Asolo Repertory Theatre challenges its audiences to answer questions both women and men have been asking themselves since the second wave of feminism emerged in the 1960's: is it possible for women to balance a career and a family at the same time? If yes, then does "having it all" equate fulfillment in life? The Heidi Chronicles, Wendy Wasserstein's 1989 Pulitzer and Tony Award winning play, maps the coming of age of Heidi Holland, a member of the baby boomer generation and a successful art historian, during the 1960's, 1970's, and 1980's. The story begins with Heidi at age 16 and follows her through periods of idealism to political radicalism and militant feminism. By the time Heidi reaches age 40, she achieves her personal happiness through materialism and motherhood, two things she initially rejected.
The Heidi Chronicles is the third show in the 2013 repertory season, following two weeks after season opener You Can't Take It With You and a week after Glengarry Glen Ross. The Heidi Chronicles will have two preview performances Jan. 17 and 18 at 8 p.m. before it formally opens Saturday, Jan. 19 at 8 p.m. Laura Kepley, Associate Artistic Director of Cleveland Play House, directs this popular modern classic in her first season at Asolo Rep, which runs through March 17.
"The questions this play raises are just as urgent and relevant now as when the play was written, maybe even more so," said Kepley. "We are still struggling to balance career and family. Part of growing up means realizing that we have the power to create our own definition of happiness. This is Heidi's journey, which certainly resonates with a 21st century audience."
The story unfolds through a series of interrelated scenes beginning with Heidi (played by New York stage actress Elizabeth King-Hall) as a reserved 16 year-old girl at a prep school dance. There she meets best friend Susan Johnston (Chicago native Gail Rastorfer, also seen as Mrs. Kirby in this season's Asolo Rep production of You Can't Take It With You), a more outgoing, aggressive, career-minded feminist. She also encounters two men that go on to play significant roles in shaping her life: the conceited womanizer and magazine publisher Scoop Rosenbaum (New York-based guest artist Zachary Fine) with whom she has an affair, and charming pediatrician Peter Patrone (fellow New York actor Brian Sills), someone that she cares for deeply and could potentially make a great husband who, ultimately, turns out to be gay. The play tracks these characters until age 40, and reveals how their destinies are shaped by the individual choices they make. All four lead actors are making their debut on the Asolo Rep stage.
How does this show relate to the theatre's five-season theme, The American Character Project?
"The Heidi Chronicles is absolutely a play about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," said Michael Donald Edwards, Producing Artistic Director for Asolo Repertory Theatre. "Heidi proclaims in the play 'All people deserve to fulfill their potential.' I can't imagine a more profound follow-up statement to 1776 and Thomas Jefferson's 'All men (and women) are created equal' for this, the third show of our inaugural American Character season."
"It's a fun, funny, and moving story of four friends navigating a rapidly shifting American landscape. The play covers 25 years in 13 scenes. In researching the time period of the play-the 1960's, 1970's, and 1980's-I looked at photographs from iconic moments, listened to amazing music, and learned the hully-gully, the twist, and the hustle. It truly was an extraordinary time in our country's history," added Kepley.
The Heidi Chronicles is considered Wasserstein's best work. The play premiered off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizon on Nov. 18, 1988 and closed on Feb. 19, 1989 after 99 performances. It debuted on Broadway at the Plymouth Theatre on March 9, 1989 and closed Sept. 1, 1990 after a run of 622 performances. Both productions were directed by Daniel J. Sullivan. The original cast featured Joan Allen as Heidi, Peter Friedman as Scoop, Boyd Gaines as Peter. Sarah Jessica Parker and Cynthia Nixon of Sex and The City fame both were featured in the play in three small roles, Parker in the off-Broadway production, and Nixon stepping in for the Broadway run.