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The Echo: A Legacy of Important New Theater

Since its founding in 1996, the Echo Theater Company has presented 71 Los Angeles premiere productions. Of these, 57 were world premieres; of those 57 world premieres, 33 were plays commissioned by the theater.

For over two decades we have presented a monthly free reading series as part of our mission to discover, develop and present new and challenging voices for Los Angeles theater. To date, we have presented over 200 free readings of new plays in Los Angeles.  

From 1996 through 2013, we launched productions in nine different venues from Santa Monica to downtown, from Venice to Studio City, and from the Adams district to Hollywood. (In 2014, we settled into our permanent home at the Atwater Village Theater.)

The Echo founded and produced The Ojai Playwrights Conference from 1996 through 2000, bringing work from Christopher Durang, David Ives, David Lindsay-Abaire, Adam Rapp, and Jessica Goldberg, amongst other gifted writers, to Southern California.

In1998, Showtime Networks gave us a “first-look” deal in recognition of our mission to discover and nurture new writers. That same year, the Echo presented Homegrown at The Ventura Court Theater, becoming the first company to produce Rick Cleveland (Emmy Award, WGA Award) in Los Angeles.

In 1999, we presented Ghosts in the Cottonwoods at The 24th Street Theater, becoming the first theater to produce Adam Rapp (Pulitzer Prize Finalist) in Los Angeles.

In 1999, we presented A Devil Inside at The Whitefire Theatre, becoming the first theater to produce David Lindsay-Abaire (Pulitzer Prize) in Los Angeles.

In 2000, the Echo Playwrights LAB was founded. Click here to read more about ongoing to the present members.

In 2000, we implemented ActOut, an educational outreach program dedicated to helping at-risk youth. Trained company members visited Camp Kilpatrick, a detention facility in Malibu for boys aged 13-18, to lead classes in basic acting and writing that emphasized the use of personal experience as a positive source for artistic expression.

While introducing boys to acting and playwriting, these lessons also guided them toward self-respect and self-awareness. We continued this program for ten years until Camp Kilpatrick closed in 2010.

In 2003, we commissioned and presented plays by Tanya Barfield, Neena Beber, Adam Rapp, Padriac Duffy, Jessica Goldberg, Napoleon Ellsworth, Quincy Long, Paula Cizmar, and Paul Grellong.

In that same year, our production of Bryan Davidson’s War Music (Ovation Awards: Best Play, Ensemble) became the first play to move from a 99-seat theater to The Geffen Playhouse.

In 2004, the company commissioned and presented plays by Ron Fitzgerald, David Lindsay-Abaire, Hilly Hicks Jr., Napoleon Ellsworth, Jacqueline Wright, Leah Ryan, Cusi Cram, and Carl Capotorto.

In 2005, the company presented Melancholy Play, thus becoming the first theater to produce Sarah Ruhl, (Pulitzer Prize Finalist/ MacArthur Fellow) in Los Angeles.

In 2006, the company commissioned and presented plays by John Lavachielli, Gary Sunshine, Cusi Cram, Julia Cho (WGA Award, Susan Smith Blackburn Prize), and Padriac Duffy.

In 2009, the company commissioned and produced plays by Julia Cho, Padriac Duffy, David Ives, (Outer Critics Circle Award, Charles MacArthur Award, Helen Hayes Award) and Sharon Yablon.

In 2010, the company presented Wirehead by Matt Benjamin and Logan Brown. The production received 7 LA Weekly award nominations.

In 2010, the company’s production of Everything Will Be Different by Marc Schultz was nominated for 2 Ovation awards.

From 2010 to 2012, the company implemented Playtime, an outreach program in which Echo members supervised theater games, songs, and improvisations and performed fairy tales, nursery rhymes and theater pieces for sick and gravely ill children of all ages in a number of facilities and hospitals in Los Angeles, among them, Totally Kids and Children’s Hospital.

Our 2013 production of Gary Lennon’s A Family Thing was nominated for 6 LA Weekly Awards and won 2, including Best Comedy Direction.

In 2014, we took up permanent residence in the Atwater Village Theatre.

Ian Bamberg and Adam Martin Rocha in “Backyard” by Mickey Birnbaum

Our 2014 production of Tommy Smith’s Firemen won 5 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards including nominations for Best Play and Best Direction.

Our 2014 season was nominated for 10 Ovation Awards, winning 2.

In 2014, we commissioned and produced plays by Shawna Casey, Miki Johnson, Jen Silverman (Kennedy Center Award, Helen Merrill Award), Brian Tanen, Wes Walker, and John Lavachielli.

The Echo was named in LA Weekly’s annual “Best Of LA” issue and anointed the “Best Bet for Ballsy Original Plays” in Los Angeles.

In 2015, we founded the Echo Associate Company as an initiative to nurture young aspiring theater artists and to address the need for diversity in the Los Angeles theater community. In 2017, we commissioned and produced plays for the Associate Company by Mary Laws, Calamity West, Sharon Yablon, Charlotte Miller, and Jacqueline Wright to comprise an evening entitled Nevertheless She Persisted.

 In 2016, we produced Dry Land, by Ruby Rae Spiegel, which won the Ovation Award for Best Production and was remounted as part of the inaugural Block Party at the Kirk Douglas Theater, a Center Theater Group initiative highlighting the best of LA’s smaller theater.

Sheila Callaghan’s “Bed” directed by Jen Chambers; featuring: Kate Morgan Chadwick TW Leshner Johnathan McClain

Our 2016 season was nominated for 5 Los Angeles Drama Critic Circle Awards and won 2.

Our 2017 season was nominated for 13 Ovation awards, including Best Season, and won 2.

The Echo received a “Kilroy Cake Drop” in 2017. We were one of only 13 companies in the country to be surprised by the gift of a cake by the Kilroys. The cake honored the company’s efforts to produce works by women and trans writers.

Charles McNulty wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “ [the] 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.”

In 2017, the company founded the National Young Playwrights in Residence. The project is based on the belief that young talented playwrights can be found across the country, as well as the conviction that an advanced degree is not the only requirement for career advancement in the theater. We solicited applications and scripts nationally and received over two hundred submissions. The list was culled down to 16 writers; eventually 6 young playwrights from across the country were chosen. They were paired with professional writer mentors in LA and New York. The participants have each been writing a play and participating in Skype meetings with their mentors at least once a month. In June of 2018, we are bringing all six playwrights to Los Angeles for a week to meet with their mentors and continue to work on their plays, culminating in a weekend of festival readings of their work.

The company produced The Cake by Bekah Brunstetter, (Emmy, Peabody, WGA awards) as part of its 2017 season. This world premiere production will be remounted at the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at The Geffen Playhouse in the fall of 2018 as part of their season.

KCRW recently said of our company: “It’s time to start paying attention to The Echo Theater Company…What’s made their choices pay off is [that] the acting and casting has been superb. The company has made bold choices and backed them up…essential theatre.”