From HMTC to playwriting: Halley Feiffer’s (‘03) journey in theatre

Liliana Greyf, Contributing Writer

From acting in productions in Gross to writing plays for the Geffen Playhouse, Playwrite Halley Feiffer ’03 possesses a love for the performing arts that extends beyond the Horace Mann Theater Company (HMTC).

Having dedicated hours of rehearsals to HMTC, Feiffer believes that the school’s theatre program changed her life.

“To be honest [HMTC] was a big reason I chose to come to Horace Mann,” Feiffer said. “I had seen a production of ‘Brigadoon’ there, and I was so impressed with the quality of the production that I really wanted to go to a school where I could participate in a high caliber theater program.”

Feiffer took a playwriting class her sophomore year, which inspired her to pursue a career in playwriting, she said.

Teachers were her biggest inspiration, they caused her to think widely and in ways she would not have imagined otherwise, she said. Her mentor, Tracy Bryce Farmer, who she met during her freshman year, directed many plays that she took part in, and taught the playwriting Feiffer that she first took.

Faculty Technical Director Joel Sherry and Theatre, Dance & Film Studies Department Chair Alison Kolinski, inspired by Feiffer as well.

“She had a constant positive outlook, and was always filled with chaotic energy,” Sherry said. “Yet, [Feiffer] was very professional when it came to theater; you could tell she was serious about it.”

Kolinski has seen and praised several of her works after her graduation. “Halley has always been so gracious when ever I see her.” Kolinski has noted Feiffer’s kindness, saying “she is filled with sweetness and some modest self deprecation,” influences her writing. “Halley can laugh at herself and the bizarre situations that she often finds herself in. She has brought that humor to her writing.”

In addition to her love of playwriting, she performed in numerous HMTC productions. The most memorable performance was “Three Sisters” by Anton Chekhov, a production directed by former theatre teacher Tracy Bryce Farmer.

“[Farmer’s] passion for [theatre] and the way that she taught it helped me understand it and become obsessed with that play and Chekhov. One of the plays that I have coming up is actually an adaptation of the Three Sisters,” she said.

Despite her success as a playwright, she has faced challenges throughout her career in the performing arts. “I spent many years being a frustrated actress, and about ten years ago I decided to empower myself and allow myself to write,” she said. “I want people to know that we can really create the kind of lives we want to.”

Feiffer’s upcoming play, Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow, is “an exploration of the corrosive effects of toxic masculinity on women and men alike. It investigates a loving but complicated and codependent romantic relationship between a man and a woman, against a backdrop of Donald Trump’s presidency, she said.

“It is completely different from my other play, which has four actors, this one has twelve. I hope to illuminate the hilarity and horror of the story of the Three Sisters.” Feiffer is “obsessed” with the play and wants to continue to explore it through this work, she said.

“I wanted to show something that illuminates my obsession with [the play] and the reasons behind that. I think it’s a really important story for us to tell, especially today, when were all really prone to blame other people for our problems, both politically and personally. I believe that the thesis of the play is that our problems are primarily of our own making, which means that we actually have a lot more freedom than we think,” Feiffer said.

Feiffer thanks her teachers, fellow students, and everyone that was part of the productions she was in for inspiring her and “being a constant source of support.” Reflecting back on her time at HM, she knows that the opportunities it provided were incredible, “the classes I took and people I met are surely why I am where I am today.” Even 16 years after her graduation, Feiffer still credits her success to the HMTC, she said.