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Heartland Theater Tests The Limits Of Loyalty

Heartland Theater
Kathleen Kirk, left, directs a cast member of "For the Loyal." The show tackles tough subject matter that's ripped from the headlines.

Heartland Theatertakes a provocative and unconventional look at loyalty within a no-win situation in the new production of "For the Loyal."

Inspired by the Penn State football scandal, Lee Blessing's play focuses on a young couple who are graduate students at a Midwest university. When the husband stumbles across a shocking secret within the football program, the pair are forced to confront complex moral choices. The director of the show is Kathleen Kirk, who first read the play as news of sexual misconduct began dominating the headlines.

"As I was reading this, I was just enthralled, and scared, and fascinated with the idea of how do these things unfold," Kirk recalled. "What is the right thing to do? What are the moral and legal responsibilities? What are the actions that can be taken? And how does this ripple out into the community and do a lot of harm? So what can be done to prevent it or heal afterwards? All these issues were coming up as I was doing this reading." 

Credit Laura Kennedy / WGLT
Director of "For the Loyal," Kathleen Kirk, left, and actress Michelle Woody, who plays Mia in the new Heartland Theater production.

Michelle Woody plays Mia, the wife facing a massive ethical dilemma and possible rupture of her marriage.

"When Mia finds out that her husband has seen something, she thinks there's a certain way that he should respond. And he doesn't," Woody explained. "I see Mia as our collective conscious, working through the issues of what do you do in this situation. Mia is written as an outlet for the feelings that come up when we hear about scandals in the news."

The constant headlines and the #MeToo campaign lend strength to what the cast is trying to achieve, said Woody.

"This is not just an isolated story. This is a story that happens all the time to many, many people. It's something I draw strength from when looking into ways to play the character and express those emotions."

The play also examines what we mean by the word "loyalty," said Kirk.

"Loyalty to each other, to a marriage, loyalty to the truth. What do we mean by loyalty? So if you're loyal to this idea or that idea, consider what you did in being loyal. The play is a challenge in that way"

"For the Loyal" opens Feb. 8 and runs through Feb. 24 at Heartland Theater in Normal. The show contains mature content.

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Reporter, content producer and former All Things Considered host, Laura Kennedy is a native of the Midwest who occasionally affects an English accent just for the heck of it. Related to two U.S. presidents, Kennedy appalled her family by going into show business.