The Echo Theater Company Will Present the World Premiere of POOR CLARE

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The Echo Theater Company Will Present the World Premiere of POOR CLARE

Clare is just a regular noblewoman living in medieval Italy, trying out hairstyles and waiting to get married... until a man named Francis starts ranting in the courtyard. The Echo Theater Company presents the world premiere of Poor Clare, a play by Chiara Atik about what happens when your eyes are opened to the injustice of the world around you - and you can't look away. Alana Dietze (Dry Land, The Wolves) directs for a March 14 opening, with performances continuing through April 20 at Atwater Village Theatre. Three "pay what you want" previews take place on March 11, March 12 and March 13.

Set in 13th Century Italy and based on the real story of St. Clare of Assisi, Atik's powerful and very funny modern spin on the Middle Ages couldn't feel more timely. Clare and her sister Beatrice (Troy Leigh-Anne Johnson and Donna Zadeh, both seen in last season's The Wolves) are ordinary teens from an affluent family - they could just as well be living in 21st Century Calabasas or Beverly Hills. They worry about the latest styles, and gossip about boys with their live-in help (Kari Lee Cartwright and Martica De Cardenas). Together with their mother, Ortolana (Ann Noble), they do their best to be socially conscious and "give back," donating leftover food to the poor (Robert Stoccardo) and organizing clothing drives. But Clare is intrigued when she hears that a local boy, Francis (Michael Sturgis, last seen at the Echo in Gloria), recently stripped naked in the market square - ostensibly as a protest against poverty. "That's so dumb," Clare says at first. "Like, who is pro poverty? It's just a thing. Like just a fact. Of life."

According to Atik, "I found I was having a lot of conversations with my friends in which we would despair about everything from income inequality to homelessness to the refugee crisis and famine in Yemen. We would get ourselves all worked up over dinner, and then I'd go back to my apartment and turn on Netflix and resume my normal life. This reminded me of the story of St. Clare who became radicalized as a teenager, at 18. She didn't just feel bad about the state of the world, she had the conviction - and strength - to actually sacrifice for what she believed in."

"How do we give our lives meaning in the face of the insurmountable problems we see around us every day?," asks Dietze. "I love the way Chiara has drawn a line directly from Clare in 1211 to now, without saying it outright. She's managed to make this person, who did something most of us would consider completely unrealistic, relatable. The system that created wealth inequality then hasn't really changed. Listening to the characters, it feels like it could be me or any of my friends talking - which is really fun when it's juxtaposed with period costumes and design."

Chiara Atik's other plays include Five Times in One Night, Bump and Women, a mashup of Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women" and HBO's Girls. Her work has been developed at New York Theater Workshop, Clubbed Thumb/Playwrights Horizons Superlab, Williamstown, Northern Stage and Colt Coeur. Chiara's writing has been featured in The Atlantic, Glamour Magazine, Cosmopolitan magazine and at NYMag.com. Other writing credits include "Paris is Lovely/Lonely When You're Alone" (Amazon Kindle) and "Modern Dating: A Field Guide," (Harlequin, 2013). Her feature film script, Fairy Godmother, was on the 2016 Black List. Chiara is a member of The Ensemble Studio Theater and an alum of EST's Youngblood.

Alana Dietze's previous directing credits include The Wolves, The Found Dog Ribbon Dance, Dry Land and A Small Fire with the Echo Theater Company, and Ripe Frenzy for the Greenway Court Theater. The Wolves was named to both Charles McNulty's "Highlights of 2019" list in the Los Angeles Times and KCRW's "Best of 2019" list, and was Ovation and Stage Raw award-nominated for best production. direction and ensemble. Alana directed Dry Land for a second time when it was remounted at the Kirk Douglas Theater as part of CTG's Block Party; together, the two productions garnered nine Ovation nominations, including for direction, and won the 2016 Ovation for "Best Production in an intimate theater." Alana is also an Ovation-nominated actress and serves as the Echo's associate artistic director and literary manager.

The creative team includes scenic designer Amanda Knehans; lighting designer Azra King-Abadi; sound designer Jeff Gardner; costume designer Dianne K. Graebner; wig and hair designer Klint Flowers; and graphic designer Christopher Komuro. The production stage manager is Venice Yue Yang. The associate producer is Alexa Yeames, and Chris Fields and Rachael Zambias produce for the Echo Theater Company.

Founded in 1997 and dedicated to producing new work, the Echo Theater Company has gained a reputation for bringing the hottest new plays and playwrights to Los Angeles. Echo's 2019 production of The Wolves by Sarah DeLappe was named "Best of 2019" by .both the Los Angeles Times and radio station KCRW, and the world premiere of Handjob by Erik Patterson made the "Highlights of 2019" list at LA Observed. The 2018 season saw West Coast premieres of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' Pulitzer Prize finalist play Gloria, named to the Los Angeles Times' "Best of 2018" list, and Molly Smith Metzler's Cry It Out, winner of both Los Angeles Drama Critic's Circle and Ovation "Best Production" and "Playwriting" awards, and listed on KCRW's "Best of 2018" list. In addition, the Echo was honored with the LADCC award for "Best 2018 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. 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... Artistic directors of theaters of all sizes would be wise to follow the [lead] of the Echo's Chris Fields, who [is] building audience communities eager for the challenge of path-breaking plays." KCRW's Anthony Byrnes stated, "Echo Theater Company is on a fierce journey. They're choosing plays that are consistently challenging and all have a deep conscience... The body of work that Echo is building is substantial. If you wanted to pick one small theater to add to your cultural roster - Echo is a consistent favorite."

Poor Clare opens on Saturday, March 14, with performances continuing on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 4 p.m.; and Mondays at 8 p.m. through April 20. Three preview performances are set for Wednesday, March 11; Thursday, March 12; and Friday, March 13, each at 8 p.m. Tickets are $34 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays; Monday night performances are $20 in advance, and Pay-What-You-Want at the door (subject to availability). 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.


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