The Diary of a Teenage Girl: An Account in Words and Pictures is a graphic novel by Phoebe Gloeckner that hit actress-playwright Marielle Heller right between the eyes. Told from the viewpoint of a 15-year-old girl, Minnie, at the vortex of childhood and womanhood in 1970s San Francisco, what distinguished Gloeckner’s coming-of-age tale for Heller was Minnie’s bracing self-awareness, her zen-like prepossession. Inspired, Heller quickly tried to acquire the rights to the novel, but Gloeckner (or at least her publisher) initially, then repeatedly, demurred. Thus began a tale of doggedness that took months to pay off, but it did — and the adapting began.
One key for Heller, she says, was persuading Gloeckner that audiences would be as jarred as Heller did reading it. Far from Beverly Cleary-land, the piece is more Judy Blume via Vladimir Nabokov: Minnie, as the book begins, has just begun an affair with her mother’s boyfriend, Monroe.
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That adaptation has come together is unsurprising considering the Heller’s industriousness:
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…She studied Theatre at UCLA and at RADA in London. She was in the world premiere of David Edgar’s “Continental Divide” directed by Tony Taccone (TIME magazine’s theater event of the year) at Berkeley Rep, and continuing to Birmingham Rep in England and the Barbican Theater on the West End, and the La Jolla Playhouse… She worked with American Zoetrope and Francis Ford Coppola on the development of new films… She has worked toward the development of numerous new plays, working hand in hand with playwrights at Cherry Lane, Naked Angels, Clubbed Thumb, Ensemble Studio Theater, the Chocolate Factory, the Committee Theater, Six Figures, The Fringe and others. She is proud to be an affiliated artist of New Georges.
A second key was Heller’s development process: Under the mentorship of the aforementioned Taccone, the script began taking shape; later, Heller began to collaborate with Sarah Cameron Sunde and Rachel Eckerling, who remain co-directors of this production.
Produced by Aaron Louis in association with New Georges and The Essentials, The Diary of a Teenage Girl runs through Apr. 12 at 3LD Art & Technology Center (80 Greenwich St.) and features actors Jon Krupp, Michael Laurence, Mariann Mayberry and Nell Mooney.