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Heather Report
The Heather Woodbury Report or What Ever originated when one of her friends challenged Heather Woodbury to write and perform a new piece every week for a year. She compromised with a new composition a week for nine months, a fitting gestation. My first, and I fear, obvious question to Woodbury is whether she is still speaking to the friend who made the dare. "I am," she laughs. "That friend is my editor and director, Dudley Saunders. I always wrote pieces at the 11th hour. Dudley's challenge made me think that I might formalize that way of working at the last minute. Doing it every week involved a huge stretch of time. Doing shorter pieces meant more cohesion, but the number of pieces meant less structure." Heather is a one-woman performance novel involving 100 characters in eight 70-minute episodes, one per week. This seems to require a huge commitment from the audience, but Woodbury says that "each chapter stands on its own. During the New York run, lots of people got hooked in the middle. They came for Episode 4, then came back each week to the end. I did a second run, so they were able to pick up the parts they'd missed."

Woodbury will be performing each episode once a week at Josie's Cabaret -- and in Los Angeles. Did she plan on that schedule because she didn't have enough stress in her life? "No," she says, "it was actually Dudley's brilliant idea. He's from Kentucky, and he has no idea how far away those two cities are. But I'll be doing the show, two episodes a night, in Austin, after the California runs, and I need to have the script down solid. It's 400 pages long."

Our conversation turns to academia and the arts establishment. "One gratifying demographic that came out of the New York run was that a lot of young academic women were coming to my show and writing scholarly papers about the work. I think it's dangerous for me to be too academic about my work -- I'm too close to it to theorize about it -- but I'm encouraged that this kind of stuff is getting into academic journals."

Woodbury is concerned about the quest for grants, which tempts artists to create work for the sake of possible funding. She explains: "There is this elitist cadre doling out money and patronage. But, if the state is your patron, you become modeled on that institution. There's a lot to be said for cottage industry in the arts. Getting grants can be dangerous for artists." Woodbury sees state funding as serving to authenticate the artist. "But," she asserts, "art is not about legitimacy."

The Heather Woodbury Report opens Friday, April 5, at Josie's Cabaret & Juice Joint. Each episode is performed only once; a new episode is performed each subsequent Friday. Call 861-7933.

By Deborah Peifer

 
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