Alum spotlight: Helen Lindberg (B.F.A.’91) and C.C. Courtney (M.F.A.’91)

helen and c c on their wedding day at niagara falls

Helen Lindberg, BFA 1991, Performance
C.C. Courtney, MFA 1991, Performance

Helen and C.C. upstairs in PAC Building, Richmond, VA, 1988

When Helen was a sophomore and C.C. was a first year grad student, they were at a party where he invited her to “come sit next to me,” and we started talking. It was love at first conversation.” Helen recalls, “I was like ‘wow’ very enamored of him. I figured out his schedule and made sure I was there after his classes.”

Helen in Norfolk, VA, 1987

C.C. Courtney ran away from home at 15 and moved to New Orleans, where he became a popular radio DJ. During his stint, he interviewed actor Steve McQueen, who recommended he consider Neighborhood Playhouse in NYC. “Surprisingly” he got accepted and went on to work on numerous TV shows and Off-Broadway productions. He also wrote and performed in two original plays: Earl of Ruston on Broadway and Salvation off-Broadway.

C.C. and Helen in Costa Rica, 1995

Meanwhile, Helen was supposed be a violinist, but “I didn’t enjoy it, and at some point I took an interest in theatre.” She attended the Governor’s Magnet School for the Arts in Norfolk and later became Stage Manager at Tidewater Dinner Theatre.

Helen and C.C, at their wedding in Niagara Falls, NY, 2005

They lived together their last two years at VCU. Helen explains, “I moved in with him very quickly, because I had a mouse problem and ran out of money. We ate a lot of brown rice.” Helen admitted, “I wasn’t the best student and my SATs were low, but I graduated Magna Cum Laude, because C.C. was studious and he helped me focus more academically.”  For his thesis at VCU, C.C. wrote Ripped, a rock musical that involved Marilyn Monroe, The Statue of Liberty, a singing cactus, conjoined twins, a TV anchor who’s head was the TV and Jason Butler Harner (BFA’92) as a full sized frog.

helen and c c in mallorca spain
Helen and C.C. in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, 2006

C.C. had recommended Neighborhood Playhouse to Helen and she studied there, while he got his second masters in directing at LSU. He remarks, “We were still together but not in the same state for two years.” Eventually, Helen “reluctantly moved to Baton Rouge…that’s love!” She served as Artist-In-Residence for Playmakers of Baton Rouge, where she toured, “It was challenging, there was no GPS and it was hot in my lizard costume.” She also played the lead female in the Ohio outdoor drama Tecumseh.

Cynthia Clawson (Gospel Grammy Winner), Helen & C.C., Gary Chason (Casting Director), and Ragan Courntey (Author of the Baptist musical Celebrate Life) in Austin, TX 2009

On the recommendation of Sanford Meisner, C.C. went back to Neighborhood Playhouse as an acting teacher for eight years. He also established an acting program in Palma, Mallorca, while Helen created an English class there: An Intro to the American Dialect.

Helen & C.C. Tea at the Biltmore Estate Asheville, NC 2011

They married in 2005 at Niagara Falls because they were living in Manhattan and wanted their license from the state of New York. They later lived in Austin before they “discovered Asheville,” where they live now.

Helen and C.C. in 2022

Compiled by Liz Hopper (professor emeritus), Jerry Williams (BFA ’71), and VCUarts Theatre for the February 2024 Theatre Alumni newsletter