A Q&A with the cast of “The Heidi Chronicles”
Wendy Wasserstein’s 1988 play “The Heidi Chronicles” has been praised as a masterwork of feminist drama, winning a Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1989.
Now, 29 years later, it will be performed by members of the SJU Theater Company in a production directed by Laura Pattillo, Ph.D, assistant professor in the department of English.
Rose Weldon: So how are you all getting into character?
Hannah Field, ’18 (Becky/Clara/Denise): There’s a differentiation between all the different roles. We’re putting a lot of thought into how the mannerisms are and things like that versus the other characters, so you don’t look like you are the same person.
Mattie Yoncha, ’20 (Jill/Debbie/Lisa): One of my characters, Lisa, is Southern, so I’ll catch myself saying random phrases in a Southern accent [laughs].
Natalie Roche, ’17 (Heidi Holland): Now that we’ve started running scenes more and more in order, it’s a lot easier to transition from Heidi being a teenager throughout the many periods of her life.
Michael Rizzo, ’17 (Scoop Rosenbaum): We were talking about that the other night with Dr. Pattillo, how you get to watch Heidi grow, and for Susan [Johnston] and I, every time we’re seen, we are radically different in some way. So, for example, I start off very eager, then as a yuppie, then a full on douchebag, then I’m going through a midlife crisis.
Abigail Gorman, ’17 (Susan Johnston): Susan is always an extremist in whatever phase she’s in. It’s really funny because in a way she’s similar to the people playing multiple characters – she always has a different mindset, but there has to be an aura of similarity, because she’s still Susan. So she goes from boy-crazy, to super feminist, to joining a women’s health collective, back to business school, then she’s a TV executive. That dynamic is fun to play.
RW: Do you find yourself getting inspiration from within for your characters?
MR: I have those moments of being too arrogant and cocky, kind of like Scoop.
NR: I think I’m very similar to Heidi, because when our director asks where I’m getting our inspiration from, I usually say myself. And that’s a weird thing, because in past roles I just take it from people, but I literally say lines that I would say in real life, talking to my roommate about guys.
HF: One of my characters, Denise, is a little bit younger than everyone else in the cast and a little more naïve than everyone else. She’s in her early 20s and talks about how she wants to get married and have a baby by 30 and have a career, and I think that ambition is something that everyone who’s in college can relate to right now.
RW: Natalie, this is your first time onstage in a while. What made you want to come back to theater?
NR: I had been involved in a lot of organizations on campus, but when I student-taught in the fall, I had to let go of a lot of those positions. Late in the fall, I got more time. This was the first time I’ve gone out for a show, and I saw it was “The Heidi Chronicles,” so I read the script in the library and chose her big monologue to audition with. And I went in saying, ‘I just want to be back onstage, have a small role or something that my parents can see.’ So when I started reading for Heidi in callbacks, that’s when I thought, ‘Oh. This is going to take up more time than I thought’ [laughs]. But it’s been awesome. I’ve never been a lead before in my life, so I’m so grateful for this experience.
RW: What do you want to say to people who are on the fence about seeing “Heidi”?
MR: From a male perspective, it’s important to see what women have been going through throughout the decades and compare it to now. And to really ask the question whether or not we have grown.
NR: This is the type of show where people in the audience will think, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve felt that way before.’ They’re going to find so much in common with the characters that take place throughout, which is interesting because it does take place from the 60s to the 80s. So many of the problems back then are problems now. And people are going to sit in the audience and think, ‘I have so much in common with what they are saying.’
“The Heidi Chronicles” will be performed in Bluett Theatre on April 19, 20, 21 and 22 at 8p.m. and April 23 at 2p.m.