Fugard's COMING HOME With Elam, Henry & More Plays Fountain Theatre 6/20-8/29
The Fountain Theatre continues its unique relationship with one of the world's greatest living playwrights, Athol Fugard, with the West Coast premiere of Coming Home. Stephen Sachs directs Matthew Elam, Deidrie Henry, Noah Murtadha, Thomas Silcott, Timothy Taylor and Adolphus Ward in Fugard's newest work, which opens June 20 and continues through August 29. Low-priced previews begin June 13.
Ten years after she left to pursue a singing career in Cape Town, Veronica Jonkers comes home to her beloved grandfather's farm and the village of her youth. Carrying a heart filled with disappointment, she returns determined to plant the seeds of a new life for her young son.
"It's a play that is full of the humanity and wisdom we've come to expect from Athol Fugard's work." says Sachs. "It is achingly beautiful, exposing life in contemporary South Africa through the unforgettable love of a mother and her child, and the promise of a new world."
Coming Home is Fugard's first sequel. It continues the story he began in his acclaimed 1995 Valley Song, in which Veronica left her Oupa's farm to follow her dreams in the big city. That, in turn, was Fugard's first post-apartheid play.
"[Valley Song] expressed my - and I think the majority of South Africans' - hope that, with the fall of apartheid, we had entered a new world and that it was going to be a different story from now on," said Fugard in an interview. "Well, the truth is, as the years have passed, I have seen the dreams start to wither. It just seemed to me, at this moment in South Africa's history, I needed to follow up and take a look at that big dream that we had."
In Coming Home, Fugard confronts the hard truths of contemporary life in his homeland while also celebrating the unquenchable power of hope. All of the characters are based on people that have touched Fugard's life in his hometown of Nieu Bethesda in the Karoo region of South Africa.
"I am by nature an optimist, and it's very hard for me to despair of any situation," he explained. "I always believe that there is something floating around in that ocean of wreckage to which we can cling and maybe survive."
Athol Fugard is a South African playwright, actor, and director whose scripts have earned countless accolades, including the Academy Award, Obie Award, and Tony Award. One of the first white playwrights to collaborate with black actors and workers, Fugard writes of the frustrations of life in contemporary South Africa and of overcoming the psychological barriers created by apartheid. Some of his works, such as Blood Knot, were initially banned in South Africa. Widely acclaimed, his plays include Boesman and Lena (Obie Award, Best Foreign Play), Sizwe Bansi Is Dead (Tony Award, Best Play), A Lesson from Aloes (New York Drama Critics Circle Award, Best Play), the semiautobiographical Master Harold... and the Boys (Writers Guild Award, Outstanding Achievement) and The Road to Mecca (New York Drama Critics Circle Citation, Best Foreign Play, London Evening Standard Award, Best Play). In his first two post-apartheid plays, Valley Song (1995) and The Captain's Tiger (1998), Fugard addressed more personal concerns, but in Sorrows and Rejoicings (2001) he focused on the complex racial dynamics of South Africa's new era. In 2005 his novel, Tsotsi (1980), was adapted for the screen, winning the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
The Fountain Theatre's special relationship with Athol Fugard began when co-founder/co-artistic director Stephen Sachs directed the Los Angeles premiere of Fugard's The Road to Mecca in 2000. Fugard was so impressed with the stellar production that he offered the company world premiere rights to an as-yet-unwritten new work. When Sachs directed that world premiere production for the Fountain in 2004, Exits and Entrances received recognition for Best Production and Best Director from both the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle (garnering a total of five awards) and the Ovations (receiving a total of three awards). Mr. Sachs went on to direct acclaimed regional productions of Exits and Entrances around the country, an Off-Broadway production at Primary Stages, and the UK premiere at the 2007 International Edinburgh Festival. The American premiere of Mr. Fugard's Victory at the Fountain in 2008, also directed by Stephen Sachs, was the recipient of two LADCC awards and four LA Weekly nominations, and was named "Best of 2008" by the Los Angeles Times. For the program of Victory, Athol Fugard wrote that he "considers The Fountain Theater his artistic home in the United States."
Stephen Sachs' other directing credits include his own adaptation Miss Julie Freedom Summer (from Strindberg's Miss Julie); the 2007 world premiere of his own stage adaptation of Stephen Mitchell's version of Gilgamesh (Theatre @ Boston Court); the inaugural production at the Getty Villa in Malibu, a new translation of Euripides' Hippolytos starring Linda Purl. Arthur Miller gave Sachs exclusive permission to direct his rarely seen After The Fall (three L.A. Ovation awards). Mr. Sachs has won numerous awards for directing such plays as the Los Angeles premiere of Fugard's The Road to Mecca; West Coast premiere of String of Pearls;his own original play Sweet Nothing in My Ear (now a HallMark Hall of Fame film); Los Angeles premiere of Steven Dietz's Lonely Planet (starring Philip Anglim); The Seagull (starring Salome Jens, Philip Baker Hall, Bud Cort); the celebrated 20th Anniversary production of The Boys In The Band; and the West Coast premiere of Romulus Linney's Unchanging Love.
Deidrie Henry (Veronica Jonkers) returns to the Fountain where she was seen in Yellowman (NAACP, Ovation, Backstage Garland, Los Angeles Drama Critic Circle performance awards). Other credits: Ballad of Emmett Till (Goodman Theatre); Small Tragedy (Odyssey Theatre); Yellowman (Berkeley Rep); four seasons with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival; Closer (Portland Center Stage); Blues for an Alabama Sky (ALLIANCE THEATRE - Helen Hayes award nomination for Best Supporting Actress); and in productions at Hartford Stage, Arena Stage and Boston's Huntington Theatre.
Thomas Silcott (Alfred Witbooi) has performed in To Kill a Mockingbird (ALLIANCE THEATRE, Atlanta); Broken Jug (Lincoln Center, New York); and a national and international Broadway tour of Bring in Da Noise/Bring in Da Funk. While on the East Coast, Tom also appeared in Hamlet and As You Like It at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival and A Raisin in the Sun at the Salem Theatre Festival. In Los Angeles: Othello (Kingsmen Shakespeare Co.); Twain and Friends (Interact Theatre Co.); and Master Harold...and the Boys (The Colony Theatre).
Adolphus Ward (Oupa Jonkers) received both the 2008 Los Angeles Drama Critics' Circle award and an LA Weekly award nomination for his role as Solly Two Kings in The Fountain Theatre's Gem of the Ocean. Other roles include Hoke, in Driving Miss Daisy; Bynum, in Joe Turner's Come and Gone, and Jorgenson in Other People's Money.
Timothy Taylor (Mannetjie, age 5) is an aspiring actor, dancer and singer whose hobbies include hip hop dancing, writing stories, gymnastics, reading books and creating his own television series at home.
Matthew Elam (Mannetjie, age 10) receives professional training at the Amazing Grace Conservatory, co-founded by actress Wendy Raquel Robinson, with which he has performed in productions including The Wiz at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center and Sarafina! at the new LATC. Matthew appeared in the independent film productions Reflections and The Chocolate Factory.
Set Design for Coming Home is by Laura Fine Hawkes; Lighting Design is by Christian Epps; Costume Design is by Shon LeBlanc; Sound Design is by Peter Bayne; Prop Design is by Goar Galstyan; Dialect Coach is JB Blanc; Graphic Deisgn is by Scott Seidman; Production Stage Manager is Liz McGavock; Simon Levy and Deborah Lawlor produce.
Housed in a charming two-story complex in Hollywood, California, The Fountain Theatre is one of the most successful intimate theaters in Los Angeles, providing a nurturing, creative home for multi-ethnic theater and dance artists. Activities include a year-round season of fully produced new and established plays; The Fountain's bi-weekly Forever Flamenco! series, now in its seventh year; a New Plays developmental series; Educational Outreach Programs; and off-site presentations/tours. Fountain Theatre productions have won more than 160 awards for all areas of production, performance, and design, and The Fountain Theatre is the only intimate theater to win the Ovation Award for Best Production of a Play four times. Fountain projects have been seen in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Florida, New Jersey, Minneapolis and Edinburgh. Recent highlights include its Off-Broadway production of Exits and Entrances in New York, worldwide readings/productions/tours of What I Heard About Iraq, the Ovation Award-winning Joe Turner's Come and Gone, the three-city tour of Sonidos Gitanos, the making of Sweet Nothing in my Ear into a movie for TV on CBS, and the recent Canadian premiere of Miss Julie: Freedom Summer in Vancouver and Toronto. The Fountain has been honored with a Certificate of Appreciation from the Los Angeles City Council for demonstrating years of artistic excellence and "enhancing the cultural life of Los Angeles." The Fountain Theatre was recently honored with three Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards including Outstanding Production, Direction, and Featured Actor (Adolphus Ward) for last season's production of Gem of the Ocean by August Wilson.
Coming Home opens for press on Saturday, June 20, with performances Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm through August 29. Previews are scheduled at 8 pm on Saturday, June 13; Thursday, June 18; and Friday, June 19; and at 2 pm on Sunday, June 14. Tickets are $25.00 on Thursdays and Fridays and $28.00 on Saturdays and Sundays, except opening night (June 20), which is $30.00 and previews which are $15.00. On Thursdays and Fridays only, students with ID are $18.00 and seniors are $23.00.
The Fountain Theatre is located at 5060 Fountain Avenue (at Normandie) in Los Angeles. Secure, on-site parking is available for $5.00. The Fountain Theatre is air-conditioned and wheelchair accessible. For reservations and information, call (323) 663-1525 or go to www.FountainTheatre.com.
Photo by Ed Krieger