Today we’d like to introduce you to Jessica Broutt and James Bennett.
We meet at the Fountain Theatre in 2012 when Jessica was a summer intern, and James was the box office manager.
Fast forward to 2014, James became an associate producer at the Fountain Theatre, and Jessica joins as box officer manager. We were both looking to do something new at the theatre, enter Rapid Development. The goal of Rapid Dev is two part. The straight-forward answer is right there in our mission statement: “Get a first look at the work of young, up-and-coming playwrights with the Fountain Theatre’s Rapid Development Series.
With RDS, the Fountain shines a light on new voices in Los Angeles theater by presenting staged readings of unproduced plays, all by playwrights under 30. The Rapid Development Series is a low cost, fun, and casual atmosphere that enshrouds a program that’s designed to give unproduced playwrights a leg up onto the first rung of the ladder and a dip into the interconnected rivers and tributaries of the LA theatre community.”
Beyond that, one thing that was important for us was giving young playwrights of diverse backgrounds an opportunity to participate in the theatre business, connect with actors and directors, and workshop their material.
Most people you encounter as a theatre professional came up through an MFA program, but with education costs spiking through the stratosphere it’s criminally negligent and anathema to the art form to paywall out all but the highest echelons of our socioeconomic strata.
Diverse stories require diverse perspectives, and we aim to make the business of creating theatre art accessible to everyone, no matter their means.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
We’ve been very lucky to be a part of the Fountain Theatre from inception, so we’ve always been supported by the artistic team, and the road has been smooth in that respect.
However, we were starting our own show, so we went through the natural ebbs and flows of figuring out how to make a competition series fair and how to engage new playwrights, directors, and actors. I would say our biggest hurdle was how to show appreciation for all the artists we work with, and build community while still keeping in mind the competitive nature of the series.
I think after five years we’ve solved the puzzle, and that is truly the culture of gratitude we are always working to instill. Our goal is to not only develop these new plays, but also develop new relationships between playwrights, actors, and directors. The hope is that artists will meet here and continue to work with each other after this series.
And in the same way, we always want any of the people we work with to rely on us to help with their future projects.
Please tell us about Rapid Development Series.
There are a lot of reading series out there, every theatre company has one – but ours is the most fun, and the most productive. You go to a reading, and there are 15 people in the audience, all friends and family, that’s not particularly useful for getting an honest reaction from virginal audiences, and in that way, RDS excels at the meat-and-potatoes purpose of staged readings.
The voting element, where audiences decide on what plays they’d like to see more of adds an element of thrill, of risk, of tension to what would otherwise be a very low-stakes affair. The audience becomes more engaged than in a typical reading series because their opinion ultimately affects the outcome. I promise you, nobody is snoozing during these readings; we might comp them the whole seat, but they’ll only need the edge!!
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Family beach vacations and petting some darn good dogs and kitties, for me. -James
Watching Shirley Temple Movies with my Grandma-Jess
- Free Show – You may optionally pay up to $100 per ticket if you are a literal oil baron. It’s right on the checkout page.
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