Hi friends & fans!
“What the Hell are You Doing in the Waiting Room for Heaven??” opens Wednesday, August 13th and runs through August 23rd at the Central Square Theater in Cambridge, MA.
This is a brand new show — a world premiere — so we need help in letting other people know what it’s about, what to expect, etc. And that’s where YOU come in.
If you’ve seen the show, here is where you can share your thoughts, ideas, musings, descriptions, examples (no spoilers please!) — so that others get a taste of the show before they head off to the theater or press the submit button to get their tickets.
Please take the role of “critic” gently. This is a public blog for describing the show, discussing concepts it raises, how it affected you, etc. and not to post negative rants. If you have personal notes or technical advice, etc. for anyone on the crew, please email info@HipHarp.com. If you include them in your blog entry, we’ll try to extract them and get them to the right people, but can’t guarantee that will happen.
So leave a reply (just click on the link next to the date above to read and write replies), thank you for the help – and we hope you enjoyed the show!
If you’ve seen one or more of Deborah’s shows previously, you will also enjoy “What the Hell..??” Though do be aware that unlike her previous shows it has story/song continuity, so there won’t be song requests or a raffle (unless she changes the content, which is always possible).
But the fact that Deborah is playing one role for the entire show does not mean she is limited in her performance – her range still runs the gamut from fast & funny through big & dramatic to wistful & intimate.
There are new songs, a couple of older songs, and some re-purposing of a few musical themes. The opening night audience found it all very satisfying and gave Deborah a well-deserved standing ovation.
It is, of course, far too obvious to describe this performance as “Heavenly” but, forgive me Father, I could not resist the temptation.
DHC has written and performed a stunning act of faith and hope in our world of increasing despair and violence.
And, man oh man! the woman is good! She does it all and she does it well. I’d have to dig out the program to remind myself of the musical genres she covered. Let’s just say they were all there, with the blessed exception of rap.
From a little girl scared of falling into nothingness to the leader of a celestial choir, she plays that magic harp and sings with a nuanced control which is positively frightening. What pact with the devil did she make to acquire all that awesome talent?
A word of warning: if you really don’t want to wind up onstage in the big production number, don’t sit in the front row. But go! Hide yourself safely in the second row and prepare to sing Hallelujah (among other things) Kudos, by the way, to the opening night audience which had some pretty darn good singers in its midst.
So Hurry, hurry, hurry! Step right up folks and get your tickets to the most amazing show on (or above) earth!
Not to be missed.
I LOVED the show. It was fun, funny, utterly creative, and inspiring. I’d heard Deborah before in concert and was intrigued (and a little unsure) about what this show would be like, but I figured it was worth the risk. I was so glad I went. It was wonderful. Through the story and songs are woven some lovely insights about life and living. The music is great and there’s a rich variety of styles. She also has a sweet way of embracing the audience. I felt loved and enlivened.
HEAVEN AND HELLelujah: Harpist Deborah Henson-Conant Takes Us To God’s Green Room And Back
by Dave Goodman / IBIS Radio (Staff)
Hopefully, if there’s any justice left in the world, in May of this year while Reverend Jerry Falwell was waiting in Purgatory to hear whether or not he was going to heaven or hell, the entertainment wasn’t anything as good as the new show by musician and playwright Deborah Henson-Conant.
“What The Hell Are You Doing In The Waiting Room For Heaven??” is the name of the current Henson-Conant offering, presenting at the new Central Square Theater in Cambridge. It’s a lively musical; but don’t let the humorous play on words in the title fool you: Henson-Conant explores some profound questions during this show.
The singer and harpist takes a very Unitarian Universalist view of the world. Everyone, she posits, has the spark of God within them. And as long as you broaden the definition of what it means to be successful, everyone has the potential to be a star.
In fact, despite her comparison of the audience at Wednesday’s opening to a chorus of “scratchy, out of tune” mid-western church singers, everyone, she says, ought to be singing (and dancing, and making whoopy) despite age, aptitude, and station in life.
This is subversive stuff. Especially in a country where de facto segregation keeps us separated by race, class, and the ability to buy a 29 inch widescreen TV. Where disproportionally distributed educational and financial resources keep most people’s expectations about how far they can go in life to the barest of minimums.
But let’s back up a moment and describe the scene. Aubrey Giles, (Deborah Henson-Conant, wearing a frilly and white gossamer dress, cowboy boots painted gold, and silver and gold streamers in her long braided hair) is one of God’s attendants, and her job is to prep the audience for their audition.
This isn’t just any old audition; do well and the audience gets into heaven. Do well, and the ratings (a la “American Idol”) will top the charts.
There’s no sitting back in the waiting room for heaven. Audience members must sing, yell “hallelujah” quite a few times, and during the show’s dramtic climax, dance on stage wearing funny costumes. In an unplanned funny moment during Wednesday’s premier, an older fellow who didn’t quite get the audience participation concept, tried to leave the stage during a lighting change and was promptly “looked” back into place by Henson-Conant.
The point she’s making is this: waiting for your talent (any talent) to be “discovered” is a long and tedious process that often ends in frustration. “Are you no good, if you’re not the best?” she asks. Of course not; but in our hyper competitive world, where it seems everything is judged through a contest or a “reality show,” many Americans believe success in life must come in an all or nothing package.
In one of my favorite moments in the show, Henson-Conant relates a story told to her on a plane by the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. I won’t give it all away here. Suffice it to say that the moral of the story involves enlightenment of a surprising nature.
Do I need to comment on her playing? She manipulates the lightweight carbon fiber electric harp as though it’s an extension of her body. Using an electronic loop generator to great effect she sounds like an orchestra when she plays. And the harp has cool blue and white flames painted on it!
The main performance space at the Central Square Theater seats about 200 people. At a reception following the performance, Bruce Sylvester, host of WMBR’s “Troubador” show, commented that the acoustics in the theater were superlative. Debra Wise, Underground Railway Theater Artistic Director and a Central Square Theater co-partner, confirmed that sound quality in the theater was a top priority for the designers.
One small constructive criticism: the theater needs padded chairs. Wise indicated a desire but not the financial means to purchase more comfortable seating for the bleacher style set-up. Perhaps they’ll be able to afford better seating in the near future.
Deborah Henson-Conant’s “What The Hell Are You Doing In The Waiting Room For Heaven??” runs from August 13th through the 23rd; possibly longer.
And please listen to the radio interview with Deborah Henson-Conant and Debra Wise conducted by Marc Stern and Dave Goodman of “RADIO with a VIEW.” (link above)
The harpist’s website: http://www.hipharp.com
The Central Square Theater: http://www.centralsquaretheater.com
“HEAVEN” CAN’T WAIT
Boston Metro Review by Nick Dussault
“What the Hell Are You Doing in the Waiting Room for Heaven??” is one of the quirkiest, most delightful performance pieces this side of limbo.
The premise of Grammy-Nominated harpist Deborah Henson-Conant’s one-woman show is that the audience is on a call-back audition for Heaven’s Celestial Choir. As the audition coach, it’s the job of Henson-Conant to prepare the talent for a process that is “more diabolical than American Idol” and “more satanic than Miss Universe.” It’s also far more fun than either of these contests.
Strapped to her harp and clad in typical angel fare (except for the fishnet stockings and gold cowboy boots), Henson-Conant tries to be the aspiring choir members’ greatest cheerleader. In “Never Say Die,” the harp-playing vocalist encourages her charges with inspiring lyrics like “until you are in the choir, don’t say die” while sharing inside tips about auditioning.
One of the judges proves to be especially influential on the coach as she launches into a blues number that will make you feel like you’re already in heaven.
Henson-Conant is also an engaging storyteller with an off-beat optimism that leads her to ponder oddities like why a dimple is good and a pimple is bad. She has depth, inner-wisdom and the ability to share her own demons. Along the way, Henson-Conant recalls her grandmother and sadly reveals her own mother’s failure to try anything because she “never had the courage to prove she was a failure.”
As she encourages the audience to make music as long as their alive, she devises a plan for the crowd to ace the audition – a big “Production Number.”
Be forewarned that if you’re sitting up front, you could become an integral part of this finish. It may not be enough to get you into heaven, but you’ll laugh so hard you won’t care.
When the harp starts the mind is transported. Deborah Henson-Conant begins a tour of her freshly written one woman, story telling, high octane, finger lickin’ good musical, “What The Hell Are You Doing In The Waiting Room For Heaven?”. I saw her at the Central Square Theater in Cambridge. Often funny, sometimes pensive. Sometimes its about the harp, sometimes about the song. Deborah commands the minimalist stage with her voice, her charm, and her white angel gown cum wedding cum first communion short skirted, fishneted, gold booted costume. Two white veils flow from her back up and up like cloudy wings suspended from on high. They are in sinc with the playful mood of the show, a mood that surfaces Deborah’s message – we don’t need to impress nobody but ourselves – no need to wait for an audition to get into heaven. Go Debby Go! Catch her anywhere you can at http://www.hipharp.com.
Hard Cider Press
My husband and I were walking home form the movies last night and happened upon the new Central Square Theater. We love live theater …we NEVER heard of DHC..just liked the idea of an unplanned theater adventure. Well, let me tell you we LOVED it…the music..the words..the interaction with the audience (I even lent her my glasses when she was trying to see a string adjustment during the show)..her energy was contagious. We googled her the minute we got home…I am going to buy every CD she has ever made.. she has 2 new fans for life!! I will tell anyone who will listen to me to go see this play….Keep it coming Deb….from Linda Bates and Gary Shusas 8-17-08
I have known of Deborah Henson-Conant as a very talented musician for over 25 years. I had an inkling that a one woman show would be good, but that would be an understatement. The simplicty of the stage set was Zen like, the music beyond the beyond and the writing of the story and music superb. It is beautiful telling of the tale of the soul and of human spirit. It is simple and profound in the same moment. Deborah takes you on an adventure with her from the very start.
Good theatre causes us to be drawn out of ourselves and our lives into a world where we are able to connect with characters and to somehow be enlightened or transformed through that connection. This past Saturday night (8/23/08) I had the pleasure of experiencing Henson-Conant’s “What the Hell….?” in a small theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I laughed, I cried, I marched in a band of hopeful souls, and indeed left the theatre a bit more hopeful about my own life. The experience was both cathartic and inspiring. At times, Aubrey’s monologues and the lyrics to her tunes seemed to be meant for only me! I left the production looking at my own life from a different perspective. I know I no longer need to wait in the wings; and although I may not be able to live my dream completely, all I need to do is to live it to the best that I am able. This is liberating! This is fine theatre!
I sincerely encourage Deborah to continue this piece and hope that I am able to hear: “Raise Your Voice”, “Illogical”, “Nothing can be Something”, “In the Wings”, and “I Discovered You”, in CD or DVD format soon. These songs are not meant to gather dust on a shelf! These songs and the entire production are transformative and uplifting. A must see and a wonderful time for all ages!!