Helen. is the story of three sisters: one who thrives in the humdrum, one who wishes she would, and one who leaves in search of something else.
The play begins with three sisters bound in the home space, the god of Discord hovering above them, waiting for something. Then, one of them loses a button. It’s a little thing, but it opens an opportunity for the unexpected. Helen leaves her home, her husband, and her daughter behind to set out on a journey.
Let’s narrow it down. What do you want?
That’s a ridiculous question.
I’m a god.
I want to wake up to juicy oranges. I want sex rough when I say so, gentle sex when I don’t. I want bread. I want our children to play nice, to need me and to not need me. I don’t want to be looked at. I want the floor to be swept. I want to be extraordinary. I want to be remarkable. I want to be held often, and tightly, to be put down gently. I want to run till my feet are bloody stumps and I never want to look back.
Is that all?
Isn’t that enough.
Helen. aims to contextualize marginalization of women, in history and myth. Looking back at these figures, we encounter a tension between what we want these icons to be and what actions they are allowed by their time. Our options are to reimagine them, faults glossed over, or to engage directly with the realities of their circumstance. Thus, excavating what we can from their successes and learning from their limitations.
In this play, Helen asks her own questions, alongside the questions of those who've inherited her story. As Laurel Thatcher-Ulrich says in her book "Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History,” the goal is "not to lament their oppression, but to give them a history."
Helen. excavates the stories of three mythic women, whose identities are most often painted from male perspectives.
This story introduces three sisters who disagree about where they are, their role in history, and their direction in the world. Timandra thrives in the humdrum, Klaitmenestra wishes she was contented, and Helen grabs her chance to leave in search of something else. The play unfolds cyclically, following Helen’s attempts to expand her history, the people she meets along the way, and the impact of her absence on those she leaves behind.
VIOLETA PICAYO is a bilingual Cuban-American director, actor, and choreographer. A born and raised New Yorker, she is passionate about creating works of and for her home city. Guided by a deep interest in the inherited body, Violeta has made her artistic home with some of New York's most dynamic theater companies. Internationally, she has worked in Argentina, England, Scotland, and Greece. Violeta is an associate artist of Anne Bogart's SITI Company, and a company member at Bedlam and at One Year Lease. She is a proud graduate of Vassar College, the National Theater Institute, and the SITI Conservatory.
CAITLIN GEORGE is an Australian playwright, actor, and theatre-maker currently based out of Melbourne, Australia. Her work has taken her out of her small Australian hometown and around the world. As a playwright, she is interested in questioning the ubiquitous cultural behaviours around feminine social roles. She believes that by looking back to where we've come from, we can better understand where we are and where we can go. Caitlin graduated from BAPA's acting program in 2014 and the 2016/17 SITI Conservatory.
Helen is on a journey.
I am on a journey. I’m walking away from the house. Away from laundry, the peeling of vegetables, dirty dishwashers, and dinner promptly at six. From phone calls, appointments, from the daily commute, shopping with my mother-in-law, and instant coffee. Away from toast on Sundays, mortgage repayments and performative orgasms on my birthday.
Away from a bed shared. I don’t think I’ve ever slept on my own before. That’s fantastic.
I have a daughter. I left my daughter. I’ve left my daughter.
Keep walking. Where? Doesn’t matter. It’s all in the journey. I have direction.
I’m leaving. I’m in my underwear.
I’m not coming back.
When thinking about Helen. I'm interested in choreographed movement for large groups of women, across different decades and eras. Which becomes an exploration of time, genre, and gesture. And, of course, history. This project comes from an on-going curiosity regarding the very narrow spaces that have been created for female excellence, specifically physically.
I'm eager to excavate the work of groups of women with distinct physical vocabularies, to explore the ways that recognizable shared movement locate us in time. From this starting point I keep coming to
the question: How do the histories of female unison movement live in our familiar spaces? Seeking out surprising moments of group strength in unexpected places - which often seem tied to a collective, rather than individual - spaces where the building is collaborative rather than competitive. What are the different rules of sharing space in some of these locations? Which histories are alive and visible in how we share outdoor city spaces?
Helen. has been underdevelopment since February 2021:
The SuperGeographics hosted two workshops and a staged reading with guest artists in New York City.
Caitlin George participated in The SuperGeographics' Studio Weeks Program and spent a funded week developing the script.
The Helen. team workshopped the piece in residence at the Catwalk Arts Retreat.
The company held a remote reading of the first draft.
Caitlin George shared the beginnings of the script with Violeta Picayo & Jonathan Taikina Taylor (Artistic Director).
Helen. has been developed with support from the following organizations, programs & residencies;
2021 The SuperGeographic's Studio Weeks Program
Catwalk Institute's 2021 Catwalk Artist Residency