The Heidi Chronicles

by Wendy Wasserstein

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The Play

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In 1988, Heidi Holland, a professor at Columbia University, discusses paintings by Sonfonisba Anguissola, Clara Peeters, and Lily Martin Spencer, observing that they, like many other notable women artists, are still excluded from art history survey textbooks. Referring to a slide of Spencer’s “We Both Must Fade,” she reflects that it reminds her of a high school dance, where “you sort of don’t know what you want. So you hang around . . . waiting to see what might happen.”

After this prologue, the play unfolds in a series of flashbacks beginning with a 1965 high school dance attended by Heidi and Susan Johnston, both sixteen years old. Although Heidi is content watching the dance alongside her girlfriend, the libidinous Susan insists that they stand apart, claiming that their proximity might dissuade boys from approaching; she also plans to downplay her intelligence to make herself more appealing. When Susan departs to seek a partner in a “ladies’ choice” dance, Heidi seats herself and reads a book. Soon Peter Patrone sits beside her. After they indulge in some witty repartee, he shows Heidi how to dance.

Two years later, Heidi meets Scoop Rosenbaum at a New Hampshire dance for Eugene McCarthy supporters. Editor of The Liberated Earth News, the flirtatious Princeton University dropout barrages Heidi with disturbing questions; taken aback, she tries to distance herself from him, even introducing herself as Susan Johnston. Reflecting on Scoop’s unbridled assertiveness, Heidi wonders “what mothers teach their sons that they never bother to tell their daughters.” Scoop eventually reveals that Heidi’s real name has been plainly in sight on her name tag and observes that she represents an “unfortunate contradiction in terms—a serious good person,” whose unwavering idealism, he foresees, will make her an anachronism. They leave together.

In 1970, Heidi visits Susan at a meeting of the Huron Street Ann Arbor Consciousness Raising Rap Group. After observing Susan (now a law student), Jill (a housewife), Fran (a lesbian physicist), and Becky (a troubled teenager) praise one another’s achievements and accept their differences, the recalcitrant Heidi, now a Yale University art history graduate, reveals her emotional dependency on Scoop. She then declares, “I hope our daughters never feel like us. I hope all our daughters feel so . . . worthwhile” and receives the support of the group.

Four years later, Heidi and Peter meet at the Chicago Art Institute, where she and a small group of women are demanding greater recognition of women in art. Heidi still sleeps with Scoop but claims that she is no longer emotionally attached to him; she adds that Susan recently abandoned a Supreme Court clerkship alongside Scoop to live on a woman’s health and legal collective in Montana. Peter, at first joking that he has “developed a violent narcissistic personality disorder,” eventually confesses that he is “a liberal homosexual pediatrician.” This revelation angers Heidi, who had assumed that Peter desperately loved her. Heidi, however, remains with Peter after the protest leader excludes him from the rally because of his gender, and the two reaffirm their friendship. With Mark, Peter’s most recent romantic interest, they conduct their own march on the curator’s office.

In 1977, Heidi, Peter, and Susan come to the Pierre Hotel for Scoop’s wedding to Lisa Friedlander. Left with Heidi in the anteroom, Scoop, a junior associate at Sullivan Cromwell, reveals that he is about to return to journalism. He also admits to Heidi that, while he loves her, he would not marry her because she is too competitive; Lisa, in comparison, represents a blander but less demanding alternative. “[T]hat’s why you ‘quality time’...

(This entire section contains 1313 words.)

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girls are going to be one generation of disappointed women,” he tells her. “Interesting, exemplary, even sexy, but basically unhappy. The ones who open doors usually are.” Yet the two embrace and dance as the scene concludes.

In the prologue to act 2, Heidi discusses a painting by Lilla Cabot Perry at a 1988 Columbia University lecture, identifying herself with the subjects of Cabot’s “Lady with a Bowl of Violets” and Lily Martin Spencer’s “We Both Must Fade.” To Heidi, these women “seem slightly removed from the occasions at hand. They appear to watch closely and ease the way for the others to join in.”

Scene 1 takes place at Lisa’s baby shower in New York, soon after the assassination of John Lennon. Scoop, now the editor of the trendy Boomer magazine, is ostensibly at a panel in Princeton; Betsy, also pregnant, is his managing editor. Heidi has just returned from England; Susan has graduated from business school and accepted a job in Los Angeles as executive vice president for a production company. Also attending is Denise, an optimistic, young urban professional woman about eight years younger than Heidi and Susan. After Lisa leaves the room, discussion reveals that Scoop is actually in town with his mistress; it is apparent that Lisa, aware of Scoop’s waywardness, has been forcing her cheerfulness. The women toast the Beatles and themselves as the lights fade.

In 1982, a pregnant Denise unites baby-boomers Heidi, Peter, and Scoop on the talk show “Hello New York.” Peter, encouraged by Denise to flaunt his homosexuality, is openly sarcastic to his hostess. Scoop, on the other hand, spouts cliches about being “a simple newspaper man” who is part of “a generation that is still idealistic.” Heidi, the least forceful guest, is eventually silenced as the men cut her off with their self-indulgent remarks. Afterward, she rebukes them and leaves to meet her current beau; Peter leaves Scoop alone after directing his own hostile comments toward him.

In 1984, Heidi meets Susan at a trendy New York restaurant. Although she desires to speak with Susan on a highly personal matter, Susan has invited Denise, now her story editor, to join them. They propose that Heidi act as a consultant on a comedy about three single women, almost thirty, rooming together in a large urban center. Reminding them that she is a serious art historian and essayist, Heidi declines. Denise and Susan then depart, leaving Heidi alone at the table.

In 1986, Heidi speaks at the Plaza Hotel at a meeting of the Miss Crain’s School East Coast Alumnae Association. Unprepared for her presentation, she delivers a rambling speech in which she compares herself with the other women in her exercise class. She ends by stating that she feels stranded. “And I thought the whole point was that we wouldn’t feel stranded. I thought the point was we were all in this together.”

The following year, Heidi pays a surprise visit to Peter at the children’s ward he operates; it is midnight on Christmas Eve, and, he explains, the day after three children with acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) were burned out of their house in Queens. Heidi, who has brought gifts for Peter’s immune-deficient patients, tells him of her plan to leave New York for Minnesota. Upset, Peter chastises her for planning to abandon her work and her friends, himself included. Explaining that he has been losing too many friends to AIDS, he calls Heidi’s melancholy “a luxury.” After Heidi decides to remain, they embrace and wish each other a Merry Christmas.

The final scene finds Heidi in a rocking chair in her empty new apartment. Scoop arrives unexpectedly, and, in a series of revelations, tells her that she is the only person he has cared about consistently over the past thirty years. He adds that he has sold his magazine: After learning that Heidi had the courage to adopt a baby girl, he decided to take a similarly drastic step and embark on a political career. As he leaves, Scoop dubs Heidi “a mother for the nineties.” Left to herself again, Heidi hopes that her daughter will be happier than she has been. She lifts her baby up and dubs her “a heroine for the twenty first!”

Dramatic Devices

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The episodic structure of The Heidi Chronicles and its references to popular trends tend to emphasize ephemera rather than spotlight the work’s serious themes. Told in flashbacks that span more than twenty years of changing social mores, the play relies heavily on elements of setting to lend humor, nostalgia, and other elements of color to its story line. Instructions to use “The Shoop Shoop Song” (“Does he love me? I wanna know. How can I tell if he loves me so?”) in the first scene, the music of Janis Joplin in the second, and Beatles music at Lisa’s shower indicate the playwright’s interest in details that not only speak of the interests of Heidi’s generation but also comment on the action. References to figures such as Robert Kennedy, Eugene McCarthy, David Cassidy, Diane Keaton, and Meryl Streep also speak to the character of the times.

Wendy Wasserstein, however, also employs her entertaining and witty dialogue, indicative of her main characters’ sophistication, to add crucial elements of foreshadowing to her play. A most telling exchange occurs between Susan and Fran in act 1, scene 3. After Susan announces that she “was seriously considering beginning a law journal devoted solely to women’s legal issues” but instead has “decided to work within the male establishment power base to change the system,” Fran mocks the choice as indicating a lack of commitment: “Either you shave your legs or you don’t.” Subsequent events in act 1 suggest that Fran’s accusation is overly harsh, since, by the end of the act, Susan has abandoned her Supreme Court position to live on a women’s collective. Yet, by the lunch scene in act 2, Susan has become so much a part of the male establishment power base that she callously avoids addressing Heidi’s needs. Because Susan herself enthusiastically drew her friend into the encounter group in act 1, her dismissal of Heidi rings with an irony foreshadowed by Fran’s comment.

This feeling of irony, predicated upon the contrast between the compassion of the encounter group in the 1960’s and the estrangement from other women felt by Heidi in the 1980’s, heightens the impact of the play’s central monologue in the following scene, which depicts the distraught Heidi’s speech before the alumnae of a girls school. This monologue, which underscores her feeling of abandonment in the preceding scene, is one of three in the play, the others being the two act-opening lectures in which Heidi refers to female artists who have suffered from academic sexual politics. Together, these monologues direct attention to the play’s major concerns: Heidi’s championship of women’s cultural contributions, her impatience with male chauvinism, and her feeling of estrangement from mainstream society.

Places Discussed

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*Columbia University

*Columbia University. Ivy League university in New York City in a lecture hall in which the prologue to this play is set. Now a successful art historian, Heidi Holland is surprised to find herself lecturing on woman painters in so august an academic setting. Her very presence in this lecture hall proves that she has come a long way from her turbulent life in the 1960’s and 1970’s to have a meaningful career and still be a woman who has everything.

Church basement

Church basement. Place in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where Heidi and other women meet to discuss women’s issues in 1970. The emergence of socially conscious groups such as hers reflects the rise of collective movements during the 1960’s and 1970’s. Heidi herself merely observes the group’s discussion in the play.

*Chicago Art Institute

*Chicago Art Institute. Place where Heidi and a friend try to persuade passersby to participate in a protest against the lack of representation of women in art in 1974. Heidi speaks on a bullhorn, purposely creating a spectacle to attract an audience. She appropriately chooses an art institute to protest because the setting is patriarchal in itself.

Television studio

Television studio. New York City television station in which Heidi and some of her associates are interviewed for a program in 1982. Heidi and the other interviewees represent the baby-boom generation, who are well off, white-collar professionals living in cosmopolitan cities such as New York City. Their presence in the studio gives them a sense of success, as the studio offers them exposure as representatives of an elite who have it all. However, Heidi is reticent to speak during this interview because she senses that the limelight is not really what she wants. With bright lights pouring on her and a camera aimed at her, Heidi realizes that the limelight of any aspect of a person’s life is ephemeral.

Form and Content

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The story of The Heidi Chronicles is told through a series of vignettes that extend from a high school dance in 1965 to Heidi’s near future in 1989 (Wendy Wasserstein completed the play in 1988), when Heidi is a successful professor of art history at Columbia University. Throughout the play’s thirteen scenes, the audience witnesses Heidi’s development from an ordinary schoolgirl through her increasing dissatisfaction with her life before she finally develops greater acceptance of her career, her goals, and herself. The play also explores Heidi’s evolving relationships with Susan, Peter, and Scoop, the three friends with whom she shares many of her most important moments.

While Scoop is always Heidi’s friend, he is also occasionally her lover. She meets him in New Hampshire at an event supporting Eugene McCarthy’s campaign for president. Heidi finds herself both attracted to and repulsed by Scoop’s overwhelming confidence. His readiness to be judgmental exasperates Heidi, though she envies his self-assurance and the faith that he has in his own opinions. Unwilling to make a commitment to Heidi, Scoop ultimately marries Lisa, an illustrator of children’s books who readily places Scoop’s needs ahead of her own. By the end of the play, however, Scoop has grown as a human being. He sells his magazine, demonstrates concern for his children’s future, and considers running for public office.

Peter functions in the play largely as an antithesis to Scoop. When he first meets Heidi in 1965, they form a close friendship through their youthful cynicism and the contempt that they display for conventions. Heidi comes to believe that, although she is strongly attracted to Scoop, Peter is the man with whom she has the most in common. On August 9, 1974, the date of Richard Nixon’s resignation from the presidency, Peter reveals to Heidi that he is gay. From that time on, their friendship deepens as they share with each other the details of their romantic and personal relationships. On Christmas Eve of 1987, Heidi gives up her plans to accept a job at Carleton College, in Minnesota, so that she can remain near Peter, whom she has come to regard as a member of her own family.

Of all the characters in The Heidi Chronicles, Susan undergoes the most transformation. At the beginning of the play, she is a date-conscious teenager who cannot comprehend Heidi’s indifference to the boys they meet at a dance. Throughout the 1970’s and early 1980’s, Susan experiments with several feminist causes. She is an active member of the Huron Street Ann Arbor Consciousness Raising Rap Group, considers founding a journal devoted to women’s legal issues, and moves to Montana, where she joins a feminist health and legal collective. By the end of the play, however, Susan’s shallowness has reemerged. She abandons her ideals and devotes her life to producing mindless situation comedies for television. With great insensitivity, Susan ignores Heidi’s unhappiness and abruptly switches the topic to her plan for developing a comedy about women artists in Houston. One of the final references to Susan in the play occurs when Peter announces that she has contributed part of the profits from this television series to his hospital for children with AIDS: Susan’s concern for others has degenerated to writing checks for popular causes.


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The Heidi Chronicles examines the frustration and disappointment that many women felt as they examined their opportunities and relationships throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s. The play explores these problems, however, without developing a tone of rancor toward men. Even Scoop, the one character whose cockiness and self-interest make him almost a villain for most of the play, is allowed to grow as a human being by the end of the drama. Fran, the character who is most bitter toward men and who blames them for most of the problems in the world, is a comic figure. Wasserstein’s point is that women should regard men as sources of neither their self-worth nor their problems. If women hope to achieve balance in their lives, they must take charge of their own lives, realize that they are “all in this together,” and create a future that will be more satisfying both for their daughters and themselves.

The importance of The Heidi Chronicles is that it expresses these ideas in a form that is palatable to a large popular audience. Rather than speaking of women’s issues only to women, Wasserstein creates a work that entertains audiences of both genders. By including references to popular music, current events, and fashions that many viewers will remember from their own youth, Wasserstein presents characters with whom it is easy to identify. Because of its widespread appeal, The Heidi Chronicles won not only the 1989 Susan Smith Black Prize for the best play by a woman playwright but also the Pulitzer Prize for drama, the New York Drama Critics Award, and a Tony Award for the best play of 1989. Its success transcended boundaries of gender and allowed men and women alike to reflect upon the shared experiences of their young adulthood.

Perhaps for this reason, feminist reactions toward The Heidi Chronicles tended to be largely negative. Many critics did not regard Wasserstein as going far enough in explaining Heidi’s unhappiness. A number of these authors also thought that the play dealt far too much with Heidi’s romantic relationships and not enough with her work or her friendships with other women. The result, several critics have noted, is that Heidi gives lip service to feminist values but still appears to be dominated by the male characters in the play.

Historical Context

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Women’s Issues
As the 1980s came to a close, conservative forces remained in control of the White House and other aspects of American society. Republican George Bush assumed the presidential office in 1989, following eight years of conservative rule under President Ronald Reagan. The largely conservative U.S. Supreme Court upheld state restrictions on access to abortions. Though this ruling did not overturn Roe v. Wade, the case which legalized abortion in America, the ruling was seen as a victory for pro-life activists. Another victory came when President Bush vetoed a bill that would allow the federally-funded Medicaid to pay for abortions for women who were victims of rape or incest.

It seemed that the pro-life movement, often regarded as the antithesis to the women’s movement, was gaining in power and prestige because of these important political victories. Still, the women’s movement, which was primarily pro-choice, did not take this assault on what they regarded as a woman’s fundamental right without a fight. They also demonstrated and supported political candidates that were pro-choice. One of the largest rallies they held was in Washington, D.C., in 1989, when approximately 600,000 women marched on the Capitol.

Despite such activity, feminism and the women’s movement was on the decline in the late-1980s. After the Equal Rights Amendment, a proposed addition to the Constitution that would have barred discrimination based on sex, was defeated in 1982, feminism lost much of its former power. Many felt that what remained of the women’s movement was out of touch with the lives of most women in the United States.

Instead of having it all—something the female characters in The Heidi Chronicles discuss—an article in the Harvard Business Review claimed that women in managerial positions have two choices: career and family (also known as the mommy track) or career-primary. Some women claimed that raising children and staying at home were legitimate career choices. The number of single parents also rose throughout the 1980s. Wasserstein seems to endorse these choices when Heidi adopts a child at the end of the play. Many women still worked while raising a family, however, and day care became an important issue.

Art in America
Of the major art exhibits that opened in 1989, none were centered around female painters. This inequality is central to Heidi’s career as an art historian. The arts came under fire, in part because of controversy over an exhibit, partially funded by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), of work by Robert Mappelthorpe, whose photography was thought by many conservatives to be pornographic. Legislation was proposed in Congress to prevent funding of ‘‘obscene’’ art by the federallyfunded NEA.

Health Crises and the Rise of AIDS
The number of AIDS cases was on the rise in 1989, and only one drug, AZT (zidovudine or retrovir), was approved for treatment of the disease in the United States. There was no cure or vaccine. While knowledge about the disease increased, nearly 2.5 million people in the Western Hemisphere (approximately 1 to 1.5 million Americans) became infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. AZT was also being used, somewhat successfully, to delay development of full-blown AIDS in people with few or no symptoms of the disease. Many of Peter’s friends died of this disease, and the overwhelming grief associated with the constant lost affects him deeply in the play’s later scenes.

Literary Style

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SettingThe Heidi Chronicles is a comedic drama that spans the years 1965 to 1989 and employs numer ous locations for its setting. The play is framed by two scenes that open each of the acts. These are set in the present in a lecture hall at New York City’s Columbia University where Heidi teaches. While these scenes frame and define the action, the main body of the play is told through a series of flashbacks that span Heidi’s adult life.

In Act I, locales include a high school dance at Miss Crane’s School in Chicago in 1965; a party for Eugene McCarthy in Manchester, New Hampshire, in 1968; a church basement in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where the women’s group meets, in 1970; outside of the Chicago Art Institute in 1974; and the anteroom to the Pierre Hotel in New York City where Scoop has married Lisa Friedlander in 1977.

Act II takes place entirely in New York City. The first scene occurs in Scoop and Lisa’s apartment in 1980. The next scene shifts to 1982 and a television studio where the show Hello, New York is taped. Susan, Denise, and Heidi have lunch in a trendy restaurant in 1984, and two years later, Heidi gives an address to a luncheon at the Plaza Hotel. Heidi visits Peter in the children’s ward at a hospital in 1987. The final scene takes place in Heidi’s new, unfurnished apartment in 1989.

By spreading the play across some twenty-five years, Wasserstein is able to illustrate the development of her protagonist. The time span and the often shifting locations lend the play an epic feel that recalls such classic works as Homer’s The Odyssey, in which the exploits of a heroic character are charted over a great period of time. While The Heidi Chronicles is not a narrative on the scale of Homer’s work, it is presented as a sort of epic for modern women. By taking Heidi through several eras and social/political movements, Wasserstein attempts to illustrate the life of a typical late-twentieth century woman.

Point of View and Narrative StructureThe Heidi Chronicles is told from the point of view of Heidi Holland, primarily in episodic flashback. In three scenes, Heidi directly addresses the audience with monologues: a prologue opens each act while in Act II, scene 4, Heidi addresses a group at a luncheon. In the rest of the play, Heidi is present in every scene, primarily reacting to the characters and events around her. Such a technique enables Wasserstein to direct the audiences’ attention to what is occurring in Heidi’s life. By showing the various struggles and triumphs from the point of view of her lead character, Wasserstein is able to show the audience what a feminist might go through in attempting to build an independent life.

Symbolism and Imagery
Wasserstein uses symbolism in several ways in The Heidi Chronicles. She frequently uses popular songs to link scenes, emphasizing their symbolic meaning. For example, the tone for the women’s group scene is set by Aretha Franklin’s ‘‘Respect,’’ a song about a woman demanding better, equal treatment from her man. Heidi admits her relationship with Scoop is not good for her, and she, in fact, deserves respect. The women’s solidarity is solidi- fied when they sing a campfire song together. To emphasize the point, the scene closes with a reprise of ‘‘Respect.’’

At the end of Act I, Heidi dances with Scoop to the romantic song ‘‘You Send Me,’’ which speaks of a love that elevates a person, taking them above the trivial concerns of the world. In this context the song is bittersweet. Scoop and Heidi still love each other, but they know they cannot have a lasting relationship. At the end of Act II, Heidi’s life changes again when she adopts a daughter and moves into a new apartment. She rocks her daughter, singing ‘‘You Send Me’’ to her. In this scene, the song represents Heidi’s love for her new baby; the song now symbolizes a much purer love, one that is based in nurture rather than romance.

More literal symbolism is found in the art Heidi describes in the lecture scenes. The women artists she discusses are ignored by much of the mainstream art world. Heidi sees their value, describing two works in particular, Lilla Cabot Perry’s ‘‘Lady in Evening Dress’’ and Lily Martin Spencer’s ‘‘We Both Must Fade.’’ Heidi sees that the women in both paintings are spectators in their own pictures, helping others ease in. Heidi’s life is similarly spent reacting to others and aiding them. This comes to a head in the television interview scene, when Heidi sits crunched between Peter and Scoop, unable to speak more than a few words. Her thoughts are never complete but merely give the men a point from which to expound on their own opinions.

The art symbolism also extends to Lisa, Scoop’s wife. She is an under-appreciated artist like the women Heidi discusses, an award-winning illustrator of children’s books. Only Peter recognizes the value of her art because he is a pediatrician and his patients like it. Scoop approves of his wife’s career because she does not compete with him—in fact, he chooses to think of it as more of a hobby than a career.

Compare and Contrast

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1989: There are many unknowns about the AIDS disease, its causes and cures. The number of deaths from AIDS is on the rise.

Today: The number of deaths from AIDS has stabilized. Much is known about the disease and there are a number of drugs to treat symptoms of AIDS on the market. While there is still no cure, these new treatments have proven to retard or halt the disease’s progress and thus prolong and improve victims’ lives.

1989: George Bush enters the White House, following the two-term reign of Ronald Reagan, insuring twelve years of Republican rule in America. The Democratic control of Congress makes for considerable gridlock in the legislative process.

Today: Democrats control the White House, in the form of two-term President Bill Clinton. The Republicans now control Congress and partisan politics still make for lethargic policymaking.

1989: The Women’s Movement is on the decline in the United States as many find the goals and ideals of feminism out of step with their reality.

Today: In a post-feminist society, women’s organizations regroup to address concerns of many women. The National Council of Women’s Organizations (representing 6 million women) draft potential legislation for the National Women’s Equality Act, calling for the end of sex discrimination, in 1998. The threat of losing abortion rights has also galvanized many women (and men) into political action.

1989: Pro-life activists win important political victories in restricting access to abortion.

Today: President Clinton refuses to sign legislation banning partial-birth abortions, a controversial procedure whose abolition is a cornerstone of the pro-life movement.

Media Adaptations

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The Heidi Chronicles was adapted into a television movie for Turner Television Network (TNT) in 1995. The production stars Jamie Lee Curtis as Heidi, Peter Reigert as Scoop, and Tom Hulce as Peter.

Bibliography and Further Reading

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Austin, Gayle. Review of The Heidi Chronicles in Theatre Journal, March 1990, pp. 107-08.

Brustein, Robert. Review of The Heidi Chronicles in the New Republic, April 17, 1989, pp. 32-35.

Hodgson, Moira. Review of The Heidi Chronicles in the Nation, May 1, 1989, pp. 605-06.

McGuigan, Catherine. ‘‘The Uncommon Wasserstein Goes to Broadway’’ in Newsweek, March 29, 1989, pp. 76-77.

Wasserstein, Wendy. The Heidi Chronicles in The Heidi Chroniclesand Other Plays, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1990, pp. 155-249.

Further Reading
Ciociola, Gail. Wendy Wasserstein: Dramatizing Women, Their Choices, and Their Boundaries, McFarland, 1998. This book discusses several of Wasserstein’s plays in depth, including The Heidi Chronicles. Ciociola often relies on a feminist perspective.

Franklin, Nancy. ‘‘The Time of Her Life’’ in the New Yorker, April 14, 1997, pp. 63-71. This article discusses Wasserstein’s life and background, as well as the subjects that inform her plays.

Keyssar, Helene. ‘‘Drama and the Dialogic Imagination: The Heidi Chronicles and Fefu and Her Friends’’ in Modern Drama, March 1991, p. 88. This academic article discusses The Heidi Chronicles in terms of the theories of Mikhail Bakhtin, a philosopher- critic.

Shapio, Walter. ‘‘Chronicler of Frayed Feminism’’ in Time,March 27, 1989, pp. 90-93. This article discusses Wasserstein’s background, family, and career.

‘‘Wendy Wasserstein: The Art of Theater XIII’’ in Paris Review, Spring, 1997, pp. 164-88. The article provides a brief overview of Wasserstein’s life and an in-depth interview with the playwright. She discusses her career, inspirations, and plays.


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Arthur, Helen. “Wendy Wasserstein’s The Heidi Chronicles.” Review of The Heidi Chronicles, by Wendy Wasserstein. Nation 261, no. 12 (October 16, 1995): 443-445. Discusses the play as adapted for television rather than the original play. Criticizes the drama’s use of historical markers (events, songs) as ineffective.

Austin, Gayle. Review of The Heidi Chronicles. Theatre Journal 42 (1990): 107-108. Austin regards the play as simplistic and insufficiently feminist. She notes that Heidi is always depicted as deriving her happiness from the traditional roles of mother or lover and rarely from her work.

Brustein, Robert. Review in The New Republic. CC (April 17, 1989), pp. 32-34.

Carter, Graydon. Review in Vogue. CLXXIX (March, 1989), p. 266.

Finn, William. “Sister Act.” Vogue 182, no. 9 (September, 1992): 360. Summarizes Wasserstein’s career and themes.

Henry, William A., III. Review in Time. CXXXIII (March 20, 1989), p. 89.

Hoban, Phoebe. “The Family Wasserstein.” New York 26 (January 4, 1993): 32-37.

Hornsby, Richard. “Interracial Casting.” Hudson Review 42 (1989): 464-465. In a scathing analysis of The Heidi Chronicles, Hornsby views the play’s plot as aimless, its ideas as trite, and its characters as stereotypes. The critic attributes the play’s popularity to “trendiness” and the fact that its author is a woman.

Keyssar, Helene. “Drama and the Dialogic Imagination.” Modern Drama 34 (1991): 88-106. Keyssar regards The Heidi Chronicles as a failure since it depicts its title character only in reaction to an essentially male-dominated world, not in revolution against it. The author views few of the central characters as changing over the course of time.

Kramer, Mimi. “Portrait of a Lady,” in The New Yorker. LXIV (December 26, 1988), pp. 81-82.

McGuigan, Cathleen. Review in Newsweek. CXIII (March 20, 1989), pp. 76-77.

Rose, Phyllis J. “Dear Heidi: An Open Letter to Dr. Holland.” American Theatre 6, no. 7 (October, 1989): 26-29, 114-116. Rose argues that all art is political: It either supports or attacks the existing power structure. For this reason, she criticizes The Heidi Chronicles as focusing upon Heidi’s relationship with men rather than the role that art or work plays in her life.

Shapiro, Walter. “Chronicler of Frayed Feminism.” Time, March 27, 1989, 90-92. Describes The Heidi Chronicles’ use of anger and jokes to diminish the pain of loneliness that is central to the play. Describes the playwright’s family as the source for much of her bitter humor.

Simon, John. Review in New York. XXII (January 2, 1989), p. 49.

Weales, Gerald. “American Theater Watch, 1988-1989.” Georgia Review 43 (1989): 573-575. The author questions why single parenthood seems to “fill the vacuum” in Heidi’s life. Weales notes that Wasserstein lampoons most of the idealistic impulses of the 1960’s and 1970’s.


Critical Essays


Teaching Guide