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Echo Theater Company and Circle X join forces to present
world premiere of ‘An Undivided Heart’ by Yusuf Toropov
LOS ANGELES (Feb. 8, 2018) — How far will powerful men and institutions go to keep their secrets — and who pays the price when they do? Echo Theater Company and Circle X Theatre Co. join forces to present the world premiere of An Undivided Heart by Yusuf Toropov, directed by Chris Fields and running March 16 through April 22 at Atwater Village Theatre. Two pay-what-you-want previews take place on March 14 and March 15.
Set in 1992 Massachusetts against the backdrop of the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal and a toxic drinking water scandal (the latter made famous by the book and film “A Civil Action”), An Undivided Heart is part thriller and part spiritual mystery. A series of otherworldly visions and an unlikely encounter with a Zen priest propel Father Mike Cleary into a collision course with his Archdiocese, while Lynne Callahan, a young widow, struggles to make sense of her life in a town whose water has been polluted with deadly chemicals. The two confront a universal problem: How do victims of suffering caused by others find a way to go on?
“In the early ’90s, before the Catholic Church scandal broke, it was a different time,” explains Toropov, an American who makes his home in County Offaly, Ireland. “There were a lot of dark things people agreed to pretend they didn’t know. How hierarchies can use that silence to cover up abuse is a lot clearer now. Anyone who does that much damage can’t function within the cadre without somebody knowing about it.”
“I believe we have a moral obligation to take action if we can to keep other people from getting harmed — even if the necessary action runs against the basic tenets of our religious or other beliefs,” he continues. “For example, a priest takes a vow to obey his supervisors and supposedly that’s absolute. But we need to understand the difference between orthodoxy and orthopraxy — what our religion tells us to believe and what we actually do. In the play, the teachings of Christianity come up against the teachings of Buddhism. In both schools, sometimes your logical mind is an ally and sometimes it’s an obstacle. The larger question is, what’s the right thing to do in this moment?”
Fields first came across the script when he was cast as an actor in a reading of it at the National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. He later directed a workshop at the Public Theater in New York.
“According to Buddhism, everyone is inside the circle,” Fields says. “We’re all in this together. In the end, this play is very affirming. Even in the darkness, there’s always light. We are each of us capable of great good and of transcending the darkness that sometimes seems to surround us.”
Circle X artistic director Tim Wright, who takes on a key role as a member of the ensemble, is excited to partner with Echo on this production. ““This play is so human, subtle and powerful, but also very funny and there are so many layers,” he says, “Chris invited me to perform in a reading a few years ago, and I couldn’t get it out of my head. It’s a really great fit for both companies.”
The ensemble for An Undivided Heart includes Jeff Alan-Lee, Jesse Bush, Bob Clendenin, Alana Dietze, Ann’Jewel Lee, Paul Eiding, Matthew Gallenstein, John Getz, Kaleb King, Tracey A. Leigh, Alison Martin, Sigute Miller, Jennifer A. Skinner, Michael Sturgis and Tim Wright. Some of the parts are double cast, with actors alternating performances. The creative team includes set designer Amanda Knehans, lighting designer Rose Malone, sound designer Cricket S. Myers, costume designer Dianne K. Graebner and graphic designer Christopher Komuro. The production stage manager is Venice Yue Yang.
Yusuf Toropov is an American writer who emigrated to Ireland in 2015 and opted to stay following the 2016 US election. A convert to Islam, he is the author of the novel “Jihadi: A Love Story” and of dozens of nonfiction books, including pop culture guides such as “Who Was Eleanor Rigby?” and religious works such as “Beyond Mere Christianity” — a rebuttal to C.S Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” citing common sources and themes shared by Islam and Christianity. His other plays include Seven Affidavits on Authority and The Job Search, which was produced at the Manhattan Punch Line in New York City. As an actor, he has performed in productions or adaptations of The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Macbeth. He has appeared on more than 100 local and national broadcast programs.
Founded in 1997 and dedicated to producing new work, the Echo Theater Company was received 13 Ovation Award nominations for its 2017 productions, including “Best Season.” The company was anointed “Best Bet for Ballsy Original Plays” by the LA Weekly in its 2014 Best of L.A. issue and was a recipient of a 2016 “Kilroy Cake Drop”– one of only 13 theaters in the country to be surprised by cakes to honor the efforts they are making to produce women and trans writers. Under the leadership of founding artistic director Chris Fields, the Echo has introduced Los Angeles to playwrights such as David Lindsay-Abaire, Adam Rapp, Sarah Ruhl, Adam Bock and Miki Johnson among others. The company is also recognized for its acting ensemble; in the Los Angeles Times, theater critic Charles McNulty wrote, “Echo Theater Company, which has cultivated a community of top flight actors, would be my go-to place in Los Angeles for symbiotic ensemble acting.” KCRW’s Anthony Byrnes stated, “It’s time to start paying attention to the Echo Theater Company… What’s made these choices pay off is the acting and casting has been superb. The company has made bold choices and backed them up.”
Circle X Theatre Co. is a not-for-profit ensemble of artists dedicated to highly provocative, boldly theatrical productions of new and rarely-seen plays and the development of new works for the stage. We believe in imagination over budget, adrenaline over inertia, irreverence over convention and excellence over all. Circle X was founded in 1996 by seven theater artists drawn together by a common desire to create an artistic home in Los Angeles. We support Los Angeles-based theater artists interested in taking new plays from inception to production, and launching them onto a life beyond our stages.
An Undivided Heart runs March 16 through April 22, with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 4 p.m.; and Mondays at 8 p.m. Two preview performances are set for Wednesday., March 14 and Thursday, March 15, both at 8 p.m. Tickets are $34 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and $20 on Mondays. Preview performances are Pay-What-You-Want. Atwater Village Theatre is located at 3269 Casitas Ave in Los Angeles, CA 90039. On-site parking is free. For reservations and information, call (310) 307-3753 or go to www.EchoTheaterCompany.com.
Details for Calendar Listings
‘An Undivided Heart’
World premiere of An Undivided Heart — Echo Theater Company and Circle X Theatre Co. join forces to present Yusuf Toropov’s new play that is part thriller and part spiritual mystery. How far will powerful men and institutions go to keep their secrets — and who pays the price when they do? Set in 1992 Massachusetts against the backdrop of the Catholic Church sexual abuse scandal and a toxic drinking water scandal (the latter made famous by the book and film “A Civil Action”), An Undivided Heart is part thriller and part spiritual mystery. A series of otherworldly visions and an unlikely encounter with a Zen priest propel Father Mike Cleary into a collision course with his Archdiocese, while Lynne Callahan, a young widow, struggles to make sense of her life in a town whose water has been polluted with deadly chemicals. The two confront a universal problem: How do victims of suffering caused by others find a way to go on?
• Written by Yusuf Toropov
• Directed by Chris Fields
Featuring Jeff Alan-Lee, Jesse Bush, Bob Clendenin, Alana Dietze, Ann’Jewel Lee, Paul Eiding, Matthew Gallenstein, John Getz, Kaleb King, Tracey A. Leigh, Alison Martin, Sigute Miller, Jennifer A. Skinner, Michael Sturgis and Tim Wright
• Presented by The Echo Theater Company, Chris Fields, artistic director and Circle X Theatre Co., Tim Wright, artistic director
Previews: March 14 and March 15
Performances: March 17 – April. 22
• Wednesday at 8 p.m.: March 14 ONLY (preview)
• Thursday at 8 p.m.: March 15 ONLY (preview)
• Fridays at 8 p.m.: March 16 (opening night), 23, 30; April 6, 13, 20
• Saturdays at 8 p.m.: March 17 (opening night), 24, 31; April 7, 14, 21
• Sundays at 4 p.m.: March 18, 25; April 1, 8, 15, 22
• Mondays at 8 p.m.: March 19, 26; April 2, 9, 16
Echo Theater Company
Atwater Village Theatre
3269 Casitas Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90039
• Fridays/Saturdays/Sundays: $34
• Mondays and Previews: Pay-What You-Want
FREE in the Atwater Xing lot one block south of the theater