The Meaning of Helen on 86th St.

One of the fascinating aspects of adapting this piece, which I tend to forget, is that high school students across the country have it in their English textbook.  That means they are studying it, analyzing it, having spirited discussions about it, and writing papers about it. 

What that also means, is that my website has essentially become the Helen on 86th St. "Cliff Notes."  (If you saw how many "What is the meaning of Helen on 86th St.?" searches that come up in my web statistics, you would know what I'm talking about.)  I can tell when the story has been assigned to a particular class by the surge in our web traffic.

So, how do I feel about that? 

I think it's pretty cool.

I am an educator, after all.  And one of the reasons why I feel so driven to make Helen a commercial piece of theatre, is because if I were a teacher, I would love to bring my students to Helen on 86th St.  (I've already started formulating the Study Guides and Pre and Post-Show lesson plans in my mind).  It's a rich piece of literature, and we are aiming to create a rich piece of musical theatre.  It's themes (which I'm not going to tell all you high school students who are looking to my website for answers) resonate with everyone, because the story, at its core, is about the human struggle, desire and hope.  Who can't relate to that?

Plus, there's all the Greek mythology, motifs, irony, metaphors...in short, it's an English teacher's jackpot.

When I first spoke to Wendi about optioning the rights, I asked her what inspired her to write the story.  She said that it was for an assignment in graduate school.  The assignment was to write a short story inspired by an epic Greek poem.  Everyone came in with stories in elegant and lofty verse--their version of The Illiad and The Odyssey.  Wendi came in with a story about a 12-year old girl who believes that if she gets the part of Helen of Troy in her school play, her dad will come back.

And boy, am I glad she did. 

Thanks, Wendi, for thinking outside the box for your assignment.

And for the rest of you students trolling my site for answers to your Helen on 86th St. assignments, just read the story--it's all there.