Helios 24/7: New Local Playwright Set for a Reading and Workshop

HELIOS 24/7 by local playwright Natalie Gaupp to receive a workshop and reading at WaterTower

Shane Peterman, Producing Artistic Director and Elizabeth Kensek, Associate Producer proudly announce that WaterTower Theatre is continuing our dedication to the development of new works with a reading of the winning play from WTT’s recent local playwright competion; HELIOS 24/7 by Natalie Gaupp. As the title selected, WaterTower is funding the development workshop which culminates in a public reading on May 17th, 2024 at 7:00pm on the Terry Martin MainStage at the Addison Theatre Centre.

HELIOS 24/7 is set in a foreseeable future and framed within a dystopian society where the human need for sleep is, at one's own option, no longer necessary. The plot focuses on Judith Lee, a businesswoman in her mid-40s, who grapples with the idea of going through the controversial procedure to eliminate her need for sleep to become more productive in her extremely competitive workplace. Judith's relationship with her young adult daughter Rowan Lee, a visual artist, is taxed to the breaking point in regard to making the sleep elimination decision; Rowan is well-aware of the implications of "sleep removal," and abhors what she considers its dehumanizing side effects, including the loss of the dream state. Judith resorts to unknown, underground, and unscrupulous sources to pursue "sleep removal," and the mother and daughter relationship becomes fraught with tension as both women question their personal worth, their very different career choices, and the importance of their roles in one another's lives.

When asked to share the history of her play’s development, Natalie Gaupp shared, "HELIOS 24/7 was originally developed as the artistic independent project that launched my Ph.D. in Humanities dissertation for the University of Texas at Dallas. In addition to the new play development process (original title: THE HYPNAGOGIC STATE), the work involved a great deal of research into many diverse areas, including futurism, dystopian and sci-fi literature, surrealism, and sleep studies. The play holds many touchstones to stories and curiosities that have intrigued me throughout my life, but is a very soulful and important work for me, first and foremost, due to the mother-daughter relationship. The initial notes for the play occurred 40,000 feet in the air when my husband and I were on our way to China for the adoption of our infant daughter. From the onset, the story of Judith and her daughter Rowan was very vivid to me, and during the transpacific flight, became inextricably tied up into my thoughts and hopes and dreams about my own daughter, who was waiting for me in the Jiangxi Province. Ella's incredible entrance into our lives was the beginning of, as befitting a child of theatre parents, a long-running engagement that has had more drama and spectacle than any theatrical performance I could have ever imagined. The day WaterTower Theatre notified me that HELIOS 24/7 was selected for the workshop, I went looking for the initial notes I had written for the play so many years ago. They were in the journal I had carried aboard the United Airlines flight that took me to Ella, who is now a teen. In the bottom of a memory box of items from Ella's babyhood, I found my old journal. That evening, Ella and I sat on the floor of her room and read the journal together. Now it's hers."

"The play speaks to the almost machine-like drive that is often expected of so many workers today. Individuals are often goaded into trading relationships, mental fitness, joie de vivre, dignity, even health, to achieve at stratospheric levels. HELIOS 24/7 is set in a foreseeable future in which sleeping and dreaming can be eradicated from the human condition to foster an automaton-like existence. The story focuses on a mother and daughter who are polar opposites in terms of what they feel are negotiable life experiences, and their strained relationship begs the question: Are we, or not, such stuff that dreams are made on?"

Kara-Lynn Vaeni and stage managed by Erica Harkins. The role of Judith Lee will be played by Laurel Collins, and Rowan Lee will be played by Lauren Harrison. Three other actors will each play multiple characters; Raven Lawes, Kalumbu Tshibangu, & Randy Pearlman.

This reading is being produced under Actors’ Equity Staged Reading Guidelines.


About the Playwright

Natalie Gaupp | As a member of the Dramatists Guild of America, Natalie Gaupp has developed her plays with the Association for Theatre in Higher Education’s New Play Development Workshop (Chicago, Denver, New Orleans, NYC, Toronto), Inner Space Theatre (NYC), Pelican Theatre (Miami, FL), University of Texas at Arlington, Amarillo Little Theatre (TX), FronteraFest (Austin, TX), Backdoor Theatre (Wichita Falls, TX), WaterTower Theatre New Works Festival and Out of the Loop Fringe Festival (Addison, TX), Theatre Arlington (TX), Arts Fort Worth Original Works Series (TX), and La MaMa Umbria International (Spoleto, Italy). She has received grant funding for her work from The Hillcrest Foundation, Variety Club of North Texas, and the Japan-America Society Sun & Star Festival, and her plays have been published by the Langdon Review of the Arts in Texas and the Association of Theatre in Higher Education. Among her writing honors, Gaupp has received the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences George Kernodle New Play Award for LOTS OF GREED AND AVARICE GOING DOWN and the Wichita State University Bela Kiralyfalvi National Playwriting Award for SHOULD OLD ACQUAINTANCE. Additionally, Gaupp is a longtime artistic associate with SceneShop (Fort Worth, TX), which has produced original new plays, and fostered opportunities for professional and emerging theatre artists, for over 28 years. Gaupp holds a Ph.D. in Humanities from the University of Texas at Dallas, and has taught Theatre Arts and English coursework in higher education for over two decades. She is a recipient of the Theatre Arts Educator Award of the Live Theatre League (TX) and the Oscar G. Brockett Theatre History Award from the Southwest Theatre & Film Association.


About the Director

Kara-Lynn Vaeni is thrilled to be working with WaterTower! Recent credits include The Persians (running at Undermain Theatre in Dallas through 5/26), a sold-out run of POTUS at Stage West in Fort Worth, a site-specific production of SHAPE, which she also wrote, for Kitchen Dog Theatre in Dallas and many others.

She is on Acting and Directing faculties at the Yale Summer Conservatory, is an Associate Professor of Directing at Texas State San Marcos, is a certified Level 2 Intimacy Director and Consent Forward Artist and is a proud member of the Society of Directors and Choreographers.