If any woman in history deserves a one-woman tribute show it’s Hedy Lamarr and if any actress is worthy of playing her it’s the exceptionally talented Heather Massie.
Charm City Fringe kicked off this week bringing more shows to the 11-day festival than previous years.
Massie hit the stage in her one-woman show on Thursday night at the Downtown Cultural Arts Center on N. Howard street in an intimate setting. If I had to describe this lady in two words it would be a “dynamic performer.” Massie is captivating as she rules the stage and teases her audience. The stage set up was simple with just a table and coat stand to hold several clothing props for the life Lamarr led. While the stage set up may have been sparse yet effective the storyline is enormously complex and it was no surprise to find out that it took several years to write.
Massie is captivating as she rules the stage and teases her audience.
Massie both wrote and stars in the show covering all the characters that graced Lamarr’s world. From family members to lovers, husbands (there were a lot of husbands) studio executives and the man who she would eventually partnered with to take her invention to the U.S. Navy George Antheil. Her impression of Jimmy Stewart is one of the most noteworthy. Massie’s strong stage presence grabs your attention for the entire show and her energy and talent know no limits.
Massie doesn’t miss a beat in taking the audience from the 1930’s through to the late 90’s when Lamarr was finally recognized for her invention. The show embraces the battle of the sexes that still exists today, can a woman really be beautiful and smart? The show kicks off with the evolving sounds of the telephone from the deep tones of a rotary phone to the buzzes, squeaks and charts hits we set our ringtones today.
“I am in your pocket sir, you are holding me in your hand, and I am in your pocket book,” declares Massie. As she tells the tale of how the technology devised by Lamarr is used today.
“I wanted to be an astronaut. I grew up learning about Thomas Edison but there were really no female role models for me and I was interested in science. So, becoming an actress and celebrating the life of Hedy Lamarr is the closest I will get to find that role model.” Said Massie.
Lamarr born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler is described as the most beautiful woman in the world and in today’s world of body image and the search for perfection this show is so refreshing.
Lamarr was more than just a star of the big screen, the Austrian born beauty invented frequency hopping and spread spectrum technology. Along with George Antheil, she invented a “secret communication system” to help combat the Nazi’s in WWII. Let me save you the google search on that—basically, she laid the foundation for the technology that is used today in that little device we just can’t live without –our cell phones! Her patented technology is also used today for Wi-Fi and GPS devices. Lamarr and Antheil received the patent back in 1941 but the enormity of their discovery was not seen until decades later.
She starred in her first movie back in 1920 “Money on the Street” but it was her naked scenes in “Ecstasy” in 1933 that brought her to the attention of Hollywood, in both a good and not so favorable light. With almost 30 films under her belt and several husbands between 1930 and 1958, it would be the need to use her brain that led Lamarr down the path of inventing. She cites her father as being the person who most influenced her in being inquisitive and wanting to learn more and more about the way technology worked.
Her frequency hopping technology was devised as she felt during the war torpedoes needed more accuracy and a safeguard against enemy interference. Despite handing over the patent to the U.S. Navy her technology wasn’t used for many years. Instead, the Navy suggested she use her good looks to raise money for war bonds. A response not unexpected from men in that era. She received very few accolades until recently when she was awarded the Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award (EFF).
How do you capture the life of such an established diva somewhat ignored for her intellect in less than an hour? Massie does- a must-see show for this year’s Charm City Fringe.
“Obviously I am not an astronaut but I will get to play one in my next project which looks at the life of Sally Rider,” says Massie.
This year the festival is contained within the Bromo Arts District which comprises of the area on the west side of downtown from Baltimore Street up Park Avenue, Howard Street and Eutaw Street to the junction of Reading Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard. This year Le Mondo slated as Fringe HQ.
Running Time: 1 hour.
“HEDY! The Life & Inventions of Hedy Lamarr” plays at Downtown Cultural Arts Center through November 12, 2017. For more information, visit online. For more information about the Charm City Fringe Festival, click here.