Production Dramaturgy  
New Play Dramaturgy  

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,

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,

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

Production Dramaturgy

I define production dramaturgy as a three phase process: pre-production dramaturgy, rehearsal dramaturgy, and community engagement.

February 3rd-March 12th, 2017
TWO DEGREES by Tira Palmquist
Denver Center for the Performing Arts, world premiere
Directed by Christy Montour-Larson

November 4th-19th, 2016
6 New Plays, Light Rail Studios, San Francisco, world premiere
Directed by Andrea Hart

October 12th-16th, 2016
AGLAONIKE'S TIGER by Claudia Barnett
Univ. of Pittsburgh's Studio Theatre
Directed by Shelby Brewster

October 8th-18th, 2015
TRISH TINKLER GETS SAVED by Jacqueline Goldfinger
Unexpected Stage Company, world premiere
Directed by Christopher Goodrich

March 5th-March 15th, 2015
A/VERSION OF EVENTS by Matthew Ivan Bennett
Plan B Theatre Company, world premiere
Directed by Christy Summerhays

September 9th-October 6th, 2013
DETROIT by Lisa D'Amour
Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
Directed by John Vreeke
Freelance Research Consultant/Library of Congress Media Archives for Video Projections

May 30th-June 22nd, 2013
KREUTZER SONATA, adapted by Nancy Harris from Tolstoy
Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre
Directed by Alan Stanford

May 30th, 2013
TAKE ME TO THE RIVER by Constance Congdon
Great Plains Theatre Conference PlayFest
Directed by Cindy Phaneuf

May 3rd-June 2nd, 2013
Omaha Community Playhouse, world premiere
Directed by Amy Lane

April 19th-May 12th, 2013
A NIGHT WITH THE FAMILY by Matthew Ivan Bennett
Omaha Community Playhouse, world premiere
Directed by Carl Beck

April 10th-May 4th, 2013
OUR CLASS by Tadeusz Slobodzianek
Pittsburgh Irish and Classic Theatre
Directed by Aoife Spillane-Hinks

January 3rd-20th, 2013
GUAPA by Caridad Svich
Phoenix Theatre of Indianapolis, NNPN rolling world premiere
Directed by Bryan Fonseca

October 4th-21st, 2012
GUAPA by Caridad Svich
Borderlands Theatre Company, NNPN rolling world premiere
Directed by Barclay Goldsmith

August 2012
AFTER CHEKHOV, adaptations by Brian Friel
Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre
Directed by Alan Stanford

August 2nd-25th, 2012
IVANOV by Anton Chekhov
Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre
Directed by Andrew S. Paul

July 19th-August 26th, 2012
THREE SISTERS by Anton Chekhov
Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre
Directed by Harriet Power

January 19th-February 4th, 2012
Plays and Players of Philadelphia
Directed by Daniel Student

November 2nd-December 4th, 2011
[a man enters] by Elaine and Kate Jarvik
Salt Lake Acting Company
Directed by Alexandra Harbold

March 15th-April 4th, 2010
GOLDEN AGE by Terrence McNally
Kennedy Center Festival of McNally's work
Directed by Walter Bobbie

January 22nd-February 14th, 2010
GOLDEN AGE by Terrence McNally
Philadelphia Theatre Company, an Edgerton Foundation New Play Award 2009
Directed by Austin Pendleton

May 28th-June 28th, 2009
Pittsburgh Public Theatre, an Edgerton Foundation New Play Award 2008
Directed by Ted Pappas

April 16th-May 17th, 2009
Pittsburgh Public Theatre
Directed by Pam Berlin

March 5th-April 5th, 2009
THE WORLD GOES 'ROUND, Kander & Ebb review
Pittsburgh Public Theatre
Directed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge

January 15th-February 15th, 2009
METAMORPHOSES by Mary Zimmerman
Pittsburgh Public Theatre
Directed by Ted Pappas

November 13th-December 14th, 2008
Pittsburgh Public Theatre
Directed by Ted Pappas

October 2nd-November 2nd, 2008
RADIO GOLF by August Wilson
Pittsburgh Public Theatre
Directed by Ron OJ Parson

March 2nd-March 30th, 2008
Arizona Repertory Theatre
Directed by Brent Gibbs
production video
Faculty Dramaturgy Advisor, Student Dramatugs: Morgan McAslan and Emily Denison

November 2007
CANDIDE by Leonard Bernstein, book by Harold Wheeler, Lyrics by Richard Wilbur
Arizona Repertory Theatre
Directed by Harold Dixon
Faculty Dramaturgy Advisor, Student Dramaturg Kelli Marino

June 1st-9th, 2007
THE KILLING GAME by Eugene Ionesco
American Repertory Theatre
Directed by Scott Zigler

March 23rd-March 31st, 2007
BETTY'S SUMMER VACATION by Christopher Durang
American Repertory Theatre
Directed by Marcus Stern

January 20th-February 11th, 2007
BRITANNICUS by Jean Racine
American Repertory Theatre
Directed by Robert Woodruff

September 7th-9th, 2006
American Repertory Theatre, Zero Arrow Theatre (remount)
Directed by Alexandre Marin and Scott Zigler

March-May 2006
Moscow Art Theatre's American Studio
Directed by Alexandre Marin

November 26th, 2005-January 1st, 2006
THREE SISTERS by Anton Chekhov
American Repertory Theatre
Directed by Krystian Lupa

Production Review for A Moon for the Misbegotten:

         "A helpful program essay by dramaturg Heather Helinsky notes that Jim's repressed guilt
         over the death of his mother echoes O'Neill's own experience. What a gift that he ultimately
         stills the flood of talk and, in a passage of sad silence, gives these two soiled people a
         momentary shimmer of transcendence."
                                                      ---Christopher Rawson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 27 April 2009


Caridad Svich's National New Play Network rolling world premiere of Guapa, which will be produced at Borderlands Theatre Company of Tucson (October '12), Phoenix Theatre of Indianapolis (January '13), and Miracle Theatre of Portland (April '13), respectively.

A review from Phoenix Theatre of Indianapolis


Phebe Taylor as Guapa at Phoenix Theatre of Indianapolis

Lobby display about St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Heather Helinsky and Caridad Svich, August 2012

Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Festival

         As the festival dramaturg, provided production research for Three Sisters directed by Harriet Power, Ivanov directed by Andrew Paul, and an evening of Friel's short plays (The Yalta Game and Afterplay) directed by Alan Stanford. She engaged with Pittsburgh playwrights by asking the Pittsburgh Dramatists Guild: "How is your writing influence by Chekhov?" and also organized and led panel discussions with Chekhov scholar Kristin Johnsen-Neshati from George Mason, playwright Constance Congdon from UMASS/Amherst, and Pittsburgh playwright Frank Gagliano, the keynote speaker at the 2012 International Anton Chekhov Conference in Yalta. In addition, she commissioned articles for an extensive festival program from Chekhov director Austin Pendleton (Classic Stage Three Sisters and Ivanov), playwright Dan Rebellato (Chekhov in Hell), and UPitt theatre history graduate student Dave Peterson.


Panelists Kristin Johnsen-Neshati, Frank Gagliano, and Constance Congdon

Radio Golf

         "The Cast of Radio Golf Gives Back": As part of my rehearsal dramaturgy, director Ron OJ Parson asked me to arrange for the actors in the cast to learn more about golf, both historically and movement. In the rehearsal room, I had several coffee table books for the actors to peruse on breaks, such as Uneven Lies: The Heroic Story of African-Americans in Golf. To teach the actors movement, I contacted Marc Field and Eric Amato at The First Tee of Pittsburgh. Eric Amato arranged for students at Neighborhood Academy to participate in a clinic with our actors, so that the students were the teachers-for-the-day. It was an extremely rewarding experience all around.


The Cast of Radio Golf with Instructors from The First Tee of Pittsburgh.

Actor E. Milton Wheeler (and the cast of Radio Golf) with Coach
Don Wallace of West Penn Minority Jr. Golf Association.

Actor E. Milton Wheeler learns from a Neighborhood Academy student.

Aglaonike's Tiger


Community Engagement

         The World Goes 'Round

         For all productions at Pittsburgh Public Theater, I have been giving lectures about our productions, not only as part of our on-site "Mondays with the Public" series but also offsite at places like US Steel and the Carnegie Public Library (Downtown & Business branch). Critic Mary Ann Vallus came to my lecture on March 10th at the Carnegie Public Library and "reviewed" my lecture for Pittsburgh City Paper's "Everyone Is a Critic" section, published on March 17th, 2009.

                  "It was a lecture about the writer and [the composer], [John] Kander and [Fred] Ebb. They wrote
         so many songs for so many different plays, and this lecture really gave you the spirit of what they
         were trying to generate. The World Goes 'Round does not have a story line: It's just the music.
         There's no plot. Each song is a story in and of itself, is the way Heather, the [Pittsburgh Public
         Theater] dramaturg, described it. Also, what was brought out in the lecture is that this is what's
         needed right now, because our economy is in such a state. People who will attend [the musical] will
         come out feeling very, very good. Even here, the one audience member was a scream asking questions.
         I've never seen [this show] before. But I love musicals. I'm just interested in theater, and have
         belonged to the Public Theater for years and years as a subscriber, so I thought it would be interesting
         to listen to. I work in town and I usually exercise on my lunch break, but I decided I would do this
         instead to prep for the play tonight."
                                                                                                   ---Mary Ann Vallus