Spotlight Series: Meet Simon Levy, a Director and Producer Who Calls The Fountain Theatre His Home


This Spotlight focuses on Simon Levy who began his directing career in San Francisco, then moved to Los Angeles in 1990 where he has been the Producing Director for the Fountain Theatre since 1993. His directing and producing credits are numerous, with over 100 productions in Los Angeles and San Francisco that have won more than 200 awards. His journey has been blessed with having wonderful mentors along the way, which has enabled the talented director to earn his living doing theatre and earned him great respect from the entire LA Theatre community.


Shari Barrett (SB):  What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?

Simon Levy (Simon): I started off as a sax player, but when I got bored with some of my music classes at City College of San Francisco, I decided to take an acting class. I immediately became friends with two very talented dynamic actors, Harry Groener and Peter Kors, who are still friends to this day, and because of their encouragement, I fell in love with acting and switched my major. Then it was on to San Francisco State, a national tour doing Hamlet with the rag-tag/caravanning San Francisco Shakespeare Company, a season at the Alley Theatre as an apprentice actor, then back to San Francisco State to finish my degree, where I fell in love with directing.

Simon Levy as Hamlet with the San Francisco Shakespeare Company

My friend, Michael Lynch, a playwright, was having his plays produced at the One Act Theatre Company, and he and I became a playwright/director team which allowed me to really earn my chops as a director. At the same time, I worked at Steve Silver's "Beach Blanket Babylon" for 7 years as everything from House Manager to Stage Manager to General Manager, where I learned to appreciate the business side of theatre.

Eventually I ended up in LA in 1990 and the Fountain Theatre in 1993, where I've been ever since. I've been very fortunate to have wonderful mentors along the way and to earn my living doing theatre.

(SB): What production(s) were you involved with when word went out you needed to immediately postpone/cancel the show?

(Simon): I was literally days away from going into rehearsals for Steven Levenson's magnificent play If I Forget at the Fountain with a really wonderful cast and creative team.

(SB): How was the shutdown communicated with the cast and production team?

Stephen Sachs and Simon Levy at The Fountain Theatre

(Simon): It was pretty obvious to Stephen Sachs and me at the beginning of the week of March 9th that our lives were about to change, so we started preparing. We were supposed to have a meeting with the cast and designers of If I Forget with our consultant, Rabbi Daniel Bouskila (who was one of my consultants on The Chosen) to start prepping for the background work on the play. We cancelled that meeting out of a growing concern about being in the same room together. Then on March 12th, we made the decision to suspend the production of Human Interest Story and rehearsals for If I Forget. We really wanted to do both in person, with everyone in the room. But, again, out of a heightened sense of precaution and uncertainty, we decided to communicate with everyone by email. By then it was pretty obvious where the news cycle was going.

Bill Brochtrup and Tim Cummings in "Daniel's Husband", directed by Simon Levy at the Fountain Theatre

(SB): I am so happy I was able to attend the opening weekend of Human Interest Story and have featured Spotlight interviews previously on the show’s two stars: Rob Nagle and Tanya Alexander. I also interviewed Bill Brochtrup, one of the stars from Daniel’s Husband which you directed last year at the Fountain, which was one of my favorite shows last year.  And I treasure the Make America Kind Again badge you gave to some of us in the audience on opening weekend, and I proudly wear mine every day. It’s an important message, especially right now.

Are plans in place to present those two postponed productions at a future date?

Rob Nagle and Tanya Alexander in "Human Interest Story" at the Fountain Theatre.

(Simon): Both productions are currently suspended, but it's our intention to re-open Human Interest Story and go into rehearsal for If I Forget once we get an All Clear from the City and State. We recognize, of course, that re-opening businesses, especially theatre, will be a helter-skelter, slow rolling out and testing, but we will adjust accordingly. Safety first for our artists and patrons, above all else.

(SB): What future productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown?

(Simon): We have the rights to two very exciting projects, Caryl Churchill's Escaped Alone and Lucy Kirkwood's The Children. Future announcement about all Fountain Theatre productions will be posted at FountainTheatre.com.

(SB): How are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

(Simon): There's a stunning amount of material online right now, from local companies like Impro Theatre to readings by Skylight Theatre and L.A. Theatre Works and others, from Broadway and London, and world theatre from Berlin to Japan, plus all the Zoom meet-ups. So I'm sampling a lot of that, and I like to listen to Broadway musicals. Ironically, I haven't been able to read any plays yet as I feel like the real-life world drama that's unfolding on TV and my news-feeds supplants everything else right now... though I'm starting to feel the urge to dig into the huge backlog of plays sitting on my desktop.

But as much as I appreciate all the online content available right now, you can't hit the ‘pause’ button when you're attending live theatre. I miss that immediacy... that visceral thrill... and the danger of it. But I recognize that we're about to enter a "new" normal, which will include theatre online, because this pandemic has forced us to think/create in different ways, and we have to be aware of and sensitive to those changes. Creativity is about growth and moving into the future, and artists will always find a way to be creative. Who knows, perhaps there's a future for Mask Theatre! One thing I know for certain: We artists are phoenixes and we will blaze anew!

(SB): As always, Simon, thank you for your insightful words and presence in the LA Theatre community. For more information about Simon Levy and his projects, please visit:

SimonLevy.com
FountainTheatre.com
TheGreatGatsbyPlay.com


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Spotlight Series: Meet Actor Rob Nagle from 'Human Interest Story' at the Fountain Theatre


This Spotlight focuses on Rob Nagle, a proud member of the Antaeus Theatre Company and the Troubadour Theater Company, who was in the fourth week of performances of the world premiere of Human Interest Story at the Fountain Theatre when the production was forced to postpone the run.


Shari Barrett (SB):  What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?

Rob Nagle (Rob): I’ve been performing in the theater for nearly 40 years, the past 23 of them while based in Los Angeles. Cut my teeth at Northwestern University, then in the incomparable Chicago theater scene, before heading to New York City to play on the stages there.

Rob Nagle and Aleisha Force in Human Interest Story at the Fountain Theatre. Photo by Jenny Graham

Rob Nagle and Aleisha Force in Human Interest Story at the Fountain Theatre. Photo by Jenny Graham

(SB): What production(s) were you involved with when word went out you needed to immediately postpone/cancel the show?

 

(Rob): I was performing at the Fountain Theatre in our fourth week of the run of Human Interest Story, written & directed by Stephen Sachs. The show has been suspended, but not cancelled. Producers intend to continue the run once we return to some kind of normal.

(SB): How did you communicate the shutdown with your cast and production team?

(Rob): The Fountain Theatre was in remarkably close touch with us, the cast & production team, keeping a keen eye on our safety as well as that of their loyal audiences. They made plans, and changed them accordingly, all based on the best recommendations of Mayor Garcetti and Governor Newsom.

(SB): Are plans in place to present that production at a future date, or is the cancellation permanent?

 

(Rob): I’m thrilled that the Fountain chose not to cancel the production. The plan is to reopen Human Interest Story as soon as we are all able to gather again, and do it safely. My fingers and toes have been crossed for two and a half weeks straight, and they’re starting to cramp. But this too shall pass.

(SB): I certainly enjoyed the production and I really enjoy that the cast meets the audience in front of the theater after the performance. Sharing a link to my review of the show, which I hope lots of people will go see when the ban is lifted on public gatherings.

(SB): What future productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown?

(Rob): From my understanding, the Fountain Theatre hopes to slide the schedule to accommodate more weeks of Human Interest Story and then lead into their production of If I Forget. Personally, everything is at sixes and sevens, so who knows what’s next or how plans will be affected. I know today, and most of tomorrow. That’s about it.

(SB): How are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

 

(Rob): I am astonished by how inventive people have become in this “Life in the Time of Corona.” I have taught acting classes, taken part in several virtual readings and a playwrights lab, watched live interviews, live podcasts, musical performances, and even drag shows; all through Zoom, Instagram Live, YouTube Live, and StageIt. These opportunities are truly strange and wonderful, all at once.

(SB): What thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the L.A. Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(Rob): This is our new reality - at least for now. I know it’s challenging and it hurts some of our hearts that our art has become relegated to this. But I am reframing this time as a gift; as an opportunity for me as a creative person to be inventive in different ways, to be a braver explorer, and live in the uncomfortable part of now, as well as to encourage myself to change how I look at and relate to the world, and to my work. I can choose to accept this amazing RESET for what it is, or I can choose to let it destroy me, and my “art heart.”  But I believe complacency is the greatest enemy of creativity.

The Persians had it right when they said, “this too shall pass."


Yes, please stay at home, everyone. Wear a mask and gloves when you go out.  Carry hand sanitizer. #WashYourHands Do what you can to #FlattentheCurve so we can all get back inside the world of theatre in Los Angeles.

Featured Photo by Stephanie Girard


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Ashton's Audio Interview: Tanya Alexander (the voice of Joslin Reyes in 'Tomb Raider - Video Game')


Actress and Voice Broadcaster, Tanya Alexander, is best known for her work in Ethnically Ambiguous, The Coroner: I Speak for the Dead , and Tomb Raider - Video Game. This interview discusses the character she played in “Human Interest Story" at the Fountain Theatre and the character's internal struggles and challenges as they relate to politics and local homelessness, in cities like Los Angeles and nationally.

Enjoy this interview!



Spotlight Series: Meet Tanya Alexander – Spoken Word Artist and Lead Actor in 'HUMAN INTEREST STORY' at the Fountain Theatre


This Spotlight focuses on Tanya Alexander, a spoken word artist and writer of poetry and music, who I recently reviewed in her leading role in Human Interest Story at the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood, in which she played Jane Doe, an anonymous homeless woman plucked from a park bench and made a media celebrity.


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your own theatrical background?

Tanya Alexander (Tanya): I've always loved to learn new things and study diverse subjects. I wanted to really get into the technical process of performing an art, as well as the history of it, so it was a must that I go to college and actually study acting and theatre. I graduated Summa Cum Laude/Phi Beta Kappa with an Honors BA in Theatre from St. Louis University. I then moved to New York City to attend AMDA and studied in their musical theatre program.  I can say that what I learned at SLU in a university setting was the art and history of theatre, performance, human stories. But what I learned at AMDA was how to be a professional in the business of entertainment. How to actually work. Two very different schools with very different curriculums that benefitted me in all aspects of my career today.

(SB): What production(s) were you involved with when word went out you needed to immediately postpone/cancel the show?

(Tanya): I was in the middle of our run of Human Interest Story at the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood. We had just finished our fourth week of shows and were about to go into the final four weeks.

(SB): If you missed the show, read my review on Broadway World. How was the shutdown communicated with the cast and production team?

(Tanya): We were actually contacted by email by our producer, Simon Levy.  At first it was just a cast and crew meeting to see what our next steps would be, then very quickly (within an hour), we were informed of Mayor Garcetti and Governor Newsome's request to curb all public gatherings over ten people. After that, there was really no choice but to suspend the run. But thankfully, we just got great news that there are plans to remount the show in the summer.

(SB): What future productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown?

(Tanya): Interestingly enough I had just finished production on a film during our Human Interest Story tech week, so no future theatre productions were on my plate except for some local poetry features and performances which were affected.

(SB): How are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

(Tanya): Since I'm also a spoken word artist and a huge advocate of dance and music, I've been keeping my poetry work available for download and sharing my videos from my website and social media pages.

Facebook's watch parties are great for real time sharing. I've also been supporting a lot of dancers, singers, and musicians on Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and Facebook.  There's plenty of content to watch and I've been staying engaged with many of my colleagues and friends as we all continue to create at this time.

(SB): The online world certainly has been a lifesaver for the Arts as a creative outlet for so many around the world right now. I am really enjoying and sharing them on my Facebook page as well. Do you have any thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the L.A. Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(Tanya): I'm very hopeful and optimistic that we'll all be back in the saddle soon! I understand the disappointment that can settle in when you've booked a show, rehearsed and now have to put it on ice.

But we are all artists and we have always supported each other and uplifted the world's spirit. So many people are looking to us, our posts, comments and creations to give them light and keep them entertained and engaged and that's beautiful. We just have to keep using the mediums we have and do it! We are appreciated and it'll be our song, dance, drama, comedy, literature, movies, shows, poetry, and creations that get our global family through these times.

Most importantly, I'd like to encourage everyone to donate to your local theatre and arts communities as they go through this economic downturn. You can go to FountainTheatre.com to donate and support their season, as well as my website TanyaAlexander.net to hear and download my poetry and music. Keep supporting the arts and the artists and we'll keep creating beautiful work to feed and inspire this world.

(SB): For all the poetry fans out there: After listening to Tanya’s poetry and music on her website, please tune in to the just-announced Ren Hen Press Poetry Hour, a new, recurring series broadcast live as part of The Broad Stage at Home, offering new, livestreamed content from artistic partners and archival concert footage. 

Human Interest Story photo credit: Jenny Graham


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Ashton's Audio Interview: the cast of "Mono/Poly" at Odyssey Theatre

Two monogamous couples encounter a polyamorous triad at a costume party. The triad becomes entwined in the business and personal lives of the first two couples, forcing them to examine their long-held beliefs about love and marriage. Although sexually free, the members of the triad adhere to their own fairly rigid ethical code. Who’s moral now? Will the couples and the triad live happily ever after?*

Enjoy this interview with the cast of “Mono/Poly” at Odyssey Theatre, running until Nov 10th. You can listen to this interview while commuting, while waiting in line at the grocery store or at an audition, backstage and even front of the stage. For tickets and more info Click here.

*taken from the website