Fountain Theatre co-founder Deborah Lawlor, who died May 2, 2023, began her career in the ’60s as a dancer, choreographer and actor in New York, where she was a member of the Judson Church/Caffe Cino scene in the Village. She moved to South India in 1968, there pioneering Auroville, a 12-square-mile utopian international community created for human unity that now holds 3,000 inhabitants from around the world. At Auroville, she created two full-length outdoor dance/theater pieces. She then spent ten years in Australia and France studying ancient cultures of India and Egypt. As an author, she translated the French philosopher and mystic R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz’s work on sacred architecture in “The Temple in Man” (1977), Egyptology in “Symbol and the Symbolic” (1978), and esoteric philosophy in “Nature Word” (1982).
Returning to the U.S. in 1986, Lawlor independently produced plays in Los Angeles’ burgeoning intimate theater scene and, in 1990, she and Stephen Sachs co-founded the Fountain Theatre. Dubbed the “Fountain Theatre’s godmother of flamenco” by the Los Angeles Times, Lawlor was responsible for the Fountain’s extensive dance program, including the company’s renowned “Forever Flamenco” series. Deborah’s 25-year collaboration with Maria Bermudez and Sonidos Gitanos at the Ford Amphitheater and the Fountain began in 1995. Other dance projects at the Fountain include The Women of Guernica, Lawlor’s flamenco-based adaptation of Euripides’ The Trojan Women, which she also directed, and three full-evening dance-theater pieces which she created and directed: Declarations: Love Letters of the Great Romantics; The Path of Love, which she also directed in South India; and the dance opera, The Song of Songs, with music by Al Carmines. In 2017, the Fountain, in partnership with the Los Angeles City College Theatre Academy, premiered Lawlor’s play Freddy, the tragic story of legendary dancer Freddy Herko who was a denizen of Andy Warhol’s Factory and a personal friend of Lawlor’s during her Judson Church days. In 2010, Actor’s Equity Association honored Lawlor with its Diversity Award for her dedication to presenting work at the Fountain that is culturally diverse. In 2013, she received special commendations from the City of Los Angeles and the Spanish Consulate for her contributions to the art of flamenco.
Former Rockette, jazz-music supporter and equestrian Florence (Flip) Manne passed away on June 7, 2023. At the age of 102, she was the oldest living Rockette. The youngest of four daughters of Major and Helen Butterfield, she was born in Vernon, Vermont, attended school there and, later, graduated from Adams, Massachusetts high school in 1939. After graduation, she moved to New York City to dance at the Roxy and with the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall from 1941 to 1945. There she met her future husband, the jazz drummer Shelly Manne, who was then a member of the Radio City Music Hall orchestra.
Flip and Shelly were married August 26, 1943. She continued with the Rockettes through 1945 while Shelly served with the Coast Guard during World War II. In 1951, they moved to southern California, residing in Northridge. Later, they moved to a ranch in Sunland where she was recognized nationally for her beautiful rose gardens. Flip became an accomplished equestrian participating in dressage events throughout the state of California. She was a lifelong supporter of animal rights and an animal rights activist, having taken in many strays and adopting several dogs from the Animal Refuge League.
Flip was a charter member of the Los Angeles Jazz Society and its president and leading light for many years. In 1985, she established the Shelly Manne New Talent Award, given each year to a young jazz musician – 36 in total. Active throughout her life, participating in tap classes well into her late nineties.
artsmeme extends its thanks and condolences to Lucy Pollak and Mark Miller.