HEDY! The Life & Inventions of Hedy Lamarr | Theatre Review

HEDY! The Life & Inventions of Hedy Lamarr review Rebecca Spelman

How many people start college to study astrophysics and graduate with a theatre degree? Heather Massie did, and maybe that’s why she’s the perfect person to play Hedy Lamarr. HEDY! The Life & Inventions of Hedy Lamarr is a one-woman show, written and performed by Massie. You may know the name Hedy Lamarr, but you probably don’t know all the things she’s accomplished. The show has history, heart, and a hell of a lot of accents.

Brains and beauty

Hedy Lamarr was famously called “the most beautiful woman in the world”. She starred on the silver screen both sides of the Atlantic, and her style was so iconic that thousands of women copied her signature hairstyle. But Hedy was more than just a pretty face. Throughout her life, she was developing ideas for inventions that would improve the world. The radio guidance system she invented to help with torpedo accuracy in World War II has gone on to change the world, being used in everything from Wi-Fi to bar codes. Despite this revolutionary work, Hedy found it difficult to be taken seriously as an inventor. To quote the play, “I have to work twice as hard to be taken seriously”. HEDY! celebrates Lamarr’s work as a film star and an inventor, showing audiences multiple facets of this complicated woman and why the world never got to see it all.

Heather Massie brings Hedy to life with stories told in a bedazzled ’30s gown and an impressive mid-century Austrian/American accent. Multiple times, the audiences murmured in agreement with what Hedy said, completely drawn in by the charming performance. Massie performed entire conversations alone, switching body language and accents at lightning speed. She filled the stage with characters, each one as entertaining as the last.

A timeless message

The performance ends with lines from the poem famously associated with Mother Theresa, “Do It Anyway”. Hedy Lamarr was the subject of many disappointments- she didn’t always get roles that fit her abilities, and the U.S. Army didn’t use her patent when it could have saved thousands of lives. Not all of our plans go as we’ll hope, but does that mean we should stop? This show argues that no, even if things don’t go the way we want, we should do them anyway.

This message makes a lot of sense when, in the Q&A after the show, Massie explains why she wrote a show about Hedy. Growing up as a girl interested in science, her hero was Thomas Edison. Where were the female role models? Where were the women who had forged a path in the industry? HEDY! has been toured around the world, shown to audiences in theatres, schools, conferences, and more. Hedy Lamarr might be gone, but her work can continue to inspire generations of young women who deserve to know that they can pursue science, film, or anything else they want. HEDY! captures that hope, and shows us all that just because it hasn’t been done before, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it anyway.

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