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Heather Massie

Heather Massie portrays celebrated 20th century film actress Hedy Lamarr in Massie’s one-woman show "Hedy! The Life and Inventions of Hedy Lamar," on stage later this month at Gamut Theatre Group in Harrisburg.

Hedy Lamarr is a familiar name to older Americans. A screen queen of the 1930s and ‘40s, the Austrian-born Lamarr famously starred in such films as “Algiers,” “Boom Town” and “Samson and Delilah.”

Far less well-known is Lamarr’s concurrent career as an inventor, including development of a patented radio guidance system during World War II that still underlies some of today’s cellular marvels, including Bluetooth. She also developed an improved traffic signal.

Gamut Theatre Group will illuminate this lesser known aspect of Lamarr’s life this month with a one-woman show, “Hedy! The Life and Inventions of Hedy Lamarr.” The show will be offered during one weekend, Oct. 25-27 at Gamut’s theater on North Fourth Street in downtown Harrisburg.

“She was an extreme personality, and her story is fascinating,” Gamut Artistic Director Clark Nicholson said of Lamarr, who seriously considered abandoning Hollywood during the war to work for the federal government’s new National Inventors Council.

The one-woman show features the talents of actor Heather Massie, who performed “Hedy!” to sell-out audiences at Gamut in 2017 and has toured with the show all over the world. “She does a terrific job with it,” Clarkson said.

Massie, who used to perform in Shakespearean productions with Gamut during the 1990s, said she has always been fascinated by science, including a study of astrophysics at the University of Virginia before switching to a career in theater.

She plans “Hedy!” as the first chapter in a trilogy of plays celebrating women in science. Next up: astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman in space.

Off-beat musical

The Stephen Sondheim musical “Assassins” is nearly as well known for its off-stage controversy as its actual content, going through two major revisions between 1990 and 2004 before apparently striking the right mix of music and message.

Little Theatre of Mechanicsburg will stage a production of this outré show from Oct. 18 through Nov. 5.

“Assassins” uses the premise of a homicidal carnival game to explore the psyches of men and women who have attempted, successfully or not, to assassinate presidents of the United States. It’s a list that includes John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, Charles Guiteau, Leon Czolgosz, John Hinckley and Manson Family member Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme.

The musical, featuring music by Sondheim and a book by John Weidman, first opened Off-Broadway in 1990, but did not capture audiences and closed after 73 performances. A resurrection attempt in London’s West End, with the new song “Something Just Broke,” met the same fate two years later.

A revised Broadway production, with new orchestration and an all-star cast that included Neil Patrick Harris and Michael Cerveris (who won a Tony Award), ran for more than 100 performances and received five Tonys in 2004. The show has since continued to be produced around the world, with mixed results.

Sondheim told The New York Times in 1991 that he was not surprised the admittedly creepy show had struggled to find an audience.

“There are always people who think that certain subjects are not right for musicals,” the award-winning composer said, “(but) we are not going to apologize for dealing with such a volatile subject.”

Reopening

Open Stage of Harrisburg has undergone some cosmetic surgery in preparation for its 34th season, including the addition of a bar in the renovated lobby. There’s also a new front entrance, a second stage Studio Theatre and an updated classroom.

And a new name: From now on, the theater will simply be known as Open Stage.

A grand reopening celebration is set to begin at 11 a.m. Oct. 24, with Mayor Eric Papenfuse and state Rep. Patty Kim on hand for a ribbon-cutting. Tours of the new facility will be offered on the hour from noon until 5 p.m.

Money for the project is coming from Open Stage’s 30/30 fundraising campaign, aimed at raising $30,000 in 30 days. Donations are still being sought for the effort, which is scheduled to end Nov. 6.

The first mainstage production of the remodeled theater’s 34th season will be “Who’s Holiday,” a Dr. Seuss-inspired comedy that opens on Nov. 16.

But starting later this month, the professional theater’s long-running Court Street Series will get a new look with “Spirits ’N’ Spirits” ghost stories in the lobby bar Oct. 25-31. Special guest storytellers will provide the tales, aimed at mature audiences only.

Also planned: TGIW (Thank God It’s Wednesday) on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. and Erotic Fan Fiction Live on Saturdays at 9:45 p.m. Check the redesigned website at openstagehbg.com for more details.

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