Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

[Inside] The Ford Premieres Leonard's 'BATTLE HYMN' 1/17


A fantastical epic follows a young girl's amazing pregnancy and kaleidoscopic journey through history: Circle X Theatre Co. presents the World Premiere production of Battle Hymn, by multiple award-winning playwright Jim Leonard (The Diviners, CBS's Close to Home), directed by John Langs. Battle Hymn runs January 17 through February 21 at the 87-seat [Inside] the Ford. This is the second production (following Song of Extinction) in the adventurous 2008-09 season of new plays that is part of the Ford Theatres' partnership program with L.A. County-based performing arts organizations.

On the eve of the Civil War, sixteen-year-old Martha (Los Angeles newcomer Suzy Jane Hunt) finds herself pregnant and ostracized. As Martha travels through and fights in the Civil War, she settles on one incontrovertible fact: she will not raise her baby in a blood-soaked, violent country. Martha stays pregnant for over a century, until she arrives in San Francisco in 1967. For a moment Martha thinks she's landed in heaven, but before she knows it, half the world is at war once again. From the mud and the blood of Fort Sumter to singing cows and the summer of love, Martha's journey embodies the tragedy, humor and hope that have shaped the last 150 years of U.S. history. Original music by Michael Levine adds to the fanciful nature of the piece, which also stars Bill Heck; Robert Manning, Jr.; William Salyers; and John Short.

"The Civil War revolutionized American culture," explains the playwright. "Lincoln emancipated slaves as an act of war against states that were trying to secede from the Union. The freedom that resulted was terrifying for a nation in which the idea that all men are truly created equal was incomprehensible at the time. It changed the course of American society, eventually leading to women's suffrage, gay rights - and even gay marriage."

Langs, who previously directed The Brothers Karamzov and Eurydice for Circle X, describes Battle Hymn as "an incredible adventure story - a harrowing tale of courage that takes on all kinds of sociopolitical and gender-based stereotypes in hilarious ways."

The premiere of Jim Leonard's newest work is a coup for the company. "The chance to be intimately involved from the get-go was one I couldn't pass up," Leonard continues. "The quality of work at Circle X is outstanding. This is a new script, and I want to get it right."

Jim Leonard's published plays include The Diviners; And They Dance Real Slow in Jackson; V & V Only; Home Base; Crow and Weasel; and Anatomy of Gray. Theatrical honors include two NEA Fellowships; a New York Villager Award; the Midland Writers Award; and the Dramatists Guild Award. He wrote the screenplay for Mira Nair's award-winning film My Own Country. Leonard created and executive produced the television series Close to Home, Skin, and Thieves; he wrote and produced The Marshall, Night Visions, Kilroy, Eastwick, Internal Affairs, and the American version of Cracker. Leonard is currently creating a new pilot for F/X Network set on the border of Texas and Mexico.

In addition to his work with Circle X, John Langs has directed productions at Lookingglass Theatre Co. (Chicago), Milwaukee Repertory Theatre and American Players Theatre (Wisconsin). In Seattle he has directed for the Washington Ensemble Theatre and is currently an Associate Artist at the Seattle Shakespeare Company where he directed King Lear and Romeo and Juliet and will helm the upcoming The Merchant of Venice. As a dedicated fan of new plays, Langs has workshopped shows for Ensemble Studio Theatre and Manhattan Theatre Club in New York; A.S.K. Theater Projects in L.A.; and Seattle Dramatists. He has served as Artistic Director for the Full Contact Shakespeare Company of Sacramento; The Golden Mean Theater Company of Los Angeles; and Maui Onstage in Hawaii. At [Inside] the Ford, Langs directed the multiple award-winning productions of The Shaggs: Philosophy of the World, The Brothers Karamazov and Eurydice, all with his longtime friend and collaborator, designer Brian Sidney Bembridge. He returns annually to his alma mater, the North Carolina School of the Arts, to contribute to the training of young artists.

Circle X is a not-for-profit ensemble theater company dedicated to highly provocative and theatrical productions of new and rarely-seen plays. The company's emphasis on innovation goes beyond the selection of thought-provoking, highly challenging plays and extends into everything from design, performance and direction to administration and marketing, creating the unique aesthetic for which Circle X is known. Circle X has been described as "ferocious," "idealistic," "adventurous," "whimsical," "courageous," "talented," "selfless, "a reminder of how good theater can be" and as aspiring to "a level of both sturdy professionalism and imaginative stagecraft that seems almost dangerously, headily high."

The 2008-09 season at [Inside] the Ford is supported by the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and the Ford Theatre Foundation, with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Set and Lighting Designer for Battle Hymn is Brian Sidney Bembridge; Costume Designer is Dianne K. Graebner; Sound Designer is Cricket S. Myers; Tim Wright and Jennifer A. Skinner co-produce for Circle X Theatre Co.

Battle Hymn runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm and 7 pm, January 17 through February 21. Two previews take place on January 15 and 16 at 8 pm. Single tickets are priced at $20 with a special price of $12 for full-time students with ID; preview performances and every Sunday matinee at 2 pm are Pay-What-You-Can.

[Inside] the Ford is located in the Ford Theatres complex at 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hollywood, CA 90068, just off the 101 Hollywood Freeway across from the Hollywood Bowl and south of Universal Studios. On-site, non-stacked parking is free. For reservations and information, call the Ford Theatres Box Office at 323.461.3673 (323.GO1.FORD) or go to


Previews: January 15 and 16
Performances: January 17 through February 21
Performance Schedule:
Thursdays at 8 pm: January 15 (preview), 22, 29; February 5, 12, 19
Fridays at 8 pm: January 16 (preview), 23, 30; February 6, 13, 20
Saturdays at 8 pm: January 17 (Opening Night), 24, 31; February 7, 14, 21
Sundays at 2 pm & 7 pm: January 18, 25; February 1, 8, 15

[Inside] the Ford (the 87-seat indoor theater in the Ford Theatres complex)
2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East
Hollywood, CA 90068
(just off the 101, across the freeway from the Hollywood Bowl and south of Universal Studios)

(323) 461-3673 (GO 1-FORD) or

General admission: $20
Students: $12
Previews and Sunday Matinees at 2 pm: Pay-What-You-Can

FREE on-site (non-stacked).

Battle Hymn is part of the [Inside] the Ford 2008-09 season, a program of the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and the Ford Theatre Foundation in cooperation with Los Angeles County-based arts organizations, with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.


Related Articles View More Los Angeles Stories

Featured on Stage Door

Shoutouts, Classes & More

More Hot Stories For You