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In memoriam: Ben Bradley, the Fountain Theatre

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Photo courtesy of the Fountain Theatre

A good man died this past weekend. A friend. Actually, he did not just die – he was killed. Murdered, in fact. The death of multiple award-winning producer-director Bennett “Ben” Bradley, 59, of The Fountain Theatre in Hollywood, was horrible, stunning news that dulled the shine of a new year.

What’s known from media coverage is that Bradley’s body was found in his Koreatown apartment in the 100 block of South New Hampshire around 6pm on Saturday, Jan. 2. He had been stabbed multiple times by an unknown assailant. According to an ABC news report, the condition of his home suggested a possible robbery and his death has being designated by LAPD as a homicide. The exact cause of death has yet to be determined.

Ben Bradley had been part of the intimate Fountain Theatre for over 16 years. Among his many accomplishments were two acclaimed productions of August Wilson plays: Gem of the Ocean, which garnered him 2008 LA Drama Critics Circle Awards for Best Director and Production of the Year, and Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, which brought him a 2006 Ovation Award and a 2007 NAACP Award, both for his direction. He also directed Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill and Direct From Death Row: The Scottsboro Boys, which won his cast an LADCC award for Best Ensemble. His producing credits included Photograph 51, Yellowman, Master Class and Central Avenue; he was co-producer for The Darker Face of the Earth, I Am a Man and Four by Tennessee.

In addition to directing and producing, Bradley also served as the Fountain’s Director of Audience Development. He had been readying Ifa Bayeza’s The Ballad of Emmett Till for a February opening when he failed to show up for a scheduled rehearsal. A stage manager who went to his home to check on him made the gruesome discovery.

Bayeza's play is based on the true story of Emmett Till’s 1955 abduction and murder, and the subsequent acquittal of his killers – events which were instrumental in activating the Civil Rights Movement. The show is described on the Fountain’s website as “part history, part ghost story,” lending a now terrible irony to this west coast premiere production. In honor of Bradley, the Fountain has decided to continue with the show, although a new director has not yet been named and the opening date may change.

So there you have what has been reported thus far about the crime. But what is known about Bradley by the patrons of the Fountain theatre who basked in his warm and friendly greetings; by Fountain co-founders and co-artistic directors Stephen Sachs and Deborah Lawlor, by producing director and dramaturge Simon Levy, and by other staff with whom he had worked for so many years; by actors and critics, fellow directors and producers, and others in the Los Angeles theatre community, was that Ben Bradley was a kind and caring man. He loved to cook and to share his kitchen creations. He had a great laugh and a generous spirit. Levy was quoted in the Sunday, Jan. 3rd L.A. Times as saying, “…There is hardly anybody in this theater community who does not know Ben in one way or another. He was just this big, loving personality.”

In other words, Ben Bradley was a friend. And one whose friendship will be deeply missed.

An email sent to Fountain Theatre supporters Monday afternoon reporting Bradley’s death said, in part, “We're reeling, in shock and grief and anger. Ben was a sweet soul, a passionate artist, someone who only wanted to do good; that he should die the way he did is horrifying to all of us. He was an integral part of our Fountain Family and we've no idea what it will be like without him.”

The Fountain Theatre has also established the Ben Bradley Memorial Fund. For more information or to make a donation, visit www.fountaintheatre.com or call Diana at 323/663-1098.

PLEASE NOTE: The police are seeking the public’s help in solving Bradley’s murder. If you have any information, you are urged to call the LAPD at 1-877-LAPD-24-7.

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