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“A Heartbeat to Baghdad” goes from page to NYC stage

Austin Peay Playwright-in-Residence Glyn OMalley, who wrote A Heartbeat to Baghdad last summer, is seeing stars. And those stars seem to be lining up perfectly for him.

OMalley has returned this fall to APSU to direct a full production of A Heartbeat, which was performed July 3 at the University as a staged reading. Since that time, he has had numerous heads of legitimate theatre vying for the right to stage it.
Austin Peay Playwright-in-Residence Glyn O'Malley, who wrote “A Heartbeat to Baghdad last summer, is seeing stars. And those stars seem to be lining up perfectly for him.

O'Malley has returned this fall to APSU to direct a full production of “A Heartbeat,” which was performed July 3 at the University as a staged reading. Since that time, he has had numerous heads of legitimate theatre vying for the right to stage it.

On Thursday, Sept. 8, O'Malley e-mailed APSU President Sherry Hoppe: “I wanted you to be among the first to know (having just gotten off the phone with my lawyer) that ‘A Heartbeat to Baghdad' will be going into rehearsals in New York City at Jim Simpson and Sigourney Weaver's Off-Broadway theatre, The Flea, on Sept. 30. It will have first previews Oct. 24 and 25 and open for the press on Nov. 8.

“On its heels, my other ‘war' play, “Paradise,” will be opening in New York City in January 2005 at The Samuel Beckett Theatre on Theatre Row.”

In addition to the premiere of “A Heartbeat to Baghdad” at APSU in October and in New York City in November, there will be a reading of “A Heartbeat” Nov. 5 at The New Theatre in Coral Gables, Fla.the same theatre that will be producing “Paradise” after its New York City run and the theatre in which the 2003 Pulitzer Prize-winner “Anna in the Tropics” originated.

O'Malley is delighted that two of his most significant plays will hit New York City theatres almost simultaneously“A Heartbeat to Baghdad” and “Paradise.”

Commissioned in 2002 by Cincinnati's Playhouse in the Park, “Paradise” was inspired by the deaths of a young female Palestinian homicide bomber and her young female Israeli victim. Brilliant but controversial, “Paradise” never saw the light of day in Cincinnati, closed down by protests from The Council of American and Islamic Relations.

Although fictional, “A Heartbeat to Baghdad” was inspired by O'Malley's first-person interviews conducted last June while he was working as APSU playwright-in-residence. After interviewing many soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), as well as those with other units stationed at Fort Campbell and, most importantly, with the loved ones they left behind when they deployed to Iraq, O'Malley wrote “A Heartbeat”a play that takes the audience “in country” to the liberation of Iraq as well as into the war's other epicenterthe hearts and minds of the families left behind in the Clarksville-Hopkinsville, Ky. area.

Although some people in the world of professional theatre were critical of O'Malley's decision to tackle such a topic as that depicted with poignancy and humor in “A Heartbeat,” most folks who actually read the script offered resounding praise.

Playwright William H. Hoffman, who received a Tony for his play “As Is,” called O'Malley and said, “I just finished your play, and tears are streaming down my face. I cannot believe how beautiful it is, how moved I am.

“What you have written about our lives as Americans is monumental and desperately needs to be heard.”

After attending the staged reading July 3 of “A Heartbeat to Baghdad,” APSU's Hoppe said, “The play is powerful, and I thought it was very well balanced in depicting the multiple sides of war. If I were a critic, I would give it rave reviews.”

Before O'Malley departed from Clarksville in July, he requested a contract with APSU, by which 5 percent of all his future royalties from “A Heartbeat to Baghdad” will be given, in perpetuity, to The Sgt. Ariel Rico Memorial Scholarship at APSUdesignated by O'Malley for the children of fallen soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division and other Fort Campbell units.

For more information about the world premiere of “A Heartbeat to Baghdad” at APSU and in New York City, as well as the NYC premiere of “Paradise,” contact O'Malley by e-mail at GOMallely@aol.com or by telephone at (931) 221-7378.
—Dennie Burke