A different kind of love story opens The Echo Theater Company’s 2014 season in its new home at Atwater Village Theatre. Chris Fields directs the world premiere of Firemen by Tommy Smith, opening Feb. 8.
Set in rural Washington state during the first Iraq war, Firemen explores an unthinkable love relationship.
“Even though the love at the heart of this play seems to come from a misguided place, it’s the real thing,” says Smith. “It reminds me of a rare flower I read about that only grows in the middle of a lava flow. Right in the midst of all that danger and destruction is this beautiful flower that no one can get at.”
“I wanted to explore the personal home lives of Americans during the first Iraq war,” he explains. “The early ‘90s was a critical period in American history. There was a sudden shift in the way we treat one another. When it becomes okay to send a missile right through somebody’s front door, any line can be transgressed. People suddenly feel free to occupy others when their leader is occupying foreign lands.”
Smith’s plays frequently look at the fallout of personal relationships through a political lens. Playwright Craig Lucas, writing for the New York Theatre Review, declared, “[Tommy Smith] is writing in the shadow of our most daring and politically incendiary of martyred playwright saints.”
Firemen features L.A. theater regulars Rebecca Gray (Theatre of Note, The Actors’ Gang, Open Fist, City Garage, PRT, Ghost Road), Michael McColl (BOB: A Life In Five Acts for Echo, Fathers and Sons, American Book of the Dead, Flu Season for Circle X) and Amanda Saunders (Wirehead, God’s Ear for Echo), alongside newcomers Ian Bamberg (Mischief Night, Case #13) and Zach Callison (Fox’s Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader, Diary of a Single Mom). Scenic design is by Angel Herrera, lighting design is by Matt Richter, sound design is by Drew Dalzell and costume design is by Kathryn Poppen. Rebecca Eisenberg is production stage manager and produces with Chris Fields for The Echo Theater Company.
Tommy Smith’s plays, including Zero; PTSD; Pigeon; The Wife; Sextet; Caravan Man (music and lyrics by Gabriel Kahane); Demon Dreams; A Day In Dig Nation; and Air Conditioning, have been produced at Ensemble Studio Theatre, P.S. 122, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Here Arts Center, .Access Gallery, Washington Ensemble Theatre, Magic Futurebox and the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference. In addition, his award-winning theatrical collaborations with Reggie Watts played at The Public Theatre, La Mama, the Warhol Museum, MCA Chicago, ICA Boston, On The Boards and PICA: TBA, among others. As a director/writer, Tommy recently created the environmental sound performances, Nectarine EP for Flea Theater, Lotus Eaters EP (with voices of Neil Gaiman, Marin Ireland & Reed Birney) for IRT Theater, and Forth for MFB. Tommy is the recipient of the PONY Fellow at The Lark, a two-time winner of the Lecomte du Nouy Prize, a recipient of the E.S.T. Sloan Grant, a winner of the Page73 Productions Playwriting Fellowship, a member of the Dorothy Strelsin New American Writer’s Group at Primary Stages, a recipient of the Creative Capital award, and a two-time winner of the MAP Fund. Publications include Pigeon for Dramatists Play Service and White Hot in the New York Theatre Review. His feature film Figment was optioned by Ridley Scott’s production company ScottFree. He is a graduate of the playwriting program at the Juilliard School. He lives in New York City and Los Angeles.
Chris Fields most recently directed Echo’s critically acclaimed productions of Peter Sinn Nachtrieb’s BOB and A Family Thing by Gary Lennon (“GO!... savvy direction” – LA Weekly). Other directing credits include the world premiere of Kate Robin’s What They Have at South Coast Repertory, the Ovation-nominated Los Angeles premiere of Jessica Goldberg’s Body Politic, Kate Robin’s Anon, Sarah Ruhl’s Melancholy Play, the world premiere of Paul Zimmerman’s Pigs and Bugs, and the world premiere of Eat Me by Jacqueline Wright, which was nominated for six LA Weekly Awards including Best Director. He produced the Echo production of Bryan Davidson’s War Music at the Los Angeles Theater Center, which won three Ovation Awards, including Best Premiere Play and Best Ensemble, before transferring to the Geffen Playhouse—a first for a 99 seat theater production. His work in film includes his adaptation of Neal Bell’s Out the Window, which he produced and directed, and his recent short Sunnyslope, which was awarded Best New York Film at the New York Film and Video Festival and nominated for Best in Fest at the Great Lakes Film Festival. Chris founded and was artistic director of the Ojai Playwrights Conference from 1996 to 2000. Under Fields’ artistic leadership, The Echo has produced 49 premieres, 35 of them world premieres, and is the company that introduced Los Angeles to playwrights David Lindsay-Abaire, Adam Rapp and Sarah Ruhl, among many others
Firemen runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7p.m., Feb. 8 through March 16. There will be one preview performance on Friday, Feb. 7 at 8 p.m. Tickets to all performances are $25. 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.