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LA’s hidden gem- Fountain Theatre premieres its Outdoor Stage June 18

Tucked away in a quiet neighborhood is a hidden gem, one of the Los Angeles region’s premiere regional live theatres

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The Fountain Theatre Photo Credit: Google Earth screenshot

EAST HOLLYWOOD – Tucked away in a quiet neighborhood on Fountain Avenue just off Normandie Avenue is a hidden gem, one of the Los Angeles region’s premiere regional live theatres. Founded in in 1990 by co-artistic directors Deborah Lawlor and Stephen Sachs the theatre has garnered an impressive resume and reputation in the theatre world for reflecting a unique cultural voice and serving the distinctive ethnic communities that make up the LA metroplex.

Over the past thirty-one years of its existence the theatre has staged over 35 world premieres; and also 31 U.S., West Coast, Southern California or Los Angeles premieres. On its website the Fountain points out that Fountain Theatre projects have been seen in  New York City, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Seattle, Chicago, Massachusetts, Florida, New Jersey, Minneapolis, London and Edinburgh UK, among other cities and countries.

Like most of the region and certainly the entertainment world in LA, the House lights went dark at the Fountain as the coronavirus pandemic tore through Los Angeles and California. Undeterred, the artistic directors forged ahead and in January the theatre received approval from the City of Los Angeles to install a temporary outdoor stage for the purpose of presenting live performances and other events during the pandemic.

“Pandemic permitting, we hope to open our first outdoor production by late spring or early summer,” says Fountain artistic director Stephen Sachs. “We’re planning an exciting Los Angeles premiere that dramatizes urgent social issues using the Fountain’s signature bold and theatrical approach.”

For the past several months work has progressed in installing a stage in what is now the theater parking lot. The new performance area will be able to accommodate 50 to 84 audience members. It will feature seven rows of chairs, each six feet apart, as well as 12 high-top tables positioned six feet apart for use by patrons from the same “bubble” households. Every aspect of the outdoor performance area will meet COVID-19 safety guidelines.

Fountain Theatre Outdoor Stage Photo Credit: Lucy Pollak

The wait is now nearly over as the stage is complete and the final touches on the performance areas are being finalized. This past week the Fountain announced that casting is complete and rehearsals begin this week for the Los Angeles premiere of a radical, incendiary and subversively funny Obie award-winning play by MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” recipient, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, a playwright who identifies as a Black queer but whose plays aren’t chiefly about LGBTQ life.

Performances of  ‘An Octoroon’ will inaugurate the new outdoor stage at The Fountain Theatre on June 18.  Performances run June 18 through Sept.19, with performances on Fridays, Saturdays,  Sundays and Mondays at 7 p.m., except Saturday, June 19, which will be at 5 p.m. and will be followed by a special Juneteenth event, and July 30 through Aug. 2 and Aug. 27 through  Aug. 30 which will be dark.

Playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins
Photo courtesy
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Four preview performances will take place on June 11, June 12,  June 13 and June 16 at 7 p.m. There will be one press preview on Thursday, June 17 at 7  p.m. Tickets range from $25–$45; Pay-What-You-Want seating is available every Monday night  in addition to regular seating (subject to availability).

The Fountain tells the Blade that it is proud to count L.A. City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, and Mayor Eric Garcetti as supporters, reflecting the company’s successful history of partnering with the City’s government.

Artist’s conception of finished and fully dressed out performance area of the Fountain Theatre

In addition to being a Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs grant recipient for decades, the Fountain launched a groundbreaking program that brings celebrity actors to L.A. City Hall to perform one-night free public readings in the City Council chambers.

The Fountain Theatre is located at 5060  Fountain Avenue (at Normandie) in Los Angeles. For reservations and information, call (323)  663-1525 or go to www.FountainTheatre.com.

Construction of the Stage in a Time Lapsed video:

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Theater

LA LGBTQ Theatre fires artistic director over sexual misconduct allegations

There are no additional details we are able to share. […] We will have no further comment on this investigation

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The Lex Theatre at Lexington Ave & McCadden Place, home to Celebration Theatre (Google Earth)

HOLLYWOOD – The Board of Directors of Celebration Theatre, one of the oldest and the largest LGBTQ community theatres in the Los Angeles area fired Michael A. Shepperd, its artistic director Tuesday, after allegations of sexual misconduct were raised in a Facebook post by an actor who had a role in one of Shepperd’s productions.

In a terse announcement released Tuesday, the Celebration Board addressed the allegations against Shepperd, a prominent figure in L.A.’s theater scene, which included groping and propositioning.

“Michael A. Shepperd’s decades-long contributions to Celebration Theatre and the Los Angeles theatre community are significant. We value and respect his artistry both as a director and as an actor,” the Celebration Board wrote.

“However, based on the findings and recommendations of an independent investigation initiated April 14th by our Board of Directors, prompted by allegations of a pattern of misconduct raised by Andrew Diego in his April 14th Facebook post, Celebration Theatre terminated Shepperd’s role as Artistic Director on May 24th.

The final investigative report was delivered to the Board of Directors on May 22nd and included other credible accounts of misconduct, as determined by the independent counsel. His termination was effective immediately,” the Board added.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times published Tuesday, Shepperd denied the claims. In the article Shepperd labeled Celebration a “queer safe space” where flirtation and bawdy innuendo were common, and he said any behavior of a sexual nature was done in the context of a consensual relationship. His attorney, Jordan Susman told the paper, “Michael categorially denies any and all allegations of misconduct and laments the absence of process that led to Celebration Theatre’s decision.”

The investigation by the Board of the theatre also concluded that others who were made aware of the allegations did not respond inappropriately to Diego’s allegations based on the information that they had at that time.

The report also included several recommendations to implement additional policies and procedures to enhance artist safety, increase accountability, and clarify standards of conduct, including but not limited to additions to the theatre’s recently adopted anti-harassment/anti-discrimination policy, periodic staff and artist trainings, and the ongoing availability of an independent artist relations liaison—which the Board adopted at its May 23rd meeting.

“There are no additional details we are able to share. While our commitment to cultural changes will be ongoing, we will have no further comment on this investigation,” the Board added.

Celebration was founded in 1982 by gay rights pioneer and co-founder of the Mattachine Society, Chuck Rowland, when he leased a storefront in Silver lake to start a community theatre dedicated to producing gay-themed material.  Its current home is at the Lex Theatre at Lexington Ave & McCadden Place, located in Hollywood’s Theatre Row.

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a&e features

Pandemic vastly changing Hollywood’s entertainment landscape

But with the pandemic vastly changing Hollywood, countless red carpet-related industry jobs have been eliminated

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Photo Credit: City of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – According to a report by the Los Angeles County Department of Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services (WDACS) last month, 125,900 hospitality jobs and 37,000 arts and entertainment jobs were sadly lost last year.

If you look past Hollywood’s poignant acceptance speeches and enchantment of the red carpet, you will see a tremendous industry of people–caterers, party planners, publicists, stylists, florists, DJs, etc.– who tirelessly work to create magic during awards season.

But with the pandemic vastly changing Hollywood, countless red carpet-related industry jobs have been eliminated.

Ahead of the Independent Spirit Awards (April 22) and The Academy Awards (April 25) the Los Angeles Blade talked to industry experts about all the changes happening during the 2021 awards season.

“With the world facing so many bigger, more existential issues right now, this award season’s obviously been sort of disorienting on several levels. On a deeper level, some people might think glamorous celebs accepting golden trophies is a little, well, off point amid a pandemic,” John Griffiths, the Executive Director of the Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics (GALECA.org) said.

“With so much loss and depression, people seem to be basically saying ‘throwing glamorous awards shows is especially tone deaf.’
 It’s a good question- Who cares about Hollywood and self-satisfied stars and virtual red carpet fashion? It’s sort of weird. But the show should go on, as they say, because movies have a huge impact on society, and celebrating good work and stories and performances that inspire is always a good thing,” he added.

(Photo: John Griffiths)

The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics is home to the Dorian Awards, which are are film and television accolades given by GALECA.

“The Oscars and all the kudos shows leading up to them, like our own Dorians, all help to put some special films, about immigrants, about inner-spirit, about humanity, about love, about the ravages of hate, on the world’s radar. Movies unite us, they can create change, help heal . . . so we shouldn’t underestimate shows that honor them,” Griffiths said.

“Awards shows having to go “virtual” with awkward hosts and nominees all with Zoom face and any live attendees six feet apart from each other is not a recipe for fun viewing. They have gotten stodgy over the years, so it’s been interesting to see which ones turn the frown upside down. So far, only the Emmys has seemed interested in getting creative—to fun effect,” he stated.

New York City- based Celebrity Jewelry Expert and Stylist, Michael O’Connor weighed in with his observations telling the Blade;

“COVID has really taken a toll on the fashion industry and on celebrity styling overall!! In previous years, the red carpet, the event itself and the many surrounding events provided a plethora of attending celebrities who wanted to look their very best for the events  – and would get photographed. This meant that you could not only showcase your styling expertise, but also you could use pieces from various fashion houses, jewelry designers and accessories designers to bring a vision to life, thereby creating numerous publicity opportunities for the brands themselves. 

These days, the potential universe of styling opportunities is severely limited. No red carpets, no surrounding events and in-home coverage of the nominees really brings the potential to showcase talent way down. Further, some celebrities feel that they should be more relaxed and less dressed up in their home environment. The whole situation is difficult for everyone, celebrities included, and certainly results in some underwhelming and uninspiring fashion.

“As a stylist who lives in NY and often styles celebrities in LA, the idea of virtual styling is not something totally new to me. I’ve been doing it for years. However, the current issues revolve more around the difficulties of fit, alteration and exchanging pieces out that don’t work together. One can’t simply go into a showroom and get a feel for how a necklace might lay on a neck or how low an earring drop is, or how a dress will hug the curves. That tactile sense and true visual understanding has been robbed. Therefore, more is reliant upon planning or going with brands/pieces that you already know. Otherwise, the chance that it all won’t come together perfectly is extremely high.”

(Photo: Michael O’Connor)

Beverly Hills  Celebrity stylist Erick Orellana reflected- “Due to the lack of red carpet arrivals this year for award shows, I am hearing many fellow stylists who really depend on award season work are out of work until the industry rebounds. Since award shows are going virtual and events are at home, many celebrities are opting to  do their own glam or be a little more “relaxed” with it this year. As we saw with some of the celebs at the Golden Globes, winner Jodie Foster and her wife were in what seemed like their pjs.

Glam during these pandemic times has looked very different. During awards season, I believe hair and make up this year looks a bit more easy-going. Since most events are virtual, the most important part of hair and make up is the front side of the face. We are going to be seeing a lot of ponytail slick hair or to the side hairdos and I wouldn’t be surprised if some go for a soft romantic touch to their hair.

(Photo: Erick Orellana)

I think most celebrities are mainly working on just their upkeep versus do drastic changes right now. We are definitely seeing the return of the bank/curtain bang that is a nice way to change up a hairstyle without having to commit to a big change all over, since it’s mostly taking place in the front. It’s a good way to frame the face as well. We’re seeing more one tone hair color versus multi dimensional sense, and are also seeing a bit of a return of the 90s inspired hair trend. Most changes in hair have been very subtle since everyone’s really working on just trying to touch up their hair that hasn’t been seen by a stylist in a while, due to Covid restrictions and safety.”

Hollywood jewelry designer Charlie Lapson told the Blade;

“This year, the designers, stylists and clients are hardly meeting in person. Life has become an endless amount of FaceTime, ZOOM, and Skype meetings, reviewing the fabrics of the dress, and the jewelry options to coordinate. On some levels, it’s more efficient because we can interact several times without driving all over LA, and we don’t have to pack and unpack hundreds of pieces.

But the special moment of the actress trying on her choice of earrings, looking in the mirror and saying “these are perfect” just isn’t going to happen. It’s challenging because we’re not working the usual way. 

At the awards events this year, some of the sparkling accessories will be incorporating colorful gemstones. There has been conversations about jewels with Tanzanite, with its luscious deep blue and purple tone, which has become one of the top requests for 2021. 

Pearls of white and gray have been trending, thanks to Madame VP Harris. In addition to necklaces, they’ll be seen in earrings and rings. 

Diamond earrings in unique shapes will be trending, and hopefully ear cuffs will make their debut. Multiple rings across several fingers is something to look for, and then work into your own style.”

It is so devastating to know there are still so many people in our industry who are struggling for work.

“With little to no in person events, I am sad I no longer get to see or work with friends–everyone from event producers to florists to catering companies and designers. It is so devastating to know there are still so many people in our industry who are struggling for work.

The pandemic has totally changed the industry forever. Last year, for example, we did a total of 3 live events during Golden Globes weekend, this year two were canceled and one has gone completely digital. Now with little to no red carpet and the usual fanfare when arriving to events, they will just be limited to a couple of photographers,” Rembrandt Flores, founder, Entertainment Fusion Group said.

Rembrandt Flores

“There is nothing like an event in person, and I am excited to be involved with them again in 2022,” he added.

With no live events, the celebrity wrangling industry has suffered tremendously. Luckily for our agency, we weren’t so dependent on that type of work. We have doubled down heavily on digital and traditional press as well and working with influencers and celebrities for specific brand campaigns,” Flores noted.

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Arts & Entertainment

LA theatre companies raise the bar on creativity with 3 new virtual offerings

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Tom DiTrinis stars in his comic solo performance, “Making Friends” (Photo by Kyle Roper, courtesy of IAMA Theatre Company)

Are you one of LA’s many fans of live theatre who has been struggling with the loss of a major aspect of your cultural life? Have you been left wanting by having to settle for virtual streams of productions long gone by and livestreams of play readings conducted on Zoom?

Take heart, because you have options – and best of all, they give you an opportunity to show support for the kind of small, local theatre organizations that have been hardest-hit by Covid-forced shutdowns and have, perhaps, the rockiest path ahead to survival in a post-pandemic world.

First up, and ongoing, is “The Gaze… No Homo,” a finalist in the 2020/2021 Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference adapted by writer/creator Larry Powell into a 12-part “media series” presented by the highly-regarded The Fountain Theatre on their new digital platform, Fountain Stream, in partnership with Powell and Angelica Robinson of Tell Me a Story Productions.

A bold and funny episodic tragicomedy for our times, this multi-platform online experience is unlike anything audiences have seen before. The first in Powell’s “The Gaze” cycle of plays that examines the process of building culturally specific and queer works of color in certain historically white spaces, it follows an openly Black queer artist as he navigates the rehearsal process at a very white American theater festival. Tackling hard topics head on, Powell’s timely exploration of the intersection between black and queer experience in the theatre wrestles with the question, “Why strain to be free under a gaze fixed on your imprisonment, when it’s you who is holding the key?”

Powell – who is a writer, actor, director and producer born and raised in South Central L.A, says of the project, “In order to properly experience my own exodus of the decentralization of the white gaze in my creative work and reclaim my black ass imagination I had to stare the poison in the face and, through the telling of Jerome’s story, turn it into the medicine decolonization so fiercely provides. That I was able to make this piece in the summer of 2020 and share this piece that same summer and beyond is a divine triumph. A blessing standing on sacred ground and under one gaze only: the ancestral one. Thankful to any and all who make it possible for others to catch the vision.” 

The short-form episodes began streaming, three at a time, on Friday, Nov. 20; six are available so far, which means you have time to catch up before episodes 7-9 debut on Friday, Dec. 4, with the final three episodes becoming available on Friday, Dec. 11.

Tickets are free at www.fountaintheatre.com/now-upcoming/the-gaze.

Next up, and premiering Dec. 17, is “Making Friends,” from the IAMA Theatre Company – a new, “gaytastic” comic solo play, written and performed by self-confessed rage-aholic Tom DeTrinis, directed by Drew Droege, and filmed live (at LA’s Pico Playhouse) for digital release.

DeTrinis describes himself as “a quick-witted, angry actor/writer/director/producer who just wants to be your friend.” He grew up as an overly-sensitive child in a large family that would have preferred he keep his emotions on a leash. “Everyone thought they knew how to raise me better than my mom and dad,” he says. “I think it was all the mixed messages I was getting that triggered my anger while I was still very young.”

He tells the Blade, “This show is about anger and me, but really it is about being queer in a big family and what happens when so many mixed messages fly your way. I am VERY excited for the LGBTQ+ audiences to watch this because I really think they will see a lot of themselves in here. And I hope they also think about being KINDER to ourselves and others in our community, ‘cause you don’t know what people are going through and how they got to this point in their lives. Everyone is working hard and trying to love and live, and I really want people to take that away from this.”

“Making Friends” will be available for viewing beginning Dec. 17 and continue streaming through Jan. 11, 2021. Tickets, which start at $15, will be sold in weekly blocks and include access to a variety of supporting live events. For more information on ticketing and streaming, go to www.iamatheatre.com.

Lastly, coming on Dec. 18, is “Storage Run,” a new, interactive holiday experience from Rogue Artists Ensemble.

Described as “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse meets Choose Your Own Adventure meets classic holiday fare,” this innovative show explores connection in the computer age with a healthy does of seasonal flavor as it follows a character named Mike, trapped and alone in a tangled web of Rogue storage with just a few weeks remaining until the holidays, on a quest to send a message to the world.

Audiences are invited to help Mike through their Y/N choices, building a “singular and unlikely friendship” and unlocking a “holiday-tastic” adventure along the way – and all from the safety of your computer, as you use an interactive video platform to face multiple branching paths with hundreds of unique combinations and puzzles, with virtual downloadable gifts to sweeten the deal even further.

Rogue Artists artistic director Sean T. Cawelti (who is also the show’s co-creator/writer/animator) tells the Blade, “Storage Run” builds on Rogue Artists Ensemble’s mission of being inclusive of BIPOC and LGBTQ communities and telling stories with deep theatricality and heart. It was decided early on that in order to ensure the production would be safe, there would be one central human character named Mike.

Even though they are our only human character we have cast the role with three different artists representing both the BIPOC and LGBTQ communities. Mike’s fluid character representation and journey will resonate with all who experience “Storage Run.” Through the story, Mike discovers their friendship with a Robot named Fred and it is through the Robot’s eyes the audience experiences the story. The message of community and the importance of family, no matter how unconventional is at the heart of the experience and I know will resonate with everyone.”

Created by the Rogue ensemble in collaboration with over 50 artists from across the country and utilizing an interactive video platform devised by HapYak, this subversive holiday treat features performances by Miles Taber, Amir Levi, Carene Rose Mekertichyan (who share the role of “Mike”) and Tim Kopacz (who plays “Fred”), with special surprise “magical moments” from a host of other performers.

Part One of the adventure will be available on Friday, Dec. 18 at 7 p.m. PT / 10 p.m. ET; Part Two will release on Friday, Dec. 25 at 7 p.m. PT / 10 p.m. ET; and Part Three will post on Friday, Jan. 1 at 7 p.m. PT / 10 p.m. ET. Once introduced, all three episodes will remain available through Jan. 31, 2021. Tickets are pay-what-you-can, with a suggested price of $20. Pre-purchased entries are available now (there’s even a special emailed gift!) at https://www.rogueartists.org/storage-run.

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