The lovely and talented Heather Dowling is gracing us once again with “Fertile,” her wonderful show that has won so many awards it’s hard to list them all. Suffice it to say, she’s a darling of the solo scene, Hollywood Fringe, Whitefire Theatre Solofest, Santa Monica Playhouse, et al.
Next week, her show goes up again at the Whitefire’s glorious Best of Fest, which has saved me from this terrible year time and time again by showcasing individual artists and their meaningful, poignant and often hilarious solo work. Solofest is helmed by the fabulous Bryan Rasmussen and guided by the genius that is Jessica Lynn Johnson.
I’m so thrilled to be able to see “Fertile” again. It’s been a couple of years since I watched it at the Hollywood Fringe and it’s still one of the absolute best solo shows I have ever seen…and I’ve seen a lot!
In her solo show “Fertile,” Heather highlights her struggles with infertility. She humanizes it, she pulls back the curtain and boldly, fearlessly.
I asked Heather some questions about how her solo show came to be.
Heather, this show has been a big hit, both at Solofest and Fringe. I think it’s pretty brilliant if you to take a subject so excruciating and make it relatable, poignant and also hilarious.
How did you structure and balance the show to inform as well as entertain?
The core of the story is based on my own experience with infertility and what my husband and I went through, but I wanted to reach outside of that to explore other angles of fertility and family planning. So, I interviewed more than 25 women and men to deepen the story and introduce other points of view.
Infertility affects so many people around the world, how can we better support those affected?
Well, first, if you’ve experienced it yourself, share with the women and couples you know. SO many of them are dying to hear that SOMEONE can relate to what they are going through. And sharing removes the shame that seems to be so heavy for people coping with these issues. I also think we need to stop telling women what they “should do” about infertility, as if there’s a one-size-fits-all answer. It’s a very personal journey and decision that people should feel empowered to talk about and find what works for them. I swear, I had one woman sitting with me in the waiting room for an audition – we didn’t even exchange names – but somehow in small talk it came up that I couldn’t have kids. When she asked why, my short answer was “long story,” and she immediately replied to me with, “Well, you should totally adopt!” I’m sitting there thinking, “You don’t even KNOW me! I could be a truly horrible person!” It’s just so insensitive and presumptuous. And she wasn’t the only person to do that, just the one who stands out the most.
Where else can people find out about fertility issues and resources?
There’s SO much online, but in my research preparing the show, I found a really great online magazine, pregnantish.com – I think it’s a great resource for people to check out.
How would you like things to be improved for everyone effected by infertility…not just clinically but also emotionally?
I would just ask people to challenge the expectation that every woman is meant to be, or wants to be a mother. Sometimes it almost feels like the next thing on a to-do list of life, versus the miracle that it truly is and what people are saying “yes” to when they decide to start a family. And especially the doctors in this area of medicine. I felt like I was just “next” in line at the baby factory and they were going through the motions, never taking my unique experience into account.
Finally, how has being able to speak out loud in such a forum as a play helped you through your journey?
Conducting the interviews, writing the show and including so many specific moments in my own experience brought so much clarity and completion. It made it really clear for me that I had made the right decision for myself and my life, but it also made me so happy that maybe I could offer come peace and clarity for other, too.
You can see this brilliant show, and I really, really hope you do, at the Whitefire Theatre’s Best of Fest on Thursday, May 20 at 7pm (PDT). The link for the show will be live for 72 hours if you can’t view at that time.