Angeles Awards including Best Play

ad_a0328

Deanne Bray and Troy Kotsur in “Arrival & Departure”

Broadway World announced that the Fountain Theatre’s acclaimed world premiere of Arrival & Departure, written and directed by Stephen Sachs, earned four Broadway World Los Angeles Awards, including Best Play in 2018.

Other Broadway World Los Angeles Awards for Arrival & Departure went to Troy Kotsur for Leading Actor in a Play, Deanne Bray for Leading Actress in a Play, and Donny Jackson, Lighting Design.

Nominations were reader-submitted and voted by local theatergoers in Los Angeles.  Regional productions, touring shows, and more were all included in the awards, honoring productions which opened between October 1, 2017 through September 30, 2018.

This year the BroadwayWorld Regional Awards included over 100 cities across America, Canada, Central and South America, Europe, and Asia.

Fountain Theatre announces 2019-20 season of diverse, funny and meaningful new work

2019 season ft bldg nightThe Fountain Theatre has announced a 2019-20 season of vibrant, thought-provoking, fresh and funny new work by a diverse group of playwrights, each of whom explores important social and cultural issues from a wholly unique perspective.

Over the course of 16 months, the company will offer up a series of Los Angeles, California, Southern California, West Coast and world premieres that tackle questions of politics, racism, gun control, human rights, cultural identity and more.

“Our 2019-20 season is our most ambitious ever,” says Fountain co-artistic director Stephen Sachs. “It perfectly reflects who and what we are as a theater organization. It’s a season of diversity, a rich mixture of new plays representing a wide variety of communities. Our goal is for Los Angeles to see itself on our stage, and this season certainly offers that.”

Details of the Fountain Theatre’s 2019-20 season are as follows: 

Hype Man by Idris Goodwin 

West Coast premiere. In Idris Goodwin’s “break beat play,” a diverse hip-hop trio is on the verge of making it big on national TV when a police shooting of a Black teen shakes the band to its core, forcing them to confront questions of race, gender, privilege and when to use artistic expression as an act of social protest. Winner, 2018 Elliot Norton Award. Directed by Deena Selenow.  Feb. 23 – April 14, 2019 

Daniel’s Husband by Michael McKeever 

Southern California premiere. Michael McKeever’s witty, passionate, funny and, ultimately, heartrending play takes an unflinching look at how we choose to tie the knot — or not. Daniel and Mitchell are the perfect couple. What isn’t so perfect is that Daniel desperately longs to be married, but Mitchell doesn’t believe in it. Then, a life-altering event forces both men to realize that, even in an enlightened society, the denial of fundamental rights leads to devastating results. Starring Bill BrochtrupTim Cummings and Jenny O’Hara; directed by Simon Levy May 4 – June 23, 2019

Hannah and the Dread Gazebo by Jiehae Park

California premiere. Hannah is two weeks away from becoming a board-certified neurologist when she receives a strange package from her grandmother, who may—or may not—have just ended her life in a most flamboyant fashion. The mystery leads Hannah and her family on a surreal, funny, heartbreaking adventure back to their roots in South and North Korea and the forbidden Demilitarized Zone that divides them. Wildly theatrical, Jiehae Park’s startling new comedy twists together creation myths and family histories to explore what it means to walk the edge between cultures. July 13 – Sept 1, 2019

Between Riverside and Crazy by Stephen Adly Guirgis

Los Angeles premiere. You can’t beat City Hall, but you can try. In this darkly comic, 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama by Stephen Adly Guirgis, ex-cop and recent widower Walter ‘Pops’ Washington has made a home for his newly paroled son in his sprawling, rent-controlled Riverside Drive apartment. But now the NYPD is demanding his signature to close an outstanding lawsuit, the landlord wants him out, the liquor store is closed, and the church is on his back — leaving Pops somewhere between Riverside… and crazy. Sept. 21 – Nov. 10, 2019

 Jane Doe by Stephen Sachs

World premiere. In this contemporary retelling of the 1941 Frank Capra classic film Meet John Doe adapted by Fountain Theatre co-artistic director Stephen Sachs (Cyrano, Arrival & Departure, Citizen: An American Lyric), a newspaper writer fabricates a letter to his column from an imaginary homeless woman named “Jane Doe” who announces she will kill herself on the 4th of July because of greedy corporations, corrupt politicians and how hostile and heartless the world has become. When the writer hires a woman to stand-in as the fictitious “Jane”, a national movement is ignited by citizens aching for a savior. Jan. 18 – March 8, 2020 

If I Forget by Steven Levenson

Los Angeles premiere. Simon Levy directs this powerful tale of a Jewish family and a culture at odds with itself by Steven Levenson (book-writer of the hit musical Dear Evan Hansen). Michael is a liberal Jewish studies professor reuniting with his two sisters to celebrate their father’s 75th birthday. A political and deeply personal play about history, responsibility, and what we’re willing to sacrifice for a new beginning, told with vicious humor and unflinching honesty. If I Forget was a New York Times “Critic’s Pick,” while DC Metro calls it “one of the greatest Jewish plays of this century.” March 28 – May 17, 2020

In addition, the Fountain will continue to offer its acclaimed Forever Flamenco dance series every month.

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 hundreds of 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 and again, last year, as the centerpiece of Our L.A. Voices at Grand Park; and an all-star reading of All The President’s Men at Los Angeles City Hall. The Fountain’s 2018 productions of The Chosen and Arrival & Departure each enjoyed months-long sold out runs and were named Los Angeles Times “Critic’s Choices.” The company’s most recent production, the West Coast premiere of Martyna Majok’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Cost of Living, was named to the Los Angeles Times’ “Best of 2018” list by theater critic Charles McNulty, who called the Fountain “on par with the Mark Taper Forum and Geffen Playhouse at their best. The Fountain Theatre’s production of Majok’s ‘Cost of Living’ confirmed just how indispensable 99-seat theaters still are to a healthy theater ecology.” 

For more information about the Fountain Theatre’s 2019-20 season, call (323) 663-1525 or go to www.FountainTheatre.com. 

Fountain Theatre wins 5 Ticketholder Awards including Best Production of a Play in 2018

A&D baptism Lake 2

Deanne Bray and Troy Kotsur, “Arrival & Departure.”

Two acclaimed Fountain Theatre premieres — Arrival & Departure and Cost of Living — have been named Best Production of a Play in 2018 by veteran LA theatre critic Travis Michael Holder on TicketHoldersLA.com.  Now in its 27th year, Travis’ Ticketholder Awards celebrate the 100+ Los Angeles theatre productions reviewed by Holder in 2018 in large houses and intimate.

Our Deaf/hearing world premiere of Arrival & Departure, written and directed by Stephen Sachs, won Best Production, Best Adaptation (Sachs) and a Special Achievement Award to movement director, Gary Franco. 

Bathtub 1

Katy Sullivan and Felix Solis, “Cost of Living.”

Cost of Living by Martyna Majok was also named Best Production, and Tobias Forrest was awarded Best Supporting Actor. 

The following were also acknowledged as a runner-up:

Arrival & Departure

  • Runner-Up, Best Actor – Troy Kotsur
  • Runner-Up, Best Actress – Deanne Bray
  • Runner-Up, Best Supporting Actor – Shon Fuller
  • Runner-Up, Best Supporting Actress – Jessica Jade Andres
  • Runner-Up, Best Supporting Actress – Stasha Surdyke
  • Runner-Up, New Discovery 2018 – Aurelia Myers
  • Runner-Up, Best Direction – Stephen Sachs
  • Runner-Up, Best Set Design – Matthew G. Hill
  • Runner-Up, Best Sound Design – Peter Bayne
  • Runner-Up, Best CGI/Video Design – Nicholas E. Santiago

Cost of Living

  • Runner-Up, Best Actress – Xochitl Romero
  • Runner-Up, Best Actress – Katy Sullivan
  • Runner-Up, Best Playwright – Martyna Majok

Full list of Ticketholder Award winners

Fountain blog post is American Theatre magazine’s most-read story in 2018

parkland

February 23, 2018.

by Stephen Sachs

When I wrote a story on this Fountain blog in February of this year, one week after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, my goal was to point out that the high school’s drama club had prepared the young survivors in Parkland, Florida, to stand up in protest and have their voices heard. A drama class teaches more than just how to act. It teaches how to take action. Performing in a school play endows students with poise, self-awareness and empathy. All of which the protest leaders exhibited at huge rallies in the weeks and months following that tragic afternoon on their campus.  

My February 23rd blog story, “Are you surprised that the young leaders of the Never Again movement are theatre kids? I’m not.” was re-posted on the American Theatre website the same day. It went viral. Their site was deluged with so many views (100K+) it crashed the site for days. Readers were then re-directed to this Fountain blog, where we received more than 50,000 views. That story was the most-seen Fountain blog post, by far. 

Today, American Theatre magazine announced that my post was their most-read story in 2018.  Clearly, the piece struck a deep nerve at that time with theatre artists, students and drama teachers across the country. As this year now comes to a close, it’s gratifying to be reminded how art — and theatre, in particular — remains essential to the soul of us all. The benefits of art are abundant. Those students in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas drama club, and the many thousands of readers, young and old, engaged by my story prove that the passion and skill learned in a theatre class stay with us for the rest for our lives.

Stephen Sachs is the  Co-Artistic Director of the Fountain Theatre.