Biography  
Publications  
Production Dramaturgy  
New Play Dramaturgy  
Teaching  
Events  

Poor Lessing's
Theatre Almanack
  

Dramaturging Montreal/ATHE


It's such a relief to work with a dramaturg who doesn't look at my play as something that needs to be "fixed." In the past, interactions with dramaturgs, artistic directors, and critics have sometimes felt like this - "Hey, let's get down to the hardware store and buy the stuff we need to fix your play. Because - you know - it's broken."
  —Toni Press-Coffman,
     playwright




I love my dramaturg because... she pushes me to find myself—and not just my characters—in my process; because she urges me to write what's happening off-stage so that I understand my own plot; and because, through her, I learnt about my professional ancestors, like Lessing, and have come to see myself in a long parade rather than as a lonely writer who's knocking on doors.
  —Matthew Ivan Bennett,
     playwright




I love my dramaturg because it is like going to the play therapist, except the couch is my couch and I get to wear my pajamas. And we can discuss issues and arcs and intentions via phone, skype and email with the same kind of urgency as if they were real circumstances. So while I moan and wring my hands about character motivations and plot devices, she treats them with the same consideration she would (and does) any personal issue. She understands plays are family.
  —Ellen Struve, playwright








New Play Dramaturgy

Many thanks to all the playwrights—hope we work together again soon.


2017

Fall 2017

THE FLYING BED by Ashley Edwards

          Synopsis: The play provides a cutting-edge perspective on the pressures on women to become mothers and the expectations of perfection that it requires in our contemporary society. It closely follows an expecting mother, who paints only in secret, through her complicated relationship with a circle of friends and her imaginary dreamworld composed of paintings and conversations with Frida Kahlo. The play experiments with form in order to convey poetic moments theatrically.


FOOTPRINT by Jennie Webb

          Synopsis: Anna is suddenly having difficulties navigating her life in LA—is it being without a car or being stalled by a "Denver Boot of Sorrow?" And then there's that body following her around. FOOTPRINT is a new play about loss, mystery and leaving one's mark.


THIS HAPPENED ONCE AT THE ROMANCE DEPOT OFF THE 1-87 IN WESTCHESTER by Gina Femia

          Synopsis: Kevin owns a Romance Depot. Beth needs a vibrator. The two of them form an unlikely relationship that straddles the line between friendship and romance. What happens when two lonely people find one another?


Summer 2017

ANNIE AND THE FAT MAN by Gina Femia

          Synopsis: Annie is anorexic and Tiny is obese. They're best friends, Brooklynites through and through. When they each embark on new romantic relationships, will their relationship break or strengthen?


FLOOD by Andrew Heinrich

          Synopsis: FLOOD tells the story of two men—Anders, a teenager on the cusp of manhood, and his mentor, Jacob. Anders, gone for six weeks at an intense summer camp for Scouts, comes to Jacob's home to celebrate his graduation ceremony. It isn't long before Jacob realizes that the camp Anders attended was more than just a scouting jamboree, and Jacob decides to try to break the regime's indoctrination and strip away the blinders they have laid over his young friend's eyes. The two engage in a personal and ideological battle that parallels their game of chess, but ends with a much more serious confrontation, as the flood outside Jacob's door threatens to drown the world.

          On the process: FLOOD, when I first arrived at the Kennedy Center for the MFA Playwright's workshop, was a complete play that had already enjoyed a workshop production at Texas State University. I was (privately) convinced I'd struck lighting. It was, perhaps, lightning-ish. There was something there, perhaps even something bright. But, it needed a lot of work. Heather didn't relent on pushing me to find it. After a week's worth of work, Heather and the rest of the artistic team helped me boil the two-act script down into a muscular new first act. It was a challenging process, the hardest I have ever worked, and I believe that this new first act has helped me to see and articulate the heart of my play. Working with Heather taught me a great deal about myself as a writer and as a person. I learned some hard, essential lessons about how I communicate with others; lessons I will take forward into my career. She took the time to get to know me, to know my own journey, and she cared enough to not let me settle.


GOOD BAD PEOPLE by Rachel Lynett

          Synopsis: After Amiri is shot by a police officer, his mother, Miriam, and sister, Audre, refuse to make any public appearances and instead want to grieve in peace (and in silence). But when June comes back into town from Michigan she's determined to get justice for her younger brother and for her family, with or without their help or consent.


STAINED GLASS by Ingrid DeSanctis

          Synopsis: Jewels, a preacher's daughter, returns to New Jersey for her father's funeral in the middle of the most wild and raucous hurricane the shores have ever seen. This fierce storm has unearthed skeletons, lobster, starfish, avocado trees, tomato plants and the deepest most forgotten memories buried at the very bottom of the sea. Once the storm has calmed Jewels finds herself with an oddball cast of characters from Moses to the Little Mermaid. Together with Jewels, they set off through the ruins of past and present, fantasy and truth, looking to find the family she lost and the faith she thought she knew.


WENDY UNWRITTEN by Kat Ramsburg

          Synopsis: Wendy Darling gave her heart away many, many years ago. Now, recently widowed with her three grown kids, she's ready to live the life she believes she was meant to live. But with only the directions, "second star to the right, and straight on till morning," will she ever find herself again? This moving play was specifically commissioned by Acadiana Rep from the playwright of last season's production of Anatomy Of A Hug.


Winter/Spring 2017

IRISH MIST by Bren Dubay


THE MEMORY OF ICE by Stacey Isom Campbell

          Synopsis: Nate and Zoe are glaciologists conducting research on the rate of ice flow in a remote outpost on Broadmore Glacier, Alaska. While the ice beneath them moves at unprecedented speed, their marriage is in crisis. Roger, a freelance PR photographer, arrives to get footage of the project for the company who's providing their funding. Meanwhile, the trio is being watched by Trapper Max, an old woman with a secret and a penchant for showing up at inopportune times. After Nate falls and breaks his leg, Max "rescues" him... or does she? THE MEMORY OF ICE is a wild ride—full of unexpected moments, awkward emotions, and inconvenient changes. It asks—how do we live a life of hope and see beauty in the face of continually changing conditions?


SOLDIER POET by Darcy Bruce

          Synopsis: In the falling city of Aleppo two American Army Rangers rescue an injured Syrian woman about to give birth. At a nearby hospital, a neonatal nurse with an unwavering sense of duty struggles to save the lives of infants as her hospital is bombed.


2016

Fall 2016

ABORTION ROAD TRIP by Rachel Lynett
A workshop production as part of the D.C. Fringe, directed by Tracey Erbacher, July 2017

          Synopsis: ABORTION ROAD TRIP follows Minnie, Lexa, and their driver as they travel from San Antonio to Albuquerque in order for Lexa to get an abortion. On the trip, each of the women analyze and reflect on their own experiences with abortion, relationships, and how splintered moments in their life led them to who they are now, and how those things affect the kind of person they want to become.


CASTING THE BEVERLYS by Jean Sidden

          Synopsis: It is the summer of 1967 in Charlotte, North Carolina, a city that has recently experienced the effects of a long denied history of racial tension. Drama teacher Horace Clark has assembled the city's first colorblind theatre production, casting actors between their junior and senior years of high school. The student actors, four of them white, four of them black, are cast in the romantic comedy, The Butler's Daughter, and come face to face with integration for the first time while attempting to navigate their director's colorblind concept. Two of the actors, Beverly Sands, who is black, and Beverly Adams, who is white, embody the rising tension of a city and state struggling with segregation. In charge of the production is an ambitious educator who fully realizes the notoriety to be gained from authoring a controversial theatrical project while continuing to challenge boundaries between himself and one of his actors.


CHRISTINA HARING AND JASON LANGE by Dean Poynor

          Synopsis: Two college freshman at an Evangelical Christian school navigate the passions and pressures of first love, surrounded by a watchful community, and under the eyes of a jealous God.


dark is a different beast by Andrea Hart
Premiering Nov. 4-19 at Light Rail Studios in San Francisco, CA, as part of the 6NewPlay Collective's series.

          Synopsis: In a post-catastrophe wasteland, a woman falls in love with a bonfire. As their romance ignites, a pair of buffoonish World Powers seeks to enlist the bonfire for their war machine. dark is a different beast is an exploration of individual choice in the face of tyranny. What do you do when every choice is extreme?


HANDS OF CLAY by Ingrid DeSanctis

          Synopsis: As her daughter Martina is turning fourteen, Arden is forced to come to terms with the events of her fourteenth year. As she tries to grapple with holding it together her work as a sculptor suffers and she can't get the hands just "right". While confronting her past and possibly the man who violated her—her daughter is on a separate journey unbeknownst to Arden. How does Arden protect her daughter from texting, instagram and social media overall? How does she save herself and her marriage?


PIED NOIR by Felice Locker
2017 semi-finalist for the O'Neill National Playwright's Conference

          Synopsis: Police respond to a deadly attack in the South of France with an early morning raid on Muslim extremists. When a young Muslim woman crashes into the home office of Claude, a physical therapist, her hijab and refusal to be treated for her injury trigger nostalgia for his colonial life in Algeria when it was part of France. How can Magida, a Muslim born in France but not yet a citizen, and Claude, reliving his colonial superiority, face their fears and agree to share a national identity? This play intimately explores the racist roots of violence, multiculturalism, and the search for home and identity.


THIS LITTLE LIGHT by Jennifer Faletto

          Synopsis: Who am I? What am I? THIS LITTLE LIGHT explores the life of the same person over 400 years through the meandering mind of a Millennial who is waking for the first time to her human needs for meaning and understanding. A play about time, gender, resilience and being without your phone.


Summer 2016

5 MORE by Bonnie Metzgar

          Synopsis: Ruth is 100 years old and can still crack the neck of a bobcat in her bare hands. DJ is 50. They just celebrated their 25th anniversary with Fiona and they're thinking it's time for a change. They know all about change. They're a 5, and 5s are change junkies, especially queer ones. DJ used to be Dory and before that, dorothy jane. One day, a long time ago when dorothy jane's grandpa died, she had to go live with her great aunt Rahu, who told her she was a 5 while stirring a pot of rib bones on the stove. Now after a fight kept them apart for 25 years, Rahu wants to see her.


D-PAD by Jeremy Gable

          Synopsis: Video game development is the only thing Alex Newbauer really knows. She spends all day in her apartment, toiling away on an independently financed game entitled D-Pad that is loosely based on her sister Rachel's humanitarian work in Brazil. As she engages in discussions with the video game character she has created, she tries to work out the game's glitches in time for its release date. Alex soon realizes that she needs to re-do the entire game, focusing on the sociopolitical aspects of Rachel's work. However, a threatening phone call reveals that this news is not received well by the gaming community. Alex is met with a barrage of hateful e-mails, calls and Tweets from a group of gamers who are upset about the new change. And D-Pad quickly becomes a battle not just to make something important, but to make anything at all. (2M, 2W)


FIGURINE by Matthew Ivan Bennett

          Synopsis: A couple invite a bot into their marriage, but find themselves unable to treat it like an object.


FRELMETSCH THE MANEATER by Matthew Capodicasa
One of three plays selected out of 140 scripts for the D.C. Source Festival in June 2017, directed by Rachael Murray

          Synopsis: On the set of a sci-fi/adventure film, Mel and Jason, two puppeteers, meet for the first time inside of a giant, two-person puppet. They have only five days to sync themselves up in order to create a monstrous villain known as Frelmetsch, and get all of the shots they need before a dismissive producer shuts down the operation in favor of CGI. But as Mel and Jason begin to merge themselves, they also begin to earn a certain respect for their creation, for one another, and the record of this collaboration that will be forever recorded on film. (1M, 1W)


THE LAST GAME by Anne Bertram

          Synopsis: (13 F, 50 min) Two dedicated bench-warmers of the Darwin Prep field hockey team witness what ought to be an easy victory over Peace Valley Friends Academy while confronting the imminent end of their own relationship. A little ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN, a little every-high-school-sports-thing-you-have-ever-seen (only backwards), THE LAST GAME poses the question: what's the point of going into the game when you know you're going to lose?


LOVED ONES by Robin Rodriguez

          Synopsis: Crystal needs a life. Fortunately, she's found an agency that will provide instant friends and family—for a fee. It's just, was making her world a workplace really a good idea? She's the boss, in control: why does it never feel that way? And where's the agency that sold her this darn thing? In this comic fable about giving and getting, a hospital vigil for a loved one draws out the truth of what human connection can cost versus what one is willing to pay.


RED CAT by Rob Zellers

          Synopsis: It's a busy Saturday night at The Red Cat, a chic, upscale restaurant in Pittsburgh, when in walks Eugene 'Kai OT' Porter, native Pittsburgher and the hottest young hip-hop recording artist in America. Viveca, the obsessively hip maitre d', tries frantically and not entirely successfully to keep everyone under control and the restaurant running smoothly. Eventually Eugene seeks refuge in the kitchen where he drinks coffee and smokes cigarettes with staff and collides head on with John Henry the moody head chef. As the evening wears on, John Henry and Eugene become locked in a fierce debate over cultural and generational differences that could end up in a meeting of minds or a fistfight.


ROYAL JELLY by Paul Cameron Hardy


TINY by Sarah Mantell

          Synopsis: Rachel and Greg have just built a tiny house and now they need somewhere to park it. When friends offer their yard, the couples become intertwined in ways they never expected. A play about the tiny house movement, surrogacy, folk songs, the Northwest Passage, and the stories we tell and the stories we don't. (2M, 2W)


WE WILL NOT DESCRIBE THE CONVERSATION by Eugenie Carabatsos

          Synopsis: In Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, he delineates a key moment of the novel—when the protagonist's sister, Dunya, and his lover, Sonya, discuss Raskolnikov's crime, murdering an elderly pawnbroker with an axe—in this way, "We will not describe the conversation and the tears of the two girls, and how friendly they became." This sentence is the inspiration for this play. WE WILL NOT DESCRIBE THE CONVERSATION is set in the Midwest in the early 1990s. Dani, a massage therapist, is visited in the middle of the night by Sonya, who claims that Dani's brother, Ross, has committed a heinous crime. (2W, 1M)


Winter/Spring 2016

BONE ORCHARD by Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder

          Synopsis: Lucy Mitchell wants to die a virgin martyr, until she falls in love with Fisher, the boy who's been hired to dig her grave. A sweet little love story about friendship, death and the legacy we leave behind. May be performed with 4 actors, or as many as 10.


CURRENCY by Jennie Webb
World Premiere at Inkwell Theatre in LA, April/May 2016
"Webb's comedy zips along at a fast pace while her dependable authorial voice purrs throughout like a sweetly-tuned engine." (read full review)

          Synopsis: CURRENCY is a love story set in changing times of overextended trust and inflated intimacy. After sharing a night of unexpected romance, a 40-something couple is waylaid by even more surprises and left searching for value in a world that's moving way too fast. It's the "morning after," and Dan and Helen are navigating toast and coffee in Helen's enormous bedroom when Dan receives a phone call: there's been a horrible family tragedy. Life's sometimes like that. But in today's surreal age of virtual connections, hyper-consumption and global financial meltdowns, who's got a way of getting through life that still works? What truly has worth and meaning anymore? Is the only real thing we have left to hang onto, each other? And is that enough?


THE DIFFICULT PEOPLE by Jean Sidden
July 2016, Staged reading at Festival51 in Providence, RI
Finalist for the 2016 National Playwright Resident program at Road Less Traveled Productions, Buffalo, NY

          Synopsis: Maddie and Leroy Bentley move to a more affluent neighborhood, Verdant Lawns, in south Florida. Very soon after moving they are approached by their next door neighbors, Coral and Len Fitzwick, who launch a campaign to complain about the disturbance caused by almost every aspect of the Bentleys' life to the end of demanding the Bentleys get rid of their dog. Coral Fitzwick, in particular, finds the Bentleys unbearable and in a heated confrontation ends up shooting and killing Leroy Bentley claiming Florida's Stand Your Ground law as her defense. In the aftermath of the shooting Maddie must manage both the loss of her husband and the constant attention of the media with the change it brings to her life and that of her daughter and grandson. A mix of dark comedy and tragedy, the play examines not only the fickle nature of the media's interest in sensational human interest events but also the failure of desegregation and open housing laws as the means of ending bigotry.


HAIR OF THE DOG by Constance Congdon


THE LOVESONG OF LONESOME GEORGE by Larry Loebell

          Synopsis: During the last days of the posthumous exhibit at the Natural History Museum of Lonesome George, the last of the giant Pinta tortoises, whose species went extinct with his death, is visited by Fava, the woman who, as a young biology intern twenty years before, was assigned by scientists at the Darwin Center in the Galapagos to "seduce" him in the name of species salvation, and harvest his sperm, an effort which ended in failure. Now middle aged, Fava has come to see George on display, and to rekindle and revisit their former connection in an effort to understand why he refused her advances and allowed his genotype to perish. THE LOVE SONG OF LONESOME GEORGE is one part fantastical love story and one part ecological nightmare, taking place at the collision point of human hubris and scientific ambition. As Fava tries to work through her complex feelings about the now-deceased George, an exhibit guard with a complicated past becomes interested in Fava. This play is very, very loosely based on an actual event.


TWO DEGREES by Tira Palmquist
Denver Center World Premiere in February 2017
Developed at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit.

          Synopsis: The smallest changes can lead to the biggest impact, and no one knows that better than Emma, a scientist studying climate change in Greenland. Still grappling with the unexpected death of her husband, she is invited to the nation's capital to share her findings at a Senate hearing that could define her career and her cause. But if she can't overcome her tumultuous inner struggle, her dedication and sacrifices may not be enough to make the difference in the world that she's always wanted.


WHAT WE HAD TO by Matthew Ivan Bennett

          Synopsis: A young woman confronts her uncle over the crimes he may have committed as an informant for the East German secret police.


2015

Fall 2015

DIE, MR. DARCY, DIE! by John Morogiello
Dramatists Guild Baltimore Footlights Reading Series, November 2015

          Synopsis: Laura has a long history of being disappointed by men. They're jerks. They're cads. They're liars and slackers, especially Mike, the bad boy who's always catcalling her on the street. So Laura decides to give up on men entirely because none of them can live up to the standards of Jane Austen's romantic hero Mr. Darcy. But Laura's crisis goes deeper than that. If, as Jane Austen observes, "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a great fortune must be in want of a wife," then what is the universal truth for a thirty year old, single woman with a good job in the 21st Century? For what does she want? Is fulfillment possible while she still clings to the idealistic desires of her college years? With the help of Jane Austen, Laura realizes that she must rid her life of Mr. Darcy to embrace a more mature version of herself and enjoy life's fact, rather than its fiction.


DON'T KILL THE ANGELS by Claudia Barnett

          Synopsis: At the intersection between two worlds—a coastal home at once sheltered and safe and also broken, slipping into the sea—an enchanted couple, artist and scientist, evolve into prophet and monster, seer and dream. As the drama drifts between times, a feckless fairy godmother hovers, her spells abortive; buzzards shadow windows with angel wings; and a nine-lived sloth plays housecat. Inspired by the poetry of John Keats, the paintings of Henry Fuseli, mythology, and neuroscience, DON'T KILL THE ANGELS leads its audience on a journey through the haunted mind.

          On the Process: Imagine you're cooking spaghetti, and you're the world's biggest slob. Your stovetop's sticky with tomatoes; your walls are splattered with sauce. It's such a mess that you're just about to give up and sell your house, but instead, you call Heather. She sends you a vial of the world's strongest (yet environmentally soundest) cleanser, and you spray some on. Yes, you have some scrubbing to do; the spray's no magic bullet, but when you're done, you step back and realize: Your kitchen's now sparkles. And you did it all yourself—with just an ounce of Heather's magic.
          That's what working with Heather is like. At the point when my play has become a sprawling, untamable monster, and the more I stare at it, the less sense it makes: That's when I call Heather. And she talks me through it. She asks me questions; she gives me guidance. She gives me deadlines. And so I don't sell the house or give up; instead, I revise revise revise until Heather says it's enough, and then I step back and say, "Dinner's served"—and start sending out submissions.  —Claudia Barnett


GLOW by Jennifer Faletto

          Synopsis: It's 2015 and the Broomfield Macy's is certainly doomed. The death of the department store, the afterlife of mannequins and the dreams of a young comedian guide a discussion about women, beauty and body image. GLOW is a play about the thing in each of us that makes us shine.


IS IS NOT WAS/WAS IS NOT IS*: THE FIRE & SMOKE PLAYS by Tira Palmquist

          Synopsis: A world in which two groups of professionals each try to manage relief for southern California after a devastating earthquake cuts off transportation and ignites wildfires. In Seattle, a regional FEMA office manages shifting priorities and fluid resources to deliver medical aid, food, and water to the disaster zone. South of Los Angeles, a small quasi-military outpost tries to provide aide to victims, but when a group of disaffected refugees storm the outpost, they discover that there is more going on in these offices than just managing aid. As the refugees gain access and influence, the staff in both offices have to address the fact that they may be part of the problem. (*working title, subject to change)


JILT by Jennie Webb

          Synopsis: In the not-so-distant future, the .1% is ensconced in the Ivory Towers of Academia. A privileged few pride themselves on creating a culture of fluid gender identity, filled with celebrity and free of sexual crimes. Well, a young woman named Aika may have something to say about that. Except that no one can hear her. So who will tell her story in a world that has lost the words to deal with unspeakable crimes? JILT is a play about power, beauty and justification set in a post-rape culture.


LET DOWN YOUR HAIR by Matthew Ivan Bennett
Finalist for the 2016 DC Source Festival

          Synopsis: LET DOWN YOUR HAIR is a modern, Big-Cheap-Theatre re-telling of the Brothers' Grimm Rapunzel. Restoring its original sex and violence, it draws on the unsanitized 1812 edition of the story and updates it for a 21st-century audience. Frau Grothel the fairy is re-imagined as a right-wing presidential candidate who hires a home tutor for her daughter. But when the oddball tutor, Hettie Wiegle, tells Rapunzel about the birds and the bees—and Rapunzel meets a boy named Prince who's escaped from a 12-step program in the Dark Woods—things get a little...Grimm.


SECRETS by Bren Dubay

          Synopsis: It is June 1900, the beginning of hurricane season in a time when folks were reluctant to use the word and there was no warning system ahead of one. New Orleans is no stranger to great storms and no stranger to frequent crime. The city is reeling from the discovery of a particularly horrific and gruesome murder that has shocked the nation. Madeleine and Gabrielle Leveque come from a family of means so why were they working as housekeeper and cook? And why would they murder their wealthy employers in such a horrific way? With only circumstantial evidence against her, Gabrielle is released to her mother, Marguerite. Madeleine is declared insane and unable to stand trial. She sits eerily silent in the Louisiana Retreat for the Feeble Minded. Then Sister Thérèse, a member of the religious order that operates the sanitarium, begins to visit her and slowly Madeleine emerges from her silent hell. The nun engineers her release and reunites Madeleine with her sister and mother in Galveston, Texas where they have fled. On September 8, 1900 – the day the 1900 Storm made landfall at Galveston forever changing the life of that city and its people – there is an explosive unveiling of family cycles and secrets and the revelation of the true author of the employers' gruesome deaths.


TRISH TINKLER GETS SAVED by Jacqueline Goldfinger
A premiere at the DC Women's Voices Theatre Festival
Directed by Christopher Goodrich
Unexpected Stage Company; Silver Spring, MD

          Synopsis: Trish had a bad day. Scratch that. A bad week. Well, a bad month, maybe? A bad year, definitely. And last night she was kicked off a rock 'n' roll tour bus. And an hour ago she was kicked out of AA after admitting that she was only there to meet a wing-woman. And this very minute she is at the Eat 'n' Save Mini-Mart standing in aisle 7 with two bucks in her pocket. Then Jesus appears to her. Or maybe it's just the second coming of Whitesnake. Whatever. A loving presence promises to give her the secret to getting everything that she wants in life... after it takes a call from Mom. So on her 40th birthday, Trish Tinkler camps out in aisle 7 of the Eat 'n' Save. And waits. And waits. And waits. TRISH TINKLER GETS SAVED is a new comedy about finding home in the most unexpected places.


UNTITLED SERIES #7 by Ellen Struve
Received five Omaha Theatre Guild Awards in 2016 for: Outstanding New Script, Outstanding Comedy Production, Best Director, Lead Actor, and Lead Actress.

          Synopsis: Artist David Hockney once said, "You can't take a photograph of hell." Art, failure, divorce, failure, dating and the internet try to paint that picture when a white lie sets of a Rube Goldberg machine of events in this romantic comedy set in Chicago's contemporary art scene.


YUCCA CORRIDOR by Kyle T. Wilson

          Synopsis: Jonathan has just settled into his new condo in L.A.'s legendary Yucca Corridor when he's confronted by Mary Christ, a queer performance artist who refuses to let anyone forget the city's disappearing history. Meanwhile they both pursue Denny, a washed-up hustler who's on the verge of disappearing altogether. Set on Hollywood's margins, YUCCA CORRIDOR is an urban comedy about the questionable business of living.


Summer 2015

OSLO by JT Rogers
Directed by Tyne Rafaeli
Dramaturgy by Heather Helinsky
Executive Producer: Leonard C. and Mary Lee Haas
Associate Producer: Patrick Wayman
PlayPenn

          Synopsis: 1993. The world watches the impossible: Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, standing together in the White House Rose Garden, signing the first ever peace agreement between Israel and the PLO. How were the negotiations kept secret? Why were they held in a castle in the middle of Norway? And who on earth are these mysterious negotiators? OSLO is a darkly funny, sweeping drama about a band of women and men struggling together—and fighting each other—as they seek to change the world.


r/LYPSE: a subreddit of our dark heart and lips by Brian Grace-Duff

          Synopsis: Justine swims through the halls of a high school filled with guys who go out of their way to make her feel special, to compliment her and how pretty she is, just to make her smile... just a little smile. C'mon, one smile? They notice how good she looks. They notice her body. They take photos of it and share them online. You know... nice guys. Whatever. Justine just wants to get through the day without... No. Justine just wants to finish her Heart of Darkness essay. That's it. That's all she wants. Is that too much to ask?


Winter/Spring 2015

A/VERSION OF EVENTS by Matthew Ivan Bennett
Premiere at Plan B Theatre in Salt Lake City in March 2015

          Synopsis: When a young Mormon couple loses their only child, the meaning of their marriage and faith is thrown into question. They drive across country to re-connect, but on route to Chocolate World, they find that no car can go faster than the past. And that we all have our own version of it.


WE'LL NEVER GET TO MOSCOW by Rebecca Gorman-O'Neill
Directed by Melissa McCarl, Stage Manager: Rachael Henney
Artistic Director & Producer: Angela Astle
Athena Project Plays-in-Progress Series, Denver, Colorado

          Synopsis: Emma and Jackson are getting a divorce. To fulfill the terms of an ill-conceived prenuptial agreement, they must spend 36 hours together in a cabin in the Rocky Mountains. Each brings along a "witness:" Jackson's best friend, Aiden (who secretly loves Emma) and Emma's older sister, Sophia. Aiden chooses this opportunity to profess his long-secret love for Emma, Jackson chooses this opportunity to profess his long-withheld lust for Sophia. As alliances shift, old grudges and long-held secrets emerge, until each member of the group is laid metaphorically bare before the others, revealing who is whole and who is broken, who holds the moral high ground, and who actually de-railed long ago. WE'LL NEVER GET TO MOSCOW is inspired by the darkly humorous plays of Anton Chekhov.


2014

Fall 2014

THE CONSUL, THE TRAMP, AND AMERICA'S SWEETHEART by John Morogiello
Received the Julie Harris Award from the Beverly Hills Theatre Guild, Spring 2015
Won First Place at the Dayton Playhouse Futurefest in Ohio, July 2015
Reading at Luna Stage in West Orange, NJ on November 9th, 2015

          Synopsis: On the eve of World War II, the German consul to Hollywood tries to stop production on Charlie Chaplin's first talkie, The Great Dictator. The result is a comedy based on a true story about the powers of art, politics, commerce, and what it means to be American.


DOMESTIC ANIMALS by Jennifer Faletto
70 min. presentation at the Capital Fringe Festival in Washington, D.C. in July 2015, directed by Linda Lombardi

          Synopsis: At the height of the Vietnam War, Lori's brother dodges the draft and her husband enlists. Left alone, she disappears into her imagination. Seduced by the comfort of her hallucinations, Lori risks giving over to her fantasy forever. A powerful look at love, family, trauma and healing, Jennifer Faletto's play explores the impact of war for the loved ones on the homefront. Magical and heartfelt, DOMESTIC ANIMALS wakes our primal instincts and dares us to find our true pack.

Accolades & Awards:
  • 2016 Finalist - Woodward/Newman Award for Drama
  • 2016 Semifinalist - Eugene O'Neill Festival
  • 2015 D.C. Metro Arts Fringe Awards - Favorite Drama, Favorite Ensemble, Favorite Show
Development:
  • 2016 Denver Center New Play Summit Play Slam Reading
  • 2015 Panndora Productions Staged Reading Long Beach, CA
  • 2015 Workshop and Reading Palm Beach Dramaworks
  • 2015 Developmental Production Washington D.C. Capital Fringe Festival


HOPE HOUSE by Kyle T. Wilson

          Synopsis: The year is 1994, the state is Arkansas, and the town isn't even worth mentioning. Our narrator George Tucker wants to do right in the world. And since he's our narrator, he wants to tell us all about it, too. He's working on his Eagle Scout project, doing some caretaking on the property of Hope House, a home for battered women. Although he tries to steer clear of the many troubled residents, he still falls for April, a mysterious teenager who wants to get as far away as she can, if she could only figure out how. All the while Katie, the home's new director, has a wary eye on George. No matter how good a kid our Boy Scout is, she's sure not going to let him off easy. Hope House is the third in a trilogy of plays set in Bumblebee, Arkansas.


IN LOCO PARENTIS by Adam Kraar
A reading at Boomerang Theatre's First Flight Series, NYC (link)

          Synopsis: At a co-ed boarding school during the Vietnam War, teachers and students stumble through a minefield of politics, desire, and spiritual yearning. Caught in the middle of this explosive landscape are Charlie, a young religion teacher who's a stranger in America, and Edie, a wildly rebellious student Charlie's determined to rescue from herself.


ISABELLA by Philip Pinkus


SAFEKEEPING by Rob Zellers
2014 Staged reading at the Accessible Theatre in Boston at the Central Square Theatre, directed by Adam Sanders (link)
2010 Reading at The Lark New Play Development Center (see below)

          Synopsis: Joe and his younger brother Robert live off the grid in a run-down, inner-city neighborhood. Robert has cerebral palsy. Joe is an artist. They are in perfect control of their world until they are discovered by social services and into their lives comes Marianne, a bright and ambitious young therapist. Can art and imagination fuel the life spirit?


SOMEBODY'S GOT TO DO IT by Robin Rodriguez

          Synopsis: What is it about torture that makes us feel safe? Do we truly believe extreme measures can uncover all secrets? Can it grant control over the uncontrollable? And what about those who receive that torture? They fill a valuable role; what happens if they reject it? In this post-dystopian tale, a young woman, Keela, ventures from The North American Prison Compound where she has spent her entire life, only to find that the outside world is both less populated and more treacherous than she had ever been told.


THE WILLOW TREE by Philip Pinkus

          Synopsis: THE WILLOW TREE is a love story. The setting is a familiar pattern of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a period of famine and chaos in China when the husband or son would have to travel abroad to find a job to keep his family from starving. Bo, the protagonist, has gone to San Francisco. Bo has become a paraplegic from an accident in a sawmill and realizes at this point he could never go home again, he would simply become another mouth to feed where already there is starvation.
          At the beginning of the play we see Bo trying to write a letter telling his wife why they can never see each other again. He never completes that letter. The overall irony of the play is that we know Bo will never see his wife again yet repeatedly in his letters he shows how much he aches to be with her. In the process we follow the cruel and humiliating treatment that Bo receives from the whites in San Francisco and his wife's hardship in China. The structure is epistolary; the tone a touch of fairy tale.


Summer 2014

AGLAONIKE'S TIGER by Claudia Barnett
Staged reading at the Carver Theatre in Birmingham, AL, directed by Bree Windham
Read Article
March Forth Production

          Synopsis: Aglaonike, the first female astronomer, could predict lunar eclipses, but her science was suspect because she was a woman. She therefore billed herself as a sorceress and claimed she could draw down the moon. Inspired by her unsung history, this coming-of-age play follows the protagonist through a series of challenges, both magical and scientific. Drawing on ancient Greek traditions and postmodern performance trends, AGLAONIKE'S TIGER is stylized and visual and uses puppets and masks to explore political, ecological, and scientific themes.


THE CAUSE by Matthew Ivan Bennett
May 2013 Workshop at Carnegie Mellon with actors Bernard Balbot, Jonathan Vissar, Cameron Knight, and Alexis Floyd.
Main stage reading at Great Plains Theatre Conference, 2014

          Synopsis: John Brown has been called "the father of American terrorism" and has been hailed as a hero of black emancipation. But he was also a friend of Harriet Tubman. Before attacking Harpers Ferry, John Brown went to Tubman, asking her to recruit men and join in the raid. According to historical record, she agreed to help. Yet, when the hour came, Tubman was not in Virginia and had sent no recruits. THE CAUSE is historical fiction that imagines what might have happened between these friends, and plumbs the question of when and why we should commit ourselves to violence.


CRAZY BITCH by Jennie Webb

          Synopsis: In a world where unbelievable brutality happens, every day, three women in Los Angeles find themselves suspended between the extraordinary and real life expectations. After Eva, a respected scientist, is savagely attacked late at night when walking in LA, the women in her life—her ex-lover, her sister and her cousin—try to assemble a picture they can live with: of the events surrounding Eva's attack, of the nature of Eva's work with the immortal jellyfish, and of their future, where "forever" may be a real possibility and evil really exists. Sure, life must go on. But in this particular corner of Los Angeles, what happens next? Can a wild taxidermied creation breathe new life into tragedy? Can genealogy research create connections that really matter? And what if Eva never recovers? Who'll take care of the high maintenance Jellyfish, then?


NOWHERE ELSE TO GO BUT OUT by Zanne Hall


PLAY DATE by John Morogiello
Abingdon Theatre Company, NYC First Reading Series

          Synopsis: It's the parents who are naughty as they struggle to redefine their relationships and stay one step ahead of the neighbors during a play date for their children. A poignant farce about marriage, self-loathing, and tequila.

          On the Process: Heather doesn't just give notes on your play. She nurtures it. She develops a strong, working relationship with her playwrights that, in turn, develops and strengthens their scripts. Heather and I first met for an hour after she read PLAY DATE at the Great Plains Theatre Conference. Her comments and questions were insightful, not only identifying the flaws that I knew to be present (which I hoped no one would notice), but inspiring me to make new discoveries that I had not even considered. I thought we were done, but that's not how she works. Heather attended a reading of the revised script in Manhattan, after which we spoke for another two hours by phone. She followed that with a written summary of our conversation. My play took a giant leap forward because of her involvement. She is exactly the sounding board I need for my work.   —John Morogiello


TRAFFICKED by Amy Cuomo


UNALASKA by Rita Anderson

          Synopsis: Katana and Morris are newcomers—and a distinct minority—to decadent-Boston suburbia in an evolving world where an old style of living is dying off, while a "greener" lifestyle fights to find its legs. As gas prices skyrocket and the cost of "the good life" soars, the couple works to fit in and to survive their troubled marriage. They join the Neighborhood Watch Committee and meet Nicole and Kelly, noisy drinkers with money to burn. Then, one night during a break-in, Morris kills an intruder, only to discover that it's the son of the neighbor.
A psychological thriller told in two parts. Unplanned. Unlocked. Unalaska.


Winter/Spring 2014

BUMBLEF**K, AR by Kyle T. Wilson

          Synopsis: It's 1988 in Bumblebee, AR, a nowhere town just east of the Oklahoma border the kids either can't imagine ever leaving or can't wait to escape. The Murphy family has roots there, with elder son Carl keeping a low profile on his dope-smoking and younger son Terrance trying to stay out of the sights of the biggest bully in junior high. A punk kid named Josh starts hanging around and teaches the boys a few things about themselves, but some lessons are more welcome than others.


IN A SMOKE-FILLED ROOM, COLOR MATTERS by Kwakiutl Dreher
Haymarket Theatre, Lincoln, Nebraska

          Synopsis: Be careful. In a smoke-filled room, color matters in light-skin dark-skin as the secrets are let out to play from the lips of the storyteller.


MOLLY'S HAMMER by Tammy Ryan
World premiere at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Seth Gordon, director. March 9th-27th, 2016
Review

          Synopsis: MOLLY'S HAMMER is based on the true story of Pittsburgh housewife Molly Rush, who was part of the Plowshares Eight, a group of anti-nuke activists who walked into a missile plant in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, and whacked holes in two nose cones with a hammer. It is about a working-class husband and a homemaker wife trying to understand each other again after the child-raising years; it is about what normal people can accomplish when they fully engage with their civic responsibilities; and it is above all about a woman grappling with her faith and making the decision to undertake a spiritual journey that will require her to sacrifice something meaningful.

          On the Process: Heather Helinsky is smart. I felt like I had a master class in dramaturgy while working with her as I drafted the first draft of my play MOLLY'S HAMMER an adaptation of the book Hammer of Justice about the peace activist and founder of the Thomas Merton Center, Molly Rush. Heather understands structure, the way a scene needs to focus, build and burn, when to let the audience breathe, or laugh, when to layer in exposition, when to pull out the theatrical stops. She understood what I was doing intuitively and I understood her responses in the same way. As I moved forward, checking in with her, showing her scenes as I went along (something I have never done before, but pressed for time on this project, I went with it) my play gleamed that much brighter and clearer for me after Heather's response. She helped me see what I was doing as I was doing it. And she was able to talk me down when I became overwhelmed. She's a Playwright's Doctor, Mirror, Counselor and Friend.   —Tammy Ryan


THE STUDY (or Reading to Vegetables) by EM Lewis

          Synopsis: Rachel, a pre-med college student, takes a job as a research assistant on a psychological experiment. When someone is badly injured, the inquiry focuses on whether she is responsible for what went wrong. Inspired by Stanley Milgram's obedience experiments in the 1960's.


TWO RIGHTS by David Blakely

          Synopsis: Nothing is what it appears. On the evening of the vernal equinox of 1947, Sim Joyner sits in his hospital room at Duke University facing death, a death put on him by a witch doctor. He is convinced that he is going to die and in his desperation turns to magic for a cure. "Vitus, The Miracle Man," materializes and offers him a way out: a ritual that will rid Sim of the hex. But something goes wrong. Instead of lifting the curse, they manage to bring the dead witch doctor into the room. Magic tricks, séances, and ghosts from the past collide and force the characters to come to grips with what it means to believe and to deceive.


2013

OLD NEW SEATTLE by Ellen Struve

          Synopsis: OLD NEW SEATTLE is a riff set in Omaha's indie/alternative music scene. In the same place that produced Simon Joyner, then Conor Oberst, and a million and one promises that sometimes came true, Teresa and Harlan have been playing music together for a long time. From the house they record in to the songs they write, ownership is in the eye of the beholder. As they test the boundaries of partnership, they discover no one's version of history sounds the same. Questions of loyalty, influence and sexism make it difficult to determine who exactly deserves the credit.
NOTE: While the play does incorporate music and song, it is not a musical. Music is available or may be created in collaboration with local artists.


MR. WHEELER'S by Rob Zellers
A reading at The Lark New Play Development Center, NYC 2013
December 2012 workshop with Carnegie Mellon students, directed by Larry John Meyers
Further Development at: PlayPenn 2014 New Play Development Conference and The New Harmony Project

          Synopsis: Life is a challenge when you work at a moribund fast food restaurant in a decaying inner city. But don't underestimate the resilience of the scruffy band of young people who work the breakfast shift at Mr. Wheeler's. When Ed, the self-appointed assistant manager with big dreams, finds a mysterious bag of cash and the dangers of the local drug trade threaten the safety of the group, the characters must confront their relationships with each other and the city they call home.


TAKE ME TO THE RIVER by Constance Congdon
Great Plains Theatre Conference table reading 2010 with St. Fortune actors
Great Plains Theatre Conference PlayFest Production 2013, directed by Cindy Phaneuf

          Synopsis: Set in Colorado, Take Me to the River explores the devastation wreaked on a small farming community after the government orders its wells closed. Two families, the Campbells and the Montoyas, struggle to survive with humor, anger and even a little wisdom.


RECOMMENDED READING FOR GIRLS by Ellen Struve
Great Plains Theatre Conference 2011 Womens Fund Emerging Playwright
Public reading
Nebraska Arts Council Independent Artist Fellowship 2011
PREMIERE! Omaha Community Playhouse,
Read review: 'Recommended Reading' play is, well, recommended

          Synopsis: When Amy comes home to help her mother through a difficult weekend, she encounters unexpected guests from her favorite childhood novels. A farm girl, a mountain girl, an on-again-off-again heiress, and a teen sleuth confound her ideas about their stories, herself, and the people she loves.

          On the process: Heather Helinsky offers many tools to a writer. She brings a palpable energy and critical intelligence to the work, but most importantly, she provides the writer with something rare and sustaining during the revision process—hope. Her questions served as springboards. Knowing that I could rely on her sense of dramatic rhythm and structure freed me to make the exploratory, imaginative leaps that Recommended Reading for Girls required. Once those leaps were made, Heather helped me discover ways to shape the play. Heather has an ear for emotional truth and an easy, honest method of delivery that makes working with her a delight.   —Ellen Struve


A NIGHT WITH THE FAMILY by Matthew Ivan Bennett
A reading for Salt Lake Acting Company, Utah 2011
PREMIERE! at Omaha Community Playhouse, April 2013
Pygmalion Productions, Utah, April 2013

          Synopsis: A dysfunctional family comedy with divorcees, staid partners, and newlyweds on Christmas Eve.

          On the process: Heather gives you the rarest of gifts as a playwright: the combination of specific actionable criticism and the commitment to helping you write the play you want to write. She was immediately able to talk to me about individual beat sections and the relationship dynamics between characters, urging me to further exploit what was compelling and re-imagine what was flat. Usually what I hear is: "This isn't working" or "This section is weak," but Heather would both tell me that and draw me into a dialogue about how to enliven it, using what was already there. I appreciated that she was able to share her own experiences in our conversations about the characters' inner lives, and how she inquired about how aspects of my characters might be rooted in me. The effect was a return to the emotional well of the piece. We were working on comedy, but she pushed me to keep digging and deepening. The play was inarguably better after our long, but focused conversations. I will definitely be turning to her in the near future.   —Matthew Ivan Bennett


AFTER SCHOOL SPECIAL by Kyle T. Wilson
Great Plains Theatre Conference 2013

          Synopsis: Stuart is finishing up the worst day of her terrible school year as a special ed teacher-in-training in central Los Angeles. It will all be over as soon as she gets through a detention period for her most defiant student, Frankie. Since she wouldn't let Frankie get on the bus home, he wants her to track down his mother to come get him but she's nowhere to be found. Meanwhile Stuart's phone keeps ringing with unwelcome calls from a mysterious figure out of her past. Frankie's anger and worry over his mother combine with Stuart's distracted panic to create a volatile, dangerous classroom situation for both of them. After School Special is a tough-hearted comedy about the challenge of giving and receiving help across social, racial, and hierarchical divides.


THE PRICELESS SLAVE by Johnny Meyer

          Synopsis: With Southern Gothic comedy and deep poetic spirit, The Priceless Slave explores the true story of George Paysinger, an antebellum slave-architect. Paysinger finds his art (and life's work) inextricably enmeshed with his own bondage. As Paysinger decides whether or not to attempt an escape, three women on the plantation consider fleeing the restrictions of their own social positions. Also, Thomas Jefferson shows up, despite being dead.

          On the process: I first worked with Heather on Westhusing in House of Atreus at the Great Plains Theatre Conference. I instantly knew I wanted to work with her on another project. Her work evinces obvious study, professionalism, and advanced learning, and so she can immediately place a work within a larger context. But she also possesses a remarkable ability to get on the same wave-length as the material. This is crucial. She checks the work for internal consistency in terms of character development and dramatic impact. Working with Heather brings a sense of equality to the working relationship, a sense of parity and equal stakes in artistic achievement.


2012

GUAPA by Caridad Svich
Began collaboration in July 2011.
NNPN Rolling World Premiere: GUAPA is the recipient of a National New Play Network rolling world premiere for the 2012-2013 theatre season. Its first production will be at Borderlands Theatre in Tucson, Arizona in October 2012 directed by Barclay Goldsmith, followed by production at Phoenix Theatre in Indiana in January 2013 directed by Brian Fonseca and production at Miracle Theatre Group in Portland, Oregon in March-April 2013 directed by Olga Sanchez.

          Synopsis: In a small Texas town, caught in the long history of class struggle & racism, live Roly, a single mother, and her makeshift family. Taken in by the family is a young woman named simply Guapa (Beautiful), who dreams of playing women's soccer. This is a story about a working class community trying to make ends meet with magical dreams of sports, graffiti, birds in flight, indigenous history, trauma, recovery, and the viable possibilities of a better life.

          Script History: GUAPA was developed at the Lark Play Development Center in New York City in a roundtable reading directed by Jose Zayas and at a NoPassport theatre alliance reading at Repertorio Espanol in New York City, also directed by Jose Zayas. It received a staged reading/workshop as part of the 2012 Teatro Vivo Latino New Play Festival in Austin, Texas in association with ScriptWorks. Dramaturg for GUAPA's script history and NNPN premiere: Heather Helinsky


SMOKEY HOLLOW by Rob Zellers
A reading at The Lark New Play Development Center, NYC 2012

          Synopsis: SMOKEY HOLLOW is set in 1890 in a tenement house in the middle of a teeming working class ghetto. The days are dark with soot and the nights are brightly lit by the smelters and blast furnaces. In the middle of this setting are young Frank, son of Polish immigrants and a skilled wrought iron maker, and old Jacob who is nearing the end of what has been a hard life of labor and strife. Frank works long, hard hours at a blast furnace and Jacob forages for scrap and other junk to sell as they struggle against great odds to gain a financial foothold. Some semblance of happiness seems even more difficult to achieve. Jacob cares for Frank like a son or grandson. He prepares him for manhood and helps him navigate not only the inherent dangers but perhaps even a route out of their grim living situation.


2011

THE HAPPINESS THEY SEEK by Rob Zellers
A reading at The Lark New Play Development Center, NYC 2011

          Synopsis: Dominic Carducci heads a New York private equity firm that is in the process of acquiring the last remaining steel mill in Youngstown, Ohio. Ivy League educated and originally from Youngstown, Dominic has worked hard to become a good businessman and to break free from his family's criminal past. Lined up against him is Emily, a community activist who believes that economic recovery is still possible. She is deeply suspicious of Dominic's plans. What Emily doesn't see as she spars with Dominic, is that during his time back home working on the deal, he witnesses firsthand the devastation the mill closings have caused. He also has time to contemplate his own family's culpability in the city's demise. He decides that with the proper investment and expertise, he can make a go of preserving and running the steel mill. But it's too late. Emily has skillfully put her own plan in place that will succeed in sinking Dominic's plans.

          On the process: I have had a rich and productive playwright-dramaturg relationship with Heather since 2009 when she helped bring my play HARRY'S FRIENDLY SERVICE for its world premiere at Pittsburgh Public Theater. Since that time we have worked on three other plays together (SAFEKEEPING, THE HAPPINESS THEY SEEK and SMOKEY HOLLOW). She is a tremendous collaborator. Her fundamentals are sound which was invaluable to me as a new playwright. She is great in understanding things about a new work even when the playwright is operating on instinct and still inarticulate about what he is trying to do. Midstream she was incredibly adept and fluent in helping me stretch and discover interesting sometimes alternative paths to achieve what I wanted to do with a work. She's also a good psychologist, able to understand and nurture a playwright's ups and downs as he tries to navigate the different stages of a play's development. I would often walk away from one of our meetings with my head spinning, filled with hope and inspiration, on fire with the possibility of what I could make happen. Good work would always follow these meetings. Most importantly, she has encouraged my particular, unique voice. She was aware of it before I was. She helped me understand what it was, where the strength was, and to keep going, keep flexing those muscles.   —Rob Zellers


2010

SAFEKEEPING by Rob Zellers
A reading at The Lark New Play Development Center, NYC 2010

          Synopsis: Joe and his younger brother Robert live in a run down, inner city neighborhood. Robert is in a wheelchair and wears leg braces. He has many serious health problems. Joe temps for a large bank. Their apartment is a mess and many of Robert's physical needs are neglected. They have been able to fly undetected under the social service radar for many years. In his spare time, Joe assembles artistic boxes—miniature constructions of magical worlds created from ordinary, found objects that he places in wooden boxes. The boxes were originally created as diversions for his homebound brother but over the years they have become magnificently artistic and sophisticated. Robert creates elaborate and enchanting stories to go with each box. They are in perfect control of their own miniature world until they are discovered by social services and Marianne, a young bright, energetic therapist, enters their lives. Joe resists Marianne's plan and methods for how best to care for Robert. Robert quickly discerns that Marianne can help him break out of the contained and sheltered environment that Joe has created. This is a story about the power of the life spirit, about hope and possibility in the face of great odds.


EARNEST by Joe and Andrew Doss
Developed in 2010 with New Orleans-based writers

          Synopsis: EARNEST is the true story of a black man condemned to death but determined to find life. It is the story of a lawyer, a priest, and a paralegal battling for air in a smothering system of death, while battling themselves as their client demands to grow and take them with him beyond their legal roles. It is the story of the choices with which we are all faced, and our common struggle with time. Finally, EARNEST is a story of life erupting out of a world of death.


2009

HARRY'S FRIENDLY SERVICE by Rob Zellers
Edgerton Foundation New American Play Awards, 2008
PREMIERE! at Pittsburgh Public Theatre, 2009
Preview Article in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

          Synopsis: Harry's Friendly Service takes place in 1977 during a crippling steel mill strike. The blast furnaces are silent. Thousands are out of work. There's clean air to breathe but nothing to eat. Harry's Friendly Service, a full-service gas station, doubles as a destination for card playing and spirited debate. The proprietor, Harry Stanchek, is also a small-time bookie who is constantly at odds with the crime family that controls all the gambling in the city.
As a young and despondent widower, Harry sent his daughter off to live in a convent twelve years earlier. He has done a thorough job over the years of putting these painful circumstances out of his head, but it's about to all come back to him when his daughter Emily walks into the station and back into his life. It is an Aristotelian drama about a generation of blue-collar workers who believed in the American dream of hard work and common sense.


DEECONSTRUCTION by Dee Ryan
A PUBLIC EXPOSURE reading at Pittsburgh Public Theater, 2009

          Synopsis: While hiking in Scotland on her 40th birthday, Dee Ryan reaches an epiphany about the remodel of her 1912 Craftsman Bungalow. A hilarious, one-woman home renovation odyssey, as Dee negotiates the turbulent waters of piratical contractors, imperious architects, monster neighbors, and a clueless husband.

          On the process: Heather Helinsky's dramaturgical help with DEECONSTRUCTION was invaluable. Her research and careful analysis of my script help deepen my writing and improve my play. I appreciate her dedication to my play. Heather's focus was always on the project, and I never felt her forcing her ego upon it or me. Heather asks the right questions. She's also patient waiting for the answers to those questions. Heather and I talked about the script, but we also talked around the script and this easy, thoughtful conversation led to many new discoveries. It was my joy to work with Heather. I hope to do it again with my next script. I hope that happens soon.   —Dee Ryan


2008

ARMOR by Toni Press-Coffman
An Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Commission
PREMIERE! Winding Road Theatre Ensemble, 2010

          Synopsis: A play about a scientist who helps develop tank armor for the United States.

          On the process: Ms. Helinsky shepherded the play through two drafts. A primary dramaturgical question I faced was how to tell the scientist's story despite the fact that his teenage daughter is the main character in the play and drives its action. Ms. Helinsky helped me grapple with this question structurally as well as through character choices. Because the play opens when the scientist is in a complex political position, the issue of exposition loomed large. Ms. Helinsky assisted me to discover ways to solve this problem structurally as well. I believe a grasp of structural accommodation to the play's story and themes was one of Ms. Helinsky's several dramaturgical strengths: a third way this manifested was her insight into how to convey crucial scientific information in a dramatically compelling way. As helpful as she was at viewing the "big picture" of my play's arc, she was equally helpful in helping me tackle its "small picture" problems. We discussed several scenes whose rhythms and builds she guided me through, asking questions that illuminated possible next steps. I would be grateful for the opportunity to work with Ms. Helinsky again.   —Toni Press-Coffman


STAYERS AND GOERS by Todd Kreidler
A PUBLIC EXPOSURE reading at Pittsburgh Public Theater, 2008

          Synopsis: A mystery. A quest. Set in rural Western Pennsylvania, a son returns to home to dig up an inheritance buried on the ruin grounds of the family homestead.

          On the process: I was laboring alone in my backyard shed till I met Heather Helinsky. Working with her was a move to an exciting, fully-equipped dramaturgical facility! All the dramatic tools, philosophy, sociology and history you need are on the quick tip of her mind or soon ready at her fingertips. Heather is a rare concoction of fierce intellect, deep empathy and grace. She knows how to work with writers. Questions, encourages, listens, challenges – yet totally egoless. Helps you find form in the formless. And she's got your back technically too. Would never let you mix metaphors – but she's not editing this so I can write that Heather will ride along no matter how crazy you hike, drive or fly – even when you don't know where the hell you're going! She's GPS, compass, flashlight, lantern and fire! Ever packed, willing and passionate for theatrical adventure.
          On STAYERS AND GOERS, Heather led me to uncover the hidden core of the play, challenging me to embrace the spiritual elements I feared. Structurally, she suggested a change I hated for weeks but turned out to be gold. Her suggestion solved the problem that the play began twice and also grounded the world of the piece, clearly set the tone and allowed an ease of storytelling that weeded thickets of expository from early scenes. As testament to her ability to help concentrate storytelling: at the start of our process the play had fourteen scenes – now there are nine. Can't wait for the next opportunity to be in the rehearsal room with Heather!   —Todd Kriedler


2007

CATALINA DE ERAUSO by Elaine Romero
A reading for Borderlands Theatre, Tucson, Arizona 2007

          Synopsis: On this epic journey, Catalina leaves her life in the convent on a journey to the new world as a man, and through a series of adventures and close calls, fate brings her back to her family—but will they accept her as she is?

          On the process: As a playwright working in a development process, it's easy to get lost in the minutiae. Heather Helinsky possesses that unique ability to bring a playwright out of her head and to help her see the whole. And when I say the whole, I don't just mean the movement of the play, but the context of the play in light of other plays and the world at large. Heather's mind makes quick connections between what she sees on the page and what she knows. She's able to share her sharp insights enthusiastically. For me, they shed light on where I might take the play.

          Working with me on CATALINA DE ERAUSO, Heather helped me evaluate the choices I was making with the story, enabling me to make some key structural choices. She was able to tell me which moments felt honest and which ones didn't. A good dramaturg knows it's not about supplying answers but asking questions. Heather has a huge talent for asking the right ones.   —Elaine Romero

          Pick of the Week by Tucson Weekly