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Inspired by Chekhov, world premiere of Dorothy Fortenberry’s
‘Species Native to California’ hits home in Trump’s America
LOS ANGELES (April 4, 2017) — Everyone’s a part of the family – until they’re not. IAMA Theatre Company presents the world premiere of a deceptively gentle comedy about family, land, labor and loss. Eli Gonda directs Species Native to California by Dorothy Fortenberry for a May 13 opening at Atwater Village Theatre.
For a decade, two families — one white and progressive, one undocumented — have lived together on a Northern California wine country estate in something like harmony. But political changes and financial mishaps leave them both suddenly facing uncertain futures. As everyone clamors to save the estate, a vengeful ghost haunts the fruitless vineyard, intent on breaking the balance. Mexican folklore meets Mendocino County in Fortenberry’s homage to Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard.
According to Fortenberry, she was struck by how many of Chekhov’s themes resonate today, including the importance of land – specifically, the relationship between those who own it and those who work it.
“I’m fascinated by alliances where the parties might have very different views of the relationship,” she explains. “When I was younger, I had a friend who invited an undocumented family to live with her, and I always wondered what that dynamic was like.”
Gonda, who’s father is an immigrant, is passionate about both politics and socially relevant material. “Who could have even imagined the times we live in now?” he asks. “This play is about the hope that can spring from even the darkest situations.”
Species Native to California is performed in English with a liberal sprinkling of Español. The ensemble includes Tom Amandes (SyFy’s The Magicians, NBC’s Parenthood, ABC’s Scandal), Carlos E. Campos (upcoming film Inner City with Denzel Washington, HBO’s Westworld), Tonatiuh Elizarraraz (Hit the Wall at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center), Eileen Galindo (CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, The Clean House at International City Theatre), Tim Rock (Steppenwolf Theatre Co., Joseph Jefferson nominee for What’s Wrong with Angry? at Chicago’s Circle Theatre), Melissa Stephens (Comedy Central’s Key and Peele, Showtime’s Californication), Margaux Susi (Disney’s Frozen, The Blind Date Project) and Murielle Zuker (Seven Spots on the Sun at The Theatre @ Boston Court).
The creative team includes set designer David Mauer, lighting designer Josh Epstein, costume designer Melissa Trn and dramaturg Anna Lamadrid. Emily Lehrer is the production stage manager, Christine Woods assistant directs, Tom DeTrinis associate produces and Laura Mann produces for IAMA Theatre Company.
Species Native to California was developed during a residency at Old Growth Arts in Sonoma County, and was read as part of the Youngblood New Blood series in NYC and recently at Theatricum Botanicum as part of their GreenRead series.
Dorothy Fortenberry’s plays have been produced and developed by Actors’ Theatre of Louisville (Humana Festival), Arena Stage, Center REPertory Company and Oregon Shakespeare Festival, among others. She has received commissions from Ensemble Studio Theatre and Yale Rep. She lives in Los Angeles, where she writes for television, most recently The Handmaid’s Tale for Hulu. Fortenberry is a winner of the 2011 Helen Merrill Award for Emerging Playwrights and holds an M.F.A. from the Yale School of Drama.
Named one of “8 Angelenos You Should Know” by LA Confidential magazine, Eli worked as an associate/assistant director to Jack O’Brien and David Leveaux on Broadway, the West End and in Japan on productions including Nora Ephron’s Imaginary Friends, Nine, Fiddler on the Roof, The Glass Menagerie, Henry IV, Cyrano de Bergerac, All About My Mother and the multimedia musical Sinatra: Live at the Palladium. Recent directing credits for the stage include the ABC|Disney Talent Showcase (El Portal Theatre); Quitters by Lila Feinberg (IAMA Theatre Company); The Kid starring Joey McIntyre (Denver Center for Performing Arts); Halley Feiffer’s I Didn’t Want a Mastodon (IAMA Fest 2015); Little Miss Fix-It (Roundabout Underground); The FIFA International World Congress: Opening Ceremony (Atlantis, Bahamas); and numerous readings, festivals and workshops. TV and film credits include Jane Espenson and Brad Bell’s award-winning series Husbands (nom. Best Director, International Academy of Web Television and the Indie Series Awards); The Rooster, an award-winning short; the feature film The Outfield, starring Cameron Dallas, Nash Grier and Disney’s Joey Bragg; and producer of American Teen, a Sundance Film Festival award-winning documentary. Eli is a recent alum of The ABC|Disney Directing Program, a proud member of IAMA Theatre Company, an SDC Traube Fellow and a recipient of the Mitzy Daily Award for Music from Georgetown University. His upcoming projects include the feature comedy Sid is Dead by Peter Warren.
IAMA Theatre Company is an ensemble of theater artists seeking to connect and cultivate a new generation of audiences by promoting new artists and developing new works that challenge and entertain, while stimulating honest dialogue and sustaining the future value of theater within the L.A. community. Founded in 2007, by Laila Ayad, Stefanie Black, Katie Lowes, Amy Rosoff, Brandon Scott, Adam Shapiro, Sarah Utterback and Wes Whitehead, this dynamic theater company is making its mark. Plays generated at IAMA have traveled to off-Broadway, Second Stage and the Roundabout Underground, and have been performed regionally and internationally. IAMA members have been featured in numerous critically acclaimed TV shows and films, as well as in a vast array of theater and live performances all over the country. In 2014, IAMA earned the Ovation Award for Outstanding Play in an Intimate Theatre for its Los Angeles premiere of The Recommendation. Last month, TV producer and creator Shonda Rhimes announced that she would become IAMA’s first-ever “Patron of the Arts,” with a generous endowment from the Rhimes Family Foundation. IAMA is breaking the mold by getting the “cord-cutter generation” to come back out to the theater again – you can’t DVR theater!
Species Native to California runs May 13 through June 11, with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. (dark Sunday, May 28). Two preview performances take place on Thursday, May 11 and Friday, May 12, both at 8 p.m. All tickets are $30. Atwater Village Theatre is located at 3269 Casitas Ave in Los Angeles, CA 90039. On-site parking is free. For reservations and information, call 323-380-8843 or go to www.iamatheatre.com.
Details for Calendar Listings
‘Species Native to California’
World premiere of Species Native to California — For a decade, two families—one white and progressive, one undocumented—have lived together on a Northern California wine country estate in something like harmony. But political changes and financial mishaps leave them both suddenly facing uncertain futures. As everyone clamors to save the estate, a vengeful ghost haunts the fruitless vineyard intent on breaking the balance. Mexican folklore meets Mendocino County in this homage to Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard. Performed in English with a liberal sprinkling of Español.
• Written by Dorothy Fortenberry
• Directed by Eli Gonda
• Starring Tom Amandes, Carlos E. Campos, Tonatiuh Elizarraraz, Eileen Galindo, Tim Rock, Melissa Stephens, Margaux Susi, Murielle Zuker
• Produced by Laura Mann
• Associate Producer Tom DeTrinis
• Presented by IAMA Theatre Company
Previews: May 11 and May 12
Performances: May 13 – June 11
• Thursday at 8 p.m.: May 11 ONLY (preview)
• Fridays at 8 p.m.: May 12 (preview), May 19, May 26, June 2, 9
• Saturdays at 8 p.m.: May 13 (Opening Night), May 20, May 27, June 3, June 10
• Sundays at 7 p.m.: May 14, May 21, June 4, June 11 (dark May 28)
IAMA Theatre Company
Atwater Village Theatre
3269 Casitas Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90039
FREE in the Atwater Xing lot one block south of the theater