Sheehy, Helen 1948–

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Sheehy, Helen 1948–

PERSONAL: Born October 11, 1948, in Enid, OK; daughter of George Coverdale (a farmer and rancher) and Wilma (a farmer and rancher) Probst; married Thomas William Sheehy (an engineer and consultant), August 9, 1970. Education: Wichita State University, B.A., 1970; Southern Connecticut State University, M.S., 1974. Hobbies and other interests: Tennis, swimming.

ADDRESSES: Home—Hamden, CT. Office—Department of Theater, Southern Connecticut State University, 501 Crescent St., New Haven, CT 06515. Agent—Philip Spitzer, Philip Spitzer Literary Agency, 50 Talmage Farm Ln., East Hampton, NY 11937. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Southern Connecticut State University, New Haven, adjunct professor of theater, 1985–. Hartford Stage Company, dramaturg, 1981–85. Lecturer; playwriting judge; film consultant.

MEMBER: International PEN, Authors Guild, Authors League of America.

AWARDS, HONORS: "Notable book" citations, New York Times Book Review, 1996, for Eva Le Gallienne, and 2003, for Eleonora Duse: A Biography.


All about Theatre, Longman (New York, NY), 1981.

Margo: The Life and Theatre of Margo Jones, Southern Methodist University Press (Dallas, TX), 1989, published with new introduction by Emily Mann, 2005.

Eva Le Gallienne: A Biography, Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY), 1996.

Eleonora Duse: A Biography, Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY), 2003.

Sparks (play), performed in a reading in New York, NY, by Godlight Theater Company, 2005.

Coauthor of a yearly desk calendar, On Writers and Writing, Tide-Mark Press, 1992–2000. Contributor to magazines and newspapers, including Opera News, Playbill, American Theatre, Connecticut, and New York Times.

Sheehy's book on Eleonora Duse was published in Italian.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Research for Willa Hardesty, a novel set in Oklahoma.

SIDELIGHTS: Helen Sheehy told CA: "As a child, I loved making up and then acting out stories. In college, I studied theatre, then taught theatre, and worked in the theatre. All the tools I learned to use in the theatre—imagination, sense memory, empathy, and research—have helped me as a writer. Just as an actor imagines a character and makes her come to life, so the biographer takes the raw material of life, never inventing facts but freely imagining and choosing the form those facts will take, and the biographer breathes life into her character. After writing three biographies of women, I'm working now on a novel about a woman's life titled Willa Hardesty. It's historical and biographical fiction, really, about my mother. It's like working on a biography because I'm researching her life and the period, reading letters and old newspapers, conducting interviews and investigating family mythology, even cooking old recipes, and basically exploring the world she lived in and was formed by—including northwestern Oklahoma, the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, dancing and country music, farming and ranching, boxing and bootlegging.

"Actors and writers both use sense memory and emotional recall, what Stanislavsky called 'affective memory.' An event in my life has informed all my work. When I was twelve, I stood on a dirt road in Freedom, Oklahoma, and watched as a girl, about my age, slipped from the horse she was riding and fell to the ground. Blood gushed from the girl's left ear. Her eyes were closed and her face turned deep red and then to purple. When her gasping breath stopped, although no one said so, I knew that she was gone. For me, writing is a way to raise the dead."



American Theatre, September, 2004, Marian Seldes, review of Eleonora Duse: A Biography, p. 82.

Lambda Book Report, December, 1996, Marsh Cassady, review of Eva Le Gallienne: A Biography, p. 19.

New Yorker, October 20, 2003, Kate Taylor, "In the Spotlight."

New York Review of Books, December 18, 2003, Robert Gottlieb, review of Eleonora Duse.

New York Times, August 22, 2003, Mel Gussow, "The Actress Who Became the Original 'Doozy.'"

New York Times Book Review, January 28, 1990, W.L. Taitte, "St. Joan of the Regional Theatre"; October 27, 1996, Margo Jefferson, "Her Greatest Role"; September 7, 2003, Benedict Nightingale, "The First Modern Actor."

Publishers Weekly, September 16, 1996, review of Eva Le Gallienne, p. 61.

Wall Street Journal, August 22, 2003, review of Eleonora Duse.

Women's Review of Books, December, 2003, Karen Rosenberg, review of Eleonora Duse, p. 13.


Helen Sheehy Home Page, (May 23, 2006).