Written and Performed by Diana Varco. Directed by Jessica Lynn Johnson.
I was very lucky to see Diana Varco’s extraordinary show “Shattered” during last year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival. Diana has a fascinating and hugely compelling way of transfixing her audience while she transforms into a myriad of disparate characters, some pieces of herself, some not. She twists and turns herself both physically and emotionally, laying herself bare, taking the kind of psychological risks few would dare to…all to embrace us with her profound and hard won peace. I would urge you to see the show and feel all this for yourself.
I am so in awe of solo performers and have a million questions for Diana. But in the name of reason, I whittled it down to five for you.
Why a solo show?
I didn’t intend to write a solo show. In fact, I actively avoided it. Getting to this point has been an evolution of several factors. I had been in the improv-comedy world and was often in classes or stand-up shows where rape and molestation were treated as a joke, at the expense of the victim/survivor. The effect was re-traumatizing.
I wanted to create comedic content that used humor to speak to the truth of the survivor experience – especially the psychological impact of sexual assault, but didn’t know how.
When I met Jessica, I knew it was time to tell my story and that story was going to be told as a solo show!
Character of Truth, photo credit Clark & Main Photography (@clarkandmainphoto)
What brought you to Jessica Lynn Johnson?
I had been working with solo artist and sexual assault advocate Kimleigh Smith on taking hold of my story and that is when my writing moved from sketch-writing toward narrative and solo-work…but I vowed I’d never write a solo show. I didn’t want to expose my early childhood and parts of my story few people knew.
At Hollywood Fringe, I attended the solo show Voices by Carla Delaney – a friend of mine from Groundlings. I was blown away by how she used her brilliant character work to weave a touching, comedic, and impactful story. At Carla’s show I met Jessica and was invited to a free solo show class she often offers at the Whitefire Theatre.
Her style was similar to mine, and I knew I had no more excuses left. It was finally time to write my show and confront my fears. I sat in class for 5 months before writing anything.
How did you discover your method of transforming into characters?
Characters are just something I gravitate to. During recess in kindergarten, I used to host a make-believe exercise program on the monkey bars a la Jane Fonda! And I’ve acted on stage for as long as I can remember. When I arrived in LA, I started studying improv, sketch, and character-work at the Groundlings and UCB, while I pursued acting.
My style of solo show comes from my improv background, but really took hold when I began doing stand-up. I found myself popping into various characters to add commentary on my opinion and to build out my jokes. Self-respect is from my stand-up days, but most of the characters in “Shattered” are original to the script.
Though the truth I bring to “Shattered” is very personal and difficult, the characters are what bring me onto the stage. They are so fun to perform and, in many ways, give me distance from the harsh reality of the story.
I hope to expand my technique to help other trauma survivors take hold of their story.
Did the creation of the show and its performance help you heal?
I’m still trying to decide (haha.) It was cathartic in many ways for sure, but sharing these deep traumas has had a residual impact. So, I’ve been active in learning how trauma shows up in the body, and I take steps to practice self-care before and after performances.
I think the most healing piece of the show is how much I’ve seen it help others! It’s a humbling and gratifying feeling every time I hear of friends wanting to write their story or that my story helped them in some way.
At Edinburgh Fringe, I connected with some really great organizations – SeeMe Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid, and UKSaysNoMore. I was able to support their impactful work with mine and that felt really valuable. This aspect of my work is what I hope to (and intend to!) expand.
Character of Love Bug, photo credit Clark & Main Photography (@clarkandmainphoto)
What do you hope the audience gets from your show?
I want people to enjoy the show and to love the characters as much as I do! I also hope that the show de-stigmatizes mental health and gets people to talk about their own experiences.
My show is also in response to the society that protects the abuser instead of the abused. My hope, my prayer is that with enough awareness we can change that.
But most importantly, “Shattered” is for the survivor. I want survivors to know that they are not alone and that there is a beautiful life beyond this pain. I put the darkest of dark thoughts on stage to release shame that far too many of us live with.
Any tips on writing and performing a solo show?
Yes, follow your instincts. You already know what you want to write about 🙂 give it a voice! Also, take care of yourself. It’s vitally important. People will ask you questions, but you are the one to decide how much of the story you are comfortable sharing.
Thanks Diana!! “Shattered” is running for one night only as part of Solofest. February 10th at 8pm.
February 10th at 8pm
As part of the Whitefire Theatre SoloFest
13500 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks , CA 91423
Run-time: 70 min w/ talk-back to follow
And if you can’t make the show, no stress! Live-stream the event instead – 8pm PST!
***SHOW-DAY PURCHASES ONLY*** FEB 10th
Click here for tickets: https://www.whitefiretheatre.com/live