Review Fix chats with Heather Massie who discusses her upcoming production of “The Return of Hedy Lamarr.”
About the Production:
Planet Connections Theatre Festivity 2017 presents the return of Hedy Lamarr
HEDY! The Life & Inventions of Hedy Lamarr
written and performed by Heather Massie
Performing Sun. June 18 @ 5:00 PM; Tue. June 20 @ 7:15 PM; Sat. June 24 @ 9:30 PM; Tue. June 27 @ 7:00 PM; Thur. June 29 @ 7:00 PM; Fri. June 30 @ 5:15 PM, The Clemente’s LaTea Theater, 107 Suffolk Street, NYC
Silver screen siren Hedy Lamarr was proclaimed by Hollywood as the most beautiful woman in the world, but did you know she invented frequency hopping and spread spectrum technology? Her invention is used today in cell phones, WiFi, CDMA, GPS, Bluetooth, military satellites, and a myriad of other wireless systems! Her adventures from Austria to Hollywood tell an amazing story!
HEDY! The Life & Inventions of Hedy Lamarr explores the life, inventions and person of Hedy Lamarr, Viennese-born Hollywood film star of the 1930s-1950s. Known as “The Most Beautiful Woman in the World”, Hedy Lamarr stored away knowledge of munitions while married to Austrian arms dealer, Fritz Mandl. She employed this knowledge to support the US Navy’s war effort during WWII by inventing The Secret Communication System with composer George Antheil, to make torpedoes more accurate; this was referred to as Frequency Hopping or Spread Spectrum Technology. Today that technology helps fuel the ever-growing world of wireless communications technology.
Ms. Massie received the Outstanding Actress in a Staged Reading Award at last year’s Planet Connections Theatre Festivity in New York City for HEDY! The Life & Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, which was the springboard to an illustrious national tour. The premiere was on Hedy Lamarr’s 102nd birthday in the United Solo Festival in NYC, and was named a Festival Bestseller. Ms. Massie was also Best Actress in the 2017 SaraSolo Festival in Sarasota, FL, and the Audience Choice Award for the 2017 Shenandoah Fringe in Staunton, VA. It was developed in the Artist-in-Residence program in 2016 at the Grange Hall Cultural Center in Waterbury Center, VT, and performed there in March 2017. It was presented in DivaFest 2017 in Indianapolis in March 2017; and is slated to perform at Gamut Classic Theatre in Harrisburg, PA July 7-9; in a special invited performance in Dublin, Ireland on July 17; in the 2017 Galway Fringe in Galway Ireland, July 21-29; and in IndyFringe 2017 in Indianapolis, IN, Aug 23-27. Plans are underway for further production in international festivals, regional theatres, universities, museums, libraries, schools, and scientific and cultural organizations. This project is recommended, and supported in part, by the Austrian Cultural Forum New York.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
Heather Massie: My process went something like this: I would love to perform internationally. And I would love to have a show I could pick up and take anywhere I fancy. It needs to be about something I am very passionate about. I am very passionate about science. In third grade I decided I wanted to be an Astronaut or Inventor, and I studied Astrophysics before becoming a professional actor. I miss science and I have always wanted to find a way to marry my love of science with my love of art. Here began my quest to find a female scientist whose story I would bring to light. And thus was born the solo show HEDY! The Life & Inventions of Hedy Lamarr. What could be more exciting than playing a Hollywood star of the Golden Era who had a secret penchant for inventing in her spare time – to defeat, of all things, Hitler! And I get to play all of the other amazing people in her life. In this way, I always have lovely things to work on as an actor, and the process is continual in terms of development.
Review Fix: What makes this different or special?
Massie: Two words – Hedy Lamarr.
HEDY! The Life & Inventions of Hedy Lamarr is a true story of Hollywood glamour and scientific genius! It explores the life, inventions and person of Hedy Lamarr, Viennese-born Hollywood film star of the 1930s-1950s. Known as The Most Beautiful Woman in the World, Hedy Lamarr stored away knowledge of munitions while married to Austrian arms dealer, Fritz Mandl. She employed this knowledge to support the US Navy’s war effort during WWII by inventing The Secret Communication System with composer George Antheil, to make torpedoes more accurate. Also referred to as Frequency Hopping or Spread Spectrum Technology, her invention is used today in cell phones, WiFi, CDMA, GPS, Bluetooth and a myriad of other wireless systems!
It is exactly because her genius is so unexpected, that her story is so compelling.
Review Fix: What did you learn about yourself through this process?
Massie: I have learned that I am far stronger than I ever gave myself credit for. When you have to do it all yourself, you learn a great deal of new things. Perhaps things you didn’t want to know, but things which make you smarter and stronger. As Hedy said, “I’ll give you a little lesson right now: When things don’t come easy, find out why and then do something about it. And if people step on you, don’t let them.”
Review Fix: How does it feel to be a part of something like this?
Massie: It is a particular challenge to create something from scratch. And to have it be something that other people find compelling and exciting is incredibly validating and fulfilling. Telling Hedy’s story is something larger than myself, it is a calling. It pulls all of my personal history into focus, while allowing me to inspire young female scientists and artists to become everything that they desire. And the opportunity to inspire audiences to find ways each day to make the world a better place, is exactly where I want to be.
Review Fix: What are your ultimate goals for this production and for the future?
Massie: My mission is to tell the world about Hedy Lamarr – just how amazing she was, and just how important her ideas are to the way we live today. My goal is to bring this show to universities, museums, libraries, schools, and cultural and scientific organizations throughout the United States and around the world!
To do this, my first goal is to build the show through festival performances. I began in 2016 at PCTF by presenting a staged reading of the new work – and was thrilled to be awarded as Outstanding Actress in a Staged Reading. I premiered the full production at the 2016 United Solo festival and was named a Festival Bestseller. Then I was invited to perform in the 2017 SaraSolo Festival in Sarasota, FL and was named Best Actress. The show was an Official Selection of DivaFest 2017 in Indianapolis, IN; was presented in Waterbury Center, VT at The Grange Hall Cultural Center, where I was their Inaugural Artist-in-Residence; and in Shenandoah Fringe 2017 where I was awarded with The Audience Choice Award. I got to share the show with Alex Dean, director of the newly-premiered documentary Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, executive produced by Susan Sarandon, to air on PBS American Masters. And in April, I had the distinct honor of performing for Hedy’s family including her son, Anthony Loder, and her biographers, Stephen Michael Shearer and Richard Rhodes.
It is very gratifying that audiences have been so responsive to the show and to Hedy’s story. I am now bringing it back to where it began, by presenting the full production in the 2017 Planet Connections Theatre Festivity!
Review Fix: What do you think your audiences will enjoy the most?
Massie: I think the audience enjoys the aspects of the show which I enjoy the most. The fun I have interacting with the audience, Hedy’s humor, the incredible life she led, and the discovery of just how amazingly facile she was at creating inventions and new technology!
Review Fix: What’s next?
Massie: What’s next is very exciting!
Just after Planet Connections, I will present HEDY! The Life & Inventions of Hedy Lamarr at the Gamut Classic Theatre in Harrisburg, PA from July 7-9. On July 17 I will present an invited performance at The Stag’s Head in Dublin, Ireland. Next stop, Galway Fringe 2017 in Galway, Ireland from July 21-29. Then IndyFringe 2017 in Indianapolis, IN from Aug 23-27. And plans are underway to bring the show to Zimbabwe for the 2017 Intwasa Arts Festival. Beyond that, I look forward to many more amazing adventures for HEDY! The Life & Inventions of Hedy Lamarr and bringing her story to the world!
You can learn lots more about what is up with the show at www.heathermassie.com/hedy
And tickets will be on sale for $18 starting on May 24 at www.planetconnections.org and (866)811-4111. Performances of the show will run June 18-30 at the LaTea Theatre at The Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street, NYC, between Rivington & Delancy Streets on the Lower East Side. Sun June 18 @ 5:00 PM, Tue June 20 @ 7:15 PM, Sat June 24 @ 9:30 PM, Tue June 27 @ 7:00 PM, Thur June 29 @ 7:00 PM, & Fri June 30 @ 5:15 PM.