Saturday, February 27, 2016


Last night I went to see our department of Theatre's production of The Heidi Chronicles.  The new Theatre chairperson, Scott Edmiston, has done an excellent job of rejuvenating the program for our students.  The Heidi Chronicles is yet another example of the program's renewed strength.

I had not seen The Heidi Chronicles before and don't like to know anything about a production before I go to see it.  Invariably someone previewing a show tells me something that affects what I anticipate will happen.  I do not like to be anticipating anything when I watch--except for what I think might unfold because of what I am watching.

The Heidi Chronicles centers on a woman named, go figure, Heidi and, primarily, is about the evolution of the women's movement in the US from 1964-1989.  The play, however, is not just for activist women nor is it wholly about the women's movement. It is relevant for anyone who came of age in the sixties and experienced the political and emotional turbulence of those times.

Each scene is from an era very recognizable to boomers.  We meet Peter, Heidi's lifelong friend, at their first encounter at a high school party in 1964. We meet Scoop, Heidi's lifelong love, at an elect Eugene McCarthy rally. We see Heidi's best friend transform from a typical teenager in '64, to an ardent feminist in 1970, to a Montanan working on a women's commune in the early 70s, to a city executive in the 80s.

I may have been the only one in the small theatre eligible for social security and I wondered how the college students in the audience could relate to the times depicted.  At one point in the 70s Peter refers to Watergate characters with an allusion to Heidi's feminism. He calls two of Nixon's henchman, Erlichperson and Haldeperson.  We boomers know he is talking about Nixon associates and Watergate convicts H.R. Haldeman and John Erlichman, but I think you kind of had to be there to get the joke.

The play was nostalgic for me. I remember Clean Gene McCarthy's campaign, the height of student protest whether specifically feminist or more broadly political, how friends transformed from ardent this-es or thats to more sedate conventional members of what we used to disparagingly call "the system."

As mentioned the play is centrally about the evolution of the feminist movement, but the message is the same for all the political movements of the 60s. Idealism was rarely met with the necessary commitment and energy from those spewing the ideologies.  A lot of people in the 60s who were screaming for reform became, in the 80s, just like the people they had urged to reform.

Not Heidi though.  Heidi seems to stay true to who she is, for better or worse, in terms of happiness. Scoop tells her that in life you need to shoot for a six, because if you shoot for a ten, and you get a six, you will be disappointed. And, he contends, you're likely only to get a six. Heidi doesn't buy it.

If you are hanging out in your mid sixties and came of age in the mid sixties, I think you will find The Heidi Chronicles worth attending if a local theatre troupe is performing it.  The Northeastern production closes on Sunday. The twenty somethings last night did a very good job of representing their elders' eras.

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