orget whatever associations you might bring to the name “Heidi.” The Majestic Readers' Theatre Company’s The Heidi Chronicles has nothing to do with a little girl on an Alpine mountaintop, but everything to do with life, love, growth and friendship.
She is herself
COURTESY OF MAJESTIC THEATRE
"'The Heidi Chronicles" explores search for meaning and direction
by Jennifer Moody
The Zoom production, directed by Ellie Smith, streams March 27 and 28 at https://tinyurl.com/MRTCheidi, with closed captioning available. Tickets are pick-what-you-pay; higher prices bring no difference in show quality but may promote giddiness at helping to boost the local arts community. (You can also purchase tickets by calling the business office at 541-758-7827.)
Heidi Holland, played by Brandi Douglas of Corvallis, is a professor of art history at Columbia University. Life is good and she has good friends — longtime pal Susan (Danyelle Tinker), boy-crazy since high school; kindred spirit Peter (BreAnna Manassa), and icky but intriguing Scoop Rosenbaum (Ryan McWayne).
But — is she where she wants to be? Is she with who she wants to be? Should she be with anybody? Should she compromise, go along to get along? Hold out for a hero? Hold out for herself?
“I hadn’t heard of the show until auditions, but I looked it up and really connected with Heidi,” Douglas said via email. “I saw a lot of myself in Heidi. So much so that I had a dream that I was in this role! The journey of coming into my own as a Black woman, as a social justice educator, is ongoing, but I have done a lot of work to be confident and comfortable with who I am. And who I am as a friend and lover reminded me of the friendships with Peter and Susan, as well as the romantic relationship with Scoop. I’ve had some romances that the only reason I’ve kept them going is because I placed my worth in them.”
Douglas is getting to be a veteran of the small-screen remote production; her MajesticPiece Theatre Zoom roles to date include The Merry Wives of Windsor and Tartuffe and directorship of Women Playing Hamlet.
“The benefits are being able to still be creative during this pandemic and to do so safely,” she said. “The challenges (at times) can be the connection between actors. However, with enough rehearsals and good communication between folks, it’s not as big of a challenge.”
Smith, of Philomath, said via email she’s still getting used to directing through a desktop camera.
“This was only my second auditioned show, period, and the first one (an early MajesticPiece rendition of Twelfth Night) had only a readthrough, a dress, and a performance all in one week, so this was my first time really planning/running rehearsals and figuring out how to best communicate with my actors,” she said.
The actors make it work, however, even when there’s scripted intimacy or lively group scenes, she said. “It’s hard when you can’t feel the energy in the room and engage with each other physically and you have a lag and tech issues. You have to be that much more actively focused on your own energy and that of your scene partners to bridge that distance. It’s tough, but with the right resources and talented, committed and enthusiastic actors, you get there.”
Smith said she chose the script “because it dealt with serious subjects honestly while not being too heavy, and also because I felt like Heidi was a very relatable character. She’s smart and funny. She has friends and life work that she is passionate about. She is deeply invested in the good life that she has but she still like feels like she hasn’t found her place in the world.”
Heidi’s story starts in high school in the 1960s and follows her for two decades. The music of the times comes with, which is part of the fun, Douglas said, and should stick with the audience long after they switch off their screens ("The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss),” anyone?)
More important, however, are the messages of those years, she went on. “I want viewers to understand how society viewed and treated women during those decades. I hope viewers connect with Heidi as she figures out who she is in all of it.”
Who she is, Smith added, is Heidi Holland. And that’s enough.
“Be true to who you are and what you want/need in the here and now,” she said, “and hold onto your friends.”