Tag Archives: young playwrights

The Fountain Theatre gives voice to a cry of sexual assault in new play ‘The Lighthouse’

LIGHTHOUSE photo

Garret Wagner, Kelley Mack, Michael D. Turner and Chops Bailey.

By Catherine Womack

“It’s beach week, baby!” A tall, handsome college athlete cracks open a cold beer as he flops onto a worn sofa. The semester is over for Shane and his friends, and the stress of final exams is quickly fading into a blur of sun, sand and mojitos served in red Solo cups.

Onstage at the Fountain Theatre in East Hollywood, six young actors fall easily into the rhythms of day drinking and banter inside the fictional rented vacation home. The set is sparse, but the inside jokes and casual flirtations between its occupants feel so real you can practically smell the salty air and taste the PBR.

But there is an elephant in this living room.

Perched on a tall director’s  chair  in  the  middle of the stage, seemingly invisible to the revelers, sits a silent female lifeguard. Only when she’s left alone with Jesse,    the    play’s    central character, does the lifeguard begin to speak.

“Are you sure you want to be wearing that?” the lifeguard asks, peering disapprovingly over her sunglasses at Jesse’s short denim shorts and tank top. “Are you trying to get laid for attention or validation?”

Hypercritical, judgmental and disparaging, the lifeguard is a constant presence throughout Amanda Kohr’s 80-minute, one-act play, “The   Lighthouse.”   As   the winner   of   the   Fountain’s competition-style Rapid Development Series, the play received two nights of free semi-staged readings last week — all part of an effort to give a louder voice to playwrights under 30.

James B and Jessica B

Jessica Broutt and James Bennett, co-creators/producers of Rapid Development Series.

One of several surrealist elements in the show, the lifeguard plays the part of Jesse’s darkest inner voice following a traumatic sexual assault at the beach house. “The Lighthouse” is Kohr’s indictment of rape culture and the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses. Kohr said the play was inspired by the 2015 case of Brock Turner, the Stanford swimmer convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, and was informed by Kohr’s own experiences.

On two printed sheets of folded white office paper that served as the program for the evening, Kohr, 27, wrote candidly about her own story:

“I grew up accepting sexual assault — the act was so prevalent that it swam below the radar under the perception as normalcy. By 16 I had been manipulated into unwanted sexual situations, assaulted and catcalled.”

As an undergraduate at James Madison University in Virginia, Kohr said in an earlier phone interview, she “heard about, witnessed and experienced so much sexual assault and harassment among college-age students that it just become normal.” At times, she said, she felt like it was “harder to find had.”

Kohr  wrote  “The  Lighthouse” in summer 2016. She had read Jon Krakauer’s reported narrative, “Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town,” and she closely followed the Stanford case as it unfolded. She was appalled by the leniency of Turner’s sentence — six months, reduced to three months for good behavior — and was inspired by the letter that his victim read at the sentencing hearing.

“I am a firm believer that entertainment can help educate,” Kohr said, “so I really strove to draw my audience in through comedy and then bash them with the truth.”

Kohr wrote the play more than a year before the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke, sexual assault and harassment became a national cultural conversation, and #MeToo became a movement.  That’s  one  reason Jessica Broutt, 25, the co-founder and co-producer of the Fountain’s Rapid Development Series, found Kohr’s play so compelling.

Broutt, who interned at the Fountain as a college student and worked briefly as the company’s box office manager, came up with the idea for the series with Fountain associate producer James Bennett four years ago.

“We noticed that there weren’t really a lot of young people going to the theater,” she said. “We would go to all these awesome reading series at other theaters, but it was never young people who were playwrights, and they generally weren’t  L.A.- based.”

Jessica Hailey Broutt, Kieran Medina and Amanda Marie Kohr at Fountain Theatre.

Jessica Broutt, Kieran Medina and Amanda Kohr at Fountain Theatre.

Broutt and Bennett pitched the idea to the Fountain’s management as a sort of theatrical battle of the bands. Broutt would select four plays by L.A. playwrights under 30. The theater would provide the actors and the space, and each play would receive a “snapshot” reading at which audiences vote for their favorite, drawing them more actively into the experience.

The actors and directors are volunteers, and the performances are free.

“We were trying to rule out all the reasons why people our age don’t goto plays,” Broutt said.

This year marks the series’ fourth season. Broutt says that when she read “The Lighthouse,” she knew immediately it was special.

“I just felt like, wow, this is a play that is taking on rape culture and breaking it down in a way that is educational and provides a surrealism and a humor that will engage people,” she said. “It’s very rare for me to see something that is doing all of those things effectively. And then as we were going through development last fall, the Harvey Weinstein stuff came out.”

In just a few months Kohr has been able to work with Broutt to polish the play, have it receive two short readings as it progressed through the competition, and watch it performed onstage in its entirety for the first time.

“When I was in college I had a lot of shorter things staged,” Kohn said, “but this is  my  first  thing  that’s  like borderline professional.”

Audience members on Wednesday night were racially diverse and younger than what’s typical in most

L.A. theaters. They laughed out loud as Jesse’s rapist, Shane, was presented as a hero during exaggerated, game-show-style court proceedings. And some wiped tears from their eyes when Jesse found the strength to silence her inner-critic lifeguard and rediscover her own confident voice.

At  the  end  of  the  “The Lighthouse,” the house lights came up dramatically as Jesse called for people to speak out and shine a light on sexual misconduct. In the front row, Kohr hugged her friends. Her #MeToo story had found an audience.

This post originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times. 

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Young playwrights and party-goers enjoy ‘Rap Dev’ final round at Fountain Theatre

5They came. They listened. They watched. They partied.

A packed house of young playwrights, colleagues and friends filled the Fountain last night for the final round of our Rapid Development Series (‘Rap Dev’) play reading series. Part new play development program, part social event, Rap Dev offers playwrights thirty years old and younger the opportunity to have scenes from their plays read by actors on stage at the Fountain. Audiences then vote for their favorite play each night, through a series of rounds, culminating in the winning play being awarded a fully staged reading of the entire script.  

In last night’s final round, the winning selection was from the play Before and After by Nicholas Pilapil. The scene was directed by Miranda Stewart, and featured Audry Cain, Rosie Narasaki, Nasi Nassiri, Kelsey Peterjohn, Jose Picado, and Julian Yuen.  

After the play readings, the crowd gathered upstairs in our cafe for the announcement of the winner and to enjoy the beer and snacks. The cafe was energized by the raucous laughter and chatter of young people mixing and networking. The social aspect of Rap Dev is an important element to the program’s success. 

Rap Dev is curated and hosted by its creators, Fountain Associate Producer James Bennett and Jessica Broutt. Check our Fountain website for future dates. Join us for the next round and party!  New play development has never been so fun.

Rap Dev: Who says new play development for young writers can’t be fun?

Rap Dev 4.6.15 001

Eager young audience waits for RAP DEV to start.

Get a first look at the work of young, up-and-coming playwrights at Rapid Development (“Rap Dev”), the Fountain Theatre’s free, competition-style reading series designed to showcase the work of previously unproduced, Los Angeles-based playwrights under the age of 30.

Round One takes place over the course of two evenings, Friday,Feb, 12 at 8 p.m. and Friday, Feb. 19 at 8 p.m. Each evening will feature one scene from two different plays, with the playwrights choosing the scenes they feel best represent their work. At the end of each night, the audience votes. Kind of like TV’s The Voice or America’s Got Talent.

J & J

James Bennett & Jessica Broutt

Created and produced by James Bennett and Jessica Broutt, the Rap Dev readings are free, rowdy, informal, and followed by a lively party with food and plenty of drinks. Who says new play development can’t be fun? 

No wonder the Rap Dev events have been sold-out successes.

“We’re looking to find new plays and playwrights in the LA area,” says associate producer James Bennett. “And provide a fun and vibrant venue for others to experience them too.”

The Round One (Group A) plays squaring off this Friday, Feb 12, are:

  •  You Belong With Me Because You’re So Vain by Heider Tunarrosa. When a neurotic songwriter accidentally falls in love with his best friend’s ex-boyfriend, and he must decide between losing his best friend or the love of his life, he receives help from the imaginary versions of Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga to resolve this romantic dilemma.
  • The Kennedy Experiment by Amy Thorstenson. Aboard the International Space Station, a young cosmonaut faces an impossible choice. With the lives of his family, his patriotism, his complicated relationship with his war hero father, and World War Three all hanging in the balance, the last thing he needs to deal with is a ghost.  

Two other plays compete in Round One (Group B) Friday, Feb. 19 at 8 p.m. The two winning playwrights get to show off a little more of their plays in Round Two, on Friday, March 4 at 8 p.m. The single surviving play wins two performances of a staged reading on the Fountain Theatre stage: Friday, March 18 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, March 19 at 2 p.m. Free admission to Rounds One and Two; tickets to the staged readings are $5.

Sound confusing? Check out the website.

Rap Dev turns new play development for young writers into a fun social event. Join us this Friday night. Check it out for yourself. Party down with some plays!