The Heidi Chronicles
The Heidi Chronicles is a 1988 play by Wendy Wasserstein. The play won the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The Heidi Chronicles opened off Broadway at Playwrights Horizons in November 1988, Starring Joan Allen, Joanne Camp, Peter Friedman, Boyd Gains, Drew McVety, Ellen Parker and Sarah Jessica Parker and ran until Feb 1989 and transferred to the Plymouth Theatre ( now Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre) and closed Sep 1990. Replacement cast included Anne Lange and Cynthia Nixon, and returns to Broadway in 2015 at the Music Box Theatre. In 1995, the play was adapted as a television film. It was directed by Paul Bogart and starred Jamie Lee Curtis and Tom Hulce in the leading roles.
A workshop production at Seattle Repertory Theatre was held in April 1988, directed by Daniel J. Sullivan.
The play premiered off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons on November 18, 1988 and closed on February 19, 1989 after 99 performances. It then transferred to Broadway at the Plymouth Theatre, opening on March 9, 1989 and closing on September 1, 1990, after 622 performances. Both productions were directed by Sullivan. The set design was by Thomas Lynch, costume design by Jennifer von Mayrhauser and lighting design by Pat Collins. The cast starred Joan Allen as Heidi, Boyd Gaines as Peter, and Peter Friedman as Scoop. Sarah Jessica Parker was featured in three small roles off-Broadway; those roles were played by Cynthia Nixon for the Broadway run.
Replacement actors on Broadway included Christine Lahti, Brooke Adams, and Mary McDonnell as Heidi, David Hyde Pierce as Peter, and Tony Shalhoub as Scoop.
Two Broadway Heidis married the actor who played opposite them as Scoop: Joan Allen and Peter Friedman (now divorced) and Brooke Adams and Tony Shalhoub.
The first major production mounted after Wasserstein’s death in January 2006 was at the Berkshire Theatre Festival in August and September 2006, featuring Kate Jennings Grant.
On September 30, 2011, produced by The English Theatre of Rome and directed by Gaby Ford, the play premiered in Italy, at Rome’s Teatro dell’Arciliuto near Piazza Navona, to wide acclaim.
A revival (the first Broadway revival of any of Wasserstein’s plays) opened on Broadway on February 23, 2015 in previews, at the Music Box Theatre. The cast features Elisabeth Moss in the title role, Bryce Pinkham as Peter Patrone and Jason Biggs as Scoop Rosenbaum, directed by Pam MacKinnon. The play opens officially on March 19.
The plot follows Heidi Holland from high school in the 1960s to her career as a successful art historian more than twenty years later. The play’s main themes deal with the changing role of women during this time period, describing both Heidi’s ardent feminism during the 1970s and her eventual sense of betrayal during the 1980s. Though most of the characters are women, there are two important male characters; Peter Patrone, a gay pediatrician who is arguably Heidi’s best friend, and Scoop Rosenbaum, a magazine editor who marries and has many affairs, and with whom Heidi has a tense friendship. Heidi meets Scoop at a Eugene McCarthy rally where he tries to woo her with knowledge and wit. She seems unenthused and lies about her name to Scoop but is soon convinced as she realizes Scoop is a very intelligent, attractive man despite his egotistical ways. The scene in which they first meet ends with a passionate kiss and night together. It is ambiguously implied that Heidi may have been a virgin at the time. Although they don’t work out romantically, the chemistry between Scoop and Heidi is insatiable and they go on to be lifelong friends. Heidi realizes that not marrying does not mean she can not be a mother and takes matters into her own hands. She chooses to adopt a child on her own.
Critical Responses & Cultural Impact
The New York Times critic Mel Gussow wrote of the Playwrights Horizon production: “Ms. Wasserstein has always been a clever writer of comedy. This time she has been exceedingly watchful about not settling for easy laughter, and the result is a more penetrating play. This is not to suggest, however, that The Heidi Chronicles is ever lacking in humor.”
The new Jerry Seinfeld sitcom pilot that premiered on NBC in July 1989 was entitled The Seinfeld Chronicles as an homage to (or spoof of) Wasserstein’s zeitgeist-dominating play. The show’s title was quickly shortened to Seinfeld.
Awards and Nominations
The play won the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
- Tony Award
- Best Play (winner)
- Best Actress in a Play (Allen) (nominee)
- Best Featured Actor in a Play (Gaines) (winner)
- Best Featured Actress in a Play (Joanne Camp)(nominee)
- Best Scenic Design (Thomas Lynch)(nominee)
- Best Direction of a Play (nominee)
- Drama Desk Award
- Outstanding New Play (winner)
- Outstanding Actor in a Play (Friedman)
- Outstanding Actress in a Play (Allen) (nominee)
- Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play (Joanne Camp)(nominee)
- Outstanding Director of a Play (nominee)
- Outstanding Set Design (nominee)
- New York Drama Critics Circle
- Best Play (winner)
- Simonson, Robert. Kate Jennings Grant Stars in Wasserstein’s The Heidi Chronicles at Berkshire Fest, Aug. 15-Sept. 2″ playbill.com, August 15, 2006
- “Wasserstein listing” Internet Broadway Database
- Gioia, Michael. “Elisabeth Moss, Bryce Pinkham, Jason Biggs Set for Broadway Revival of Wendy Wasserstein’s ‘Heidi Chronicles’ “ playbill.com, September 11, 2014
- Purcell, Carey.” ‘The Heidi Chronicles’, With ‘Mad Men’ Star Elisabeth Moss, Begins on Broadway Tonight” playbill.com, February 23, 2015
- Gussow, Mel.“Review/Theater; A Modern-Day Heffalump in Search of Herself”,The New York Times, December 18, 1988
- ” The Heidi Chronicles Listing” playbillvault.com, accessed September 11, 2014
- “Pulitzer Prize for Drama” pulitzer.org, accessed September 11, 2014
- Wasserstein, Wendy (1989). The Heidi Chronicles: A Play. New York: Dramatists Play Service. ISBN 0-8222-0510-6. Retrieved 2006-06-26.
- The Heidi Chronicles at the Internet Broadway Database
- The Heidi Chronicles at the Internet off-Broadway Database
- The Heidi Chronicles at the Internet Movie Database
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