MY NAME IS ASHER LEV to Run 2/22-4/19 at the Fountain
A young painter must reconcile his remarkable artistic gifts with the austerity and singular devotion required by his faith. Stephen Sachs directs the Los Angeles premiere of Aaron Posner's award-winning stage adaptation of Chaim Potok's acclaimed novel, My Name is Asher Lev, opening Feb. 22 at the Fountain Theatre.
Set in Brooklyn's Hasidic Jewish community, Asher Lev is the powerful story of a young painter's struggle to become an artist at any cost - against the will of his parents, community and tradition. Exploring questions of art, family, religion and loyalty, this extraordinary adaptation is a compelling look at the cost of individuality.
"This is a play about the struggle to discover and be who you are," says Sachs. "Sometimes who you are is in conflict with your family and your community. Art has the power to destroy as well as to heal. What do you do when you know that the art you create might hurt the people you love?"
In Posner's highly theatrical and fluid adaptation, a cast of three brings the story to life. Jason Karasev stars in the title role. Originally from Chicago, Jason produced and starred in Stephen Belber's Tape, which took Best of Fringe Honors at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. He has also been seen as Phil in A Boys' Life (Crown City) and as Naz in Philip Ridley's Mercury Fur (Ovation nomination). The many characters who influence and inspire Asher Lev on his journey - parents, teachers, mentors and friends - will be created by Ovation and L.A. Weekly Award-winning actress Anna Khaja (Shaheed: The Dream and Death of Benazir Bhutto, Rogue Machine's Falling) and LADCC-nominated Joel Polis (Odyssey productions of Bach at Leipzig, Pound of Flesh, Three Travelers, Richard III, The Cherry Orchard, After Crystal Night and Fedunn).
Posner, who had previously worked with Potok on adapting his novel "The Chosen" for the stage, found My Name Is Asher Lev to be deeply rooted in Potok's own life story.
"Many think of it as his most emotionally autobiographical novel, and the fact that it is told in the first person and covers more than 20 years made it a particular challenge for adaptation," he said in an interview.
Aaron Posner's adaptation of My Name is Asher Lev is the recipient of The Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award. It was commissioned by Philadelphia's Arden Theatre Co. and premiered there in 2009. A recent production at New York's Westside Theatre earned the 2012-13 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play and the John Gassner Memorial Playwriting Award.
Set design for My Name is Asher Lev is by Jeff McLaughlin; lighting design is by Ric Zimmerman; original music and sound design is by Lindsay Jones; costume design is by Shon LeBlanc; wig design is by Diane Martinous; prop design is by Misty Carlisle; dialect coach is Tyler Seiple; and the production stage manager is Terri Roberts.
Stephen Sachs is a multi-award winning director and playwright. His play, Bakersfield Mist, which he directed at the Fountain, will open on London's West End in the spring of 2014. Other directing credits include Completeness by Itamar Moses, starring Jason Ritter, Warren Leight's Side Man starring Christine Lahti and Tony-winner Frank Wood, and a 3-city tour in China directing Top Secret for LA Theatre Works; the L.A. premiere of Conor McPherson's Shining City (LA Weekly Award); the world premiere of Miss Julie: Freedom Summer at the Fountain, Canadian Stage Company (Toronto), Vancouver Playhouse and Edinburgh Fringe Festival; Euripides' Hippolytos at the Getty Villa in Malibu, Gilgamesh at Theatre @ Boston Court, West Coast premiere of String of Pearls at the Road Theatre, Arthur Miller's After the Fall (4 Ovation awards including Best Production and Best Director), Sweet Nothing in My Ear (Fountain Theatre, Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago, Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis), and many others. Sachs has a special relationship with Athol Fugard, who calls the Fountain his "artistic home on the West Coast," and has directed the premieres of six of the master playwright's works including the U.S. premieres of The Blue Iris and The Train Driver (LA Weekly Award, Best Director); West Coast premiere of Coming Home (Best Director, LA Weekly award); U.S. premiere of Victory (NAACP Award, Best Director); world premiere of Exits and Entrances at the Fountain (Ovation and LA Drama Critics Circle awards, Best Director) and Off-Broadway at Primary Stages in New York (NY Outer Critics Circle nomination Best New Play); and L.A. premiere of Road to Mecca. Sachs has twice won the LA Ovation Award for Best Director of a Play and has been twice nominated for the SDC Zelda Fichandler Award, recognizing an outstanding director who is making a unique and exceptional contribution to theatre in their region. He co-founded The Fountain Theatre with Deborah Lawlor in 1990.
Aaron Posner is a playwright, director and teacher. He is an artistic associate of Washington DC's Folger Theatre, an associate artist for Milwaukee Repertory Theater, and a founding artistic director of Philadelphia's Arden Theatre Company. His plays and adaptations include Chaim Potok's novels My Name Is Asher and The Chosen; Stupid F**king Bird (loosely adapted from Chekhov's The Seagull); Who Am I This Time? (And Other Conundrums of Love); Sometimes A Great Notion; a musical adaptation of Mark Twain's A Murder, A Mystery and A Marriage; and many more. He has directed over 100 productions at major regional theaters.
Chaim Potok (1929 - 2002) was born in the Bronx to Jewish immigrants from Poland. Potok's years in an Orthodox household and schooling through college stood in stark conflict with the world of literature and art that early captured his imagination. Later he found in Conservative Judaism, with its emphasis on historical evolution of Jewish texts, an intellectual home where his love of Judaism and of secular culture could dynamically interact. Upon ordination he served as a US Army chaplain serving 16 months in Korea in the mid-'50s with combat medical and engineer battalions. In 1959 Potok and his young family first settled in Philadelphia where he was scholar in residence at Har Zion Temple and pursued a doctorate in philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania. He wrote The Chosen in Jerusalem, the same year he wrote his dissertation. In 1967 he became editor-in-chief of the Jewish Publication Society of Philadelphia. He taught writing at Johns Hopkins University and a popular course in philosophy to the Benjamin Franklin Honors Fellows at his alma mater. The Chosen was followed by other famous works such as The Promise, My Name Is Asher Lev and The Gift of Asher Lev. He also wrote plays and children's literature in addition to non-fiction and short stories.
Housed in a charming two-story complex, the Fountain is one of the most successful intimate theaters in Los Angeles, providing a creative home for multi-ethnic theater and dance artists. The Fountain has won over 200 awards, and Fountain projects have been seen across the U.S. and internationally. Highlights include The Normal Heart (Huffington Post's "2013 Top Ten Theater Productions"), In the Red and Brown Water ("Best in Theater 2012" - Los Angeles Times); Cyrano, an adaptation of the Rostand classic for hearing and deaf actors by Stephen Sachs (LADCC Award, "Outstanding Production"), a six-month run of Bakersfield Mist, also by Sachs, optioned for London and New York; the Off-Broadway run of the Fountain's world premiere production of Athol Fugard's Exits and Entrances; and the making of Sachs' Sweet Nothing in My Ear into a TV movie. The Fountain has been honored with a Certificate of Appreciation from the Los Angeles City Council for "enhancing the cultural life of Los Angeles."
My Name is Asher Lev opens on Saturday, Feb. 22, with performances Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays @ 8 p.m. and Sundays @ 2 p.m, through April 19 (dark March 15, March 16 and April 5). Preview performances take place Feb. 15 through 21 on the same schedule. Tickets are $34 (reserved seating), except previews which are $20. On Thursdays and Fridays only, seniors over 65 and students with ID are $25. The Fountain Theatre is located at 5060 Fountain Avenue (at Normandie) in Los Angeles. Secure, on-site parking is available for $5. The Fountain Theatre is air-conditioned and wheelchair accessible. For reservations and information, call 323-663-1525 or go to www.FountainTheatre.com.