From breakup to breakthrough in “The Heartbreak Series”

The story behind senior Kat Delaney’s senior project

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Kat Delaney

Senior Kat Delaney’s “The Heartbreak Series” began filming this past weekend.

Eva Moschitto, Staff Writer

At age seventeen, it was not Kat Delaney’s intention to interview roughly one hundred people and distill their responses into a senior theatre arts project. Yet after a “horrific” high school breakup, she needed to know if others were experiencing the same thing.

What began as a desperate attempt to “ease [her] own wounds” through interviews with family friends evolved into a full investigation into the heart of human heartbreak. Delaney posted questionnaires online and spent the following years asking friends, acquaintances and the occasional Uber driver about their experiences with heartbreak.

She was surprised at the candor of the interviewees, who ranged from ages seventeen to seventy-five.

One recurring theme, especially among the middle-to-elderly demographic was the romantic question “what could have been?” People continually regretted not taking chances, wishing instead that they had at least tried for love’s sake.

These recurring themes and more were the inspiration for the stage play Delaney spent two years writing and perfecting while simultaneously participating in each of Westmont’s theatre productions.

However, when the pandemic hit, Delaney had to pivot. A stage play no longer looked feasible, so, in perhaps her greatest heartbreak, she laid the stage play to rest. “I live by the mantra ‘hold on tightly, let go lightly,’” Delaney said.

So, in one week of “heartbreak whiplash,” Delaney ferociously wrote “The Heartbreak Series,” a screenplay that explores similar themes — flirtation, desiring love, being in love and losing love — as the stage play but uses an entirely new plot and set of characters.

Distinct from her meticulous stage play, Delaney described the screenplay as “honest, beautiful messiness,” which seems timely for the versatile realities of romance during COVID-19.

Stemming from her own experiences of living with eight other women, the screenplay follows four friends as they support one another throughout the nuanced joys and pains of falling in and out of love.

“The Heartbreak Series” is directed by Westmont alumna Izzy Esber, whom Delaney met her freshman year. “She works like no one I’ve ever met in my life,” Delaney said of Esber. She describes their dynamic collaboration like that of Sam Shepard and Patti Smith.

The eleven-person cast, composed of Delaney and Esbar’s Westmont theatre connections, began filming Saturday, Feb. 6, although pre-production ramped up months ago.

“[Making a film] takes more than a village,” Delaney declared. That village extends not only to her cast and crew, but to those Delaney interviewed years ago.

She fondly remembers her friendship with an eighty-five-year-old man, who shared how his wife told him before she died, “You would have been a better husband if you had gone after your love when you were nineteen.”

His story, Delaney explains, illustrates how young love and heartbreak is real, and it directly shapes who one becomes in old age.

“I would love for people to watch [“The Heartbreak Series”] with people they love and trust,” Delaney said. Her hope is that the film will forge community and spark conversations about romantic experiences and musings.

“It’s the human condition,” Delaney proclaimed. “I really think heartbreak is the most human thing in the entire world.”

Delaney will launch a book of records from her interviews on April 7, 2021. “The Heartbreak Series” premieres April 10, 2021, at 7 p.m. on YouTube. The Westmont Theatre Arts Department will release the streaming link.  Follow @theaheartbreakseriesblog on Instagram to stay up to date, or check out one of Delaney’s favorite TEDTalks, “How to Fix a Broken Heart” by Guy Winch, to learn about the psychology behind heartbreak.

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