“CHEMO BARBIE” now showing at the Whitefire Theater, Sherman Oaks, CA
Welcome to the eighth year of the Solofest at the Whitefire Theater in Sherman Oaks, California.
It has become the crowning achievement of solo theater performances in Los Angeles created by the Whitefire’s producer Bryan Rasmussen. In the heart of Sherman Oaks, “Chemo Barbie” is a journey of renewal, discovery and reclamation. Its opening debut this past Friday the 10th had members of the audience entranced by the honesty of its writer, creator and star, Heather Keller. This touching performance takes courage and clever wit to expose the realities of a year of chemotherapy for breast cancer. It is poignant, warm and creative how Heather weaves us through her battle with the unwelcomed beast.
In this approximately 95-seat theater, the audience is asked to get involved with Ms. Keller in the most intimate of ways. It is the perfect spot for this kind of closeness. Personal and private details are shared to evoke an understanding of the trauma and love she simultaneously went through when this dreaded diagnosis was given. As she paces around the sparse stage emulating doctors, a husband and many friends during this ordeal, we get to feel everything. The needle pricks; the uncomfortable but necessary chest port, the deterred dreams of a woman losing her normal fertility, the early menopause, and the many, many questions. As she exclaims loudly, choices are taken away. Heather’s life is not hers to decide at this moment. Despite her exceedingly good health, being a vegan and a runner, cancer sets the agenda and the rules.
She laughs, cries and, despite the menopausal flashes, cold cap treatments and lost friendships, she continues with hope. She will beat the odds and not only survive, but rise. Sometimes, she surprises us with quirky medical tidbits and hospital tales. And at other times she shocks us with a full screen behind her showing the results of a mastectomy. Not to leave it on a sad note, Heather follows up with a quick flash of her perky breast. Both are part of her story now and ours as well.
It was very insightful of Heather to document her yearly ordeal and feel confident enough to share it with strangers. It is a brave act and truly a gift that she can make this situation, one of the most feared for women, into a living breathing story of ferocious strength and wisdom. Talented and creative, this solo performance should be seen by everyone. Her loyal husband with the rigorous cold cap routines to save her hair is a gem. Her besties are also to be commended on cheering up someone they clearly love deeply. Heather, your diagnosis was terrible, but you have such goodness and warmth around you, thank you for bringing this tale to the rest of us.
The Whitefire Theater in Sherman Oaks has its Solofest running through March 2020 highlighting 80 special and creative solo productions in 90 days. “Chemo Barbi” was directed and developed by Jessica Lynn Johnson. Thank you to Solofest founder and producer Bryan Rasmussen.
Solofest runs through March 28, 2020 at the Whitefire Theater, 13500 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91403