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Stephen Sachs.

Fountain Theatre Artistic Director Stephen Sachs to Retire

The L.A. theatre’s co-founder, a busy writer and director both at his company and elsewhere, will step down at the end of the year.

LOS ANGELES: After 34 years as its artistic director, Fountain Theatre co-founder Stephen Sachs has announced that he will retire at the end of 2024.

“The more than three decades spent launching, nurturing, developing, and leading the growth of the Fountain Theatre have been the most joyous and meaningful years of my professional life,” Sachs wrote to the theatre’s board of directors in a letter announcing his decision. “Thousands of artists have worked on our stage and in our arts education programs. Hundreds of thousands of patrons have walked through our door, sat in our seats, and been transported. Fountain plays are now produced around the world. We’ve been home to Pulitzer and Tony Award winners. Our artistic integrity is respected locally and across the country. We stand strong as an organization. My co-founder, beloved colleague, and dear friend, Deborah Lawlor, passed away last May. This year, I turn 65. I look forward to many pleasant years traveling with my wife, relishing our two sons, perhaps writing a novel or two.”

Sachs and Lawlor began the Fountain Theatre in 1990 in a two-story building in East Hollywood, and turned it into one of the most highly regarded intimate theatres in Los Angeles. Under Sachs’s guidance, the Fountain won awards and staged new plays that both reflected L.A.’s diversity and built a national reputation for the company. The Fountain also serves young people throughout Southern California with its arts education programs. When Sachs led the theatre in installing an outdoor stage in 2021, it was the first performance venue permitted to serve the public by the City of Los Angeles and Actors’ Equity Association during Covid-19.

“Our extraordinary founding artistic director, Stephen Sachs, leaves the Fountain healthy and vibrant, with a board of directors eager to protect and nourish his inspiring living legacy of great theater, community engagement, and brilliant innovation,” said Fountain board president Dorothy Wolpert in a statement. “We are committed to finding a worthy successor who will carry that legacy into the future.”

A playwright, director and producer, Sachs has received every theatre award in Los Angeles. He was recently honored by the Los Angeles City Council for “his visionary contributions to the cultural life of Los Angeles.” His 18 produced plays include his an 1987 stage adaptation of Italo Calvino’s The Baron in the Trees at the Ensemble Studio Theatre in Los Angeles, The Golden Gate at the Fountain, Central Avenue, Sweet Nothing in my Ear (made into a TV movie with Marlee Matlin and Jeff Daniels), Open Window, and an adaptation of Claudia Rankine’s CITIZEN: An American Lyric. His most-produced play is the comedy/drama Bakersfield Mist, which premiered at the Fountain in 2011, ran there for seven months, and eventually made its way to London’s West End in a production starring Kathleen Turner. His newest play, Fatherland, opens at the Fountain on Feb. 25.

His directing credits include Hippolytos at the Getty Villa; Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers, which did a three-city tour of China for L.A. Theatre Works; Arthur Miller’s After the Fall, and Athol Fugard’s Exits and Entrances. Under Sachs’s leadership, the Fountain debuted new plays by such prominent playwrights as Robert Schenkkan, Tarell Alvin McCraney, Martyna Majok, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Dael Orlandersmith, and Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. Sachs was also instrumental in the formation and early development of Deaf West Theatre, giving the company’s founder, Ed Waterstreet, office space and a stage at the Fountain in 1991. Deaf West is now the foremost deaf theatre company in the United States, honored with a Tony Award in 2004 for its innovative staging of the musical Big River.

A national search is underway to identify the Fountain Theatre’s next artistic director. As of 2022, the theatre’s budget was around $1.3 million.

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